Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maggie and the Machine.

I went in to get my hair done today with only a vague idea of what I really wanted. On one hand, I thought to myself, "Mad Men. Let's do Joan!" although I have only seen the show once. (I have seen a lot of the curvaceous Christina Hendricks in magazines and online, so perhaps that is what fueled the desire to go red. That, or Harry Potter and Ron Weasley...) The other option was Debbie Harry's signature platinum tresses and onyx ends, but I thought that would scream "desperate soccer mom" in the carpool line. Forget that my kids don't play sports ("yet", she added hopefully...) I don't want it to seem as if I am trying too hard. There is hardly anything more tragic, is there?

I love going to this particular stylist. Is that even the right word, now? Hair artist? He is not only a creative genius, but is also kind, patient, erudite, and funny. He is also exceedingly diplomatic. Some of his clients (not me, I don't think...) are insufferable, the type that complain that The Four Seasons in Fancyville was just not quite to their standards ("Can you believe that the bellboy scratched my new Louis with his belt buckle? Why was he so close to it?!" "Oh, Newport Beach is so hideous now. It's full of dull, poor people." And he will smile, and chat, and agree, and not once roll his eyes or cough knowingly. A true professional. (I, however, am not so diplomatic. But it's good practice at controlling my emotions.)

Well, you see what I have chosen. The color looks a bit soft through the gauzy, loving gaze of the webcam, as though I had wandered into a Monet painting and returned covered in the dew of water lilies. In reality it is a bit more Mad Men-meets-Florence (without her Machine)-meets-Agent Scully-meets-Ginger from Gilligan's Island. I have gotten stares and shocked looks (the kind where eyes open wide, close for a moment, then open again.) When I went to pick up my kids from camp, my daughter was so overcome that she tripped and fell into a bin of cans waiting to be hauled off for recycling. "WHAT DID YOU DO??" she squealed.

All in all, I think it's a success.

Florence and the Machine -Heavy in Your Arms

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Open at the Close (or, Back to Black).

Before I begin, I would like to address this photo. It is of a sign on a little side street in Spain. I am not sure what it is, really. Here are a few ideas:

1. School Zone (BORING! But probably accurate.)
2. Beware of Businessmen (in shorts?), They Steal Girl Children
3. CrossFit Class Ahead (don't they carry those kettle weight things?)

So, back to the business at hand. Thanks to my children (yes, I am blaming them), I have seen The Deathly Hallows 2 twice in the past week. At the first viewing, I sobbed so hysterically my husband started to elbow me energetically (even though he had been warned that I would be crying, and would not like to be disturbed). He is uncomfortable at displays of emotion, which is quite inconvenient considering that he is married to perhaps the most emotional person on the planet. The second time I saw the movie, I was also unable to have complete catharsis due to the interjections of the ragamuffin sitting behind me. At EVERY sad or supposedly scary part in the action, he would burst into uncontrolled laughter, yelling out, "That was SO FUNNY!"

And I needed that catharsis. It has been a rough week in general, and add to that the kidnapped boy in Brooklyn, the bombings in Norway, and even the death of Amy Winehouse (no, I am not surprised, yes, it's still sad) - it's enough to make me want to want to crawl under the covers and never come out. See? I warned you that I was sensitive! To prove it further, here is a list of Three Things That Will Always Make Me Cry (But Not The Notebook, Which Was Really, Really, Stupid.)

1. Love deferred, then ultimately denied. These are the kinds of movies and books I love! Couples torn apart by circumstance (preferably World War II) and a. never seeing each other again, or b. seeing each other again, and then one of the lovers coughs into a handkerchief and sees blood and you know it's only a matter of time before they are dead.

2. Men crying. (I can't even think of this without feeling queasy.)

3. "The Song Remembers When" by Trisha Yearwood. The song is about...a song. More specifically, the power of memory, and how hearing a particular song can take you instantly back to a time and place you either remember fondly or would rather scoop out of your head with a grapefruit spoon. I promise the lyrics are more poetic than that. If I had to list all the songs that make me tear up, this would be a long, long list, so I just picked one that encompasses all the rest.

