YORK

1

I knew I would be back. I don’t know how long I’ll be here for, maybe just a month, maybe two, three… but since the day I left New York I was able to foresee that this city would be my final destination in the US. I wouldn’t allow myself to leave otherwise. The circle must be closed.

I remember Paul Auster, the Saab of American Literature, saying that he would never move out of a city that had about 75% of immigrants. I abandoned her two years ago, and I’ve had the feeling of lacking in something ever since. Now that I’m back I realize that I don’t love New York as a husband loves a wife, but rather as an indomitable lover; a kind of lover that will always be there, but whom I can’t be with too long.

The moment I cross the Williamsburg Bridge I feel like I never left. I also feel that nothing can ever be the same. The York is always New. Not even the people who spend all their life here can fully understand this place. It could even be said that, as in any complex system, the more you know the more ignorant you feel about it. After this month I’ll have spent exactly the same amount of time in New York as in Los Angeles (a year and a half in each), and I still feel like an ant in both of them.

After hitting the merciless asphalt jungle comes the realization that during the past three years all my fellow grant receivers have somehow found their way, and they seem to be pretty comfortable with their well-deserved stability. In contrast, I have moved out from three different cities and recently quitted two jobs. Right now my perspective in life is a month of wild craziness, followed by a return home to a country in crisis…. As usual, I can’t help questioning my decisions and myself when I see other people’s destinies. But no matter how deeply I might regret my choices, I can’t really give in to convention either; as schizophrenic as it may sound, some sort of daemon tells my pessimistic self that I’m making the right moves, whatever “right” means anyway…

2

One day, checking my luggage in search of quarters for the laundry, I find the papers from which I randomly decided whether to remain in Oakland or not. Just for fun, I play the lottery once again, and the draw insists in that I should have stayed there. Maybe I shouldn’t have left. Maybe I’m destined to go back to the Bay someday.

3

It’s Sunday. I read the newspaper in bed, on the phone, with one eye. I see that Vila-Matas, the author whom I’ve been trying to copy for years, is doing a virtual chat with his readers. Anybody can pose questions. I want to ask something. He has been one of my major literary references since adolescence. He actually inspired me to start writing about my life and journeys. So I submit the question: “How much of your work do you consider travel literature?” I expect something spectacular like: “All of it”, or “None of it”, or “This is a stupid question”, or “Writing is mental travelling”, or “You are an idiot”.

But I don’t get any feedback. However, someone else asks another absurd question about travelling, and Vila-Mata’s answers like this: “Traveling is good, but not always”. I take it as an advice for me too. He actually hits the spot. I needed something like that. I’ve been wandering around for so long that by now I’m starting to suspect it isn’t really benefitting me anymore. Maybe I’m losing my references. Maybe I already lost most of them somewhere along the way… After 4 years, beyond half an Odyssey, it might be time to go back to Ithaca.

4

Man is an animal that exaggerates.

Ernst Tugenhat

5

I move to Grand, the only L train stop in Williamsburg I haven’t lived at. Now I have a check on each of the subway stations. I’m a complete hipster, I guess. At least my dreadlocks still keep me looking like one. The moment I cut them, I will need a few more tattoos or much thicker glasses to keep up. But I’d like to think that I don’t care about that anymore…

In just two years Williamsburg has changed completely. The gentrification process has generated brand new skyscrapers at the shore and a few tall apartment buildings in front of each L train stop. My current home, for example, is a World War I building surrounded by three recently built blocks of condominiums.

The phenomenon has to do with the newcomers populating the area; namely rich kids studying at NYU who have almost nothing to do with the people that turned that area into the coolest place on earth. Also, the initial hipster pioneers have either left due to the rent increase or settled in an old rent apartment, and now regret the holes left by their facial piercings. The urban tribe, with all its totems and tattoos, has started to fade, and nothing seems to be there to replace it yet. It won’t take too long though.

6

“Men are the new women”, I read on a shop window at the Meat Packing district. It is in a red brick building, close to the High Lane and surrounded by paving stone streets spotted with dark puddles. The already classic Sex and the City look. I can easily picture Sarah Jessica and her girlfriends fighting those stones with their retardedly high heels. I can see their gay friends helping them and laughing out loud. I actually see that very scene reproduced at the line for the Standard Hotel. We are all trying to get into “Le Bain” an exclusive nightclub on the top floor. When I get to the door we realize it is gay night, but that doesn’t change anything. I’m honoring Dionysus no matter what.

As soon as I get in I realize that the place is packed with girls. For some reason they love being surrounded by gay friends, they feel better understood, less harassed, and therefore more liberated. Unaware of her mythical status, I meet Sophia Lamar, a transgender icon from the eighties who thinks that the party sucks compared to the ones she usually plays the diva at. She tells me that the best thing about the place are the bathrooms, where you can take a shit with a birdsong soundtrack and views of the Lower East Side skyline. You will also be observed by the neighbors as your shit goes down the toilet. At the terrace the floor is synthetic grass, and there are waterbeds scattered around. Sophia tells me that she loves being surrounded by gay men because they have great taste. “I just tend to refinement, and cities with substantial queer concentrations have that, it’s a fact”. The drunkenness erodes the night and I end up stepping into a black puddle like a Sarah Jessica, before throwing myself up into a taxi. Brooklyn is only 25 $ away.

7

Joe’s Pizza. The best pizza in the city, in my humble opinion. I look at the floor and see a twenty-dollar bill. Just there, hanging out, all alone. Nobody else sees it, not even the guy who’s standing by it. I pick it up discretely and look at the guy, who is totally oblivious to what’s going on at his feet. I ask if the bill fell out from his pocket and he looks at me with surprise. “Yeees, I, I, I think it fell out of my pocket, just now, yeah…”. The precise moment I read in his eyes that he is not the legitimate owner of the bill is the exact second he takes it from my hand. He thanks me for the twenty-dollar gift, and I go on to order my slice of fresh mozzarella pizza. At first I regret what I just did, but after a few moments I start feeling proud of my instinctual reaction. Since I was a kid I wanted to be a good person. Despite my countless defects and mistakes, I’m glad to see that at least my gut reaction, my moral inertia, is that of a person I would approve of. Regardless of the dangerous cynicism that occasionally besieges me, sometimes I surprise myself acting like someone I might want to be friends with.

8

New York in the summer means insomnia. It feels as if I didn’t fit inside my body, as if it was one size too small. Energy excess. Oxygen shortage. Suffocation. I wake up in the middle of the night with the face right in front the air conditioning. It’s impossible to sleep under these circumstances. Onanism could be a good idea; I need to let go. I need to relax. Then I watch Sahme, a film about sexual obsession, thinking that it may calm me down, but it actually increases my primate instincts… It also leads me to understand that cultural production is progressively getting closer to my generation, that the style, the themes, the characters, start to be similar to what I’ve been exposed to. Everything is talking to me right now. The brother-sister attraction reminds me of the final part of Musil’s Man Without Qualities, and how unleashed desire is an unfightable enemy. Freud now shows up to tell me that everything in life is about sex. How about sex then? What is it about? It’s absurd; it’s about reproduction, that abominable mirror of existence. Sex is about sex too… An end in itself… That moment of anesthesia… The culmination of painful desire… Be careful what you wish for… Topics and unfinished thoughts… Mental masturbation…

9

I go get some beers at the deli downstairs. It’s already 3 am. The night is brutally sultry. The clerk, from Yemen, opens the door and tells me that “life is hard”, just in case I hadn’t noticed yet. I nod in agreement. He is smoking inside; he doesn’t care. It’s a Wednesday. I take the beers and, as I pay, my inner voice tells him: “Yeah, there’s a lot of bad moments, but I guess we have to learn to enjoy them too…”. The clerk looks at me with a bizarre expression, and with utmost solemnity, he utters: “If you don’t like winter, move to a warmer country”. There are two kinds of adaptation: accepting + staying in, or rejecting + moving out. Both are equally hard, but the second brings about more life, I guess.

10

Bryant Park. Summer Film Series. Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Billy Wilder. The place is packed. People set up pick-nicks, drink beer and sweat copiously. Girls watch the movie with a smile on their faces, especially at the beginning and the end, when all the royal paraphernalia is displayed. They sit on their buttocks stretching their necks and blinking a lot. They open their eyes as much as they can and whisper among each other. I’m fascinated by the feminine world, by female gatherings in general, by big groups of women. There’s something adorable in how they worship that movie all together. They want to be princesses; they want to have their hands kissed.

When Audrey Hepburn recovers her royal condition I turn around to see people’s reaction and realize that all the girls (80% of the crowd) have their face shining, fascinated by the aura of not only the princess, but of cinema itself. Even though it is just a technical reproduction of a film that was shot almost sixty years ago, this cathedral of light has kept all its magic. The same actress who’s playing a princess in Rome played an aspiring actress just a few streets from Bryant Park, at Tiffany’s… some months ago I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in LA and I saw the same illuminated expression on the old ladies watching it. Watching Hepburn again makes me understand with how much power the myths of the fifties project themselves to the present. Just two weeks ago I saw people cheering right after Marlon Brando’s famous line in On the Waterfront: “I coulda had had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody”. Instead of a bump, which is what I am. Let’s face it. I haven’t found my way yet. Cinema has just been a detour…

11

It’s Saturday and plans start popping up… But I decide to stay, to not do anything, and try to enjoy the circumstance of being alive. Celebrate life by doing nothing; value it just the way it is. Out of the blue, someone calls inviting me to go to Pennsylvania and help with the Obama campaign for universal healthcare. I accept. I want to be part of this country’s destiny…

That very same night I step on a rusty nail while walking on my rooftop and have to go to Woodhull hospital to get the tetanus vaccine. I hear that they recently amputated the wrong leg to a patient there… I talk to the nurses there to see what’s going on. All I get is New York sarcasm. There’s a woman who doesn’t want to take her clothes off, another one who doesn’t want to get dressed… Too many people, too few doctors…. 5 hours go by before I get the shot. They only charge me 15$, because I qualify for the homeless aid. Now that I experienced the need for the so-called “Obamacare” I won’t be able to help campaign for it…

But despite all that I’m still grateful. I’m actually grateful for everything, for having the life I have, for not being in the situation of so many patients that go through Woodhull’s doors every day… All the suffering that life can produce… I remember Annie Hall: “Life is divided between the horrible and the terrible, and I should be grateful for being just among the horrible…”. We have the natural tendency to always think how things could be better, but not the opposite. Existence is a kind of balance between gratefulness and regret.

12

The only thing the world will never tire of is exaggeration.

Salvador Dalí

                                                                                              13

A self-diagnosed Munchausen syndrome would be the paroxysm of hypochondria. It could also be a way of curing it by reductio ad absurdum. The paradox of contraria contrariis curantur, or the equally paradoxical: similia similibus curantur, would make someone who diagnoses him or herself with the syndrome of pathologically inventing syndromes automatically sane. A little dose of bad can be good.

I started to overcome my own hypochondria the moment I started extreme self-diagnosing, almost ridiculing myself to the point of absolute self-awareness. That is a similar paradox to the kind of freedom drawn from the resigned acceptance of total determinism.

According to Aristotle, Tragedy is healthy because it supplies a little dose of anxiety that helps us channel pity and fear, and therefore compensates the difficulty to let go emotions in a civilized society. In a more rational dimension, Borges and his horror pleni, his games of reason that allow us to experience Funes and not have to assume the consequences of being him. We just know it’s there, that there’s that possibility. Little aggressions. Catharsis.

14

Xavier Rubert reminds me that impatient people like myself tend to try to say everything every time they talk, and that, by doing so, always end up saying the same; and always wrong.

15

I move out, again. This time my final destination will be the “Sitcom”, a friend’s apartment nicknamed like that because a ridiculous amount of characters have appeared in it. I myself have been one of those characters a few times. I actually slept there once… on the couch… with two more people. The place has two floors, an editing station, a recording studio, an interior balcony, and is located in North Fifth and Berry, right in the middle of hipster territory, again. I can’t escape myself.

But let’s admit it, I basically rented this place for one reason: Carnapau II. I wanted to put an end to my American history with a carnival. All the people I love in New York show up on a Saturday night at the Sitcom. There’s a watermelon filled with rum, cigars and cigarettes being smoked, masks, glitter, wigs and loud music being played. Thanks to the analgesic effects of alcohol I reach the moment of loving everybody, despite everything. One of those moments when one is able to accept the differences, the difficulties, the tragic essence of life, and embraces the world as it is. Oceanic flow.

