Friday, April 28, 2006

Bon Voyage, Mes Chères Lectrices et Mes Chers Lecteurs

As of tomorrow, I'll be heading to Barcelona via Madrid and making a pilgrimage to Asturias to see my maternal grandfather's house -- the place where he was born. Francisco Campillo lived there until 1902, when he emigrated to Cuba in search of a better life.

My family recently discovered that we have living relatives in the area. As I never met any of my grandparents -- thanks to exile after the Cuban revolution -- this will be a particularly spiritual journey.

With a beautifully bound blank book and a fountain pen in hand, I'll be journaling old-fashioned style. (Oh my, do I even know how to write with a WHAT? A PEN?)

As soon as I return, volume 2 of Meridian will come to life. Manola has always traveled to Spain alone. This time, she accompanies the old folks, so she'll have to behave -- a mighty challenge considering that opportunities for Manola-style mischief abounds in Spain, land of man-hunks falling over Manola like bees to honey!

I will stand at this window, looking at the same view my grandfather surveyed in those baby blues I inherited from our Celtic blood. This region in Spain is one of the seven remaining Celtic nations. Bagpipes and jigs are cultural legacy.

I imagine this would-be grandfather as an infant, in diapers with a great-grandmother stirring some thick, rich bean and sausage soup in a black cast-iron pot. Today, it's the granddaughter he never met, gazing upon the peak in the distance -- named Naranjo de Bulnes because it captures the waning orange glow of sunset.


[photo courtesy of my brother, first sibling to make the pilgrimage]

The Campillo family currently uses this house as storage. I want to buy this precious heirloom and turn it into a summer writer's retreat. Would you join me for some sidra some summer afternoon on the terrace, enjoying the crisp mountain air?

I'll miss all of you ... and just think of all the reading I'll have to do when I return! So I depart with this message:

Resolutely Slutty, Mama Manola won't be able to watch over your wanton behavior. Daddy Stevie, it's your turn to babysit our hellion.

Rick, keep lighting those candles and don't lose faith. Love knows no boundaries. 836, 826, I-95 and 1-95 are no match for cupid. :-) I expect the Cliff Notes version of Stuck on the Palmetto upon my return.

Alesh, I'd hire you in an instant, if I were a major performing arts center. :-) John, you're not off the hook either. A pastrami on rye from Katz's is your get out of jail card, ok?

Mr. Manners, you'll never run out of fodder. Promise.

New Miamian, may I continue to discover new things in old places.

Steve, you need to take a blood thinner. But that doesn't mean you aren't a man of well-balanced humors.

Christian, I know you will run over to Miami Ink around the corner and get a Manola tattoo. Child, I realize my absence on the innernets will be traumatic. However, a good Red Bull and bagel will help assuage the symptoms of Manola withdrawal. :-)

Al, I'm not a smoker, but you sure do make it interesting.

Rebecca, things are only going to get greener!

And last but not least: Dubious Wonder, you ARE a wonder to behold!

If I've forgotten any favorite blogs in this Oscar acceptance speech, please forgive me, including Hidden City, who once gave me flowers. It's 12 AM and I've yet to pack my luggage. Believe it or not, Manola is really a low maintanence woman who will throw a pair of jeans, a few tshirts and a nice jacket into a bag and call it over. As long as there's twenty pairs of matching shoes in the bag, of course.

Actually, as Spain is 6+ hours ahead, I'm burning the midnight oil so I can zonk and zzz while crossing the pond and wake up fresh as a rosebud upon arrival. Yeah, right. A little vino and xanax after the in-flight movie should do the trick.

No worries regarding packing. After spending approximately 72 hours scouring the shelves of an Old Navy outlet (actually it was only 45 minutes, according to Manola time ... )

major digression

... ugh, I hate shopping, yes I AM THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD WHO HATES SHOPPING AND CHOCOLATE, OK? Yes, I am a freak of nature. A no-nonsense shopping femme. Know what I want. IN AND OUT of the store. And for pete's sake, don't give me chocolate! However, shoe shopping is like going to an art gallery ...

back at the rant

... I found the perfect pair of jeans (ladies, you know this is an ordeal worthy of an academic dissertation). As well, in addition to a replacement battery for my Pentax SLR, I also found the most frivolous yet can't-leave-home-without-it-this-season travel accessory: espadrille open-toe canvas pumps with non-skid sole for less than $20 ... how could I resist?



PS ... on a completely unrelated note: scrambling around today running errands, I had to park near Lincoln Road and Washington. Manola convinced the otherwise rough Sopranoesque valet parking attendant to let her park for FREE in a $10 flat-rate spot! Talk about SOUTH BEACH street smarts, honey. I begged the man (in Español and English, of course): "I'M FROM MIAMI BEACH. I'M NOT A TOURIST! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! ALL THE METERS ARE FULL! PLEASE, PAPI RICO PLEASE ... ! I JUST NEED HALF AN HOUR! PROMISE!" It worked. No blow jobs involved. And I tipped the guy a cupla bucks. Not bad, eh? Talk about a smooth quickie parking job ... WINK, WINK!


N said...

Have a wonderful time, Manola! We'll certainly miss you - and surely Manola will get up to some Spanish shenanigans on our behalfs?

mkhall said...

Have a spectacular trip, my friend. I eagerly await your travelogue.

Anonymous said...

Happy trails, M.

. said...

I miss you already! Enjoy! Vaya con Dios! (Or to stop you from forgetting you're Cuban, Vaya con Dio')

Anonymous said...

Have fun, Be safe! Write lots and take it all in! Lucky you.

