A new chapter

I don’t know what it means now that I have gone through this. All I know is things are very different for me.

I am happier than I have ever been. I feel like I am no longer doomed to repeat myself, acting out the same long term relationship patterns I have always repeated. I am making new discoveries about my relationships with my parents, my friends, my love interests–even strangers–every week. I surprise myself constantly with the ability to make new choices and to choose new behavior (and find the tools for creating new behavior) that steers me into new directions, and away from things I have struggled with my whole life.

And, of course, the relationship front has changed. For the better, obviously. Just as soon as I was no longer able to access certain deep seated pain (I was still trying every day), along came someone who, at first, I thought was another “no”. By the end of the first date we had plans to see each other again but I still thought, “this probably isn’t going anywhere”. By the third or fourth date, when it was clear he really liked me, I remember thinking to myself “I am going to break this man’s heart”.

Until I went away for 5 days and realized that I was missing this person. What a very different start to a relationship than I have ever experienced before. And that was only the beginning. Every single thing about the start of this relationship has been different. I tried to be the “old me”, tried to keep him at arms length but I found I did not want to. Nor was I blinded by infatuation. Because before, it was one or the other – there was no in between.

Now I’m experiencing an “in between” that I can only describe as…healthy. He is emotionally healthy. He is available and present and not self involved. He made it (unintentionally) evident very early on that he sees me, sees the person I would normally hide.

I am honest with him regarding what I am thinking. Sometimes I try to hold things back, but it doesn’t last. maybe a day. Then I have to speak my truth. Sometimes this scares me but his reaction is always the same: don’t hold anything back.

I am cautiously testing how else I have changed and keep discovering new areas that I would never have guessed would be connected. Small things that sound trivial but boil down to being more open to change and fretting less about what people think of me. I’m not sure how this works or is connected, but it’s real.

I’m trying to continue with these healing therapies but find I am not getting so much out of them anymore because I am no longer in pain. So I am shifting to actually looking for areas that need “shifting” in my life, like my relationship with my family and with new friends and people. I am sure I will face more challenges, but I think I’ll be more able to deal with them.

I still feel strange disclosing what exactly the tool is that I discovered (well, I found a few but one worked very quickly) so I will refrain from sounding like a patchouli wielding hippie for the moment. (Though If anyone is going through significant pain, message me and we’ll have a conversation.)

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Have a Sh*tty Xmas.

It’s Navidad time here in Barcelona (aka Xmas to us North Americans), and of course that means many, many days off for the Spaniards. For example, I am at the tail end of a 5 day weekend.  Which would be great if I were working and if anything was actually open. But other than quite a few street markets selling jamon, antiques, and yes, Xmas stuff, the pickings are slim.

Usually I am not one to acknowledge this time of year other than to make fun of what a scrooge I am and to let others berate me because of my generalized annoyance at all things referencing this holiday. Which I enjoy, by the way.

Take for example the Xmas tree my father made for me last year. Tumbleweed, spray painted black. Cardboard and duct tape base. I think this is an accurate reflection of my spirit of Xmas.

That being said, there are a couple of traditions here I like because they either a) are slightly obscene or b) rather violent and slightly obscene. Thusly, I find them pardonable.

First we have the crapping log (El Caga Tió). This is a log with a face and hat that children beat with a stick while demanding and threatening it to shit turrons (sickeningly sweet nougat, served up in slab form), cheese and hazelnuts. For real, those three things. They even have a song in Catalan that goes like this:

Caga tío, (crap, log!)
caga turró, (crap torrons,)
avellanes i mató,( hazelnuts and cheese,)
si no cagues bé (if you don’t crap well)
et daré un cop de bastó (I’ll give you a smack with a stick.)
¡caga tió! (so crap, log!)

The log wears a blanket and is beaten by children while they sing. Then the blanket is removed to reveal the treats and shared among those present. In some versions of this event the log is then thrown into the fireplace and burned.

Here is a stack of  smiling logs awaiting their fate at a market.The second tradition has to do with the Nativity scene, which most households build. These consist of more than the baby Jesus and a handful of holy rolling onlookers. These are a full blown affair with hills, lakes, barns with animals, farmers, and abundance of food being prepared and it is all quite realistic, for example you can buy farmers slitting the throats of pigs on tables, complete with a pool of blood on the ground. Or toothless old ladies spinning yarn. Or ironmongers hammering horseshoes. The choices are endless.

Or, you can create a more bible oriented nativity,set in the desert, complete with elephants, camels and chariots. In any nativity you’ll find devils, angles; usually a priest or two.

But in any Nativity, there is always a Caganer. This translates to “shitter” and it is exactly that: some dude taking a poo right in the nativity. Yep. And there are lots to choose from. From traditional Catalan figures to famous people to politicians to cartoon characters.

Notice how every single figurine is squatting...?

