Summer Cleaning

Today I cleaned out my office.  It took maybe all of 10 seconds.  Either tomorrow or Friday I’ll start cleaning out my room and packing my bags, and I’m sure it’ll be an all-day event.  I’m sure there’s some sort of metaphor in there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

Office Space Printer from Shang Xiao on Vimeo.

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Home, Steamy Home

Some people say home is where the heart is, while Wikipedia says it is “a place of residence or refuge” that “is usually a place in which an individual or family can rest and store personal property.”  Wikipedia, the slacker’s encyclopedia/the awesome researcher’s basic starting point (please?) continues by stating that “instead, home may relate instead to a mental or emotional state of refuge or comfort.”  Having lived in a bunch of different places for various amounts of time, it’s difficult to adapt, commit, or invest enough energy/time/money into all of them such that they could be considered my “home.”  I said to myself the other day, “Clark, you stud you, what exactly do you think home is?  What do you consider to be home?”

I’ve given my own theory a decent amount of thought, jotted down some notes, and even said it out loud once.  Without further ado,* here it goes:

As a preface (that is actually following a preface – is this a metapreface?), allow me to explain a little bit about myself and the way these thought-cocoons unravel.  Here’s the deal.  I think a lot.  All the time.  About a lot of stuff.  I think it comes from the fact that I grew up in a house of four kids and we were always talking about something, so whenever I’m off by myself, my brain continues to churn.  When I lived in Madrid, I lived far enough from the center that on any given day, I was on the metro for a total of about three hours.  I read a lot, but I also thought.  Now that I’m here, and skipping a lot of time before and after Madrid, I still think a lot because I do pretty much everything all by me onesies.  As long as I can remember, though, my best thoughts come about when I’m in the shower.  Honestly.  I remember running out of the shower one day in my first semester of grad school and scribbling something that ended up being the thesis statement of my first grad school term paper.  That idea took me to California, where I got to convince other Spanish nerds that I knew what I was talking about.

Aaaaaaaanyway, where was I?  Oh yeah.  When I was in the shower the other day, and yes I do take an occasional shower, I realized that yes, in my tiny dorm so far away from the city center, I was at home.  How did I know?  Because I was taking a good shower.

So what does A have to do with B?  Wouldn’t comparing the two be like comparing apples and… showers?  Hear (read) me out.  Have you ever lived somewhere where the shower just plain stinks?  I sure have.  Believe me.  In 2008 I moved to Madrid, where I lived in a smallish apartment just on the fringe of the posh area with Ricardo, 40, and his wife Ana Pilar, 30.  The three of us were like a tiny family – I was the son/nephew/cousin/younger person who lived in the other bedroom.  As long as I paid my third of the groceries, Pili cooked for me, because heck, “what’s another handful of rice or chicken cutlet”?  Were we close?  Kind of.  Were we comfortable?  Definitely.  Happy together?  Of course.  Was I at home?  Nah.  I wasn’t really fond of the daily commute or the lack of internet connection.  Frankly, something seemed off.

When I lived on West Main Street my junior and senior year, that was home.  I lived with three of my best friends and we only had fun.  They were the brothers I never had (no offense, Mom and Dad).  My new college house, on Kells Avenue with my friends Bagel and Russ, is also home.  So is the little tiny dorm I live in now.  You’d think that the two college houses would be home because of the friend/family factor, which is true, but that’s not entirely it.  The dorm I have here is the curveball because nine times out of ten I would choose to live with anyone rather than live alone.  The uniting factor?  The shower.

In my little apartment in Madrid, the shower was the worst.  The.  Worst.  There was a super duper fine line between zero degrees Kelvin and however hot the Sun is.  Honestly.  I hated showering there because either I’d become a clarksicle or I’d turn into the guy who burned his hand before finding the Ark of the Covenant… after looking at it.  Also, there was no fan, so we had to shower with the window open… even in Madrid’s cold winter where it even snowed once.  Oh, and the shower was maaaaaybe two feet by two feet.  I hated showering there so much that I only did it when I had to.

This was before I got contacts. I still shower in the hat, though.

Have you ever moved into a place and struggled to take dominion of the temperature controls?  Me too.  It usually takes me a good two weeks to get a flawless victory over the shower.   Is that the only criterion for the constitution of “home”?  Nope.  But it’s definitely a good start.  I can’t imagine calling a place “home” if I can’t take a good shower.  This guy has to think to hard about nothing, maybe even pop out a thesis or two, and he needs a dependable place to do it.  Bed?  Desk?  Library?  No sir.  There’s something about the flowing water that really gets my noodle going.  Should I go find a river or stream?  Maybe.  But the shower is closer and warmer.  At my parents’ house, on West Main, Kells, and here in Granada, I have control over that which bathes me.  Granted, the sense of belonging is paramount to any home, which definitely helps one stay comfortable and in good spirits.  I challenge you, though, to put a shitty shower into the homiest of homes and see what happens. You’d be miserable, too.