What is it about crying? Why do some people tear up at just about anything, and others are able to play things closer to the vest? That said - I am glad that I am a crier. It can be embarrassing and overwhelming, but you will always know how I feel.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Found Things.

Cleaning out my computer, I found two things I wanted to share: a drawing created by one of my daughters two years ago or so, and a poem I wrote, who knows how old, now. I thought they went well together, and would buy me some time until I can come up with a real blog post! (It's been very, very hard trying to get back into the swing of things after the trip...)

(I touch with my hands. I touch you.)

I've learned so much since you've been away:
the small word,
that marries subject and predicate-
it has a name, as all things do:
it is called a copula.
Infinite ways to be joined,
taken apart, put right again.

I want to think of sweetness, love,
but my heart catches
on the ragged edge of
your absence.

So I have become obsessed
with other things,
the jade sliver of avocado
soft and yielding under my tongue,
the names of groups of animals,
stronger in number
than standing alone -

a pitying of turtle doves,
a gaze of raccoons,
a murder of crows.

This space is an ocean,
an eternity.
It is a comfort and a cruelty
that life goes on in its infinite wonder,
to the absence of your honeyed eyes,
to the forgotten taste
of your imperfect mouth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pop Quiz, Hotshot.

I was clearing out my camera and realized there is a whole set of pictures I haven't posted yet...but I don't have time right now, so instead I give you the results of some quizzes I have taken. Because I have time for the important things in life...

How many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight?

Created by Oatmeal

How long could you survive on the surface of the sun?

Created by Oatmeal

How long could you survive chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor?

Created by Oatmeal

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Beach, Barceloneta.

Well, I wish I was still here, now. Too bad for me! But it was lovely, and worth the 17 Euros I had to pay for two chairs and an umbrella. The children couldn't understand why a lot of the women were topless ("Because Europeans hate tan lines more than Americans do!") or why people would strip naked to shower off at a public beach. It was a good opportunity to reinforce my views on the matter (stop staring, we all have the same parts in general, nothing to be ashamed of, please don't ever take off your clothes in public, especially for money.) Explaining the sex shops was a bit more difficult....


Tapa Tapa. Barcelona.

Catalunya is not traditionally the place for tapas, but almost every other restaurant, be it a tiny, four-seat hole in the wall or a temple of haute cuisine, now offers these delectable little snacks. Unfortunately, as with everything, the quality is hit or miss. Some of the best tapas we had on this trip were here, at Tapa Tapa, which is actually a chain. I did feel a bit awkward taking photos of the food, though.

Castell de Montjuïc. Barcelona.

This fortress was built in the mid 1600s and has been the site of many, many unpleasantries throughout the centuries. I believe, however, that the plan is now to turn it into a center for peace studies.

Castell de Montjuïc.

Castell de Montjuïc.

Flamenco Cordobes. Barcelona.

Flamenco is not a specialty of Catalunya - it is from Andalusia. It was very interesting for me to see the Arab influence in the music and dance - sort of like looking at a picture of your great-great-great-great grandmother and noticing you share the same eyes and mouth. Pictures were not allowed during the show (it was a tiny venue, and I could just see the performers toppling off the stage under the barrage of flashbulbs), but my daughter snapped this one at the end. I was worried that they wouldn't be able to stay awake after a long day of interminable walking (the show started at 1030 pm), but I needn't have been afraid. It went perfectly, and the noise was enough to wake the dead (but not the row full of Koreans ahead of us - they took turns nodding off. Too much sightseeing during the day, I'm sure!)

Fruit Juices. La Boqueria. Barcelona.

La Boqueria is one of the most famous food markets in the world, along with La Merced in Mexico City. Although it isn't particularly large, the array of fruits, vegetables, meats and more make it a feast for the senses. My husband and daughters took pitaya (dragon fruit), which was an eye-popping electric purple. I had the banana-coconut-pineapple, which, although much less exciting to look at, was nonetheless delicious.

La Boqueria.

La Boqueria.

La Boqueria.

My girls got a kick out of this stand - gummy candies in all shapes and flavors. The flan candy tasted just like the real thing, but fortunately the brain one tasted like raspberry.

