The Terrible Towels

My abuelito thinks I’m gay.

“When I was your age I already had 7 kids!” He teased me in Spanish.

No gracias Abuelo.

But in his defense, it has been a long time since I’ve brought a girl around the family.

My younger siblings getting married and having babies doesn’t help.

Thanks a lot guys.

The final straw took place in January when I went home to spend time with family. Trying to show off my improved Castellano,  I made the mistake of lisping the “c” in Barcelona in front of the old man.

He slapped his knee and pointed his finger, letting out a laugh that I’ve never heard him make, like an ‘I knew it!’ kind of laugh.

I thought it was hilarious. 

Don’t get it twisted guys. This isn’t some homophobic rant, some of my greatest friends are gay. Like they say in Spain, me da igaul. But I know my old man doesn’t like his old man thinking his eldest young man is gay.

Ever-cognizant of this antiquated yet completely hilarious quandary I’ve put my pops in, I wasn’t going to tell ya’ll about what happened to me last month.

But here we goooo.

Sharing a living space is never easy.

After spending my first eight months living in the Barri Gótic with some of my best friends in the city, it was time for me to find a new flat. After a month of some serious searching, I finally found a room in the beautiful neighborhood of Gracia. Although Gracia is often considered the most gentrified neighborhood in Barcelona, a certain charm of authenticity remains. I hit the narrow streets during sunset as the locals take their evening stroll around the neighborhood. The paseo is a delightful tradition, bringing a strong sense of community to the barrio. Young parents chat as their children laugh and play in the street. Sometimes I sit and watch the old men play their pick-up games of bocce ball in the dusty squares. 

The neighborhood more than makes up for the size of my room. “Shoebox” is an upgrade. And I haven’t had a bed so small since I was eleven.

“We’ll share the shelter of my single bed?”

Bob Marley was full of shit on that one.

But I have my own terrace that gets amazing sunlight and a cool breeze. I even strung up lights and bought some flowers and aromatic plants from a local nursery. Please don’t tell my grandfather.

I share a wall and a huge bathroom with Melissa, a rad chica from the U.K. who’s in Barcelona for hairdresser school. Our bathroom has a bidet and I’m not sure how I’ve managed to live this long without one. So fresh and so clean clean.

My two Italian roomies, Franceso and Andrea, best friends since childhood, share a room and a smaller restroom down the hall. After about a week, I noticed that they had begun taking the liberty of utilizing our more spacious lavatory. ‘Not a big deal,’ I thought to myself, ‘mi baño es su baño amigos.’ I’m prone to fits of claustrophobia myself so I understood their need for ample leg room whilst handling their business.

I forgot to mention that our apartment is technically a student housing unit of sorts. I was leery upon finding this out, but essentially the title is just… well… a title. A way for the management company to assuage a community that has witnessed rent prices skyrocket in their neighborhood over the last decade. But the title does come with some perks. Basically, any appliance or piece of furniture that we need is a simple text message away. Need an iron? Text our landlord Sebastian and you’ll have it within a day or two. More plates and silverware? How about a fan in my room? No problemo.

When I noticed some new hand towels hanging in the restroom near the door, I smiled and thought, ‘Sebastian… what a guy.’ 

For about a week I used those lovely little towels with gusto. I preferred the green towel, which a was bit more course, for drying my hands.  I reserved the white towel, which had a higher thread count and much finer fabric, for my evening face wash. One night, after plunging my face in that lovely white cloth, I noticed a hint of funky smell emanating from the fabric. ‘Hmmph,‘ I thought, ‘must be time for a wash.’ After finishing up with the green towel, which still had a sweet fragrance, I took the white towel, along with some other clothes that needing cleaning, and started up the washing machine.

A couple of hours later, Andrea returned from work after a long day at the pizzeria. He changed clothes and made his way to my (our) restroom, newspaper in hand. But before the door closed Andrea muttered something in Italian and remerged into the hallway, angry, quite uncharacteristic of the ever-chipper and gregarious Italian. “Aaron, what has happened to my towel? Have you been using my towel?”

Taken aback by his aggressive tone, I responded in a like manner, “What are you talking about, bro?”

“If you mean our hand towels in my restroom… then of course I have.”