But none of that is really applicable here. We are a group of privileged youngsters with our minor problems trying to navigate a fast changing world. A few of us recently formed the Boat Team: Sara, Marta, Franc and I. We got drunk together in the middle of the Hudson. We got close to Miss Liberty and saw the skyline from absolute freedom. Mr. Sunday’s parties kept us connected and now the four of us end up on the rooftop contemplating and the immeasurable magnitude of Manhattan in the distance. I feel such a connection, such optimism, such love, that every bit of hangover is justified. Everything bad in life disappears with gregariousness and friendship. Little communities. Teams.

16

I propose the New York Film Academy to teach a class on Greek Tragedy and Cinema for them. It will look good on my C.V. and besides that it will help me clarify what I think about that… I studied there, it’s a very particular school, but it serves a purpose, (especially for people like me, who don’t really have one).

I end up teaching a few seminars and showing some shorts I sneaked out from Sundance. They love it. I feel good. Seeing those kids trying to do what I already gave up on I think to myself that: “Life is what you do while you aspire”. But I pretend to live all the possibilities in life… like Simenon I want to live it all. Vargas-Llosa once said that people love literature because they would like to live all the lives, but they can barely live one. Thus my irrepressible tendency to read and write…

17

“Dad, how much is 14×7? I don’t know, google it”. I hear this and understand that soon I’m not going to be surprised by such an answer. When I google it not only I receive an answer, but it also comes in a calculator. I’m offered both the fish and the rod.

18

I decide to go back, for good, pretending to start a new life. I have the neurotic syndrome of the perfect new beginning, that ideal utopia projected in the future… But deep inside I know it’s going to be exactly the same, no more, no less, just my uncomfortable nature in a new context. I’ll be able to start from scratch, yes, but I’ll probably end up in the same place where I am now. Or maybe not… Who knows where I’ll end up after I realize that I don’t fit in my own country either… I feel like a salmon, swimming against the river flow, going to my origins, where a sort of death awaits (the worst economic crisis of the last 50 years). Is not that I like swimming against the current; it is against the fish that I like to swim. It is hard even for myself to understand my own moves. I’m constantly trying to interpret my actions in order to understand my character. That is, I guess, one of the reasons that justify this futile autobiographical exercise…

19

Some sort of intergalactic super chord must have broken today. Something is wrong with me and I don’t know what it is. I’m sure there’s a name for it: a symptom, a syndrome or just a plain disease. I don’t know what got into me, but I know that it is my last day in the York and that I have a pilgrimage to do. I will visit Kurt Gödel’s tomb in Princeton.

“Curt” in Catalan means “short”, and Gödel was the mind that short-circuited formal logic forever in the Vienna of 1931. I jump on a train and go to New Haven in a quest to find the graveyard of this apostle of paradox. As I get to the cemetery, I read another apostle of paradox through his alter ego Johannes Calimacus:

The supreme paradox of all thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think. This passion is at bottom present in all thinking, even in the thinking of the individual, in so far as in thinking he participates in something transcending himself”.

With this passage Kierkegaard (Borges once pointed out that his last name means “garden of church”) makes me think that in my fragmentaries, as in my life, I only know how to stop when I stumble upon a paradox, when I create an unsolvable problem to myself. At first I tend to feel desperate, but then I give up and leave it alone until it dissolves… I like leaving things unfinished.

As I walk around the graves of the many luminaries buried in Princeton I understand, better than ever, that is through something incomprehensible like Gödel’s theorem that we can attribute a starting and an ending point to reality. That is the only Archimedean fixed point we can aspire to. If we want to be coherent, we will always be incomplete. And now, as Dante does with Ugolino, I will leave my thought eating itself here… The flame can’t stop burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACK

1

 Ladies and gentleman, the moment has come: it’s time for me to mutate into a banana. “Bay to Breakers” is a do whatever you want day and I must dress for the occasion. I should also give use to the banana costume I’ve been carrying around the US for the last three years. In theory, this event is a race from the Bay to the Breakers, that is, from one side of the San Francisco peninsula to the other. In practice, most runners do it dressed up, half of them drunk, and some of them naked.

Even though I try to get to the race on time, the Bart is too crowded, and when I arrive everybody has already left. I don’t care. I jump in the Muni and put on my banana skin. As the metamorphosis takes place people look at me with curiosity, but not too much, it is in agreement with the context… I do feel weird though… Ok, I should get drunk soon.

I go alone, as usual. When I step down by the Panhandle I rapidly acquire abundant rum and coke, which I will share with four frenchies dressed like the Beatles. Soon I realize I’m not the only banana walking around. This costume used to be cool when I exchanged it for a bike four years ago in Exeter; now it’s vulgar. It was a blue bike.

The French Beatles and I end up joining a random barbeque and sleeping on the grass, with a colorful variety of mammals spinning around as the sun hit our pale faces. I think about my blue bike, and that brings back all the memories from my year in England, including a visit to the Cavern in Liverpool. A perfect mimesis of the Beatles was playing when I walked in, the exact opposite of the bunch of French drunkards that surround me at the moment.

2

I work from home, editing. Sometimes I edit in coffee shops, where I sit by the window and people-watch for hours. My mom and my aunt visit me and I start working at nights, because during the day I try to do the tourism I couldn’t do in the last two months due to lack of time, and money.

In only one week we visit the Golden Gate, Bolinas, Napa Valley, Chinatown, Japantown, the Mission, the Castro, North Beach, Marina, Sutro Baths… we eat at Burma, at Pizza Delfina, Farina… we see the pre-Raphaelites at the Mission of Honor, Jean Paul Gaultier at the De Young Museum, experience an earthquake in the Natural History Museum… but what touches me the most is, again, an unexpected sculpture: Goethe and Schiller in the middle of the Golden Gate park.

Two great minds who contributed to one of the most fascinating moments in human history: the German Romanticism in the Republic of Weimar. It’s either then, or the V century b. c. in Athens: those are my choices if I was ever offered to go back in time. Both were extremely rational as well as transcendental periods, in which the spirit of time, the zeitgeist[1], displayed the utmost self-awareness. Europe still lives off from those exceptional periods when the ideal and the real were as close as humanly possible.

3

Rapamycin is an immunopressant drug regularly employed to prevent rejection in organ transplantation. “Immunopressant” means that it reduces the activation or efficacy of the immune system. Its name comes from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), where the bacterium Streptomyces Hygroscopicus is to be found. Some experiments have recently shown the potentiality of Rapamycin to combat cancer, although it was believed that it actually increased the chances of developping it.

I know nothing about what I just wrote, but I’m editing a set of talks on Evolutionary Medicine for the Palo Alto Institute and indirectly learning about the resilience mechanisms of our bodies. Each talk lasts about 20 minutes, “the right size for the brain”, they say. The symposium took place at Stanford, where PhDs from all over the US gathered to talk about how pernicious the environment can be to an organism that has been slowly adapting to a substantially different context. That is, how we grow stress from noises and traffic, how we develop short sightedness, how there’s more diabetes, asthma, allergies, cancer… What’s going on? It looks like we have created a world to which we haven’t had time to adapt.

The archaic method of curing by blood shedding –which was widely spread for centuries–, fasting, pruning, doing exercise, using vaccines, are just little aggressions that, far from debilitating, invigorate our bodies. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Obviously one shouldn’t try to fight liver cancer by fasting, but giving some blood for example is healthy from an evolutionary point of view, as well as exercising every day or starving a little every now and then. For the same reason, one shouldn’t eat too much sugar or fat, since they weren’t abundant back in prehistoric times. There are no gains without losses…

4

My friend and I walk towards Bi-Rite. I just want to buy a liquid yogurt. Suddenly: “I applied to work here once, I wanted to set up the vegetables”. Bi-Rite, on 18th Street, is a legendary grocery shop where the local/organic movement started back in the day. The vegetables indeed look gorgeous. Close to Dolores Park, the Mission and the Castro, Bi-Rite is so popular that one has to fill up an application to work there, and my friend, who is the personification of delicacy, was actually rejected. She just wanted to set up the vegetables, like Archimboldo.

5

I need an apartment for a week. I visit a penthouse in Oakland. It’s a great place but… Should I put Oakland in my life? Probably no. The girl who sublets it is called Sparlha. What a weirdly beautiful name. We talk for almost two hours. After twenty minutes of chat I decide not to rent the place, and I tell her, but she doesn’t seem to care about that anymore, she just keeps talking, and I listen. Then comes my turn, and I talk, a lot, as she listens attentively. We seem to share the same flaws of character, namely: instability and playfulness.

That’s one of the genuinely American habits I still find absolutely wonderful: two people confessing everything about their lives just a few minutes after meeting. I feel like I’ve told Sparlha more about myself than to some of my friends. Maybe we have the same horoscope or something. Maybe our signs are highly compatible. Probably both of us are a confused and in need of understanding.

She tells me that she has changed cities every 3 years during the past 12 years. I tell her I have changed cities every year in the past 4 years: Exeter, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco… “Anywhere but here” I say, conspicuously. “Wherever you go; there you are” she replies, resigned.

6

The Golden Gate Bridge turns 75. The coral necklace of the bay deserves a proper festivity. Thousands of gentle people fill up the Presidio Park, some of them with flowers in their hair. They attend the concerts that have been set up for the occasion as they wait for the final show: the fireworks.

The expectation rises, as it gets darker. Suddenly the bridge becomes a cascade of fire. Everybody is in awe. A homeless woman sitting somewhere among the crowd expresses her admiration with excess. Her involvement with the show is absolute. If she is high on something, which is probably the case, the spectacle must be unbelievable. Maybe she didn’t know anything about the fireworks. After the initial surprise most people calm down and show less enthusiasm, but the woman can’t get enough of it, she’s just stuck in permanent awe. She won’t stop hollering until the last firework explodes.

7

Jannette takes me up all the way to Dolores Park on a Sunday. We reach the top to enjoy the views and from there she shows me the different districts of the city. She also points out the existence of the “gay curve” (right below us), a side of the park where a crowd of exceedingly handsome men get tanned during the weekends. We actually have to go through that curve in order to get a burrito at La Cumbre, the best in town, according to her.

We start descending across gayland and when we reach the middle of the curve I start feeling a weight on my rear. I look back and realize that the weight is from the sight of all the men looking at my ass, and even commenting on it. I press my buttocks and accelerate my march as I tell Janette how uncomfortable I feel, although I don’t really mind… “That’s how it is being a girl”, is her answer.

8

Dinner at Tommy’s with M. Margaritas and ceviche. Throughout the years I’ve come to realize that tequila hits me in a place I’m too weak at. Too drunk too soon drunk, I go pee and see a world map upside down on the wall. It is inevitable to think about how different we would perceive our planet if always represented like that… Lost in such banal thought I get back to the table and tell M that:

“It is hard, almost impossible, to be overtly communicative and sensitive at the same time. Aristotle insisted in his Poetics and Rhetorics that it is very important to feel the right emotion at the right time. Some people, and I include myself among them, are unbalanced by nature and tend to want to feel, instead of just feel. Therefore, they are emotionally unpredictable and difficult to deal with”.

I automatically shuffle to another thought as decontextualized and irrelevant. As I fight against my superego for another margarita, I tell my ego that I should learn to let go. I aspire to a sort of coherent incoherence, or the opposite. M looks at me and yawns.

9

I read in Kierkegaard: “The mass of connections, stimuli, and hindrances make it ever more impossible for one to win any deeper knowledge of himself. It is true, that a mirror has the quality of enabling a man to see his image in it, but for this he must stand still”. I have the feeling that during the last few years I’ve had trouble meeting with myself due to too much movement… I can’t focus. Traveling is enriching but at a certain point it starts being counterproductive. “Nothing in excess” said the oracle. Also: “Know thyself”.

10

As I try to make sense of my experiences I usually feel like those astronomists prior to Copernicus who came up with epicycles in order to explain the erratic orbits of certain planets. I also try to categorize, conceptualize and theorize to see if I can make sense of a world that outgrows me, but many times my featherless biped animal is more of a chicken than a human being… Nothing I see is intrinsically part to reality. What does it mean then to be human then? To be blind in a land of darkness.

