Las Aventuras en el Abismo Estrecho

Adventures on the Narrow Straights:
an analysis of the stretched abyss


Poetic morning

"What are you planning to do, the rest of your life?"
"I don't know... "
"Wanna hang out with me?"



London is getting cooler, but gradually. Does life stagnate with the shorter days, the rush to be indoors, the hot chocolates? Winter forces a hibernation of the mind, drawing me to things passive and communal. But it's the opposite I need right now: so much is speeding up I am trying to be up there and catch up. As the weather slowly creeps toward the bitter cold I am turning a blind eye and running toward the light. But because of the slow slip into sultry stagnation I don't notice how my mind is slowing down, my body is fattening up the reserves to survive yet another couple of months of freezing.
While the festivities brew, mulled wine simmers and vacations loom, I need to keep my head out of the clouds and into the world's work. Three different projects, big life changes, and it could go wrong any moment. New year, new goals, new opportunities. Time to get a move on.



The lights were blue and your face had shadows even deeper than originally. You skipped ahead in your mid-high heels and knee-length cocktail dress, and seemed to be happy on the outside. Funny how your troubles can be invisible to the universe in the depths of a nightclub playing technological beats that cater to oblivion. I remember what I would have done if I hadn't thought of him. Predatorial glances, the occasional chat-up attempt; my cautious moves to avoid being grabbed by a stranger or the even-worse the candid cock-grind. Who are we all being now. Alcohol-induced forwardness that leads you backwards. Friendly bouncer at the door, why did we want to be here? Smiles and whiles. I used to live for this and now it's all rushing around me.. it exists, it continues to flow and rush and flourish without me. I put my drink down, another empty glass. I swing around for another empty dance. The lights come on, the empty faces face each other in disbelief. Time to go home.



In retrospect, it seems, my identity forms itself. Almost as if soul-searching requires you to step away. How can you get close to who you really are when it requires you to step back from who you really are? I am not who I was two years ago, and now I can objectively look at her. In order to grow I sometimes feel I need to look at myself, understand who people see... but I am too close to myself. It's like being pressed to a mirror, and all you want to do it take a step back to look clearly. So does that mean that I'm really there... if I can't see me?


Golden Age Spanish Vintage

Garcilaso de la Vega

Si para refrenar este deseo
loco, imposible, vano, temeroso,
y guarecer de un mal tan peligroso,
que es darme a entender yo lo que no creo,

no me aprovecha verme cual me veo,
o muy aventurado o muy medroso,
en tanta confusión que nunca oso
fiar el mal de mí que lo poseo,

¿qué me ha de aprovechar ver la pintura
de aquel que con las alas derretidas
cayendo, fama y nombre al mar ha dado,

y la del que su fuego y su locura
llora entre aquellas plantas conocidas,
apenas en el agua resfriado?


"I prefer to do psycho than vulnerable"

Like running on a single engine, you let yourself turn something off. "Defensive" - the word you don't like to hear but that describes that I'm doing exactly. Defenses. Fences. An open wound you'd kill to protect... but the wound is created by what you want to kill... chasing your own tail?
Chronic foot-in-mouth disease. I just read that in an article describing Sarah Palin - however I feel I've got it as well. That single engine seems to make me into a different person. Snappy, insecure. Saying things to try to hold footing, and then you're actually standing on a hole. Insecurity - it's all mental really anyway, however you think that it's something concrete - physical - removable.
It's like a painting by Rothko. No real anchor... just lots and lots of feeling and colour and intensity. What do you hold on to? The frame just acts as a limitation - in reality you should just enjoy the absence of a stronghold. But what are you, really, mauvish pinkish red? Who do you want to be, off white greyish pale? Where do you think you're going, deep blue turqouise ultramarine black? If you were just a solid colour, a red, a black, a white... Mondriaan style... then you'd be sure. The frame would fit around you, and make sense.


Bad art

It was a kind of murder. Murder through materialisation, is that possible? Art school has materialised the concept of 'art' as a formulation for me, and as such, killed any notion of art in me. I get irritated about the fact that the artist feels his or her view on the matter is important, so important in fact, that it should rise above any other formulation to be considered 'art.' It used to be about taking this feeling I get sometimes and putting it into a form... not into style, or medium, or discourse, or copyright. It was just a way to silence the little voices, to put away that feeling of solitude, to formulate a coherent explanation for what was around me. But now, I can't do it anymore because it's too formulated. I feel the spark, I can sense that muse, that stirring inside that there is something there that's empty or full or something... but I don't know what to do with it because I keep trying to put it into some kind of context.
But I think there's a new twist to the matter, as I look at what I've made before. Despite my desolation with the useless idea that my ideas are better than anyone else's, there is something that I hope will grow to become a means to my own art, to making, to feeling that need again. It is time. It is the fleeting feeling, the quicksand. It is the fact that although I think my ideas are rubbish or that they will not stick out above the rest, they are there. Otherwise it's just like all the other thoughts running through my head, gone. And then I can't look back in disgust, because really, I can't really remember what it was that I thought back then. The years go by and I realise I want to fight with my past self, with the ideas I thought important before. I want to make 'bad' art. Because it's something for me to fight with - my own context, maybe?