Clearly frustrated by my response, Andrea barked back in Spanish (his Spanish is better than mine, another fact that would probably make my abuelito laugh and point in my direction), “you should not use other people’s towels Aaron.”

“Listen buddy, you and Fra have been using my restroom for weeks and I haven’t said a word. And now you want to claim our community towels too?”

“No. You do not understand. Those are our towels. From Italia. They are for the culo. You have been using our ass towels.” The anger in his voice had subsided into a menacing laugh.

“What?” I asked, feeling a bit light headed.

Apparently, a bidet is no mere luxury for Italians. Nearly every home in Italy has a washroom fully equipped with toilet and bidet. Next to each bidet you’ll find a rack with small “hand” towels. DO NOT use these towels. Like, ever. Don’t even look at ’em.

For Francesco and Andrea, pooping in my restroom was not about leg room. Utilizing a toilet without a bidet would be outright barbaric for them, and leaving their ‘booty towels’ on the rack near the bidet was nothing out of the ordinary, something they never even thought to warn their ignorant roommate from the USA about.

Awesome.

After regaining my composure all I could do was laugh and tell Andrea how Francesco’s booty had a much sweeter fragrance than his. Like fresh lavender and honey.

You can laugh, just don’t tell my old man.

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A Party in the Clouds

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Happy birthday Momma!

I’m not sure if they throw birthday parties in heaven, but if they do… I’m sure yours will be going all night long.

Knowing you, you’ll have the whole place dancing and eating your enchiladas tonight.

Mmmm. I’d probably shoot someone for a plate of your enchiladas Ma. Not like murder… just a clean shot in the foot or something.

50 years old.

Wow.

What happened to us? Treinta y cincuenta, ya somos viejitos.

I don’t feel thirty Ma. How does fifty feel? My friend Florence gave me a lovely photograph of Frida Kahlo on my birthday and I put it on my wall. She hangs proudly, donning her traditional Mexican garb, and I think of you every time my eye catches hers.

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long, it’s been a busy year. I made it to Mexico and visited La Virgen just like I promised.

Guess what? I’m back in Barcelona, I told you how much I loved it in my last letter, remember? For some reason, I can feel your presence much more here. Maybe it’s the moon. She seems to shine extra bright in this city by the sea. Or maybe it’s the café con leche. Sometimes I get up early and walk the narrow allies of the Barri Gótic on my way to the gym, the sweet smell drifts from the cafés and I think of you.

Can you believe Rigo is getting married? Did you get your invitation yet? Mine took over a week to get to Spain, so I’d imagine yours taking at least two. Do you remember when we all met Patricia at Julie’s 50th? She told me the sweet things you said about me that night, it made me cry. I think she was made for my little brother, she cooks him sopa and makes it to mass every Sunday.

I’ve been learning so much in school Ma, my grad program is quite challenging. My colleagues are from all over the world and so brilliant. There’s even a Mexicano in my class… Ricardo. You would like him. He says my Spanish sucks, I need to keep practicing.

I could not have picked a better time to study abroad. The solidarity and passion I encounter in my classrooms give me hope during these turbulent times. There is hope in the youth. It seems as though I’ve learned as much from my peers as I have from my professors. We are all very close. I wanted them to experience a Thanksgiving like we used to have, so I pre-ordered a 20 pound turkey at La Boqueria and we had a beautiful dinner. Before we ate, I lit a candle and asked everyone to share what they were grateful for, just like you used to.

They loved it.

Afterwards they all made me pose for pictures as I carved the bird. I was pretty nervous as this was my first time preparing a turkey. When I went to cut into the breast I almost lost my breath… there was no meat! I felt a thousand eyes watching as I desperately made a mess of the poor turkey, knifing and slicing to no avail. A bead of sweat rolled down my temple as I switched sides, hoping she was a bit lop-sided… nothing! I heard one of my classmates whisper to her friend, “Ese pavo no tiene carne.” My Canadian friend tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could help. I handed over the knife in shame. My attempt to share a beautiful American tradition had gone down in flames. First Trump, now this. Oh ya! I didn’t tell you about Trump. You wouldn’t believe me if I did Ma.

