Please, not again

How can life, the universe, be so unjust?

I had one of the happiest years of my life. I gave thanks regularly to the universe, god, whatever, for the lessons I went through last year that brought me to the place where I was able to be vulnerable and experience true love and a relationship that challenged me and was so full of happiness every single day. With someone who I admired and who, quite frankly, amazed me with his maturity and ability to love me so deeply and without restraints. I’ve never even heard of anyone experiencing what I experienced with him.

Albert Aran Selvaggio always had the right words to say, was never defensive, showed me I could trust him completely–whom I did trust completely–and who I loved in a way I never thought was possible. I was able to experience a relationship that surprised and delighted me every single day we were together.

My love, my partner, my man cared for and protected me. There was nothing more I could ever want. He told me every day that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he was with me for the rest of his life. It was just far too short.



Welcoming the old demons

I am single again, and have been plunged back into all the insecurities of being rejected now that I am dating. My relationship was comfortable and felt safe, for many reasons. Suffice it to say that my abandonment issues were never strummed in my last relationship.

I had not felt those old familiar feelings of abandonment for a long time, and since I began dating/meeting others online, there have been many moments of perceived rejection. All those old insecurities are getting triggered once more, either for legitimate reasons or not so legitimate reasons.

But the interesting thing is, while I dread them and they are uncomfortable, I found myself welcoming them. It was as if I had missed them, because they are so familiar to me. They were gone for 6 years and now suddenly they are back and I feel like myself again. It’s a strange sensation, but I realized that I like them on some level.

That’s a new realization for me. I understand more fully why we hang onto addictions and destructive behavior. Logically I understood that yes, we recreate our past traumas to try to solve them (which doesn’t work, in case you were wondering) and that we seek what is similar to what was imprinted onto our psyches as children, no matter how destructive or violent. We seek it because there is comfort with what we know. But this was the first time in my life I have really consciously felt it from all sides, the bad and the good and the missing it and everything.

Here’s to our old familiar demons.


Too Close for Comfort

I live in a very dense urban environment. My windowed balcony doors look across the narrow street into the neighbors same doors. I don’t need much imagination to see how my neighbors live. The street is so narrow between the buildings that  I can step out onto my balcony and have a conversation with people living on the other side of the street.

I probably should check  if I am decent when I walk out into my living room in the morning, but I rarely do. I don’t really care what the gay couple, whose vantage point looks across and down into my flat, sees me doing. I’m sure they are less than thrilled to watch me make coffee and slouch over a computer in my underwear. It’s possible they are entertained when I struggle through my front door, sweating and swearing after hauling a mountain bike up three flights of extremely narrow stairs. Or perhaps it interests them how often I do dishes, or compulsively clean the wood floors that are constantly dusty from the crumbling brick wall that comprises the entire eastern wall of my place. I in turn can see them trimming each others hair, dining, or relaxing on a luxurious looking sofa in their beautifully furnished and much larger flat.

The place just below the gay couple is more exposed from my vantage point. I can see their messy dining table all covered in papers, computers, an iron, phones, snacks… I see what they eat for lunch and dinner at that table. I can watch them sitting on their couch in the living room, reading in the chair, petting the cat who’s litter box is on the balcony and is so close I can sometimes smell it. I see all this, just as they see all my activities, though of course we attempt to appear not to notice. This is how you live in such close proximity. Pretend not to be looking, unless both of you are on the balcony. Then you can make eye contact and visit.

Occasionally a neighbor will have a dinner party, and I’ll get to hear all their chatter and music until the wee hours. Or the old guy a few floors up and across from me will enthusiastically watch a football match, running out onto his tiny balcony in his underwear, jumping and hooting, sometimes singing. All of this is fine, I can tune it out, even be entertained by it, even with my balcony doors open. But recently, a new family has moved in, and my relaxed attitude toward urban living and it’s various and sundry music has changed.

This is a Pakistani family with at least five children, two of whom are very young twin boys. Maybe 3 years old. I think they have a special language that twins sometimes develop, you know the one I’m talking about? Yeah, that, except their particular special language is made entirely of screams, angry whining and crying. Lots and lots of crying. Seriously, I don’t know what is wrong with them, I don’t even think they talk, but they constantly squeal and  scream while standing on their balcony, or from just inside the doors of their balcony which are alway open, echoing the noise through these narrow streets and bouncing off the stone walls directly through my now constantly closed doors and into my living room. At all hours of every day. For example, it is presently 1:17am and I hear those little fuckers squealing and crying right now.