11

Last Chance Saloon. Jack London Square. Here I am, where Hemingway used to get drunk. The bartender gives me a beer:

– Here you are sir.

– Nice you.

My dyslexia is getting out of hand.

12

I feel sheer admiration when I see someone doing something extraordinary effortlessly: when exceptionality becomes normality. A person lights a candle with a piece of bread, for example, or a bottle is opened with an eye. These things do happen, all the time, everywhere. Utterly persistent exceptionality is what what holds together the world we live in.

Bach composed most of his works with a little harpsichord. Forgotten musicians that had much more acceptation in his epoch –including his sons– used many more technical resources. Everything can be told with almost nothing, with just a few variations, with the obstinate re-visitation of the same. When I asked him about the most important lesson he ever learned Antoni Pitxot told me that: “All the interesting things are always surrounding you”.

13

I’m out. I love the Bay Area, I love the people, the food, the atmosphere… but I’m out. I must go back home. Sometimes, maybe too often, I feel I’ve travelled too much and too far. Then I think about the Odyssey and it makes me want to travel for another four years… I guess I want to be both the host and the visitor at the same time.

Throughout the past four years I’ve learned to value the different modes of hospitality; how each person, each family, has its own unique way of hosting visitors. In ancient Greece strangers were protected by Zeus and deserved all sorts of honors. The rituals of xenia and reciprocity were sacred, since any xenos could be a disguised divinity. Gods liked to present themselves as foreigners.

Hosting is an ancient art, and the Vella family is virtuous at it. They’ve made me feel like another member of the clan, with all the privileges and obligations, and with the extra generosity and understanding that someone in my circumstance may require. They’ve been my solace after too much Los Angeles, and I feel thankful for having come across them in my journey. “You will be back” Michael told me as I walked through the door.

14

Pandora. 80s station. A-ha. Take on me. While I cross the Bay Bridge I lower the windows and the air rushes with violence. The Sun is setting and its light shines on the buildings of both sides of the estuary. I accelerate a little. Tomorrow I’m going to sell my car and go back to New York. I have never felt so free.


[1] Name of the bar where I will have the last supper before leaving San Francisco along with Juan, Ricardo, Martiño and Luis Carlos. Dionysus will be honored thoroughly during that night.

BIRTH

1

May 21st. I move into a new apartment, at the Richmond District. It’s my birthday. In that privileged enclave of San Francisco, somewhere between Ocean Beach and Sea Cliff, the fog rolls in religiously every evening as if the Pacific was trying to cover the peninsula with its vapors. Once I’ve brought all my belongings into the studio, I feel the need to go for a run. Only one block away from my new place Lincoln Park awaits, full of majestic pine trees hardened by the sea salt. I run through a golf course not really knowing where I will end up, and with the suspicion that I’m probably not allowed to do that. But I keep jogging until I hit a sign that reads “Land’s End”. There, I stop.

Already covered in sweat, my lungs start to feel the release of oxygenation. The temperature is ideal. I can hear the wind slide through the leaves, the birds singing in Dolby surround and the distant sound of the waves breaking against the rocks. The smell of saltpeter reaches my pituitary gland magnifying my awe when I suddenly see the sun being swallowed by the vast ocean. I then look to my right and see the Golden Gate Bridge presiding the estuary in all its majesty, with its unique bright red popping out of the blue waters stained by little segments of white foam.

After a few minutes of ecstatic admiration, I continue with my run up hill, in the middle of which I come across a monument dedicated to the world. To the world itself? Yes, just a big black stone with an engraved inscription expressing gratefulness to Nature and the elements. No gods, no religion, no country, no nothing; just “thank you”. I agree. That place feels like being thankful to something. Nature is rough but beautiful there, aggressive but condescending: “We are grateful, as we stand facing this monument, for the infinite gifts of heaven and earth, we recognize once again the true fundamental of the human soul that pursues the truth, implements the good, creates beauty and renews his will to step forward … It was in this spirit that this monument was built.” Such non-religious approach acknowledges the mystery of the “being by itself”, without further thingification. The inscription is bilingual: English and Japanese. Zen.

I have no idea where I am, so I keep running until I hit the golf course again, and decide to run across it, again. Sprinting in the middle of that unsullied green field, I feel like a scot-free pureblood, loaded with infinite horsepower. My body expands and I even have the impression of growing an inch taller.

At the top of the hill I come across the Legion of Honor, a neoclassical building flanked by a statue of the Cid Campeador and another of Jean of Arc, both historic figures that gave everything for their respective countries. They represent a universal condition; they are saviors of an identity, of a whole nation… but not necessarily American. Once again, I’m surprised by how generic those monuments are. The key factor is what they are acknowledging, in abstract, like the black stone dedicated to the world. Their universality contributes to the ideal that we are basically all the same, sharing a multifaceted human condition no matter how opposed we may be.

I keep running between the two bronze sculptures and towards the neoclassical building of the Legion of Honor, which has the motto “Honeur et Patrie” on its frieze. In the middle of the cloister, one of the 17 reproductions of Rodin’s Thinker remains alone, serene, in permanent concentration. I run towards it, accelerating the pace until a fence stops me. No one else is there. The wind blows and the sweat refreshes my forehead. I try to think. His position looks forced, the bronze man doesn’t seem too comfortable. I really want to think hard, like him. Life is much better with reason, not only with awareness and existential awareness, but also with intelligence, foresight, and the ability of solving problems. Amid of the capacity for identifying one’s genuine preferences, so that there’s a possibility of being true to oneself… It is intelligent to understand that there are different kinds of intelligence, and that a life is more fulfilled when they are all working in coordination.

However, rationality doesn’t necessarily bring success; it can also bring about much confusion, especially when there’s a lack of intuition, or not enough self-confidence to follow it. Rousseau considered that reason left by itself can be pernicious, since it is too removed from our natural state. On the same track, in one of his paintings Goya wrote: “los sueños de la razón producen monstruos”. The dreams of reason produce monsters. Anxiety. Delirium. Depression. It is true; we should try to be friends with our irrational side. However, that’s not the impression we get from Rodin’s creature. He is compact and very fit; ready to tame any monsters his reason may produce. I think of the parallelism E.R. Dodds drew of the “irrational” as a horse without rider, and how Ancient Greece, with all its uncanny rituals and surrealist myths, could be regarded as an example of symmetric alignment of the rational and the irrational facets of our psyche…

I leave The Thinker all happy and inspired by my own thoughts. The sensation of running on grass is so smooth that it feels as if my head was being held with a steady cam. Suddenly, a Holocaust Memorial hits me in the eye. The birds sing in harmony, the thin leaves of the pine trees sway delicately with the breeze, and the sun shines gently through the branches… but none of that is beautiful anymore. George Segal’s installation attracts and attacks my attention with the immaculately white corpses lying on the ground, one on top of the other. The only survivor from the killing is standing in front of a fence and looks hopelessly through the wires of thorn. The pine leaves fall on the bodies and confer them a certain texture that defines their silhouettes… I stand there for a few minutes, in silence, and end up placing my hand on the man’s cold and inert arm, that is hanging on the wire. At that moment my whole body freezes and I feel more like a Chihuahua than a pureblood. I walk a few steps away and come across an eloquent inscription that ties the whole installation together: “Remembrance is the secret of redemption”.

Thinking about the past is a way of honoring it. But how can humanity be redeemed for something like the Holocaust? How can that be part of our history? How could that happen? Where are the origins of such immeasurable craziness? Nietzsche? Wagner? Weimar? The Romanticism? The Enlightenment? Rome? Greece? … I then remember the Japanese inscription about the world itself, no religion, no country, no race, no nothing, just recognizing existence; being grateful. Mankind tends to value anything that is freely given to it, always in sight of how wrong things can go. In perspective of the tragic dimension of life, when we feel that things miraculously work for a while we become devout of whatever credo we have around. As we get old, this tends to accentuate, since we become more and more aware of how much our destiny is at the mercy of a completely irrational fate.

Such perspective brings light to Weber’s idea that wealthy Protestants fed back their own faith as they believed that it was the Lord who helped them get rich, so the more faith they’d have, the wealthier they’d be. Calvinists had a strong faith in predestination and divine grace, without which it would be impossible to succeed in life. As a result, capitalism developed rapidly because everybody worked hard to prove that they had been chosen by God. That is why in tragedy we protest against the gods, and the gratuitous cruelty of the fortune they have often set up for us. The world can be celebrated or regretted, depending on which Lincoln Park sculpture we look at… But where was God during the Shoah? Such an uncomfortable commonplace question tips the balance.

I can hear the noise of a sea horn from afar. I try to reach it but realize it’s in the middle of the sea. I keep walking till I reach Sutro Baths, with the moon rising from behind the waters. Standing on the ruins of that old spa, I look at the endless ocean. A thin layer of fog floats above the horizon. Blue. Yellow. Blue. With the humid breeze on my face I feel the emptiness of thousands of miles ahead of my belittled body, and the Pacific awakens a deep serenity within me that is accentuated by the infinite echoing of the sea horn. The micro landscapes of the coastal line and the endless marine overture I can sense from afar remind me of the rings of Saturn. The harmony of the spheres connects each particle of the universe.

2

Every year, during my birthday, I think about the meaning of my name. I recall the figure of Saint Paul, and the legend of his falling from a horse that led him to a sudden conversion into Christianity. He saw the light. Since I discovered Saint Paul’s story in 2007 I’ve been trying to find an inner peace that seems more and more elusive every year. I’m starting to suspect that such peace will probably have to do with forgetting about myself and trying to make it germinate around me. Step by step. Peace by peace.

3

I get to the place I’ve called home for the last two months and see a “Happy Birthday” above the entrance door. Inside, they hand me a Mexican hat, a fake mustache, and start calling me “birthday boy”. I have a succulent dinner with the Vella family and Linda. Afterwards comes Malia, the person who made San Francisco possible for me.

I expected a lonely and reflective birthday, one in which I would have gone into a church, sit on a bench and thought about Saint Paul for hours… But I’m eating delicious food instead, thanks to my lovely Medicis. At the end of each course I try to leave a little portion for the gods to show gratitude, as usual, but in this occasion I hesitate, I leave very little, because I wouldn’t want to offend my benefactors. When I finish the third course I can’t hold it anymore and end up telling them about that superstitious habit of mine. They understand. They even find it funny. By this time they already start to know me quite well… In ancient Greece there was the belief that, in order to keep people happy one had to lie, but in order to keep the gods happy one had to tell the truth. This year I’ll try to keep both the gods and people happy, so I guess I’ll just keep myself unhappy…

And there I am, seeing a little cake with nine candles being brought to me as the people who have practically become my family sing a birthday song. The tune finishes and they ask me to make a wish. The candles are melting quickly and I need to wish! I didn’t think about anything. I never do. Every time this has happened to me I end up wishing generic stuff: “I want everybody to be happy” or “I want peace in the world” or the paradoxical mindfuck “I want my wishes not to be fulfilled”. I have these thoughts, but I skip them; there’s always this feeling that if a wish is not accurate enough, it won’t be considered by the cake genius. They are all waiting for me to blow the candles. I’m going to blow it up. I know it. In the last millisecond I make a wish: “I want these people to be happy on my 29th year”. Then I blow the candles. At first I have the feeling of bad sex, but in the successive moments a smile is drawn on my face. I feel content for my wish, and I hope it is an omen for a new version of myself.

4

A little tipsy, I find it hard to open the street door of my new building. The key doesn’t work. It takes me almost 15 minutes to realize I’m just doing it wrong. It was the other way around… I lie down in bed, take a deep breath, and turn my head to the right. “Purity of heart is to wish one thing”, I read. That is the title of the book I bought in LA the day before leaving, the book standing in front of my face right now. Kierkegaard and his obsession with faith… I belong to the same club, I admit. I’ve been faith starving since adolescence. My problem, I think, has been my omnivorous condition. I want to eat everything; try everything; live everything. Therefore, faith eludes me. Being too curious has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. Now I could say that it is difficult to deal with myself, that I’m my worst enemy and all those worn-out topics… I know this path; it’s always the same old story for my birthday: always trying to bite my tail.

DEATH

 1

I am at Zocalo. It’s noon. There’s a round table full of mothers and children in front of me; all blond, all happy. I look at a kid sitting in a stroller. He is calm and quiet, doing nothing, grabbing his foot, sucking his thumb, looking at the wall… What is he thinking? I then remember the intuitions I had as a child, intuitions of an adult Pau traveling alone along the West Coast, as I’m doing now. An ideal of adventure and nomadism, of freedom. But I also realize that I didn’t have any more intuitions after that, which makes me think that I may just go back home, and lead a normal life till the end of my days.