But it gets better. Not only is the Caganer squatting with pants down, he (or she) always features a pile of poo just under the naked, protruding rear. (Click here to view other celebrity caganers, or buy one for your own nativity. Or whatever.) And sometimes, perhaps it’s a charming new trend, a nativity also features a Pixaner, which translates quite simply to “pisser”.

You can bet my mom will be receiving a Caga tio, a Caganer and a Pixaner for Xmas. They will be added to her Xmas decorations, along side her Incredible Hulk snorkle that decorated her tree last year.

Because nothing says Christmas like poop.

Ah, Barcelona.

Barcelona, I really hate that you insist upon construction work dragging on every day until what most people consider to be nighttime. For example, it is now 8:30pm and there is some ridiculously loud drilling going on in the flat above mine. I suppose the hammering will follow next, as it did last night until after 9pm. Did I mention I work at night, from home?

But I am not going to turn this into a criticism session. Because for all your faults, there are so many things I really love about you.

First, let me tell you how much I appreciate your Greater Middle East area of Raval. You’re hosting some damn fine Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, Iranian and Armenian restaurants and bakeries. Fort super cheap, I might add.

I love the unexpected art I come across every day. I found these little gems when I walked out on a jetty to greet a fat puppy sniffing  around at the cats who live in the jetties.

Speaking of the beach, now that Spring is here, the Chiringuitos are all out on the sand, playing music and serving up drinks. Love. Them.

And though I may not be able to find cottage cheese anywhere within your city walls (except for Carrefour Express on La Ramble, but it’s horrible UK cottage cheese), anything resembling real Mexican food, or convenient food like pre-shredded chicken in bags that I am accustomed to preparing for myself like a good American, I do love the entertaining variety of foods I can find in the larger supermarkets.

Yes, those cookies are called “Nun Nipples” and that’s an awfully hoochie looking nun pictured on the box. And you being Catholic no less.

Which brings me to the naked people. God how I love seeing your naked citizens walking around, riding bikes, or otherwise remaining undisturbed in their nudity. I especially love seeing the British tourist and their children stop in their tracks to stare open mouthed, while your Catalunyan grandmothers pass by arm in arm without a break in their conversations.

But the thing I probably appreciate the most is your lack of airport security. I know, I know, I’ve said it before. But that fact that you don’t make me take off my sweatshirt, shoes or earrings and that you don’t blink when I put this in my carry on and pass it through security X-ray:

It just makes my life so much easier.

Oh and also when I misspell my own name on my boarding pass. Thanks for letting that slide, too.

Love,

Me

An open letter to Spain

Dear Spain,

What the fuck? Would you stop with the winter already?  There is a reason I did not move to Austria or say, Finland. And you know what that is? I HATE BEING COLD. I hate it so much, that after skiing my entire life and 20 years of snowboarding, I’m now OK if I never touch snow again. Seriously.

Spain, you are not equipped for cold weather. There just isn’t the space or ventilation for it. The bars are too small and there are no smoking restrictions so when 300 people are jammed into a place with a capacity of 40, and 299 of them are smoking, it makes breathing a little difficult.

What I find especially spiteful is how you tease us with a day of sun or two, that has us sweating in the park while playing ping pong  (and ping pong isn’t exactly anaerobic), only to lure us down to la playa along with the 700 thousand other people who have been absolutely pining for Spring, and then commence in blowing arctic wind across the sand and boardwalks and blast it in our hopeful faces. I can hear you laughing, Spain. It’s not cool, not cool at all.

But what I really want to kill you for, the absolute icing on the cake, was what you did two days later after one said day of sun! Fucking snow. For the first time in what, 40 years there was snow on the ground? Seriously.

See this photo here. This here is my sun terrace. For sun. Not for collecting snow.

And this here? Is the park. The one we were sweating in two days earlier. Oh, and in the distance is the SEA. But you cannot SEE it in this photo because of all the SNOW falling.

So here’s the deal, Spain. Get your act together or I swear to god I am moving back to Hawaii where I will never have to wear pants again and the day I get there I will strip naked and frolic in the 88 degree weather in FEBRUARY (hopefully without getting arrested) and then I will eat a mango and pass out on the beach.

I’m leaving for Italy until you warm up a little, then we can discuss your decision.

Me

The Beach.

Dear Italians:

I know it’s the weekend and very shortly you will no longer be able to resist the urge to mentally just check-the-fuck-out and bake in the sun for 8 hours straight. You can go ahead and spend 3 hours in single lane traffic to get to the beach. By all means, pay to park on the street because you are in a hurry to get to that narrow strip of sand and the waveless, salty sea that looks  like a lake. You might come back to find a movable sign that says No Parking where your car used to be (this happened to me – the cops do it – nothing you can do about it), but that isn’t the point.