Three or four times a day I open my doors and command them to be quiet, sometime pointing a finger at them to get back inside their house. If their older sister sees me, she will pull them inside and shut the doors. Any of their brothers will ignore me. Mom will occassionally smile up at me and sheepishly laugh, as if to say “Oh kids these days. What are you going to do?” The neighbors, when one of them throws a particularly piercing temper tantrum is thrown in the middle of the night, are not so nice with their language. They’ll shout “Shut up, Muslims!” using the word Muslim as an insult, or offer a charming “Hey, Pakistanis, shut the fuck up!” (Which, for what it’s worth, generally works.)

I think from where I am situated, I get the worst of the reverberating screaming, or maybe the neighbors are more accustomed to living with noise. Either way, I won’t be able to keep my doors shut much longer. Summer is coming and it will be far too hot not to have them open. So unless the squealers shut up (unlikely), I’ll be moving again (likely). I told the owner here that I would stay until September, but I don’t think I can last that long. I hate to say it but those brats have won.

I guess it’s time to get out of my neighbors’ living rooms anyway.

More Spanish Efficiency

A couple years ago, I wrote about how efficient the Spanish blue collar workers are. But now I have an exciting new story to share. Believe me, this one is so much better!

A few weeks ago, because of the way the air flows through this flat, one of the windows literally was blown out by the wind when I accidentally left the bedroom doors open. The wooden doors on the opposite end of the house open out onto a tiny balcony. The nails in the flimsy wood pieces that held the heavy glass part of one of the doors were sucked right out by the wind tunnel that formed, and the glass smashed onto the balcony railing and shattered onto the narrow pedestrian street below. Fortunately no one was on the receiving end of the falling glass shards. But it did grab the attention of the neighbors, who then called the owner and the fire department. (I was in class, so I came home to some serious mayhem.)

The owner of the flat arranged a repair company to come out the same day. Two guys showed up to  measure for new glass. Then they told me it would be ready in one week. Now, knowing how these things typically work, I did not even bother telling them I would not be in the country for the next 9 days. So I put plastic over the window and left.

After my return, it rained. It even hailed one day, sending little ice balls smacking against the plastic taped over the window in my living room. All so very relaxing. And still I had no phone call.

Finally, 12 days after original visit, the company called on a Monday to set an appointment for two days later. It rained the day of the appointment, so evidently that means they don’t work, so no one shows (or calls). Friday a man arrives at my door. He arrives empty handed.  The guy looked at the window, asked where the missing piece of wood was (um, it’s broken? It’s with the rest of the window in the trash?) and left. The purpose of this visit still eludes me.

He is supposed to call the next day to confirm returning either in the morning  or the following day in the afternoon. He doesn’t call.

I wait four more days.

Finally, my landlord calls to ask if I will be home that Friday for the company to come out. I say Yes. I am ready for a window. They show up one hour late, but with wood and glass and silicon. And then they display the level of expertise that is unfortunately what you can normally expect here:  They fumble about and remove nails from the old wood, then put tiny dots of silicon where the nails used to be, and reuse the old wood to hold in the glass. Even I, someone who is nowhere near a carpenter, know that six blobs of silicon on balsa wood is not strong enough to hold in a 15 pound lead glass window that sits at the end of a powerful wind tunnel. Hello. I’m guessing at the very least you should at least cover the wood with silicon? I stare open mouthed and try to wrap my head around how these guys are make it through life.

Hey, I’m not complaining, it could have been worse. For example (and there are so many examples to choose from!) recently a friend caught electrical transformer and subsequently his wall on fire. He had no electricity for over a month and, having all electrical power (no gas for hot water or stove) had to shower and cook at a friends house. The day the workmen arrived (one month later, remember), they arrived an hour late, immediately left for a one hour breakfast break, then left before the work was complete because they had another appointment. I think there were three more visits before all was said and done.

So let’s sum up. It took three weeks and three men to cut a piece of glass and a 2 foot piece of balsa wood and glue gun it all in place. And that wasn’t even an extreme example of inefficiency.

I just hope I don’t have any better stories than to share with you in the future.

PS As hair pullingly frustrating as all this sounds, this level of workmanship, responsiveness and efficiency is far better than the bureaucracy should you decide to legally reside here as an American. But that is another story.

Moving On, Part IV: A Wrench in the Gears

I had planned to make Part IV of this thrilling saga you’ve been reading to be about purchasing a new place. I spent a lot of time looking right before I left California, in between furiously packing, selling and giving away everything I owned. I figured if I could find a place before I left, I would be ready to move right in when I returned to California for the winter. I even made two offers on places, though I didn’t follow through with either of them. One because I came to my senses that it was actually more than I could afford, and the other I determined was just too small. Which, as it tuns out, was a good thing.