But then I let my neuroticism take over, and also think that maybe the reason why I didn’t have any more intuitions is because I’m scheduled to die soon… Ah, death… I have never been afraid of it though. I’ve never seen it close either (at least sober). Death… What if I’m bound to die during this journey? Away from home, alone… Now I start to get a glimpse of the ever-menacing abyss. It has always been there, that deep blue yonder. As a kid, when I went diving, I used to look at the infinite depth of the sea with the utmost respect. It attracted and frightened me at the same time. My biggest fear was the moment when a shark would come out of the blue with the jaws wide open, take me to the profundities, and devour my defenceless body.

A sudden death in the sea was, according to the Ancient Greeks, the worst kind of death. However, that’s a type of death that I kind of like. I always had the impression that if I thought about death I might become more aware of life, and perhaps a slightly more afraid of its end, but it looks like the opposite has happened. Long ago I accepted that any moment could become the final fusion, when all men are equalized… and I don’t mind.

2

My friend Malia, the wonder girl, takes me on a trip to Napa Valley. We stop at different wineries where I’ll get progressively drunk and drunker. Spring is in its height, everything in bloom. The abundant California poppy overpopulates the sides of the road. It is illegal to pick them, they are protected by a state law. Malia knows the law; she just passed her Bar exam. She can be an attorney now. I always feel protected around her.

The poppies, so fragile and ephemeral, remind me of the contradiction between birth and death. There is also the unavoidable reminiscence of sex… We are born to flourish, spread our seed, and wither.

As I dialogue with Stag’s Leap wine, Dionysus comes to mind reminding me about Elaphebolion and the tragic festivities in Athens, which were held in spring to celebrate the rebirth of nature. The never-ending cycle of life and death; an inconvenient truth to touch upon every now and then, so we don’t forget that we are actually bound to die.

3

Jeannette wants me to see a show at the Mission district, the place where things are happening in San Francisco. The event is taking place at the basement of a vintage shop. There’s about a hundred people in an overcrowded room. The show is called: “You are going to die”. It is a celebration of the fear of death, an open space where anybody can perform in front of the audience and do whatever crosses their mind. Since we are all going to die anyway, who cares about ridicule?

I go down the stairs and get a beer. Jeannette informs me that I’m up in about 15 minutes; that she reserved me a slot for ridicule… I finish my beer in five seconds and order another one. What the hell are you going to do up there? The guy who is performing at the moment is actually pretty good. He is gently narrating how he became addicted to bondage and domination with his guitar, and he’s really funny.

I automatically turn to my Iphone for help (which is pretty sad). I randomly find a poem by the illustrious Catalan poet Joan Maragall, and decide to read it out loud. Nobody will understand it anyway, they may even think it’s really deep stuff… So I step up the stage and start by saying that I’m from Barcelona (although I’m from l’Escala) and that I’ve never been afraid of death. I say that the epicureans were never afraid of death, because when she is there, you are not… Then I close my stuttered speech by stating that the best way of facing death is through poetry and metaphor, so here we go:

 

L’ÀNIMA DE LES FLORS

 

Aquelles dues flors que hi ha posades

al mig del caminal,

¿qui és que les hi deu haver llençades?

Qui sia, tant se val.

 

Aquelles dues flors no estan pas tristes,

no, no: riuen al sol.

M’han encantat així que les he vistes

posades a morir, mes sense dol.

 

«Morirem aviat, lluny de la planta»,

elles deuen pensar;

«més ara nostre brill al poeta encanta,

i això mai morirà»[1].

 

4

I have two screenings lined up. The first one is a movie called The Fourth Dimension, and it has a Q&A with its directors at the end. While I’m waiting for them to show up, I overhear the girl sitting by my side say: “When I’m in a theater everything disappears, I forget about the world and it’s only my face and the screen”. But I don’t even have the time to think about that because Harmony Korine suddenly jumps on the stage of the Kabuki Theater and gets the full attention of the crowd. This guy is electric. Among other things, he is the writer of Kids, a movie that traumatized a whole generation. There are other directors and producers on the stage, even Val Kilmer is there, but all the attention goes to the little Korine, who can’t stop moving around the stage. He was born in Bolinas, the idyllic fisherman’s town two hours north of San Francisco, and everybody seems to love him. The whole Q & A is a confusing cacophony in which everybody tries to have its own a say. But at the end, only one sentence stands out: “You got balls son”. That is what Sol Korine tells his son Harmony every time he singlehandedly pulls out a crazy project. Val Kilmer absolutely loves it. “You got balls, son!” he repeats out loud. “You got balls!”.

The second screening is a documentary about Diana Vreeland, a revered fashion editor that revolutionized the world as the director of Vogue. Her granddaughter in law, following the example of films like Valentio or The October Issue, decided to produce this documentary: The Eye Must Travel. That’s what Vreeland used to always emphasize about fashion editing. Since English wasn’t her first language, she learned to speak in witty sententious phrases, acting like an oracle with Dali-like manners. She had no formal education, only dance school, thus rhythm was for her the most important aspect in fashion editing… That is what separates men from kids: Rhythm.

Diana Vreeland created her own worlds of fantasy; she pictured reality as it ought to be. When asked whether Lindbergh flying over her house on his way to Paris was fact or fiction, she answered: it was ‘faction’. We have to create our own realities, places where we feel comfortable, entitled to play.

When she was a little girl, Diana’s mother told her that she was ugly. She wasn’t pretty, indeed, but that little girl knew somewhere inside of her that she had to stand out at any price. In fact, Ms. Vreeland always told her kids that they had to either be first in class, or last, but never in between… I can’t help thinking about the young Dalí running out of class and hitting a wall in the playground of his school. When the teacher asked him for the reason behind that senseless act, he answered: “nobody was paying attention to me!”. When he was older, a journalist inquired him about his position in front of the critics… “It’s important to be talked about” he asserted, “even if is well”. We all want to be protagonists; nobody is really comfortable being a supporting actor. Dalí, who dug very deep in his unconscious and played risky games with the paranoico-critic method also declared: “Picasso is a painter. Me too. Picasso is a Spaniard. Me too. Picasso is a communist. Me neither”. He knew too well that we are all more ambiguous than we want to admit, and he fully embraced this reality.

Artists like Dalí have their work (even though he said that his paintings were only a small part of his personality), but people like Diana Vreeland basically have their life, and documentaries must be made in order to preserve their tireless Θαύμαντος, their spirit of wonder, their way of looking at the world like a child. “I shall die young” she predicted, “I may be 70, 80 or, 90, but I will still be young”. An Egyptian priest once told the Athenian poet Solon that: “You Greeks are all children, and there is no such thing as an old Greek. … You are all young in mind”. Like most interesting people, the Greeks were constantly amazed by reality.

5

I go to a synagogue. It’s a funeral. The ‘Solomon Temple’ holds a ceremony for one of the most illustrious citizens of San Francisco: Stan’s father. I go there because Stan is a friend of the family, and also because I’ve always been curious about the Jewish tradition. The rabbi starts with a few words that serve as Oratio Funebris: “Birth is a beginning, and death is a destination. And life is a journey: From childhood to maturity, and youth to age; from innocence to knowing; from foolishness to discretion, and then, perhaps, to wisdom; from weakness to strength, or strength to weakness – and, often, back again; from health to sickness, and back, we hope, to health again … From defeat to defeat – Until, looking backward or ahead, we see that victory lies not at some high place along the way, but in having made the journey, stage by stage …”. That’s a kind of wisdom that can only be held by a 3000 years old religion. “The world is, has been, and will always be”, as Milio used to say. We are condemned to death since the moment we are born, life is a comedy in a tragic framework.

I read the Torah. Genesis. Day 6. The Lord created man in his image, and liked it. He liked his creation so much that he set mankind to populate the earth and rule over the animals. When I consider the possibility of the existence of such God, I often think that maybe Pangloss was right, that maybe this world really is the best possible, and maybe all the pains and sufferings we are exposed to every day are actually a necessary evil that allows us to value everything else…

By the end of the ceremony everybody meets outside, generic conversations pop up, and in one of them I’m kindly introduced as a “starving writer and filmmaker”. While I mingle with the family and friends of the deceased, I meet other kids my age that studied law, medicine, just graduated form Harvard… and then ask myself, once again, what the fuck am I doing with my life? By now, I start to accept that I have officially become a loser. I have no idea of how I will ever be able to make a living with what I aspire to do. I’ve chosen the hard path, the less traveled by… maybe the wrong one… then I think about the words the rabbi just pronounced, that there’s only one life etcetera… and I’m wasting it trying to write this kind of stuff, filling the world with ellipses…

I then try to convince myself that the path I’ve chosen is the only one that fulfills me, the only authentic, the real one… But remember: “starving”. In the Rethorics Aristotle says that “young people have exalted notions because they have not yet been humbled by life or learnt its necessary limitations”. And not only that, their hopeful disposition also makes them think they’ll do great things in life… until they reach a moment like the one I’m in right now.

Regarding old people, Aristotle says that, even though they love life, they see that “on the whole, it is a bad business”, so they become “cynical and small-minded, because they have been humbled by life”. They lack confidence in the future “partly because of their experience, for most things go wrong, and partly because of their cowardice”. I shall die young.

6

At the reception, surrounded by all sorts of delicate food and drinks, I can’t stop thinking about how impossible such  situation would be in my good-old Europe. Celebrate death? I actually think it’s a much better idea than just mourning and dressing in black… But I can’t think too much because I haven’t eaten anything yet, and I’m suffering through a remarkable hangover. I decide to do the snake technique, which I have already done multiple times in the past and progressively mastered to perfection. I eat like a maniac and when I reach a point when I can barely breathe anymore, I just lay down and have a pantagruelic nap.

Sprawled on the couch, pregnant, I look at the wall and see a painting that automatically reminds me of a walk I took in Ocean Beach, years ago, with Stan and Michael. Swallowed by a proustian spiral, my thoughts go right back to that conversation, in which Stan mentioned a painting representing a person floating in a swimming pool he had just put in his living room. That was the very same painting my eyes are seeing right now. In my dreamy state of mind, levitating like the person on the painting, I wonder if that’s how death feels like; a dreamy state of eternal floatyness, integral suspension and undifferentiation. I’ve always derived an intense pleasure from floating in the sea with my arms wide open, as if I were dead.

7

– I’m bored, I think I’m going to create some humans.

– Why don’t you make them mortals? It would make them much more fun to watch…

– That’s actually a great idea! Is there anything more wicked?

8

According to his mom, Edward was a sweet child until one day he became bitter. That was the day he came to know about death. “What? But does this end? Deal me out…” he said. That little kid was Woody Allen.

9

As part of my job as a consultant for the Palo Alto Institute, I edit a few Evoultive Medicine talks that took place at Stanford University. In one of them, a speaker paradoxically talks about death as an adaptive mechanism of life. An irony of Mother Nature’s selection of the fittest. The starfishes, for instance, don’t die, they just divide and move on… and other primitive organisms do the same… But between a successfully reproductive individual with a short life, and a long living useless one, life will always select an early death. It doesn’t matter how many individuals it has to sacrifice to prolongue the species, anything that will perpetuate LIFE is welcome. It is obvious that life is not mend for us to enjoy it, it’s just there by itself, and that’s the beauty of it… it is completely gratuitous, undeserved and unrequired. Life is a gift without sender.

Such idea hits me in the head. Seeing death as an oximoronic mechanism of life makes me face it with a new serenity. There’s no death, there’s just regeneration. There’s no indivuality either, even though we may have the illusion of it. Everything is part of the same process… Death, the last refuge, the most intimate and personal cavity of life, is now reduced to mere functionality.

10

The Dalai Lama says that the most pain is experienced by people who start their sentences with ‘I’. Death is an insurmountable abyss the sight of which confers relief to life and fills it with existential magnitude, but it can only be contemplated alone.

11

Meredith wants to go to Yosemite. I want to go too. I have a car, but I don’t like driving. She doesn’t have a vehicle, but likes to drive… Agreement! On Saturday we wake up early and spend four hours on the same amount of wheels until we reach the Natural Park. In Yosemite nature manifests with all its splendor, as a showcase where it can exhibit waterfalls, giant trees, mastodontic rocks, rivers, bears, deer, etc. In such place, one feels in harmony with nature, and has the misguided impression that the world might have been created for us.