La Boqueria.

Pastelería Escribà. Barelona.

When it comes to eating, especially when I am holiday, I have very few restrictions and always seem to be hungry. Hence the need for a croissant after being at the market!

Check out the heels! So very Barcelona. Actually, so very Mediterranean.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

Ah, home sweet home. However far I wander, where ever I may roam...

Because we were on holiday, and because the internet was slow, I didn't get to post much. Since now the most exciting things I have to contend with are a frightening pile of laundry and the sounds of iCarly wafting through the house (also frightening), I will dedicate the next few posts to finishing up my travelogue.

Parc Güell, Barcelona.

Antoni Gaudí originally planned the grounds as a housing development, complete with schools and services. It didn't work out, and instead is now the site of thousands upon thousands of tourists tripping over each other to take photos. It is an unusual and interesting achievement, but I could not ever imagine living here (even without tourists trampling over my front lawn.) It's a bit too visually stimulating.

Parc Güell.

Parc Güell.

Parc Güell.

One of the greatest pleasures of travel, to me, is visiting local grocery stores. Not necessarily markets (which are wonderful in their own way), but places people stop in to buy their weekly needs. I love seeing the different beauty products (chock full of ingredients that would not muster FDA approval) and get downright giddy while perusing snack foods. I came across so many morsels of deliciousness in Barcelona!

Unfortunately, however, I do not eat pork (even in chip form) so did not get to consume these lovelies. America has Ranch flavored, Mexico gets Sal y Limon, and in England I saw Sunday Roast (if I recall correctly). It is amazing to me how you can track a country's essence (flavor-wise) through the flavor of its potato chips!

Camp Nou. Barcelona.

Home of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou is the largest football stadium in Europe. It seats almost 100,000 people. That sounds like a lot, but you don't really realize what that means until you get to stand on the pitch (well, right next to it - barriers prevent you from stepping on that precious grass). It is HUGE. This picture was taken from the stands, because the view was better.

My kids were initially reticent about visiting the stadium, which I had pegged early on as a must-see. When we arrived, however, they were speechless. We all were. It was definitely a highlight of the trip for us. There is a recording of fans cheering and chanting that plays as you walk out, and it really adds to the experience. It's not just for Barça fans, either. Lots of people were wearing jerseys from other clubs. Maybe they wanted to see the home field of the competition.

David Villa Jersey. Camp Nou.

I am a casual football fan, at best. I tend to go for national teams, because keeping up with clubs and leagues is a full-time job. The fact that the US is not exactly soccer mad doesn't help - to find a match you have to troll the upper reaches of your satellite provider's offerings (FIFA, channel 1938402374209) or watch Univison, with commentary in rapid-fire Spanish that I can barely follow. (Their World Cup coverage was hilarious last year, though. They actually would let the camera lovingly pause on attractive female football fans. It was almost like Berlusconi was in charge.)

That said, my only criteria for liking a particular player is a combination of their skill and level of attractiveness (HELLO Diego Forlán!). David Villa has both. He caught my eye last year during the World Cup. His footwork is maddening. Apparently he became ambidextrous after he broke his leg at the age of four.

Chapel. Club Nou.

I love the idea of praying before a game. Do they hold a full mass in here?

Camp Nou.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Amb o Sense Vostè.

Well, we are on the second leg of our journey (and have been for a few days now, actually.) Can you guess where we are? It's been tiring and fun. Ah, summer hols on the Med. Nothing like it, really. (That was in an effort to make me sound sort of smoothly European. Don't think it worked.)

Barcelona. View from top of La Pedrera, looking down Passeig de Gracia.

La Pedrera (Casa Milà). One of Antoni Gaudí's most famous buildings.

Window, La Pedrera.

Rooftop, La Pedrera. (Or something on Tatooine...)

Attic, La Pedrera.


Of course, Spanish is the official language of Spain, but we are here in Catalunya, so signs are first in Catalan, then Spanish, then English. This is written on the intersection, and apparently translates loosely as, "look both ways or you will die". (Actually, it says 1 out of 3 fatal accidents in Barcelona involve pedestrians.) Catalan is a beautiful language, not too difficult to figure out if you have an advanced degree in Romance languages. The pronunciation is not phoenetic.

