I often fantasize about the jobs I’d hold in alternate realities. Singer. Hair stylist. Travel Agent. I can’t sing a song that anybody would ever really say was worth listening to, and my bangs are terminally crooked despite the fact that I’ve been hacking them off myself for two decades now, but I do still confidently maintain that I’d make a fantastic travel agent. Continue reading
I have seen a good bit of the world, which for some reason has cultivated in others the mistaken impression that I might be a good source of counsel when it comes time to pack for a trip.
Let me assure each of you that this is not the case.
How do you swallow a buffalo?
There’s a trick to it, which I was taught some dozen years ago, deep in the jungle, at Christmas dinner, by a man who’d stolen everything from me.
And now, I’ll teach it to you.
British author Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Agreed. Movement is major, no matter how you accomplish it. And, lately, I’ve felt strangely compelled to do a bit more of my moving by rail. Not by air. Not by highway. Not by feet. Give me, instead, two simple, snaking parallel tracks of steel, wood and creosote, and an ample-bosomed parade of linked cars to shepherd me willy-nilly across its shiny, tempered back, ever onward toward the disappeared horizon.
“L’amour c’est comme une cigarette
Ça brûle et ça monte à la tête
Quand on ne peut plus s’en passer
Tout ça s’envole en fumée.”
I’ve spent the past two days in McMinnville, Oregon. Wine country, and the town where I attended undergrad. I don’t get back often, and had forgotten how beautiful the fall foliage is around here. I was kicking myself almost as soon as I rolled into town for not bringing my SLR, but my trusty little iPhone did the trick nicely. A few favorites.
Mexico. It’s no place for a lonely soul. Back in 2004, I found myself marooned on an island there for 11 months in the company of a rather motley bunch.
There were the not-quite-local Mexicans, all of them mostly all connected in some way to the booming tourism industry, and none seeming to care much for my presence.
I met this guy on a tropical island in Belize once. Steven.
He was very New Jersey, and I feel somehow qualified to describe him as such although I have never even been to New Jersey: pasty skin, caterpillar eyebrows, and costumed always in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and a pilled-up Bowler hat.
Steven sauntered around town in a pair of tacky sunglasses, chain-smoking Colonial Light cigarettes and making frequent allusions to some obscure Internet business he was running.
Last evening here in Barcelona. It’s 5:36 p.m. and I’m struggling to rouse myself so that I might do a bit of work. Later, we’re heading to El Born Barrio with our friendly Catalan landlord to enjoy a final meal out, and, most likely, a few glasses of cava. We told him we had to be home by 11 p.m. on account of our early flight and I could just about hear him laughing at us over text message.
“That’s a prudent hour,” he texted us in his formal Spanish. But doth I detect a hint of good-natured sneering?
As I may have mentioned one or a thousand times since I arrived in Spain back in early June, our terrace has a front-and-center view of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
This sprawling, Roman Catholic Basilica is a work in progress, to put it mildly. Construction kicked off in 1882. It’s supposed to be finished by 2026, on the centenary of Gaudi’s death. (Tragically, ironically, unbelievably, he was struck by a tram while crossing a street near the church, headed to another day at his life’s great work. I can just picture him, starry-eyed, gazing up at the unfinished spires, and BAM! Poor guy.)
We are just back from a side trip to Tangier, Morocco. I pushed hard for this journey, as I’ve long been fascinated by tales of the various and sundry and sometimes-even-legendary creative types who have landed there through the decades, from writer Paul Bowles to The Rolling Stones to a few of the more rough-and-tumble Beat poets.
They came, mostly, I suppose, for the mind-altering substances and the whores and the general social permissiveness of the place. (Odd, considering that it is and always really was a devoutly Muslim corner of the world.) I came for the mint tea and the nostalgia, characteristically late to the party, and it turned out to have been a good thing, as this place has changed its stripes drastically in the years since all those poorly behaved artistic types recast the medina as their own personal drug den.
We’ve been here in Spain roughly three weeks. I’ve lately been rather enamored of Instagram (find me there: @erinjbernard; you can also check out my latest Instagram photos by navigating to the homepage of this website and scrolling to the bottom lefthand corner. You’re welcome!)and have been uploading photos daily there. I like the simplicity of shooting and sharing photos by iPhone, but of course, there’s no comparison between a cell phone pic and an SLR one. Thusly, a few shots taken recently with my Canon 5d.
Last night I dreamed that I was drowning in a soupy sea of red wine and macaroni noodles, and it’s really no surprise.
We landed in Barcelona almost a week ago, after dark, with the sky awash in thunder and lightning, and a few long, deranging days in, it’s already pretty clear that the Spaniards, and perhaps Western Europeans in general, have a certain zest for pleasure that’s conspicuously lacking in daily American life.
The first thing you notice about India is the quiet.
The unexpected bursts of it, I mean – tiny little salvos of Nothing dotting the rumbling compunctions of this country’s inevitable chaos, flattening you in the most unplanned moments.
The first thing you notice about El Salvador is the noise.
The music, I mean – music of all kinds, issuing screamingly forth from competing crackly amplifiers of every make on street corners of every make in towns of every make.
Music: everywhere, inescapable, inveterate.