Now for some real news.  I’m leaving this home (Granada) soon to move back home (Wilmington) until August, when I move into my college home (Newark).  Things have come up that tell me that I should be in Delaware sooner rather than later.  Since my teaching – if you can actually call it that – comes to an end officially on May 31, I’m heading out on June 6.  I’m totally okay with cutting my stay here short, though, because a) I know I’ll be back, b) I’m going from home here to home with Mom and Pop, c) I get to see Olive, and d) I get to see my Delaware friends.  Mostly C.  Believe it or not, as stinky as it is to leave my favorite city in the world, I’m actually excited to come home.

I can’t wait to shower with my parents and Bagel and Russ.  Wait, what?

*with further adon’t?
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The Seed (2.0)

Went to a bar last night.  They gave plastic shot glasses full of sunflower seeds with every beer.  I tried to eat them like a Spaniard.

I failed.

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The Ultimate Weekend

Ultimate.  Some people call it Ultimate Frisbee, but I’m pretty sure there’s a copyright on that F-word.  Also, discs made by that company just plain stink.  But I digress.

I’ve been meaning to type this post for quite some time now, but I finally am getting around to do something about it.  Here’s the scoop.  Remember how I’m on an ultimate team here in Granada?  Yep.  Los Penultimanos.  We hosted a hat tournament two weekends ago, and it was by far my favorite experience this time around in Spain.  (A hat tournament is one in which all names go into a hat and the teams are drawn randomly.)

The tournament was called Tapasando.  If you don’t get it, here’s what that means.  People from Granada (as a harsh generalization) don’t exactly pronounce eeeeevery syllable while, at the same time, they often speak quickly.  If you heard someone say “¿qué tapasando?” you would interpret that as “qué está pasando,” or “what’s going on?”  Our tournament was going on, that’s what.  Also, in Tapasando.  Tapas.  Each team was a tapa.  I’ll explain in a sec.  Since we hosted the tournament, each player from our team had their own role.  I made the shirts.  Wittle ol’ non-artistic Clark, known for his stick-figure interpretations of an old Mexican arco de triunfo in Dr. Martin’s grad class, designed the front and back logos for 6 different jerseys, then proceeded to spray paint the logos on through (f)artisan stencils (the spray painting, though, required more hands that I can claim as my own.  Those who helped are awesome and saints).  Here are the backs of all 6 shirts:

the guy in purple really isn't that big

Green team – Pimientos de padrón.  Peppers from Padrón (Galicia).  Cooked in oil, salted, and my favorite.  I was on this team.  Best shirt color.
Blue team – Pescaítos fritos.  Little fried fish.  Nuff said.
Purple team – Patas de pulpo.  Octopus… feet?  Legs?  Pieces?  I’ve never eaten octopus in English, so I don’t know.  But you get it.
Light blue team – Gambas a la plancha.  Grilled shrimp/prawns/whatever.
Red team – Jamón serrano.  Spanish awesome ham.  Notice the pig has 3 legs.  Because we ate the fourth.
Yellow team – Paella.  Paella.  Best stencil.

And the front stencil.  Holy smokes, that was tough.  And well worth it:

That dirt is accidental... on purpose.

Notice that the word TAPASANDO is made out of tapas and discs, while the 0 from 2011 is an Arabic star that can be found all over Granada, especially in the Alhambra and other cultural sites.  The main stencil took about an hour to complete, while the 2011 and the pictures took less time each.  Totally worth it (except I think I just shrank all three of those shirts I have because the guy wouldn’t fix the washing machine so I had to ring out an entire load of laundry that had been sitting in like 5 inches of water, then dry everything for too long and basically right now I’m putting off folding all that clothing/flipping out at the fact that none of my t-shirts will fit).

This weekend, we’re facing the Frisbillanas of past-post-fame in the second leg of what like two of us are calling the Battle for Andalucía.  They beat us by a point or two last time, so we’ll party hard with them on Saturday and hopefully all shake our hangovers in team to compete on Sunday.  Hopefully.

Being on the Penultimanos has been, without a doubt, my favorite part about being here in Granada.  I know, I know.  There are like three or four actual Spanish players on my team, and the rest are British, Italian, or American.  But still.  I feel like I’ve found my niche with the team.  I’ve done a bunch of organizing and extraneous emailing, and I love every second of it.  It’s fun (and a challenge) to play in Spanish, even if we go back to English like halfway through.  Also, my teammates are awesome.  We all put in tons of effort to make Tapasando happen, as well as regular practices, friendlies or tournaments.  There is no yo in Penultimanos, but there is an I (ignore that), a t-e-a-m, p-e-n-i-s, m-i-a-u (that’s what cats say here), l-i-m-ó-n (l-e-m-o-n, too), p-a-n-t-s, etc.

You get it.  Here’s a gratuitous picture of me playing.