The party was well set-up and it was quite clear why I was sitting in the artsy and multilingual corner of the table. Sitting among graduates of Harvard and Oxford does, however, intimidate me with my slightly less ivy league, oxbridge, clean-cut scholarly path. What it takes is that little fist inside you to hold your chin up, proud of what you've done. Because I am. Even though I am at a themed party where I completely misunderstood the 'theme'. I still do not really know what the actual intention was, but the dance floor was full of a mixture of childhood icons and playful takes on the theme.

But the point wasn't to analyse my possible mistaking of the corresponding attire; it was to note a memorable conversation I think I'll never forget. Speaking to a man dressed as a Stanford student (funny because he went to Yale and Oxford) is speaking to me about literature. Our common sense of respect for literature in the Spanish language leads to a civilised discussion of Latin American politics, of Neruda poetry, and finally he asks me "so who is your favourite author?"

My automatic response is, Jorge Luis Borges. He smiles and states "me too! What is your favourite piece?" Now this linearity blocks my brainwaves, and I am blank. I just said that Borges was my favourite author, and though my mind floods with images of mirrors and labyrinths, riddles and puns, I cannot think of any title except a silly little story I read in my Spanish literature class called Borges y yo - 'Borges and I,' a dualistic approach to his identity that really spoke to my seventeen-year-old self. There is no way I could mention that to this man clad in a university jumper. His smile gleams. I am intimidated. "Well, I...... hm, can't think of anything at the moment, more impressions really." I look away, ashamed to have spoken so surely, so passionately about something I guess I do not know.
"Well the piece I remember reading is from a class I took in university, it was called 'Borges y yo' - you might know it."
I look up, shocked. We had studied the same things, drawn the same conclusion. A love had developed for this Argentine author based on a ladder made of ice - or something that will melt away like that. A feeling I believe I often took while a student. You think you know everything, can quickly draw a conclusion and feel attracted to the slightly different, complex, and demanding level of his works because it shows just how committed you are to studying different, complex, and demanding pieces that no one else in your class liked. But on what base? I could not even remember what I had read, many years later when I continued to feel this attraction to Borges.

The man and I continued to speak about the interesting way we both do not remember titles but a feeling of admiration for the author. In a bit of a civilised manner. But this little void in the substance of our discussions definitely caused the dialogue to cease rather than flourish - was he also shocked by the truth that what we conclude in school is tiny compared to real life?

Needless to say, I have been reading Borges. His savvy wordplay and astute alliterations are ingrained to my memory, and paperbacks of his are on my bookshelf. I can truly admit, I like Borges. But I love García Márquez's magical realism - or do I?

That fist will still be there to hold my chin up next time.



En mis búsquedas por los escultores del Renacimiento, he encontrado a un personaje interesantes del siglo XVI, un tal Francisco de Holanda. Fue un hombre extraordinario, pero como un analista moderno postula, fue un personaje cuyo contacto con la fama, "...y, por consiguiente, con la inmortalidad" fue como testigo, espectador. Entrevistó en una tarde al famoso Miguel Ángel, y de esta forma se vuelve infinito. Lo comparan a Eckerman, testigo de Goethe, o Las Casas, testigo de Napoleón. ¿Cuántas personas de esta forma no viven hoy día, en nuestros alrededores, espejos de nuestra existencia?
Francisco de Holanda viajó a Italia y fue becado/espía para el rey Juan III, pero nació en Lisboa, de un padre que era miniaturista llamado Antonio, de origen holandés, en los últimos años de la segunda década del XVI. En 1538, cuando Francisco debe haber tenido solamente veinte años, llega a tener conversaciones con el maestro, en ese entonces de sesenta y tres años.
Pero este genio no solo era un extraordinario labrador manual - unos historiadores se han preguntado si éste florentino en realidad fue un factor esencial para la Reforma Protestante! El costo que fue para el papa Julio II crear una capilla como la Sixtina, donde podría ubicar a su tumba (nunca terminada), le requirió a sus sucesores buscar más medios de ganar dinero, pues alzando los precios de las indulgencias, y corrompiendo el proceso de donaciones que enfurece a Martín Lutero - vaya teoría, Giovanni Papini!
Y Francisco de Holanda tuvo el placer de publicar sus conversaciones con este talento que hizo que cayeran los dominós. Pero el espíritu que Miguel Ángel relata a Francisco no es realmente uno del orden antiguo; se está acercando ya a un pensamiento Barroco en vez de Renacentista. Quizás uno podría ver un paralelo entre la adolescente admiración de los antiguos maestros en el siglo XV y luego un más sabio deseo y búsqueda espiritual en arte del siglo XVI. Ya en el crepúsculo de su vida Miguel Ángel estaba buscando una esencia secreta, lo metafísico de la pintura. Es gracioso que en este entonces sigue con un desprecio del arte flamenco, cuyas alegorías y relatos muchas veces tratan con estos mismos temas. Imagínate una conversación entre Rembrandt o Bernini y Miguel Ángel!
Pero las conversaciones que nos quedan no son con famosos, sino con estos personajes tan interesantes de la historia - los que inmortalizan las cosas. De la misma forma que el Nuevo Testamento fue escrito por los apóstoles, que un Horace Walpole escribe sobre el arte británico, que un Vasari relata la vida de los pintores - así es que los cuentos sobreviven. Mientras que las autobiografías, o los cuentos escritos por personajes principales se caen. La autobiografía de Cellini, Mein Kampf... y si Jesus sí escribió un Evangelio? El subjetivismo de contar su propio cuento deshace al heroismo, de una forma u otra. Quizás en las palabras de un espectador, podemos relacionarnos como espectadores también.


