Water Seeks Its Own (Lowest) Level

Account based on true events. But this is obviously not my address.

Witness/Defendant Testimony

Between September 1st and September 8th, three puddles of indeterminate source composition and authorship were discovered in the right-stairwell elevator of #7 Orchard Lane.

Initial puddle consisted of a transparent liquid, lacking an identifiable scent. Covered over 50% of the floor space. Rain that day could have been a cause.

The second instance of fluid without containment occurred a few days later, very small surface coverage accompanied a stench of extreme decomposition. Likely source: a ruptured trash bag.

The final unwanted water deposit appeared on the afternoon of September 8th. A medium-sized pool of slightly foul aroma was discovered. Within several hours, several pages of colored newsprint (a Los Testigos de Jehovah publication or similar info-advert) were laid over the wet spot.

The next morning, a note had appeared (Exhibit A), translation following:

Uncensored 'Acensor'

Uncensored ‘Acensor



We have a filthy neighbor that leaves pee in the elevator.

If anybody knows who it is, put their name down here so that we can all go piss on their door.



Shortly after noon of the same day, I leave the house again. Rereading the note, I see the most recent addition. With a blue pen this time, in skinny text, just barely visible in the corner, someone else (amateur hour handwriting analysis, just an FYI on this Exhibit B) had written: 12*- F


That’s us.

En serio?

I pondered the matter, discussed an appropriate response with Amatxu and the Cohabiter, and finally wrote the following on a yellow post it (that never ended up sticking so well to the mirror), translation following:

La persona que nos ha nominado tiene MUCHOS COJONES y nada de evidencia. También queremos una comunidad limpia y civil [sic]. Por favor, sé responsable.


L@s de 12*-F

The person who nominated us [as the culprits] has a LOT OF BALLS and little evidence. We also want a clean and civil community [building]. Please, be responsible.


Us from 12*-F

The next morning, an unknown agent(s) had removed both notes.




Note: My original error, civil should have been cívica.

Also, L@s – This is how feminists (of all genders, whaddya know!?) deal with gendered nouns and articles when their plurals default to the masculine… for example, él and ella, pronouns for one man and one woman, would go to ellos (‘them/they’), taking the masculine form. This default is a type of semantic markedness in linguistics and we use the ‘@’ (arroba!) when we’d really rather it didn’t exist. Like puddles and hostile accusations.

On the Table


Loneliness is harder to come by, and aloneness even more so. Lack of aloneness does imply a lessening loneliness, even though the Buddha-quoters and the life coaches of the Northwestern hemisphere would tell you otherwise. You simply must interact. That is, you must look at every multitudinous, flat-lining city mouth with the same stoic judgment discernment and measured appreciation that you’d give the every-once-in-a-while smile of the low-density burb-hood. Because in each case, that’s all you’re gonna get. The eyes may not smile, because that’s something momma didn’t teach the little one. She may have, instead, given lessons in omission. You, alone, simply must know when not to interact.

The southerners ask me of the northerners, “are they all so cold?” and I admit to turning away from that question from elder’s end of the New Year’s eve dinner table – an answer I couldn’t formulate, having concentrated all awe on soaking up Valencian townie accent and rhythm – turning to listen instead to the children of my era’s discourse on the current interpersonal drama, the crimes and conclusions. Tertulia, the debate of evidence and considerations, also counts as sobremesa, ‘above the table, on the table’ conversation lingering after completing the task of eat. I spy with my Midwest-eye, two concepts we might practice, at most, during a couple holidays a year. I spy with my Anglo-eye, two words we don’t have in English for sitting around and shooting the shit.

Sitting, staying put for long enough to talk, even if the TV is still on. Eating slowly and deliberately enough to have some and then some more, before all those plates are taken away and replaced with half a dozen more. That’s the reason for the season, if you count it all up, we’re all even; just delivering it in different tempos to the blood barrier, tripe into tripe, dissolving into little more than our capacity to keep speaking up about aching, cathartic truths. Pain manifesting as gas manifesting as shoving questions down into the belly of the server warehouse, the hard drive of all the things we’ve come to know instantly, streaming.

like a winery, but with all the hard apple cider you can manage

like a winery, but with all the hard apple cider you can manage

Lonely can still find me in the peninsula that never leaves well enough alone. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the frank-speak and brutal exactitude. I adore how the folks here invest time in percentages astounding in the bar and out on the sidewalk blocking passersby as they burn Lucky Strikes and and hurry nowhere, not even to the bottom of the glass. I relish witnessing the Tao of priority these people ride and their mindful presence regarding the dire implications of everyday crap: of the constant threats of water damage and thieves that enter sliding doors after scaling buildings by balconies; of the ugliness of a good cook and of the outrageousness of prescriptions costing more than $5 a month.

