Walk the ancient stones

buildings on the banks of the river in Girona, Spain
Apartments buildings on the banks of the Riu Onyar in Girona, Spain

In early may we took a trip to Barcelona, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal; along the way we made some day trips to other cities nearby. Here are a few selects from our day in Girona, Spain. These images are of the monastery, the cathedral, and the remains of the medieval wall that once girdled the city.

What’s missing from these are the charming streets, squares, and arcades of shops and restaurants that add to the reasons for a visit to this beautiful city of rivers and hills. I wasn’t so much focused on photographing those aspects as much as simply enjoying them.

Looking up at the bell tower of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
Looking up at the bell tower of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
Layers of imposing structures of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
View on a stretch of the medieval wall that once protected Girona
View on a stretch of the medieval wall that once protected Girona
Cypress trees along the city wall of Girona, Spain
Cypress bend in the breeze where the original stones meet a reconstructed part of the wall
Steps lead down one of the many alleys of the medieval town
Girona Cathedral
Girona Cathedral
The steps of Girona Cathedral
A view down the steps of the Cathedral of Girona, where artists were setting up an installation of ropes and sticks
Charred façade of a building in the square behind the cathedral
Charred façade of a building in the square behind the cathedral
An apartment of stunning contrasts: modern windows fitted into an ancient structure
An apartment of stunning contrasts: modern windows fitted into an ancient structure
The monastery again, in stark black and white
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Time Travel: Girona

A corner around the corder from the cathedral in Girona, Spain

Weeks after the adventure,
I return to Girona,
Walled medieval city
with all the ease of
modernity

And blue skies,
sangria in a gentle square,
and a pocket device
so I can time-travel

See the ancient stones,
feel the cobbles underfoot,
Study shadows and
find secrets that

I missed
the first time.

Shifting shadows and dusk in Barcelona

Barcelona cathedral in black and white
Barcelona cathedral in black and white from our first morning wandering around.
photo of an old document with drawings of a "procession for a good death"
An old document spied in a window in the Gothic Quarter— “procession for a good death”
silhouettes of backlit people walking through a shadowed archway
Silhouetted walkers in El Born, near the Gothic Quarter
Shadows of trees on a stonework building
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in early evening
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in early evening
Large scale sculpture of a seated nude woman, with tall columns upholding nothing  in the distance
This large scale sculpture sits in front of the museum, while tall columns uphold nothing in the distance. This is in around the steps leading down to the Magic Fountain.
Dusk falls over the plaça looking down from the Museum steps
Dusk falls over the waterfalls that lie between the steps leading down to the fountain
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia façade in black and white
Another sunny exploration day: Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, on of the façades
Façade of Casa Mila, also by Gaudi
The side street Façade of Casa Mila, another of Gaudi’s biomorphic masterworks.
View of the water feature in the Industrial Park nearby the Sants train station
Here’s a view of the water feature in the Industrial Park nearby the Sants train station
Part of a façade of a modern market hall building in Barceloneta.
And here’s part of a façade of a modern market hall building in Barceloneta. Seen in whole, it looked like a kind of steampunk spaceship.

Another city of seven hills: Lisbon

The blue church and trolley wires at the edge of the Baixa neighborhood
The blue church and trolley wires at the edge of the Baixa neighborhood

Having spent some hours scanning through my photographs from my recent trip to Barcelona and Lisbon, with side trips to Gerona and Sintra; gathering selects, retouching, etc, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I’m not interested in creating some kind of narrative or linear story of our trip, as it wasn’t linear, and the narrative changed constantly.

So I’ve decided to start with some high-chroma and steep (naturally) scenes from Lisbon, in the Baixa-Shiado and Alfama neighborhoods, and a couple farther afield. The Alfama ones were from our Castelo Sao Jorge day— it was a grand afternoon of meandering and taking things slowly. We also met some peacocks, but that’ll keep til another day.

For now just take in the angles, colors, and alleyways and feel the sun on your face and the cobbles under your feet.

A house tiles in bright aqua in Lsibon
A house tiled in bright aqua
Clothes in the line in Alfama, Lisbon
Clothes in the line in Alfama
an inviting alleyway of yellow in Alfama, Lisbon
an inviting alleyway of yellow in Alfama
Blue patterned tiles on a house in Alfama, Lisbon
Blue patterned tiles on a house in Alfama

On the way to Rossio train station to head out to Sintra
On the way to Rossio train station to head out to Sintra
Looking down steps into a courtyard with a mural devoted to Fado
Looking down steps into a courtyard and its mural devoted to Fado
Terra cotta tiles cover the rooftops of Lisbon
Terra cotta tiles cover the rooftops of Lisbon
An old terra cotta stucco house against bright blue sky
Approaching LX Factory after our day sailing the harbor
Approaching LX Factory after our day sailing the harbor
In a square surrounded by tables full of diners and trees blossoming purple
The square where the Carmo Convent sits, awash in purple blossoms
More orange rooftops looking out to the harbour
Looking down from Castelo de São Jorge at the lovely terraced houses that cascade harborward to the Tagus River
In one of Lisbon’s marinas, bristling with masts of sailing vessels
In one of Lisbon’s marinas, bristling with masts of sailing vessels
A section of the figured arrayed around a caravel on the Monument to the Discoveries in Belém
A section of the figures arrayed around a caravel on the Monument to the Discoveries in Belém

A Late Sunday in The Bywater 

There was this restaurant which hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but the one we’d meant to go to told us on the phone Our last seating is at 8:45 on Sunday, and it was 8:35 already, so.