Tiene que ser una buena señal que cuando me siento a desayunar un pedazo de tortilla y un cafecito en el bar 'El Tilo' en la Plaza Vega de Burgos, la radio cambia de canción a una sonata bachatera de Juan Luis Guerra. El mundo es pequeño; en esta madrugada de escalofríos un poco de sonido caribeño me hace bien.

El tren desde París llegó a Burgos Rosa de Lima a las 05:13 de la mañana, aunque mi billete decía que llegaría a las 05:20. Siete minutos de avance - pero en realidad estos minutos singulares no hacen la diferencia; he llegado a Burgos demasiado temprano en la mañana.

Un hombre con tabaco en la mano para al elevador para que mi maleta y yo puedan bajar con unos turistas hablando un francés incompresible. A esta hora, luego de un paseo en tren trasnochada, no creo que entenderé nada. La temprana hora me está pesando encima, y cuando el hombre del tabaco me mira y pregunta si necesito a un taxi, decido decirle que sí. El primer día de muchos en España, acabo de dormir en una silla reclinable al lado de una linda pero muy conversadora familia colombiana, y todavía está oscuro el cielo - he decidido que me merezco ese poco de lujo. Una francesa con sólo una mochila en la mano me pregunta si quiero compartir un taxi. "Est que tu allez a Burgos?" Conveniente - ya el lujo va dividido entre dos.

El taxista, que resulta ser el mismo hombre del elevador y del tabaco, nos abre el baul de su carro y nos dice, "Pues a Sevilla, no?" Solo yo sonrío, como la francesa sólo sabe decir que quiere ir al "Chamin du Saint Martin" - el camino de San Martín. Una peregrina. Al taxista le digo el nombre de mi hotel, nos sentamos en el taxi que huele a años de humo mezclado con un olor a frío característico de la temprana madrugada, y allí vamos, entre conversaciones sobre peregrinaje, y cuentos sobre la madre del taxista, quien falleció recientemente.

Llegamos al Hostal Acacia, y le pregunto al taxista si algún sitio ya estará abierto a estas horas para desayunar. No me había dado cuenta del hambre que tengo. Me empieza a contar la vía mientras cuento a mis monedas para pagarle - doblas a la derecha, caminas hasta la estatua del Cid, ahi doblas a la izquierda y luego a la derecha justo después del puente, luego a la izquierda nuevamente en el semáforo, y justo ahí, en la Plaza Vega cerca de la estación de los autobuses. Y si yo quería, me esperaba mientras yo dejaba las maletas, sin dudas dejando que el medidor corra acumulando euros. Le digo que ya está bien - lo encontraré. Tengo varias horas que matar antes de que abra la catedral, una caminata no me quedaría mal.

Cuando toco el timbre del hostal, situado debajo de una etiqueta "COMPLETO." Me responde una voz que todavía suena de sueños - "Si?" El dueño del hostal está sorprendido, claro, como lo estuve yo al darme cuenta que mi tren llegaría antes de las 6 de la mañana en vez de las 8 como yo originalmente creía. La hora que yo había visto era la llegada a Madrid, a mas de dos horas de Burgos. Dejamos a mi maleta en la oficina, y prometo volver a las doce del mediodía, cuando ya salgan los huéspedes.