But as I’ve recently read in Houellebecq: “nature doesn’t really give a shit about us”. Or as McKee would put it, less laconic, more ironic: “nature created us because she wanted plastic… and now that she’s all fancy with plastic all over the place, she doesn’t care about us anymore”. The Bridalveil Waterfalls make you think of life as a drop of water that travels alone for a while only to meet with the vast ocean and become undifferentiated again. The colossal proportions of the fall symbolize the constant renewal of life, always flowing, just being per se, and not giving a shit about us, the ephemeral individuals that grant its continuity.

 


[1] Those two flowers laying / in the middle of the path, / who threw them there? / it doesn’t matter / those two flowers are not sad / no, no: they smile at the sun. / I loved them the moment I saw them / put there to die, but without mourn. / “We’ll die soon, far from our plant” / they may think; / “but now our brilliance is captivating the poet, / and that will never die”.

FRISCO

1

Ok, I’m here, now what? Nothing about me has changed. Wherever you go, there you are. Ah, such a cliché…

2

Sleep, sleep, sleep. All I do is rest, ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes even more. Completely polar bear, I spend most of my first week in San Francisco hibernating. Living like a child, having time, doing little, needing nothing. Daydreaming in bed.

As they already did five years ago, also during a transitorily moment in my life, the Vella family adopts me. There’s no way I can express the gratitude I feel towards them in words, they represent the idea of hospitality at its best. Under the sheets, sometime around noon, I think about the ancient concept of philoxenia: loving strangers. In Greek mythology Zeus was both the God of thunder and of visitors, who could actually be sent by him… or even be a God themselves.

3

I spend many of my initial days at the Zocalo, a cafe in San Leandro. There’s nothing special about the place, but it’s spacious, functional, and works perfectly as a coffeehouse. It reminds me of Sándor Márai, when he described his favorite coffee shop in Budapest and said that it wasn’t fancy at all, that it wasn’t even at the center of the city. It was in a peripheral area, on the limit, and that was precisely what made it special. The feeling of nowheredome, of a waiting room, of somewhat generic and anodyne… a limbo. It is in such as place where I review my past year in LA, where I ponder my choices in the Bay Area and think about life, in general. Slowly, I start to accept that I’m not ready to find ‘a place’ yet.

4

On Saturday Jannette, a friend from Sundance who now happens to be working for the Telluride Film Festival in Berkeley, takes me on a tour around the city. We go to the Mission District, the Castro, Dolores Park, the City Hall, Marina… With her highly developed ciceronian skills she leads you to perceive San Francisco in a charming and unexpectedly pleasant way.

Once the tour is over, I start walking around the streets alone with the “fly of the Valkyres” playing in my head. Frisco is definitely a gentle city, I’ve just corroborated that, but there’s also a specific roughness to it. Many unstable people roam its streets driven crazy by the wind and fog that perturb their souls….

Tired of walking, I end up sitting in a Starbucks, trying to read Aristotle’s Rethorics. An old man with long white hair and powerful blue eyes asks if he can take a sit by your side. “Of course” I say, before he finishes his question. The man places his Venti Frappuchino Caramel Latte with whip cream on the table and starts sucking it mechanically. A few minutes go by absorved in that routine he doesn’t seem to enjoy anymore, till he unexpectedly takes a huge rosary out of his pocket and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. Then he starts praying some incomprehensible orations with deeply felt passion. He is really loud. Everybody turns around to look at him, but he obviously doesn’t care, and keeps on mumbling his personal credo. Although he is disturbing my reading, I let him be, and after a while I don’t even notice him anymore. Thirty minutes later he suddenly stops.

I can’t help asking him what’s up with all that public performance. “Are you loosing your religion?” I ask, ironically. He smiles and locks his fiery eyes with mine. “Discipline. Truth and discipline” is his laconic answer. Commitment to crazyness, I guess… Respect.

5

On Sunday I think about it all day and finally decide to stay in San Francisco, for a while. On Monday I’m already looking for a job, without the slightest clue of where to find one. The moment I step down the Powell Bart station I realize that it’ll be much harder than I thought, and that I have to be realist. Suddenly everything seems extremely difficult, almost impossible, and I just want to give up and go back home, for good. At that point something inside of me says: “to be realist is a luxury you can’t afford”.  If I want to survive I must keep on dreaming.

6

Today, for the first time in my life, I dreamt on Facebook. That’s serious stuff. Since I am already in the Bay Area, I decide to visit Silicon Valley, where everything is happening. I take my car and drive 45 minutes to Facebook’s headquarters. I just want to be close to the place that has completely changed human interaction in the past few years. Once I get there, I don’t really know what to do, so I basically drive around the parking lot and end up leaving the car beside all the electric Nissan Leaves. I step down, walk for a couple minutes in front of the offices, trying to peek inside – where everything looks like a normal corporation, only with more random stuff hanging from the walls and ceilings – but I’m sure there is much more than that. Then I approach the security guy and ask if it is possible to see the place, to what he reacts nervously saying that you shouldn’t be there, that Facebook is a really private place, and that you should immediately leave that area. I ask him if Apple is more relaxed in terms of privacy, to what he replys that they are actually much worse and invites you to leave once again… so I end up leaving, with a security car smoothly following me till the exit.

7

Days go by, and I don’t find anything better to do than volunteering for the San Francisco International Film Festival. During the two weeks it lasts I do everything, from delivering film tickets to tearing them off at the door; I even accommodate Val Kilmer at the Kabuki theater…

As in Sundance, I’ll have some memorable moments, like when I ended up watching Fritz Lang’s House by the River just a couple of sits away from Alexander Payne… I’ll also attend the premiere of Twixt, the painfully autobiographical Francis Ford Coppola movie at the mythical Castro theater, where I’ll experience a highly cathartic and truly cinematic experience with 1400 more people filling up that old movie palace.

But unlike at Sundance, I am just a volunteer there, and I spend half of the time people watching and chatting with other volunteers. During those days I’ll realize that I’d rather be busy, be in charge and stressed, than just hang out doing practically nothing. And I actually like such reaction in myself…

8

At the Café Royale, one of the many great coffee shops in San Francisco, I overhear a conversation among old ladies who are sitting around a table commenting on a book. They start really serious, analyzing the characters’ decisions with heartfelt tones and heavy voices, but they end up talking about how each of them cuts onions. One of them explains that her husband wanted everything perfect, even the onion cubes, and that he probably had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. What started as a literary symposium ends up becoming a confession in which on of the women admits that she had to divorce from her husband because he wanted to have both men and women…

Her husband has a boyfriend now. She ended up letting him cut the onions as he pleased, and determined that the best option was to let the control freak have control, as long as it didn’t affect her too much. But who has more control then, the person who wants everything his own way, or the one who understands that and allows such person to be obsessive?

After the confession break, the ladies keep on talking about the book characters as if they had actually met them in real life, and they argue over their motivations and actions. I can’t stop listening to them. I virtually become part of the conversation and feel so affected by what they are saying that it even concerns me. Then I suddenly realize that I’ve spent the last two years without that kind of furtive social life, and that I really missed it.

In the meantime, I look through the window, hypnotized by the abundant flux of people. Sanfranciscoans have a magnificent walking style, their strong legs – muscled up from the steep hills of the city – give them an enviable gracility in their moves. It’s getting dark and the neon lights start popping up. It’s chilly outside, but warm inside. I start to feel at home.

9

On Saturday I meet with some friends and friends of friends that who in the Bay Area. That night I am introduced to Lynn, who happens to be working at Google. I spend half of the dinner trying to find the right moment to ask if it would be possible to visit her some time, but before I ask, she offers, and I obviously accept.

On Monday morning I’m already visiting Lynn at Mountain View. Google is no Facebook, they allow you to hang out, walk around, take pictures… there’s even a gift shop. Google is abundance; unlocked multi-colored bikes are left all over the place, some get stolen but they don’t even care, since it would be a hassle to create a system to control them. And the food! Lynn brings me to one of the many free food courts, and as I eat the whole buffet with my eyes she talks about the “15 pounds rule”, an insiders’ joke that refers to the average amount of weight that most newcomers gain once they start working at the Googleplex.

“If you want to make people healthy and happy, give them good food” I think to myself, as I devour as much sushi as I can. But not only that, aside from the delicious food, the facilities have gyms, pools, creative games, strange sculptures, fake flamencos, dinosaur skeletons, people with blue hair… They want to generate a healthy creative environment in which the nerds can sometimes leave their cavern and give their very best. They have to be constantly inspired by the immediate environment; it feels like a fancy fish tank for over capacitated people.

Lynn tells me that there’s lots of competence and privacy, a team doesn’t even know what the other is doing… She was part of a ‘start up’ company that was absorbed, but she can’t tell me any more, it’s a secret. You need passes to go anywhere and you can’t even go from one department to another. She refers to Sergey Brin and Larry Page as the “founding fathers”, and informs me about their weekly talk in which they explain what’s happening in the company… Later in the evening I visit Stanford with my friend Carlos, who shows me the first Google server, placed at the engineering building, and exposed like a relic. It’s really small, has Lego pieces in it, and it actually looks pretty funny…

10

Google is a large number. 1 followed by a hundred 0. Look:

100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000.

I google Google to find this information… Earlier on, that same day, I took a picture at the Facebook entrance and posted it on Facebook. Paradoxes of the digital era…

11

Only a few of the new start ups actually work in the long term, the rest of them die young or are even born dead. Death is also part of Silicon Valley, recently one of its most promising new talents, a 22 year-old guy who was trying to create a new social network named Diaspora, committed suicide. His expectations were too great and difficult to match with his inexperience. There’s pressure there. It’s a weird race. Plus, depression, autism and schizophrenia go hand by hand with programming skills.

What does it mean to be human in this day and age? How can we define the human experience? There’s a new lexicon, a new language, a new way of writing: the programming code. In the Prometheus Bound Aeschylus shows how that titan not only gave fire to men, but also writing, so that they could expand their memory. That’s what happened again with the digital revolution… we live in a brand new world, in which the arts of civilization have been renewed from a little Promethean town by the San Francisco Bay.

12

As I do almost every night, when I get home I sit in a couch in front of Toni, your American mother, and go through your day. Once I’m done recounting, she does the same. Sometimes hours fly by and none of you really seems to be willing to stop talking… However, I notice in her, as I do in myself, that the most excitement comes when referring to your own experiences.

According to recent investigations from Harvard, to communicate one’s own visions and thoughts activates the same neuronal circuits as sex and food. Apparently, between 30 and 40% of what we say is about ourselves. Subjectivity is then a sort of public masturbation (which you are obviously addicted to). I have always been an Egohedonist and never been afraid of self-indulgence in my writings, but I’m aware that in order to make friends I must listen to them, and I guess I’ve also learned to do that. Therefore, when I’m with other people I try not to talk too much about myself… but instead I do it here, with fair play, where nobody really needs to read me.

But actually the great novelty about such experiment is that, when the “guinea humans” knew that someone else would hear their answers, the activity in their accumbens nucleus and ventral tegmental area fired up. That means neurological pleasure… However, when nobody was going to hear the answer, the activity in those areas remained the same. They also say that talking about oneself is beneficial, since it generates emptathic bonds and alliances among people, and it multiplies the knowledge that any given person can acquire during her or his life. To sum up, it is valuable for the extreme sociability of our species.

But am I really writing to better know myself? Who do I write for? Perhaps I’m just writing to exhibit my experiences and tribulations… Is it pure literary love? Is it therapeutic? Does it really free my Id? At least I’m saving some money in psychoanalysis,  I’d like to think.

Anyhow, I’ve always seen the literary act as a sensual act, almost like painting, that’s why I love doing it in coffee shops. The environment is paramount. But the real key aspect is whether when I listen to someone else the inverse effect occurs and the other person experiences neuronal discomfort. I’m always concerned about that, and that’s why I try to offer some variations, be critical with myself, even talk shit about me… Can you see I’m just trying to obtain your condescension?

But I’ve become so self-centered that now I’m even starting to think about becoming a sort of professional of the Ego. That’s, sadly, the only way I have of believing in my Self. The oracle of Delphi recommended mankind to know itself and do everything with measure… Should I then combine both precepts and just attempt to know myself with measure?