There was a hotel on fire in Las Ramblas. It was basically just smoking when we came round, but I I loved this fire truck. It was so tiny!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

more. MORE.

Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea...

Homer, The Odyssey

Southern Lebanon.

Southern Lebanon.

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending

e.e. cummings, somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A.E. Houseman, Into My Heart an Air That Kills

Momo's, Beirut.

There is a Moroccan-themed lounge downtown (original location, London) that uses cute coasters printed with Moroccan sayings. It's funny how things can get lost in translation.

Delicious pastry at Momo's. Vanilla cream puff with passion fruit gelee.

Downtown Beirut.

Postcard for a pop-up shop, Beirut.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Expecto Patronum (or, Oh How I Wish).

I am a bit tired tonight, and no longer in Lebanon (more on that later!) but finally have internet that works, so I have to take advantage. I will finish up relating the Lebanon leg of my journey. It will provide welcome respite from the BBC's sports coverage (Thank God there were no cricket test matches!) and today's "Keep the Kids Walking So They Don't Realize How Far the Metro Station Is" activity: Twenty Questions (Harry Potter Edition).

So, about the first photo: I love this! I had recently been talking to my brother about Magritte and his painting, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", which is one of my favorite pieces of art. (I can't explain why; it makes me smile.) I came across this in the gift shop of Lebanon's National Museum, and it instantly reminded me of that painting. Granted, I need another empty, unlined notebook like I need a bushel of bunions, but I could not resist. I also bought one that actually says "ceci n'est pas une pipe" with a graphic of a hookah pipe, but in my efforts to promote non-smoking, I have refrained from posting the photo.

Sarcophagus depicting Priam begging Achilles for the body of Hector. National Museum, Beirut.

"Honor the gods, Achilles; pity him.
Think of your father; I'm more pitiful;
I've suffered what no other mortal has..."

I know I am partial to The Odyssey, but there are parts of The Iliad that brought hot tears of sorrow to my eyes. This is one of them. (Along, of course, with the actual death of Hector.)

The Kidnapping of Europa. Mosaic. National Museum, Beirut.

Ah, Europa, you Phoenician hussy! Climbing on to the back of a bull like that! That bull, of course, was Zeus, who had a fondness for fondling and for luring unsuspecting maidens into petting him (in various animal forms.) In this case, he turned into a bull, kidnapped Europa, and whisked her off. At least she got a continent named after her. (Much better than, say, "Stockholm Syndrome".)

The Birth of Alexander. Mosaic. National Museum, Beirut.

Now, call me crazy, but this should probably be called, oh, "The Toddlerhood of Alexander." Maybe he was a big baby, being The Great and all. Or maybe babies are hard to depict in mosaic. In any case, this was probably done after he was in power, because otherwise it would have just been a very time-consuming piece of art created for a random baby. (Ok, a random ROYAL baby.) Still, royal or not, I doubt anyone could have predicted how powerful he would become.

The National Museum, Beirut.

It is a tiny museum, probably the size of an exhibit at The British Museum, but lovingly restored and well-kept. It was sad that it was mostly full of tourists - the Lebanese are probably too concerned about the present to ponder the very distant past at the moment. That's actually a bit of a luxury, come to think of it. I was in a shop in the suburbs the other day, and the young woman helping me had a severe disfiguring burn covering half of her face. I saw quite a few people on the streets who had been injured in the latest war (2006): chemical weapons or cluster bombs, bullets or rockets. Does it really matter? They are thinking how to make their lives better today, for tomorrow. They could care less about crumbling Roman ruins when their own houses are in shambles, without proper electricity or water.

The 'Jealousy' Mosaic. Byzantine Period. National Museum, Beirut.

There was nothing too remarkable about this mosaic upon viewing, but then I saw the translation of the text:

Envy is a great evil; however, it has some beauty
for it consumes the eyes and the heart of the jealous.

I guess the more things change, the more they really stay the same.