Dejected, I watched as Hervé took my place at the head of the table. But he couldn’t find any meat either! I was so relieved. Suddenly, I knew what the problem was. I rushed over, pushed Hervé to the side and grabbed the turkey by one of the drumsticks with my barehand. Hervé caught on and helped me lift the treacherous fowl, when we flipped the turkey over our friends let out a gasp. I had cooked her upside down! I took that knife back and sliced my heart away. You would have laughed so hard. It turned out to be a fruitful mistake though, the meat was so juicy and tender. You would have been proud. Maybe next year I’ll try your stuffing. Liz is the only one who can make it like you did.

Anyways, I should wrap this up… you have a party to get ready for. I just want to let you know how much you are loved down here. Not a day passes without someone speaking your name and sharing your story. I feel so fortunate and proud to be your son, everyday. Every single day. I try and live up to those mountainous standards you held me to, to be the man you thought I could be, mostly I fall short. But I’ll keep trying Ma.

Happy birthday.

Love you more,

Aaron

P.S. I almost forgot! I wrote story about you and your lover boy Steve Garvey. It got published on Mother’s Day and thousands of people read and shared it. Dad was pretty proud. You got so many Likes on Facebook, we all know you loved the Likes. Okay bye, have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball IS Life

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I am a Dodger fan.

It’s no secret.

Anyone that has a pulse within a 5000 mile radius knows that I bleed Dodger Blue.

All emotional investment in this season’s outcome was washed away when my boys were eliminated last week. But as I sat and watched game seven of the World Series, I couldn’t help but lose my shit. I couldn’t stop myself from jumping and hollering as momentum swung from team to team, like some cruel, sadistic pendulum.

The tortured faces of Cubs fans flashed across my screen and their suffering oozed through the pixels. Grown men wearing inside-out caps with hands on their faces, watched the game unfold through trembling fingers, the weight of 108 winless years bearing down on their drooping shoulders. Bill Murray looked catatonic one moment, on the verge of cardiac arrest the next. From Lost in Translation to Caddyshack with every pitch.

39,466 days of hope and suffering relived in a five hour ballgame…culminating in one beautiful moment of shared jubilation. There will be no sleep on the Northside of Chicago tonight.

What a game. What a ride.

Two days after the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason my dad called to talk about the game. (He knew I needed some time to process. Thanks Pops).

“Did you cry when they lost?” he asked. A strange question from my father who usually shies away from sentimentality.

“Uh… kind of.” I replied neutrally, unsure where he was headed.

“Well your brother did. He took it hard. He went into the kitchen and wept like a baby. What’s up with that?” I laughed as my heart swelled with pride.

Baseball is a marathon and an investment. Each season blossoms in spring and stretches deep into the year as the air turns cold and leaves begin to fall.  Every team suffers injuries and enjoys winning streaks. Beloved players are traded and unknown rookies emerge into the limelight. Dedicated fans sit back and experience it all, each loss… each victory… every pitch. Together.

For the past three seasons, my brother, roommate and I have done exactly that. We would rush home from work to eat dinner and watch the ballgames together. We cursed players when they underperformed and danced during walk-off victories and Kershaw no-hitters. We took naps and ate burritos, too many burritos. The whole while Vin Scully’s voice echoed through our apartment, the beloved narrator of our shared experiences. We carpooled to Chavez Ravine, sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to the organ of Nancy Bea and stuffed our faces with grilled Dodger Dogs. How spoiled we truly were. You may scoff, but it was the best time of my life.

My European friends gasp when I tell them how many games are played each year. 162 games? 6 months? That sounds horribly boring. And they’re right. Baseball is fucking boring. And so is life, regardless of what your friend’s Instagram account leads you to believe.

OMG Susie I want your life! You’re always going on adventures! 

I love reading the comment section. People only post highlight reels. No, Susie isn’t always going on adventures. She was probably sitting in traffic or pooping when she posted that picture under the Eiffel Tower. Modern attention spans, or lack thereof, don’t appreciate the intimate, slow unfolding beauty of baseball. They don’t value long innings or double-headers. They just want Paris and slam dunks, touchdowns and hard tackles. Not me… I love pooping.

Baseball, unlike anything other sport, has the beautiful capacity to mimic life. The boring innings and thrilling highlights, an intricate and interdependent patchwork of the sweet and mundane. And victory wouldn’t taste so sweet without the investment of time, life’s most precious commodity, that true fans make each season. So when we lose, it hurts. The end of a season marks the closing of a chapter of our lives. We simultaneously mourn and celebrate the passing of our shared experiences.