Just try to acquire a literary propioception Pau, and keep your Ego as a metaphor.

ONE

1

I pack my Dodge Stratus up to the windows and leave. Alone. There I am, on the road again… I drive through the same streets as always but this time those old paths take a new dimension, a sort of final meaning. It’s the last time I’ll pass by Warner Brothers, where I attended so many screenings, and Universal Studios, where I shot so many production workshops, and NYFA, where I not only studied an MFA, but also worked as an editor… And then, as I head up Barham Boulevard, the song “It must have been love” by Roxette starts playing on the radio.

It’s a sunny day, as always, and the song goes on: “but it’s over now, form the moment we touched till the time I ran out…”. As I run from LA I think to myself that it has, indeed, been love. Although it certainly wasn’t my soul mate, I did love that city. Aristotle said that a justified and preterit suffering could be a reason for future happiness. Looking back at it, all the hardship those Angels gave me feels completely worth.

The song is in its last notes when I suddenly realize that I can leave LA the same way I arrived: Mulholland Driving. As I negotiate the curves I plug my Iphone and look for “Under the Birdge” by the Red Hot Chilly Peppers. I already liked that song before LA, but it has obviously acquired much more significance now… although its tone makes me think more of Los Feliz – Silver Lake – Echo Park, places that I unfortunately never lived in. To the tone of the bass I then become emotionally aware of all the things I’m leaving behind, of the possibilities that are fading away as I move out, of the lives I won’t live…

2

Sometimes I think that the only thing I’m really good at is traveling. When I leave a place I feel the freedom of a new beginning, my eyes become curious again, and an intense thrill runs through the nape of my neck. I’m, by nature, in constant makeshift.

Precisely because I tend to instability, I have a great need for routine, almost for ritual. Although I usually flirt with existential anarchy, I’ve learned to be Spartan in my own way, that is: to live with barely anything, not even control over my own life. With the years abroad I got used to not needing much. I’m always traveling for autarchy…

In a conversation I overheard at a Starbucks in West Hollywood just a few days ago, a gay guy was telling his girlfriend that the amount of people that live alone has raised by a 30%. She nodded as if that was completely natural and added that since she decided to live alone she was much happier, she felt more free and had much more time for herself… “Yeah, but who touches you?”, answered the guy, embracing himself.

That Starbucks was full of people sitting alone, looking at their computers with the headphones on. The ambient music was so loud that the few people who actually talked had a hard time listening to each other. Living alone is different than traveling alone. Living with people can be as much of an adventure as traveling. One has to work on oneself in order to avoid anal-sphinterized-OCD attitudes with the unfolding of events. Sometimes the healthiest option is to let things be, go with the flow, allow risk to take over… be spontaneous, and the only way of working towards that is firmly believing in one’s own capacity to be so, and then, when the moment comes, let it flow.

3

All the way down Santa Monica Boulevard, I hit the Pacific Coast Highway. The 1. On my right, Malibu and the Villa Getty, with all its Mediterranean vegetation, the scents of my childhood… On my left, the ocean shines like mirror tessellae, while surfers, dolphins, and seals ride its waves by the shore. As I move out of LA County, the radio stations fuse into each other in the same frequency. Phil Collins meets Sting. I decide to turn off the radio and go back to the Iphone. It’s time to finally hear it: San Francisco, by Scott McKenzie. That song has the quality of being old and young at the same time, like the hippies.

By the time I get to Santa Barbara the sun is already setting, so I decide to spend the night there. Walking barefoot on the Arroyo Burro Beach, with the sun melting on the horizon and the seaweed tangled between my toes, I understand that leaving LA was definitely the right decision…

Later I check in a youth hostel and take a walk around Santa Barbara. I go up State Street at midnight and take pictures of flowers in the dark. The next day all those streets and flowers will look much different, the Presidio will remind me of the everyday life led by the Spaniard pioneers, the beautiful Mission will remind me of the balance between spirituality and nature that many Franciscan monks tried to find there. A certain purity in this existence… And the Amtrak will remind me of home, Europe, and how the train was crucial in the building of the US, but it got relegated to a second term by the car. Video killed the radio star.

4

What to do when someone tries to govern you? As I leave the hostel I listen to a conversation between a couple of backpackers. She is planning the day out loud. He nods and drinks his coffee with an empty look… We’ve all been there. Bossy people. Maybe he’s ok with it, I think to myself, maybe she always has the initiative. Or maybe not, maybe he’s just letting her talk, but he’ll eventually do as he pleases. Or maybe he’s just mentally asleep…

But I’m not, the caffeine is already kicking in and my synapses flow at the rhythm of Ñico Saquito: “María Cristina me quiere gobernar/ y yo le sigo, le sigo la corriente/ porque no quiero que diga la gente/ que María Cristina me quiere gobernar…” [1]. Sometimes the best way of dealing with bossy people is letting them think that they have the power, that they are in control, but keeping a wider perspective of the situation and subtly redirecting it. I tend to be bossy too, I must admit it. But I don’t really like that attribute of my character, and I wouldn’t want to be perceived as such, so I try to remember those lyrics very often. Show, guide, hint, but not direct. There is a pleasant irony on letting oneself be governed, somehow Socratic, some-other-how Taoist. And in the middle of the process give a little touch, drop a clue, show a nuance… keep the route by not moving the rudder too much, because you know that there’s always a long way to go.

 5

Going north along the windy One I arrive at Big Sur. Going north, where in mythology we usually encounter danger and adventure. Also wisdom… In Joseph Campbell’s terms, from the North one comes back with some kind of remedy, elixir, a magic potion.

But no matter where I go, I never find potions. As the song says: the more I see the less I know… Socratic irony once again. If I ever grow wiser, it can only be among myself, having committed many mistakes, both in the way I look at the world and at my interiors. Literary mistakes that, once mended, will give way to new ones. Because I never learn anything. All I do is look for sincerity and all I get is self-deceit. I can only know myself by examining my actions, judging myself the same way I judge others. Is not that I shift personalities; I don’t think I’m bipolar or schizophrenic yet, I just have a lot of strata to dig in.

6

The mastodontic pine trees from Big Sur exhale their perfume as the wind blows softly between their branches. Looking at the moon flicker through those green crowns I think about the discipline to which I’ve dedicated the last two years of my life: film. Darkness and light. Fantasy. I also think of literature, my other friend, the one to whom I always return, the one that I like to travel with. As opposed to filming, I see reading and writing compatible with graceful movement, a sort of bearable lightness.

7

The sound of the leaves slowly turns into silence, and I decide to meander around the sequoias alone, in the dark. With almost no moonlight shining through the forest, that night was designed for me to look back and become aware of how much I’ve traveled thus far, both physically and spiritually, and feel nostalgia for the beautifully traced paths of the past. I’m unstable, I could make myself crazy tonight, I know it… but something pulls me back from the abyss. One day, following my brother’s example, I decided to try to be happy and keep myself sane in this life. It is as if he was always there to remind me.

The giant sequoias, cathedrals of the vegetal kingdom, seem unreachable to the trees surrounding them. It looks like they will never be that big, they’ll just die before that. I think of great authors, Homer, Cervantes, Goethe… and how their magnitude is practically insurmountable too, not only because of their quality, but mainly because of the layers and layers of interpretation they have accumulated throughout generations. The rest of the people, herbs, plants and flowers that cover the earth receive the leaves that fall from those cathedrals. Sometimes I feel extremely small under such natural and intellectual monuments, but after all, it’s natural, normal, almost ordinary.

Since the moment I first heard about it, Big Sur always struck me as the place where the solution would be. I actually thought more of Esalen, but I left it behind for next time… But when I got to the this area, at some random point, I felt the presence of the spirit, a sort of gravitational increase, or decrease… A certain weight on my balls. The telluric and geological manifestation of cosmic forces come together in this piece of coast, setting up all the elements for a natural temple of spirituality.

I decide to spend the night in Big Sur, which means that I’ll sleep in the car, because the cheapest room is a 100$. Right in front of the place where I’m parked there’s a bar, and I feel the need to be with some people before I lock the doors and lay down in the passengers seat. The bar is charming, there’s a fireplace by which I sit while waiting for a beer and a sandwich. I suddenly feel an urge to write I haven’t felt in months. Nothing in particular, just about the fact that I’m there, that I decided to abandon my comfortable life in LA and go north, looking for adventure. That’s a fact, an action that shows character. I’m so ever changing that I need to interpret my own actions and impulses in order to deduce who I really am. And there you are, escaping forward, fleeing, running ahead, getting lost. Traveling by intuition.

8

Carmel smells very nice. The breeze coming from the Pacific is enriched by the fresh aroma of the eucalyptus. Carmel, in Catalan, means sweet. I drive to the mission, where Junipero Serra, the Franciscan founder of California rests in peace. There, at the door, I meet a woman with whom I talk about the Spanish missionaries and the history of that place. At some point I ask her about the Mission Ranch, the restaurant owned by Clint Eastwood. She starts telling me all sorts of detailed information about the place and Clint, so many that I end up asking her how come she knows that much: “I’m his mother in law” she answers, to my astonishment “Yes, I know… I’m younger than him”.

The Mission is extremely well preserved, not only it has the oldest library in California, but also a gift shop packed with Christian merchandise. As I stand in front of Junipero’s tomb I think about the life of those people… Someone like father Serra who left Mallorca to evangelize unknown lands in the new world, or another of my countrymen, Gaspar de Portolà, who founded San Diego and Monterrey. California saw the decadence of an empire and the emergence of another one, the mundane empires switched, but the spiritual empire of the evangelizers remained, because California spirituality needs to find its way and manifest itself in multiple manners. California tends to fantasy. California dreams.

Image-concept: on my knees at the church, texting God. Writing that I am texting God. Texting myself that I’m texting God. I send messages to myself… To be transparent; able to be the same with myself and the others. Achieve simplicity through complexity, only like that I will be able to make of autobiography something interesting and universal. What are the gospels but biography? Self-narration is the laic spirituality to which I can aspire nowadays… Born in the XVII century, I would have probably ended up in a mission.

9

After the touristic attraction I go to the actual town, the perfect squared urban grid with little cute houses and elegant shops in every corner. It reminds me of La Jolla in San Diego, just slightly better packaged. I walk around enough to make myself hungry, and I eventually head on to the Mission Ranch to have dinner. The nice smell increases substantially once I get there, eucalyptus and pine trees outside, cooking with butter inside. All the people in the restaurant look affluent, they nod with pleasant attitudes, clinteastwoodians. Old and venerable. White wine. White hair. Just the right amount of everything. There is a pianist playing live music. It’s someone’s birthday and they sing the song, cheerfully, solemnly happy. A gorgeous sunset slowly progresses over the agitated ocean on the far corner of the landscape. Between the Ranch and the water, a beautiful field is spotted with the furriest sheep. As I drink beer and eat French fries side of the roast beef sandwich, I feel genuinely at ease for the first time in months. Completely free, liberated.

After an hour of slow contemplation at the terrace I go into the restaurant to pay, and there he is, Clint, the living legend, in a picture. The real Clint is in Huston shooting a film with Justin Timberlake. Actually, there’s not even a picture of him whatsoever, but one thing that is really there is an inscription hanging above the whiskies on the bar:

“He who goes to bed sober, falls as the leaves do, and dies in October” – but he who goes to bed, and does so mellow, lives as he ought and dies a good fellow.

That very same night I’ll arrive to San Francisco. Robert McKenzie’s song will play in repeat as I try to keep three flowers from falling off my hair. But I’ll get there two hours later than I had planned, because after reading that sign I had to order another beer… In this trip I’ve charged my batteries, I feel a wave of energy accompanying me to the Bay Area. It’s time to surf reality.


[1] “Maria Cristina wants to gorvern me/ and I follow, I follow her commands/ because I don’t want people to say/ that Maria Cristina wants to govern me”.

APOTHEOSIS

1

Katsuya, by Philip Stark. I’ve driven by this restaurant on Vine and Hollywood Boulevard countless times, and never even thought about going there. It just looks too expensive… the dresses worn by the women, the cars driven by the men… it’s not something you can afford if you are working two jobs and struggling to make it to the end of the month.