So we opted for this New American place also in the Bywater. Trendy. When we arrived it was Well, no reservation, give me a few minutes, trust me and after 15 minutes of being ignored by the bar and searching our phones for alternatives, he gave us a table that had been empty in plain sight since we walked in. It’s like they want to make you sweat and make the reservation-rule-abiders feel good and special.

Anyway we had a pretty smashing meal and a nice Alsatian blend and got friendly with our server, who turned out to be a recent-ish transplant, a singer, in love with the city, on that arc, that high note where you’re meeting people and making things happen. We talked with her at length after meal service had finished and she told us about a bar farther out that she liked, so we decided Fuck it let’s go.

Some blocks later we found the place. It had a vast high-ceilinged interior, like so many places in NOLA— always surprising as they look small from outside. It was a chill vibe, and good music playing. Some folks playing pool at the far end.

There were a couple of people in black hats and robes like witches with fairy lights on. Another with them was dressed like some kind of dinosaur or abstract unicorn, and some in regular clothes. A private party, they seemed, off at a table. We sat at the bar and ordered, were served.  I got consumed with the orb lights, gradually shifting colors and making decent compositions in the camera. I wrote in my book a little. 

The bartender, a beanpole sporting a hipster half shirt and suspenders was speaking more or less continuously to a chap sitting on the other side of Z. Z and I chatted here and there, but he seemed distracted. Maybe he was tired, or listening in on the conversation. I couldn’t hear anything but the rutabaga-rutabaga murmur of television scenes in rooms where music and conversation overlap. 

As we finished our drinks I asked if we ought to stay or move on. Z said Move on. When we were some blocks away Z relayed to me the disturbing conversation he’d overheard between beanpole and the guy, who’d been explaining that his coke dealer’d raped someone. The two of them then went on to discuss all the many ways said dealer had fucked numerous people over in the more usual ways; money, broken promises, &c. 

I dunno if the dealer had been arrested or if he’d now gone a shade too far to be tolerated by the guy at the bar; I didn’t hear any of it. Maybe he was doing that thing of fishing for a shared line or two by talking about such things in earshot of strangers who might by chance also partake. I told Z he should’ve said he wanted to leave sooner. It clearly made everything uncomfortable. Z’s experience had been nothing like my naive absorption in orb lamps shifting colors, and book and pen. 

It makes you wonder about all the many conversations in all the bars and restaurants that go on all over the world— all the conversations you don’t hear. It makes you aware how much general trust there is in polite exchanges, and how separate you are from what’s behind every door, every curtain.

It reminds you that everyone has a different measure or barometer of what’s normal, of what counts as day-to-day, and makes you thankful that your version is way less fucked up or hideous than some others.

Cartographics color the way we see the world when we get there.

A non-exhaustive survey of art and culture in NYC, watercolor

A bit of in-progress work for a travel project— a bit of an arts and culture map via watercolor. I find it sweet and endearing. But then I would; I’ve been working on it for two weeks, and have become rather attached.

Can’t explain it in full, as it’s for a small audience, but I wanted to share just a sliver or slice of what’s been taking up some of my time and best efforts. To be repetitive, I’m so happy to be working at a place that makes use of these, the more vague or difficult to explain (on a resumé) of my talents. Overjoyed they want them, now they’ve seen the work in situ*, as it were.

NYC cartography of culture watercolor map

Continue reading “Cartographics color the way we see the world when we get there.”

Summer hid a whetstone in the slender paths between cornstalks

Seneca, the paint quarterhorse
My brother and Seneca in the ring while I was up at the Farm in July.


Summer
! It’s been too hot. It’s rained a lot. It’s been busy with work, and (half Fridays notwithstanding) I’ve still not gone on a date with the Atlantic Ocean. Haven’t cycled as much as I’d like.

But it’s been good, after its own fashion; taking its own shape. Clarity and focus with my work has (mostly) made up for my extreme lack of drawing and writing. Solid, meaningful visits to and from family and friends have shored up scattered edges.

What it all has in common: that fleeting quality that I will ever associate with Summer. Happily, the meaning lasts, even if the sunshine doesn’t.