No, I know you are eager to get your 10 Euro umbrella and 5 Euro beach chair and find space near the bar so you can hear the music and a grilled sandwich and a beer is never far away. It’s all good.

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But I want you to take a moment, take a deep, cleansing breath and prepare your sunbaked brains to absorb some crucial information.

No matter how much of a rush you may be in …
No matter what your friend Flavio Flav says …

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Do not carry that fanny pack slung over your shoulder as a man-purse. Even if it is a Prada fanny pack. In fact, just don’t carry a fanny pack at all.

Trust me on this. It will totally fuck up your game at the rolling gelato stand.

OK pumpkins?

Now go play.

Pin the tail on the moto gear factory

Look at this map of my area. Do you notice anything?

(I meant other than the crappy Microsoft Paint cut and past job. It’s late and I am tired. You people make too many demands of me.)

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Most of the factories are fairly small. It’s just amazing how many there are in this area. I could visit every single place in one day.  (OK so Aprilia isn’t boots/leathers or helmets. But it’s close.)

Nearby but not on the map is Belstaff and EVO leathers, and also Teknic but I haven’t figured out where Teknic is yet

But wanna know something sad? Most of the people working in these factories have never ridden a motorcycle.

Supermoto, Con’t. AKA visit to moto heaven.

OK kiddies, this story continues.

So this place was a moto paradise. There is a roadrace track with a huge bridge you actually ride across.  A supermoto track, MX track, Trials (yes trial, not trail) riding area, offroad trails, and of course beautiful views and facilities. It was kind of crowded but of course there were quite a few tracks to ride on.

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We got there around noon (it was a late night and there were several stops to be made on the way) and met up with Gerards freinds. Joan Cosas (LCR Honda team mechanic) had one of Rueben Xaus bikes, along with an old helmet and a set of his gloves and his leathers (that were torn to shreds I might add) – the Catalans in the moto world are tight.

This bike was pretty sick.

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Joan on Ruebens ride

With plenty of fast guys already on the track, Marc Márquez showed up. Marc was the rider for the 125GP KTM team. Little guy was quick.

Brad Smith

Marc Márquez

I was a bit nervous never having ridden supermoto, not to mention sleep deprived, and now there was a whole slew of fast dudes who had been on the track all morning.  Gerard and I were sharing his bike so I let him go out first. He gets around the track pretty good.

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Then finally it was my turn. I asked a guy next to us to take me around for one lap so I could see where to enter and exit and also where the track went. My first session out was…confusing – I couldn’t decide to ride it like a roadracer or a dirtbike- but so much fun. In the four and half months prior to this day I had ridden a motorcycle exactly twice, both times on the street. Fortunately for my ego, I was not the slowest out there. By the second session I was probably twice as fast and chose better lines and had a better body position.

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The biggest ego boost (I know, right?) was when Joan and Gerard were watching my second session out. Joan turned to Gerard, eyebrows raised, and said “molt millor, no?” (which is Catalan for “much better, right?”). I was giddy when I heard this.  Not that the pressure was on or anything.

We barbequed some incredibly unhealthy food for lunch there at the track. I took photos and just marveled at the day I was having. We left around six and at Gerard’s place we drank of the beer and ate of the ice cream. And I actually got to watch Spanish cable television (I don’t have a TV) and ‘lo and behold…it was fucking good.  Can you say 30 mins of interviews with Jorege Lorenzo and Rueben Xaus on the random sports channel? And then the Worlds Fastest Indian came on (OK it was  dubbed into Catalan, so that part was gay, but I’ve seen it before). And then there were really cool and interesting news stories.  This is really the kind of day I should be having every day.

Instead of making Gerard drive me back to Barcelona with a trailer in tow, I took the train back to BCN.

Then I had one day to recover and prepare for my interview in Italy the next day (Which I know you read all about already and are not going to ask me to type every detail on Skype or instant messenger if you care about me at all).

And now….I am ruined. Riding is all I can think about now. When I had access to bikes and rode often, yes of course I thought about it all the time but, you see, the difference then was I could go riding whenever I wanted. So the thinking about it wasn’t painful, as it is now. And it is painful because I can’t have a bike. Why? The short story is I cannot legally put a bike in my name here, which messes up insurance, payments, and who gets blamed for traffic infractions. I COULD get a track only bike, but have no transport for it and more importantly, where would I store it? In addition, I no longer have a job and bikes are very expensive here. I kind of need to pay rent and also half my mortgage back in California…

So you know what I’m gonna do instead? Tomorrow, Susanna and I are renting 125cc scooters. I found a cheap place with beater scooters and I’m gonna rent one for 24 hours. And after that, I’ll probably end up renting one a week at a time when I need a fix and no one will loan me a bike. What? It’s almost exactly the same as a (insert name of acceptable motorcycle here). I’ll be livin’ large.

Hang on, kids. This party is about to get started. Woo.