Maybe 3 year old on the bus tells you about her dog-cousin, Lana (Spanish for ‘wool’) the boxer that’s reached menarche, saying le ha bajada de la regla, ‘her bleeding cycle has descended.’ The little lady knows more about a woman’s blood than many North American 13 year olds. Her accompanying auntie, a neighbor of ours, called a policeman a chulo (close enough to ‘pompous, tough guy’ in this sense) while walking against a red light, which the officers took unkindly enough to park and follow her into the Spanish equivalent of a Gap flagship store.

These novelties observed and cherished could just be, might just be compelling in contrast to lingering vestiges of good ol’ protestant work ethic. These saturated images stand out against the distorted backdrop of my don’t-complain-get-on-lil-doggies puritanism.

Things here are clear enough though, and unlike that hinting and subtlety that evaporates from the grasp of the visitor to the US of A, nearly all is knowable in Iberia. Because sooner or later, someone will be “rude” or “direct” or “relaxed” enough to paint a decently vivid picture of what the reality really is. For real. Our 1st amendment ain’t got nothin’ on these people’s birthright. Don’t ask me though, about regional differences, for I is not quite yet done documenting.

spillage photo credit: nep via photopin cc


wpid-20130519_171534.jpgTook Peteychenko Pedrovich up the hill to the park, the Larreagaburu (’miraflores’ in Spanish, ‘to watch flowers’), and finally felt as if I’d dropped all pretense and shut up clamoring over earthly things.

But for real this time, a new edition of the self-assessment Scripture with the consistency of the illusionist’s flashpaper. This time, rather than avoiding them, I could stomp eggshells with due diligence: for real this time, I still care about not caring and maintain a preoccupation with unoccupation; these are surely hazards – beware of repetitive motions, safety first. Drying the throat, sharp altitudes dole out a sense of fortune. The suddenness of a little drop of gratitude’s aftertaste on my tongue’s bitter region, the tender nasal membrane welcoming white ash.

Wind in our little faces, the smoke of burning wood and wet brush clinging to the ridge that drops into the Nervión River where the channel takes a sharp turn in the barrio of La Peña. Communion with the crosswinds is a controlled burn with no ordained supervision.

When one lives like a ant on a hill, rugged individualism takes a gasping pull inward, lungs-ward, and gets that smartass of yours submerged again in the tides of the common good. The social contract you must make here includes the brushfire’s municipal smoke in your drying laundry and scraping the dogshit off your boot and all over the northern stairwell of Building #2.

But we come back up for air, the anonymous mass and I, and we take turns being considerate. Damned be the riptides. Join us in this effort to cede to others and to the urge to fight tooth and nail not to. Maybe your role here is to commandeer 3 square meters of public park, to cut and terrace on the steep southern slope. I’d bet you and this guy too don’t even consider yourselves gardeners, just a couple of citizen stomaches with no balcony for a tomato plant.

Descending on the other side of Larreagaburu now, Pete and I stare at a lady sitting on a picnic table, her hands busy near her face. False, Pete stares and I struggle with oppositional social norms taught by my upbringing and my adopted home regarding the behavior of fixed gazes. Maybe she’s plucking her eyebrows on the picnic tabletop in a down coat and tan boots. Maybe she’s fashioning a means to combust herself full of brown hash and hiding it from her husband. Maybe she’s just picking herself apart and we’d agree that this is a damn good place to do it. We both might be looking over things from above and making little what really isn’t big to begin with.

Hello Propriety, it’s nice to meet you. Please excuse me, I have a hard time with common first names that correspond to so many faces. I’ll repeat your name during our first exchanges. I’ll try to recognize this version of you by the contours of your face. I’ll calculate my next moves with that data and apply the ratio of people per square kilometer. The resulting density leads me to conclude that the situation requires a degree of give and take, give a shit and take one, or not.

This is how I tell you how I feel about living in this pushed together richness, mounded up with all these strangers cold with opinions and warm with suggestions. These are the words I use to describe the pile of unmet neighbors numberless like me. This is how I explain it to myself.

You’re an ant on a hill.

You could carry up to 50 times your own heft, but you won’t need nearly that much brawn to arrive at the fertile lawn.

Make that art you gotta make and carry that weight of purpose with your own legs; creation gets its own momentum with the stretch out, the crack of joints, and the pull of lactic acid from the muscles.

Just give the shit that you were given to give. Take the chance in spite of the shivering and the rigor mortis of beginning something; the colony’s gonna do it’s thing either way, anyway.

Step out from under the shelter, you do you. That art ain’t gonna make itself. Get up the hill. Somebody is bound to come across you making it up as you go along. Your sisters will carry your corpse back home.