Apparently I make fart noises when I throw


Note: All photographic credit of the pics with people in them goes to my friend Kelsey Hatcher or whoever was using his camera to take the pictures.  I took them from his facebook thing with his permission.
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I don’t wanna be a cook or fireman

Yo.  So without delving into too much detail, things have been kind of cloudy around here recently.  There has been a ton of good news and good times keeping me busy over the past few weeks, but things have come about recently that, being as vague and nondescript as I’m going to get, have not exactly been the ‘cherry on top’ of my trip.  Don’t worry, everything’s okay.  For real.

Anyway, I had to sub for one of the professors I work with today because he had to be with his sister in Lorca (where the earthquake was the other day).  I came into class without any desire to be there because of a generally down mood (again – things are alright, despite the fact that such insistence makes one think things are not alright – for real) and because the students in that class could probably turn Funshine Bear into Professor Coldheart.

This usually happens between 4:30 and 6:30pm on Fridays

Today, though, I got to teach a grammar lesson instead of the normal vocabulary that I cover on Fridays.  It was great.  We actually had fun with the passive voice.  Maybe they learned, maybe they didn’t.  I wasn’t told to “teach” them anything, just “do” certain activities.  Some learned, some already knew the material, some were hopeless.  Such is English at UGR, though.  The class clown did her thing today, but she was quickly put in her place.  The kids laughed and kind of learned, all the while speaking mostly English – which is my goal.  As far as they know, I don’t speak Spanish, so they have to talk to me in English.  My point is that teaching was fun.  I was able to forget about the world around me for 90 minutes and helped people learn and enjoy the process.  Score.

I can see my self teaching for a long time.  Just hopefully not grammar.

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Cheeky monkey

If you remember from a blarg post from two years ago, Spain has a thing for sunflower seeds – everyone eats them (see #9).  All the time.  I went to a party about two months ago where there was a plastic bag on the floor right in the middle of the room where people were sitting, solely for the shells.  Gross, right?

Not so much.  People here don’t to the pouch-split-eat-spit method that I learned from watching baseball as a squirt.  Instead the shell rarely leaves the grasp of the fingers, if at all.  Select seed, crack with front teeth, somehow extract the seed, rub fingers together in an I’m-talking-about-large-sums-of-money kind of way until shell is disposed of (usually in a bag or simply on the ground/street).

So yesterday I was walking home from getting coffee with a friend, which ended up being a coffee milkshake, which ended up being like 2-3 shots of espresso and a scoop-ish of ice cream, which ended up keeping me up until like 4am (give or take), when I decided to get a small bag of sunflower seeds to distract me on my highly-caffeinated uphill voyage.   Aaaaanyway, I got to thinkin’ and a weird idea came to me.  As I walk uphill, discretely spitting my seeds in the Utleyest manner possible as to not completely distance myself from Spanish sunflower standards, I stash a handful of Dakota®* seeds in my right cheek.  Rule #1, don’t spit in front of ladies.  Rule #2, don’t boast a large cheek supply while passing groups of people.  Having forgotten Rule #2, I hastily had to shift the seeds to the left cheek as there was a group approaching on my right.†

Seedless to say (get it?) I felt uncomfortable.  Not because of the strangers, though, because I’ll never see them again and I don’t care.  But the seeds in my left cheek?  No good.  No good at all.  Not only was it uncomfortable, but my seed consumption ability was limited significantly.  That really cooked my noodle.  Since people can be left or right handed and footed, bat left-handed while throwing righty (Chase!), etc., can people be right or left cheeked?  I’m definitely right-cheeked.  I know right-brained people are a certain way, and left-brained people tend to learn/think differently, but is there any connection between that and cheekedness?  Is it possible that I’m left-brained, right-handed, right-footed, and right-cheeked?  The first three answers are yes, and I’m starting to believe the fourth is as well.  What does it all mean?  Is there an answer?  Or am I just full of spit?

*Curiously, the back of the label mentions something about the Dakota area of the States and how it was home to such leaders as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and el sabor americano.
† Do you see what happens when I have too much time on my hands to think about things like this?  And then write about them?
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Story of my death

“Historia de mi muerte”    (Leopoldo Lugones, 1912)

Soñé la muerte y era muy sencillo;
una hebra de seda me envolvía,
y a cada beso tuyo,
con una vuelta menos me ceñía
y cada beso tuyo
era un día;
y el tiempo que mediaba entre dos besos
una noche. La muerte era muy sencilla.
Y poco a poco fue desenvolviéndose
la hebra fatal. Ya no la retenía
sino por solo un cabo entre los dedos…
Cuando de pronto te pusiste fría
y ya no me besaste…
y solté el cabo, y se me fue la vida.

“Story of my Death”
I dreamed about death and it was very simple;
a thread of silk wrapped me up,
and with every kiss from you,
it unraveled a bit more
and every kiss from you
was a day;
and the time that separated two kisses
a night.  Death was very simple.
And little by little the thread of death
went on unraveling.  There was nothing left
but just the end between my fingers…
When all of a sudden you became cold
and didn’t kiss me anymore…
I dropped the end and life escaped me.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

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