I’m at home, relaxed, reading a script, ready to go to bed. My roommate Tom is getting ready to go out. I ask him where. He says: Katsuya, you wanna come? I think to myself: I’m not going, it’s too expensive… fuck it, I’ve seen that place too many times, I might as well spend all the savings I don’t have dinning there, at least once.

An hour later we show up, late, but very well dressed. Two girls and a gay couple are already there, waiting for us. We get in. Its’s fancy, but not that fancy… It’s expensive, but not that expensive… I look at the menu and I feel slightly afraid, but I also think I may survive the bill. However, it’s a Japanese restaurant, so when we start ordering everybody gets two or three courses, plus the dirty martinis that are already circulating around the table… and the rest of the martinis that are coming after them… At that point I think to myself: fuck it, we are probably going to en up splitting the bill evenly anyway, so I might as well keep up with those martinis and lobster rolls… By the end of the dinner I’m drunk and really worried about the bill. One of the girls goes to the bathroom and when she comes back she says: “Ok guys, let’s go! Everything is taken care of”. What? Did she really pay the ginormous bill? Yes. Ok. I thank her effusively and move on to our next stop, the W hotel, where the gay couple actually lives.

While we are having drinks at the spacious lobby of the hotel, one of the guys approaches me to say that I would look much better without dreadlocks. I kind of saw that coming… but what surprises me a little more is when he tells me that I would also look much better without my mustache, and that with it, I look like a rapist. Nice.

I ask him about his life, how did he end up living at the W with a guy almost 20 years younger than him… He tells me that he grew up in Scotland, that his father was an alcoholic, and that he left as soon as possible because he had nothing to do there. “Now I live in one of the best hotels in LA with the Johnas Brothers and Justin Timberlake, and nothing compares to that”. He proudly pulls out his phone and shows me a picture of the sunset from the swimming pool at the rooftop. He is absolutely right; LA is the perfect place for someone like him.

I look around me. All I see is people posing. A cult to image. Hollywood. The topic has finally won. I don’t belong here, I have a background, I didn’t have to burn my ships anywhere before arriving to LA. Mine is a story of trying to go beyond image, and I need to believe there is something more than facade… At that point I realize it’s time to leave, and I tell that to the Scottish guy, who doesn’t care, and afterwards I tell my roommate, who does care. We go out, have a whisky on the rocks, smoke a cigarette and go through the year and a half we’ve lived together in this city of angels. I see that LA has been good to me, and I love her, but it’s time to move on.

2

After work I often go to the LACMA, it’s free every day after 5 for residents. I spot a Duchamp and a Picasso, one after the other. I think about the repercussion of their work in the XXth century art, which has been enormous. Picasso, one of the most prolific artists ever, and Duchamp, the absoulte opposite. The Frenchman however, spent all his time thinking about his artistic moves. Meliton, the man who used to play chess with him in Cadaquès, once told me that the conceptual artist was always taking notes while playing, and it was in his Café where he conceived the “Don’t forget: Marcel Duchamp”.

I’ve always been amazed by the fact that some people seem to be able to go through life doing almost nothing, just giving a few ticks to the direction of their boats, whereas others have to be changing it all the time… Who has more merit, the Lumière brothers by simply putting a camera in front of a factory, or Georges Méliès creating elaborate fantasy worlds on the moon and under the sea? Do you really have to think a lot to be able to get by doing almost nothing? Or does it take as much rational as it takes practical effort to create a great body of work? Is it just a matter of mental strength and contempt to be on the conceptual side? An intuitive (and elusive) answer would be: try not to have too many ideas… compartmentalize your psyche.

3

Ellsworth Kelly, not an artist I’m particularly fond of, has a huge space dedicated to his paintings at the LACMA. I walk by his exposition rather quick and accidentally hear a few words from a video about him: “Creating art is like making yogurt, you have to apply the same formula in new contexts”. I probably completely misunderstood his words, but however misguided I may be, I think that they make quite a lot of sense. Artistic creation has a lot to do with sticking to one’s own principles and being consequent, which Kelly certainly does. I don’t really connect with his sense of aesthetics, but I have the utmost respect for him.

Before leaving the museum I visit the bookstore, where I find a wonderful catalogue of all Cy Twombly’s complete works. There are a few volumes, each of them several hundred pages long. I end up spending the whole evening there. I scan each of the paintings, I reconstruct Twombly’s quest for the minimal expression, his constant over posing of lawyers of white paint, his contained force. There’s always something about to explode on the canvas, and also enough space for the detonation, that’s why his paintings have a cosmic quality. No wander why many of his themes are dedicated to spring… and to the classics, that endless source of inspiration, of archetypes and mythology.

Ajax, Achilles, Diomedes hang out in his cosmology with total freedom, ultra-revolutionized and with complete freedom to let their instincts go. Twombly’s work is somewhat idyllic, even utopist, it accepts the crudeness of existence as something inherent to it, and it celebrates that circumstance in a nietszchean way… He also made yogurt, he applied the same aesthetic cosmogony to flowers and men, because after all we are not so different. As Homer might have recited: “Like the leaves, such is the nature of men”.

4

Be a man, and a child again, but a wise one, a child who once visited manhood and came back… The concept of “manning up” is still bothering me, the same as “toughening up”. Why? Why not “noble up”? Why do people need to push you and explore the limits of your endurance… and on top of it, the moment you show character they suddenly shut up, and even retract themselves. It is an absurd game, primitive, testosteronic, that’s why I want to go back to childhood, innocence, to the good will of the person who trusts, because believes in other people’s nobility. A mature naïveté, a doct ignorance from where to appeal the others’ categorical imperative. Noble up ladies and gentlemen, noble up!

5

It’s another sunny day in LA. As I drive to work I listen to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. I start Chapter 7 and suddenly: “it was a cold night and I thought a man would die if he slept out there. I thought about how lonely he would feel looking at the stars, so cold…”.  The feeling of darkness and coldness is nothing but accentuated by the contrast with such a warm and bright day. I can’t help thinking about Kant, and his amazement for the shining stars above his head and the moral law inside his chest. The warmth of the moral law seems so helpless compared to the vastness of the universe and how lost we are in it. Only us humans can make this world a place worth living at, even though the external conditions are often against us.

Morality is such a fuzzy concept though… it takes so little to question the fundaments of any principle, that the only real question is: Why are we even moral? Or at least tend to be? The ethical principles don’t really matter, most people will easily agree on them, the Golden Rule… But why do we want to be good? That’s the real question.

Just a few days ago I red an article about E. O. Wilson’s biologically-based moral theories in which human morality is approached from an adaptive perspective. We are moral because the individuals with tendency to help their group have survived, therefore, it must be an evolutionary quality, particularly in islands and blood-related groups… But the paradox comes when one realizes that there is no pure altruism or morality whatsoever if the group’s survival also benefits the individual’s welfare, and at the end, altruistic acts are ultimately egoistic in a twisted way. The good Samaritan can wash an unknown person’s feet, but that action may be inscribed in her genes, and on top of it, regulated by her religion…. This will sound so megalomaniac that it’s making me blush just to think about it, but I would suggest Kant to modify his epitaph for: “there are two things that have always amazed me: the stars above my head and the paradox inside my brain”.

6

Today I feel too good… I’m getting shitfaced:

1- Ainoa’s party. West Hollywood. Everybody wears fake mustaches. I wear my own, home grown. Loud Spaniards + smoking outside = Police. I fall on the kitchen’s floor trying to open a beer and, as a consequence, I hurt my back really bad. Huge bruise. About an hour later, I fall again, this time knocking down a table full of drinks. A big mess on the tile wood floor. I give up and go to sleep in the first bed I find. Next day I wake up at the living room couch, with two more people.

2- A friend of a friend’s party. West Hollywood again. Huge terrace with views all over LA, including the Variety building, where I was working just a couple hours before that. The party ends soon, but the drunken elite takes refuge in Julian’s apartment, somewhere in Koreatown. Much more beer and whisky are poured and we end up singing like hooligans. Final image of the night: Jon trying to feed beer to the tiger printed on Julian’s t-shirt.

3- My farewell party: Carnapau. We spontaneously came up with that “concept” at the previous party. The next day Julian set up the event on Facebook, and then Xavi designed the poster. Result: my house, which is huge, almost out of capacity. Many of the people I have met in the last year and a half are there, which makes me so happy that I can’t stop drinking, smoking and talking. Many people I don’t know show up too, and the party gets slightly out of control. The police shows up and they hang out around the corner for the rest of the night. The party culminates in the living room eating very spicy rice with my roommates… I dropped half of the bottle of Korean hot sauce while cooking. We are surrounded by beer bottles, everywhere.

3.1- Next day, an intense headache wakes you up but it is partially diluted by the great feeling of satisfaction left by the Carnapau. The hangover drills your brain and you spend all day in bed going over the episode of your life lived in LA… the little room full of light, from which you can see the street through the palm trees in front of the window, reminds you of your previous apartment, which also felt like a spacecraft… All those moments of whiteness and sun come back to you, moments in which you were satisfied with life, almost happy, and all you could think of was: let yourself be. All that Samuel Barber music in repeat, the endless Adagio for strings… and that thick white carpet where you used to lie down all the time… All the time you spent reading El Quijote by the swimming pool, and then went running, and then to the gym, feeling “mens sana in corpore sana” for once in your life, getting a little closer to the Greeks… “Let yourself be, things will find their way”, you used to think, “life is good, it all will eventually make sense”. Remember how far you were from the Pau you are now? You lived in a limbo…

I leave those memories behind and return to the room. I drag my body to the kitchen to get some water. Aside from some isolated destruction here and there, it looks like the house kept its original structure after the Armageddon… I drink some water and as I walk back to bed trying not to hit any of the bottles that cover all the flat surfaces, I think about how lucky I was, not only for the party, but also for having sealed both my jobs with a beautiful hallmark. I then remember a Spanish proverb that goes like: “bien está lo que bien acaba”, which means that if something ends well, it was good. That makes me feel extremely privileged to have bidden farewell to this city surrounded by the people I love, the people I’ll miss, and the people who after all, made it all worth. As in any film, the ending is the most important part, it infuses meaning to the rest of the story… I have the impression that LA has been a good catharsis, and I’m grateful for that.

7

In my last day, I promise myself I will walk from the Kodak Theater to the beach. 12 miles… Come on! You can do it!

My roommate Sam drives me to the Kodak Theater and drops me off there. I suddenly become aware that I have like six hours of walking ahead of me, and ask myself why am I doing that… Because that’s how I want to remember the city, by it’s real dimension.  Forrest style.

The first thing I see is a bunch of people dressed up as all characters imaginable: Batman, Superman, Power Rangers, Cat Woman, Michael Jackson… all asking for money in exchange for pictures. I see the Chinese, the Capitan and the Egyptian theater, I remember the closing party of the Latino Film Festival celebrated there, the premieres of Herzog’s Into the Abyss and Von Tier’s Melancholia, both at the LA Film Festival… and just a few blocks away, the Roosevelt Hotel where I snuck in after the last two Oscars ceremonies.

I keep walking, in a slow pace and with Haendel’s Sarabande playing in my head, as in Barry Lyndon. It’s a good melody to walk on Sunset Boulevard. I hit the Chateau Marmont and the Sky Bar, with its huge static doors. In both places I’ve been partying with my suit. The Standard Hotel and The Andaz, where I once had a glass of white wine by the swimming pool at the top floor, with splendid views of LA. Next, the House of Blues goes by, the Laugh Factory, the Key Club, Whisky a Go Go, Roxy, Rainbow… more memories…

Then I head downhill till I come across the Ivy, the mythical restaurant where famous people go when they want to be seen. Santa Monica Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Sprinkles Cupcakes, with its usual long line outside… the really expensive shops and cars… And I keep on going, I’m already pretty far, but there’s still a long run left. As I get deeper into Beverly Hills, the already low density of the city decreases and there’s much less to see, except for palm trees and beautiful gardens. I pass by the Four Seasons, the CAA Building, the Electric Fountain and the Beverly Hilton, where I went to an awesome white party last spring… and where Whitney Huston died just a few months ago.