Two days after leaving California, I was in Rhode Island to visit my brother for a couple of days, en route to Barcelona. I was working  at the bar which serves as the kitchen in his house. He lives in a former bar- but before you go thinking he is a total degenerate, he owns the entire building plus a few more in Newport. He just has a high tolerance for unconventional living situations. And questionable levels of cleanliness. Which is why I ended up cleaning his bathroom the night I arrived. But my brother is a story for another time. So there I was, working away next to the empty beer taps, sweating  to get an assignment completed a little bit early, when I got the call. That “I hate to deliver the news…but we don’t have any more work for you” call. Suddenly, finishing that task early was not so important. In fact, that assignment got turned in three days late.

I probably should have seen this coming, but I didn’t, or maybe I didn’t want to. When you work on a project basis, even when you are a full time employee, this is a call you get sometimes. I was given an option to keep my employee status without pay, like I did for nearly all of 2009, which might let me pick up work here and there, and likely guarantee me time on the next project. But I chose the layoff. Yes, in this job market, I’m probably crazy. But I’m hoping that my friend JJ’s psychic email skills are accurate when she says she senses a fulfilling opportunity will present itself to me randomly and easily. Though I’m not sure what that is going to be.

For the moment, I’m OK. I don’t know where to start, but panic hasn’t set in yet. My self doubt is at a manageable level, only requiring a few handfuls of chocolate chips to maintain my calm as I write this.

Could this wrench be a fortunate thing?


Guys, I’ve been reduced to a blubbering mass of self pity, I can focus on nothing but the knotted muscle and crushed bone in my shoulder. See, I fractured my collarbone on a bicycle two weeks ago. But this injury was not the problem. In fact, that injury was no problem at all, except for the 438 euros the hospital charged me to stand in a hallway with 13 other people for four hours. Oh, then they took two X-rays and confirmed I did not separate the bone (which I knew already), just fractured it about 1/2 way through. I was on a bicycle the next day. I went to the gym, and 8 days later I rode 40km through mud, up and down hills, over rocks and branches without so much as an “ouch”.

No, the problem here is what I did 8 days after breaking it –  I reached for my phone and broke it again. Only this time much worse. In fact, as I was twisting and reaching for said phone, I heard a distinctive crunch. I had just enough time to think “was that…?” before pain shot through my entire shoulder and arm. It turns out I crushed the healing break and it bled, leaving a hematoma right over the break. So now any movement pulls the painful lump right over the break and, well let’s just say it does not feel fantastic.

If any of you know me well enough, you know I have a high pain tolerance and I ignore illness and injuries as much as possible. Case in point: 3 days after surgery on this very same clavicle, I was in Oregon qualifying for a 125GP race. But here it is, one week later, and mentally I am a basket case. Imagine my general outlook on life after an entire day of trying to carry your arm around like a dead weight, while a knife is slowly twisting in the shoulder blade behind it. My outlook has not been sunny.

The best was yesterday, when I finally found a heating pad for my shoulder. They are not easy to find and I went across looking for one. I finally got home after 2 hours of trudging across town while carry my arm in the opposite hand like it was a wet towel, bumping people with it on the metro, and hauling it up and down stairs. I popped the heating thingy in the microwave (it said microwave proof) and it promptly exploded one minute later, spraying blue goo everywhere. Poor GP had to witness the subsequent meltdown.

This injury has made me realize I might be more vulnerable than I care to admit. In fact, it brought on quite a bout of homesickness for a few days, where I just wanted to lie on my old couch in my house with my dogs and cat hanging around near me (or on me if I let them, the big dog included), watching recorded episodes of Project Runway. But I don’t have my dogs here, or even a television, let alone a Dish Network or Tivo.

Oh yeah, and I have cut out wine for the next 6 weeks. Self comforting has been a challenge, let me tell you. Thank goodness for cookies.

A Tip for Your Next Move

Should you find yourself moving across town, here is a helpful tip:

Try to hire a car that is NOT the smallest in the world. Say, one that fits more than a bag and a pair of sneakers in it.

This will save much driving back and forth between residences and avoid the multiple frustrations of one way streets and incomprehensible traffic signs that flow traffic in ever tighter circles around your destination, but that never lead to your destination.

It will also save 100 bicycle trips across town for the person who does not fit in the car.