Baseball, like life, isn’t so much about the end result. It’s about the in-betweens. The ups and downs. The ride. For 108 years Cubs fans have stamped their tickets. This is the narrative that has taken over your social media feed. Cubbies Nation takes pride in their investment, as they should. But don’t be fooled, the World Series is not the fruit of their toil. The prize lies in their struggle. A century of time spent hoping and cheering together.

And when the celebrations end and the confetti is swept, we will do it all over again. Baseball doesn’t end, it marches on.

Baseball is pain. Baseball is beautiful. Baseball IS life.

 

Viva Los Dodgers: Chronicles of a Dodgers Fan Living in Spain

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As my plane lifted off, destined for Barcelona, I looked down at the lights of Los Angeles and was overcome with emotion. But my grief was not for my family or dear friends. Sorry guys… I love you, but you’ll be there when I get back.

My mournings were of a bluer variety.

My eyes scanned the maze of urban lights down below, in search of hallowed ground. That diamond jewel that lies in the hills of Chavez Ravine, blue heaven on earth, Dodger Stadium. As the plane ascended into the starry night, a whiff of grilled Dodger Dogs rose 10,000 feet and bid me farewell.

Alas, I had made my decision. I was leaving to study in Spain in the middle of a pennant race, even worse, in the last weeks of Vin Scully’s broadcasting career. The team I loved so dearly, would never be the same. For who are the Dodgers without their beloved maestro? What is baseball in Los Angeles without the Voice of Summer?

Unfortunately, the Dodger faithful will have to answer those questions next season. Like Vinny said, “Don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Right?

I guess.

So here I am, at 3 am in Barcelona, smiling as my Boys in Blue fight against the Nationals in the playoffs. I take siestas at 10 pm and set alarms to wake at 3 to watch the games, shouting into pillows and high-fiving myself when we win.

This nine hour time difference might be the death of me, but I’ll be damned if I miss a game.

This is our year,

I want to hear you from here.

Wave those blue towels and cheer with all of your might,

let’s win it for Vinny and send him off right!

GO BLUE!!

#WinForVin

Drowning with a Smile

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September 30th marked my one year “Quit-Your-Day-Job” anniversary.

A necessary deviation from a well-traveled path. An elevated perspective offered a snapshot of my life further up that road, and I didn’t like what I saw, so I jumped the fuck off the trail.

The decision has afforded me a plethora of life’s most precious commodity.

Time.

I have had time to explore.

Time to explore foreign lands and cultures, and perhaps more importantly, the expanses of my own mind. Time to read and learn and reflect and when the Muses have allowed… create. Time to laugh and breathe and love slowly.

A year of testing waters.

Dipping toes in tepid lakes to find the one worthy of a plunge.

I am not sure I have found her quite yet, but I have certainly discovered that I love to swim.

So here I am, back in Barcelona, doing the doggy-paddle as my professors try to drown me with Nietzsche and Aristotle.

And I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

Summer at the Beach

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July in Huntington Beach-

Two sun kissed girls, perhaps four and five years old, run from a public bathroom toward the inviting sea in their swim suits. Their bundles of clothes underarm, hastily stuffed in floppy sun hats. The younger stops dead in her tracks, examines her heap of clothes and exclaims,

“Oh no! I dropped my underwears.”

Without looking back, she begins running again, a smile stretched across her face and yells,

“Aghh, I don’t need them anyway!”

I laugh to myself and continue up the path.

Further up the trail, a young father, slows his gate as he approaches a pair of white underwear lying atop the sand.

He hesitates.

I smile and say, “I’m pretty sure those belong to your daughter.” He laughs, shakes his head and stuffs the panties in his beach bag.

 

 

*Like the photo? Go double tap my friend Zilly’s photography @laurenzillyphoto 

She is so talented!

Freestyle Friday: Beautiful Chaos

And then, suddenly, an unexpected wind sweeps in and engulfs me in her fury.

She howls and blows and rages.

Beautiful chaos.

When she finally ceases, nothing is the same. The lens in which I viewed the world has been shattered, lost forever in the madness of the storm. I grieve for my ignorance while rejoicing in new found liberation. I am lost and uncertain. Naked and hungry.

Ravaged by the storm.

 

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