Anonymous said...

Have a great time Manola.

However don't leave me too long - not sure I can cope with our hellion alone.

You know how she can wrap me round her little finger like what happens to all good fathers.

Trouble said...

Oh, have a wonderful journey! i hope you come back refreshed and reinvigorated.

Anonymous said...

Bon voyage Sweet Manola (SM)! The South Florida blogoisie is diminished by your hiatus -- that's not a body part, dammit -- and we savor your rejuvenated return when you're ready.

Jonathan said...


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear about it! Spiritual journeys seem to be the thing right now in all corners of the world.

Al Capone said...

Can't wait to have you back.

. said...

BTW, I've always been wary of that Asturias thing. Two reasons. First, as others have pointed out, the idea of the jigs, beer and bagpipes actually have specific origins/cultural legacy from Celtic Britain, long after the Asturias maintained any significant contact with Celtic Britain. Secondly, the reason for this clebration of dubious Celtic origin had to do with Asturias' history of deep poverty, followed by industrialization and a major influx from other parts of Spain in the area, thrus giving the rise to a sort of nationalism. The mythic history that Asturias was not conquered or settled by Romans or Arabs was not only largely untrue, but based on racism. As I understand it, all of these groups as well as the Goths made inroads in Asturias. Much of this myth was perpertuated by Catholic ultranationalism that struggled with Spain's multicultural, multiethnic past.

The ugliest sort of manifestation of this whole thing occurred when I was visiting Spain not too long ago. Anyone who follows European Soccer is aware that Spainish fans have a unique favorite indulgence- making all sorts of ugly racist chants, posters and cheers about Black and Latin American players. While touring the time worn land, which only today awakens from its Fascist slumber, I saw on the news the killing of a soccer fan by Asturian nationalist soccer hooligans because they thought a fan of a rival was South American (when in fact he was a Spaniard).

This is not to say that the Gaulic heritage of the Iberian peninsula does not exist or that it is not something to be proud of. After all, the (thoroughly intermingled) speakers of a (Latin based) Portugese dialect are called Gallegos as are the people.

Latin America continues with the same age old dysfunctions. We seem barely able to progress from Spain's grip (the backwards staring white horse) and carry on its sometimes perverse and backwards history.

Jose Marti, Guido y Spano and a host of other Latin Americans tried to reconcile the idea of a new Ibero-American nationalism (in a way that at times bordered on a new form of racial Chauvinism) having tired of Northern European and Anglo American arguments about Latin America's innate inferiority. (See Darwin's extensive notes on the alleged inferiority of Spaniards and other Iberian people; the self hating movement of Latin American Positivism and attempts by leaders from Sarmiento to Trujillo to import Northern European settlers to improve the "inherently inferior" racial stock of Latin America).

In the Latin Caribbean this sort of ethnic silliness continues; even worse some of us bring to this country. People speaking with heavily accented Mujedar/Andalucian accents, imagine how they might be less Hispanic, while in our communities people attempt to forget the Native American and African cultural legacies (the ultimate insult to injury).

The day all of us are able to accept our history and culture as just what it is, part of the common legacy of humanity, the better we will be able to wipe away the legacies of injustice and its moedern day implications.

Maria de los Angeles said...

Hi John, thank you for the in-depth political commentary. From what I've read, some historians even deny that there ever was a Celtic presence in northwestern Spain (Galicia is also considered part of the Celtic nation). Politics and historians aside, there are obvious cultural idiosyncracies that set each region of Spain apart from another. You can hear them with your own ears, see them with your own eyes and taste them with your own tongue. (I'm referring to food, not men!)

I'm no political expert, but I'd like those who deny a Celtic heritage to explain why there are pre-Christian settlements, burial mounds and statues of crosses in northwestern Spain that are archeological evidence of Celtic culture, not to mention the legends, stories and folklore of the region, witches and trolls included.

Now as for the Goths and Moors making inroads, sure ... but not quite as much as they did south of Castilla-Leon. Yes, you can find some evidence of mosques in the mozarabic and mudejar styles in Zaragoza, for example. But in the the center of Asturias? No way ... I'm not a warfare tactics expert, but the peaks of Europe were a natural barrier to any large-scale invasion and colonization of that region.

Interestingly, the Romans managed to get there, but the Muslims stayed mostly south, giving southern Spain its characteristic cultural flavor and towns with names like Jerez de la Frontera, which meant "frontier," or Muslim world ends here, Christians to the north. There's a reason why you dance flamenco in the Andalucia, chotis in Madrid and jigs in Asturias. Cultural heritage.

I agree with you and which is why I emphasize the "soft" history when I refer to my relationship with Spain. My comment about Celtic blood referred more to the folklore rather than the political stage, which as we all know has been rife with blood and war since pre-Christian times. Spain is not really a "country" in reality, even though it is on paper. There is no real "United States of Spain," even though there's only one prime minister.

The cultural uniqueness of each region should be celebrated and enjoyed, politics aside. I once had dinner with a Basque fella in Madrid and to tell you the truth, while he made for not-so-bad company, I just wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up about his allegedely superior race. Give me a break ... and another glass of tinto, please! But I have yet to meet one Spaniard who isn't passionate and stubborn about his or her own place of origin with the country and his or her own political alliances. On this trip, I saw many a blood pressure rise in arguments about politics.

Oh, and my oh my, they know EVERYTHING about the US! Yes, yes they do! Thank God I'm laid-back and thick skinned. I have to agree, the average European is very politically aware, but crap, don't tell me what it's like to live in my country, when you don't live here day to day!