En camino al bar "El Tilo" - como Tila, la hierba que uno usa para curar a las tos - vuelvo a ver al taxista que me contó esto mismo. Me apunta a dónde doblar, y sigo caminando al lado del río en las oscuras calles vacías. Pienso en la cara del hombre de la recepción del hostal - su cara honesta, su barba estilo mosquetero, su ropa negra deportiva. Espero que no le molesté demasiado con mi llegada.

Solo me quedan dos euros - mi tarjeta ya no funcionó en el cajero, probablemente bloqueada por el cambio de nacionalidad repentina, así que esta tortilla y el cafecito me deja debiendo treinta y cinco centavos. La señora del bar, con su cigarro en la boca y tratando de cuidar a los hombres bebiendo licor, me dice que no importa. Pero yo volveré. Y así es, todavía creo que mañana nuevamente estaré despierta en la madrugada, buscando un sitio, caminando por calles vacías... no he dormido mucho últimamente.

La catedral de Burgos tiene dos entradas: uno para 'Turismo' y la otra para 'Culto Oración.' Como el del culto abre más temprano, hoy seré católica y no intelectual. Pero, no estaría mintiendo, siento algo espiritual aquí, luego de cruzar una puerta en la pared medieval de la cuidad, espectacular, y ahora sentada en un banquito en la Plaza Santa María, escribiendo con un residuo de inspiración agarrada al leer "Doña Rosita la Soltera" de García Lorca.

Un alto en la paz - una señora con pelo cortado de monje y una cartera colorida camina rápidamente por el elevado de la plaza, gritándole a alguien. Logro comprender "puta de la mierda" y nada mas de los gritos. Pues, España ya no es el país de peregrinaje medieval y humildad - sigo rodeada de pecadores.


From "One Way Street"

Walter Benjamin knows how to say it best:


What is 'solved'? Do not all the questions of our lives, as we live, remain behind us like foliage obstructing our view? To uproot this foliage, even to thin it out, does not occur to us. We stride on, leave it behind, and from a distance it is indeed open to view, but indistinct, shadowy, and all the more enigmatically entangled.[...]

Wrinkles in the face, moles, shabby clothes, and a lopsided walk bind him more lastingly and relentlessly than any beauty. This has long been known. And why? If the theory is correct that feeling is not located in the head, that we sentiently experience a window, a cloud, a tree not in our brains but, rather, in the place where we see it, then we are, in looking at our beloved, too, outside ourselves. But in a torment of tension and ravishment. Our feeling, dazzled, flutters like a flock of birds in the woman's radiance. And as birds seek refuge in the leafy recesses of a tree, feelings escape into the shaded wrinkles, the awkward movements and inconspicuous blemishes of the body we love, where they can lie low in safety. And no passer-by would guess that it is just here, in what is defective and censurable, that the fleeting darts of adoration nestle.





What will I do today? Idle hours give me time to punch myself with a feeling of duty. It's a violent thing, really, the want for continuance, for weight. Competitiveness, but really not against anything or anyone in particular, rather with oneself. Or with a certain voice inside, holding a pocket-watch and pointing to the second hand. Come to think of it, it could actually be the voice of your own heart. Not the one we imagine gives relationships importance, but rather that organ which keeps us alive, and keeps us on task. We are cursed with being a certain kind of walking bomb. Every movement, every activity, every decision is precisely held into rhythm by something at our centre. What a strange image.
Today I read on some random person's profile that Aristotle said nothing is meaningful if paid for. Or something of the sort - deriding the monetary gains and doing things for other purposes. I do not even really know if this is reliable information, and I don't have my copy of Poetics with me, so perhaps it is just another convenient neoclassical ideal. But it did bring about a dialogue in my head about the science of earnings. Especially as I am working with something that most would not consider a job. Where is the line drawn, between my passion and my monetary means? Or the simple feeling of working for something versus the feeling of having to work. If you read it with different intonations, it could mean vice-versa.
And if passion comes from the same root as patience - pati to endure in Latin, it speaks of hardship, of suffering. Hence the feeling of duty in my passion, perhaps?



Just flew back into the city from Germany last night. On a Friday, nearing midnight. Greeted by the smile of an overweight rosey cheeked gentleman seated across from me in the train, and then a couple of girls getting sick next to me on the tube; the pavement was still damp from the persistent drizzle so particular. Golden light radiating from the lamp posts obliviously articulates the grooves of the city's blue grey consistency. The skid-proof bumps at crosspoints made my suitcase jiggle as I hurried home, past the groups of smoking teenagers and Guiness-holding elders. Welcome home.




Sunday sketch


Wilco concert

Live music and the thrill of the crowd. "and that's the thanks I get, for lovin' youu"