And life without meaning is little more than a series of actions or motions.

drawing of a wall needing art, w measurements
My mathy diagram of K’s wall, before we hung all the art!

Just over a week ago there was an unprecedented electrical storm —very local to my apartment. To the extent that my building was hit and I lost a few small appliances; modem, router, speaker, and the aquarium pump. What a nuisance. Amazon: order replacements. Brazenly, decadently easy to deal with such a blow in these times. Nearly everything was back to rights by the weekend.

The electrical storm seems to’ve been a metaphor for things at large. I wasn’t even upset at having to drop over $200 at the damage that ensued; indeed, it felt like a doorway. An entrance stone had opened, to quote Murakami. I took it as a sign. Old things, old equipment, can be let go of easily with the help of a catalyst. Particularly when it suits the story.

Just last year, my printer died, apropos of nothing. I was irritated, irate at first, but at length it dawned on me that the thing was 11 years old. Then I felt grateful it had endured so long. (Few have such a resumé these days.) I practically well-wished it as I left it on the doorstep of the electronics recycling center a month later. A solemn good-bye, with a wink: So long and thanks for all the fish!

I digress.

drawing of electrical wires
A drawing of the occasional above-ground wires of New York City

This summer has been the most disruptive I’ve had in a long time, and probably—definitely— overdue. I’m good with it, have found a way to be settled with it, despite not having had my sand and salt respites at the edge of the world; despite not having spent (yet*) enough time with friends in our erstwhile carefree summer ways. It’s a new chapter, demanding of change.

At Springtide I sensed it, (sortof) accepted it— was fine to wait for Summer. But it’s different now, and it’s on account of so many factors I cannot list or name them all.

I’m still absorbing, but for the first time in a long time I’m not afraid of Autumn. I’ve even taken to listening to the Shipping Forecast as a soothing interlude, a doorway to focus, or just to sleep— a horoscope of rain and barometrics, always rising more slowly.

Photo of the pagoda in Patterson Park, Baltimore
The pagoda at Patterson Park in Baltimore, when I visited K

*ever the optimist!

How life makes failures of us all with sunshine, and the gentle rapid passing of time*

wires on BaltimoreAnd, at long last, here, I write something again.

Don’t think I haven’t longed for it; time without writing makes a ruin of me. A mere responder rather than a decided adventurer. Time— without time to think, to write— renders me a to-do list, at best. Ugh.

And I’ve been feeling a right failure of Summer, honestly, Having had not a single true beach day at the ocean; nor any long rides on my bike to farther-afield neighborhoods. It’s made me have some misgivings about this new job, despite that I rather love it.

It’s down to habit and expectations, I suppose. I spent a lotta’ years being a sole proprietor (my own damn boss), and as a result, have certain expectations of Summer, you know. Lots, in fact.

garden in Butcher's Hill, Baltimore

But what I’ve come to realize (again) is that everything’s a trade-off. I enjoyed many years of beaching mid-week; of cycling all round town whenever I chose. And now the focus has shifted. It’s good, and just what I needed, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

It was a choice, and one I don’t regret. And now, after a long weekend in B’more with one of my dearest friends, my brother and his family are going to be in Brooklyn this weekend. So you see, Summer happens after all 🙂 And it’s wonderful.

Closing note: I have so much more I intended to write about, but it’ll keep. Summer pushes certain things to the wayside.

(Autumn has other promises, where rain is appropriate and welcome.)

 

*We haven’t failed! It only feels like that sometimes, when pressures lead us to think in term of expectations. Personally, I’ve decided to say fuckall to prior patterns, and allow new ones to form. That’s adaptation 🙂

Promise after this one we go home

b&w photo of grafitti in BerlinRevisiting the April trip, zooming back to Berlin, in black and white. We begin here in RAW-Gelande, the graffiti-clad playground to artists and DJs, just over the river in East Berlin..
b&w photo of a corner building and street signs in Berlinb&w photo of a building displaying brutalist-inspired architecture in BelinFeeling a little Brutal(ism) on this corner, but in person it was a rather lovely building. blue sky reflecting in all the glass.

b&w photo of a traditional building in Berlinb&w photo on buildings and spires of a cathedral in the distance in Berlinb&w photo of a lamp post, tree branches and spires in BerlinAs we approached these bristling spires, I was all anticipation, as the light was adding a kind of shadowy drama to the silhouettes.

b&w photo of a cathedral surrounded by stark winter trees in BerlinA stunning, lyrical façade rendered prickly and sere in the fading light and surround of winter tree branches.B&W photo of the exterior structure of a stone cathedral whose interior is empty in a park in BerlinThis cathedral is a hollow shell; was bombed heavily, during WWII, but much of the exterior remains in what is now a park.

I’ll eave you with the ethereal image below— rivulets streaming down from the apex of Viktoria Park, which was neighbor to us for our days in Berlin.

b&w photo of the waterfalls in Viktoria Park, Berlin