I take a little break sitting on a bench under some trees in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard. By then I already accept that I won’t make it to Santa Monica before sunset, so I take my time and start walking again, slower, to the rhythm Profokiev’s Dance of the Knights. I pass by a couple of parks, UCLA and Culver City, without ever stopping. Since I don’t care about how late it gets, I do a little detour to buy an ice cream at the Sweet Rose Creamery, one of the best I in town. Two scoops: Salty caramel, and vanilla with cookies and orange. Good snow…

It’s already dark and I still have more than an hour ahead before I arrive to the beach. I walk San Vicente Boulevard, which is almost pitch black. It’s a residential area all the way to the sea, so there’s almost no light and I eat my ice cream alone in the dark… Walking in the middle of the night I think about my journey throughout Arizona and New Mexico following Coronado, the first Spanish explorer who set up an expedition from Mexico to North America looking for el Dorado, and finally got completely lost. I remember that month of April spent driving through inhospitable lands in the Mid West, completely lost, sometimes sleeping in the car, sometimes driving in the dark… Not only Coronado, but also Cabeza de Vaca, Carbillo, Alvarado, Cardenas laying eyes on the Grand Canyon… After more than three years roaming around the US I feel closer to those explorers than I ever did before. Probably because I’m about to start a new adventure soon, another journey towards the unknown.

The final apotheosis comes when I cross a bridge over the PCH and go down to the beach. There, I take my shoes off and get into the water. I feel like a little kid, playing with the sand… the kid that I wasn’t being able to see in me anymore.

VINTAGE

1

Old stuff. Thirty, sometimes forty years of existence. I walk into a shop. The woman behind the counter sees me. She notices my dreadlocks right away and rapidly runs towards a shirt. “This would be perfect for you, you see, rockabilly style… It’s almost impossible to find such things nowadays”. But it’s 70 $, and I can’t. Not this month. Probably not the next either. I look at the shirt and understand what she means. That fabric, the daring of the design, the whole aura that all those years bestow to the garment… Vintage. It’s like a costume, a sort of every-day time travel.

Most of the wealth of the Southwest tends to concentrate in LA, where one can still find those classic cars, barbershops, diners… LA is full of vintage. Some of it is so authentic that it isn’t even presented as such. There is old stuff in good shape due to the overconsumption of families that just bought tones of shit and never used it, and now it comes out of the closet, decades later, and makes the delights of the street buyers. Most people don’t even know what they have in store, not to speak of its value. There have been reality shows based on that… Yard sales are a metaphor of the West.

2

I’m constantly looking for metaphors that will activate my thoughts and illuminate new mental paths. There’s plenty. Our world is filled with them. Little meanings. Minute connections. I just have to either decode or codify them. In such an inscrutable reality, metaphor is often my only refuge. I can find one in the most unexpected place, I even force it sometimes… it is like living in paranoia. I guess I tend to mythology.

3

My roommates and I watch the Golden Globes at home. Everybody knows they are a kind of official selection for the Oscars… the foreign press giving their insight on what has happened in Hollywood during the past year. In those two months one can feel the pressure in every corner of LA, people are constantly speculating about the films and rewatching the ones that start to sound for the Academy Awards. The buzz is all over the place, half the billboards are set up “for your consideration”. The specialized magazines won’t talk about anything else. People seem to know everything beforehand; it’s the talk of the town. This will be Maryl Streep’s year. Harvey Weinstein. The Artist. Hugo…

4

Thinking about the Oscars and the Golden Globes, I become aware, once again, of the importance of choice. Depending on the taste of a few people, during the next month a bunch of films will acquire a whole new life, providing another round of entertainment to the rest of the world. Choosing what is “good” is a privileged task reserved to a few “illuminati”. But why select this and not that? In the Ancient world the gods had a great influence on taking the right decisions. Nowadays whims and intuition have no higher fundament than a childhood memory or a love heartbreak. But regardless of the criteria, there must always be people choosing, and a lot of them actually know what they do. Because in Hollywood, as in Wall Street, Saint Matthew’s principle works to perfection: those who have enough will receive more than they need, and those who are in scarcity will lose the little they have.

The Oscars will arrive at the end of next month, but before that, the independent film community has its great forum: Sundance.

5

Utah. We get to the mountains. A snowstorm welcomes us to Salt Lake City. It’s cold, really cold. Throughout last week all I heard about was “vitamin diets”, although I didn’t give them much importance. But the first day of Sundance I understood. Being part of the festival is so hectic; there are so many parties, events and screenings happening at the same time, that one really needs those vitamins. Actually, I start to take it seriously when we get to Park City and I see multi-vitamin complexes all over the place. People have to be super pumped; more things have to happen during that week than in the rest of the year. The networking is constant and endless. Just imagine a little town between snow-covered mountains filled with some of the most influencing people in the industry, all half sick half overdosed with supermultipowerful potions… As I walk around the long hallways of the Marriot Head Quarters feeling the boost of my first vitamin complex of the day combined with my third coffee, I can’t help thinking that my energy is not natural, that I’m cheating a little…

Coffee activates neurons, dehydrates skins and can easily lead to gross generalizations, hence I think to myself: How can the rest of the world compete with a country that is more energized than any other? And I’m not only thinking about this festival. I actually started taking vitamins just a couple of months after arriving to the US. I remember it struck me to see vitamin shoppes everywhere. Protein bars, esteroids, hormones… There is more compressed energy here than in any other country on Earth. People not only have to keep up with their reputation, but also reach their own expectations. Americans tend to be forward, almost fast forward.

6

But I was actually trying to talk about Sundance. Independent filmmaking has found in Robert Redford’s sky resort a cathedral for pilgrimage. There is a shared sense of brotherhood and a general excitement for being part of something that is in intense efervescence. As a contrast, the mountains and the snow give a serene feel of calm to the madness that reigns inside the buildings, while on the outside, a still vividness floats in the air. Time seems to take its time. It is almost impossible to run down Main Street, with all its cute little shops and old West restaurants, and not trip or bump into a line of people waiting for an event or a film. There is a Sundance pace, a rythm that has defenetly been set over the years by the geography of Park City.

The spirit of innovation is everywhere; all the selected movies have a unique contribution to make, sometimes in technique, sometimes in storytelling perspective, sometimes in life, and sometimes in all of them. It its extremely delicate to find the adequate mix of ingredients, and in the right proportion, so that the final selection of films is balanced and the image eventually projected to the rest of the world is the desired one. Once again, the importance of choice. In life, taking the right or wrong decision can carry the most unexpected consequences, but above all, it affects the image we create on others. It is a common place in theory of drama to say that action reveals character, it’s what we end up deciding to do that really reflects us. An institution, as if it was a person, is defined by its way of acting, by its choices, and by how others perceive them.

During its more than thirty years of history Sundance has quite successfuly refrained itself from too much commertialization, it has somehow kept the faith in its independence. As a result, today it is almost as influential and respected as the Oscars, and in a certain way even more necessary, because of its important social side. Unlike Hollywood, Sundance is not based on entertainment, neither business, that’s why it has been able to remain faithful to its own principles without ever renouncing to quality.

7

I spot Adrian Grenier from Entourage at New Frontier, the space where experimental film finds its niche. Later on I see myself ordering a beer elbow to elbow with him at the Late Night Lounge, an improvised bar reserved for film makers and festival staff.

Entourage is the story of the success of a young guy who goes from Queens to LA pursuing a career as an actor and ends up with a film at Sundance. I look at “Vincent Chase” and I feel like a sort of lower version of him, like a cheap alter ego represented by a guy who arrives to LA from a little town in the North of Barcelona and somehow ends up drinking beer with some of the most promising and acclaimed filmmakers on the planet…

My story in LA is like that, but from a rookie perspective. Sundance is probably going to be my peack, and from then on it’ll all just be less exciting. If I look back I see people like Steven Spielberg, Andy Garcia, Silverster Stallone, among other celebrities I’ve briefly met or been around, as well as parties at iconic places like the Chateau Marmont, the Sky Bar or the Beverly Hilton. Although it has all been kind of precarious, sketchy, ready made… I’m responsible for every bit of it. Most of the best stuff happened spontaneously; therefore it was more authentic, more real. Predictable things are easy to forget, I guess.

8

I organize an Oscars party at my home. The Artist and Meryl Streep, once again… I end up drunk enough for someone to convince me to put on my suit and jump in the car with a bunch of crazed Spaniards. Next thing I know we are in Beverly Hills getting into the “Chico & Rita” party, one of the Oscars Animation Feature Film nominees. Open bar = more drunkness. We hang out around a few famous Spanish actors and directos by the swimming pool… Next stop: the 4 Seasons. More beer, this time really expensive. They close and kick us out. Last attempt: the Roosevelt Hotel. We get in and walk around the empty halls full of scripts and press documents from the Oscars ceremony lying on the floor until someone sees us and kicks us out from there too. It’s already 4 a.m. LA is dead.

9

I tend to feel attracted to old stuff. Now I realize that it was mostly “vintage” cinema what drew me to LA more than a year ago, and that, since then, the show business has aged in strange ways. I admire the 70s generation, those filmmakers who became independent with their 16 mm cameras but still had the storytelling quality of classical cinema. I would like to do what they did, but with my Iphone and almost no crew… There’s still hope.

Myths can be the most accurate way of describing our world, since nothing makes sense anyway, and a myth has the aura of mystery that also surrounds reality. Plato didn’t even bother; he was only interested in the paths of the soul. He created his own myths to explain the world, and condemned the myths that didn’t serve the purpose of the polis. He did the same with drama, it was dangerous because it appealed to emotions, and could lead to transmitting the wrong messages to people, making them worse citizens. Therefore, the poets should be kicked out of the polis… Only his myths were acceptable forms of fiction, his “good lies” in favor of the proper functioning of the Republic. Some of the stuff that is shot in Hollywood nowadays is probably appealing to the wrong emotions and doesn’t necessarily improve the world either, they call it entertainment, and it makes loads of money, so nobody can complain.

If Aristotle came to LA nowadays he would be a little more tolerant than Plato, because as long as drama appeals to the right emotions at the right time and leads to a healthy catharsis, it is worth existing. According to him, it brings about pleasure and healing. For that, it needs to have the right structure, with the reversal of fortune, revelation, irony… and particularly well-built characters.

But he also would easily agree in that the 70s were a great period for storytelling, although the directors of that day also felt uncomfortable and looked back for inspiration. He would then congratulate Woody Allen for having done a great movie about such an old topic in Paris, which won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar to best screenplay and also deactivates all the nonsense hat has been said up to this point. I might finally make him most descontextualized by quoting Dalí: “those who don’t want to imitate anything, don’t produce anything”.

I have to admit that I live between myths and metaphors, always with the intuition that there must be something behind reality, with the suspicion that in a previous era things were somehow better… But I’m wrong, there’s probably nothing intrinsically metaphorical behind reality, and the 70s were most likely a worse age than today to make movies.

But the past, home of vintage, is full of myths and metaphors that certainly help navigate the ever more confusing present times.

FRAGMENTARY 4

Unlike the previous Diaries I’ve written in my mother tongue, this one I decided to write in English. I’ve been living surrounded by the noble British language for more than three years now, and I felt like trying it… But after suffering through the first three Fragmentaries, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to render a good work, so I figured I might just take it as a rehearsal. I thought that if I couldn’t match my creative expectations, maybe I should lower them… Maybe my Framgentaries could be even more fragmented, just a mosaic of disconnected bits and pieces all over the page, as Walter Benjamin had once imagined… Maybe it’s time to write my diary with a broken hammer.

To begin with, and since LA is the world’s capital of Cinema, I’ll just throw in some quotes from the Q & A sessions I attended at Warner Brothers and Universal Studios and a couple of anecdotes:

Robert Towne

It helps to write for a particular actor, know who will perform your screenplay, that’s what I did with Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.

Flaws are what make characters interesting. Just ask yourself what they are afraid of, what makes them human?

Noir films usually have a protagonist with a fatal attraction that will put them in trouble… it’s usually a woman.

A good screenplay is a combination of poetry and journalism. Concise dialogue and inspiring visuals.

It is good to have a protagonist whose profession reaches out to society, a policeman, a doctor… Your job defines you.

Chinatown is about the futility of good intentions.

The most important part in a script is when you suddenly feel the need to write it, it sucks every part of your consciousness, you think about it day and night… You have to be drawn to write it compulsively, if it doesn’t happen like that, you won’t make the huge effort it demands. People say that you have to know what the audience wants: well, they want to watch a story to which someone felt obsessively attracted.

There is no perfect screenplay.

How many different experiences can you go through? How many realities can you see? How many lives can you live? How deep and wide can you go? How human can you get?

Juliette Lewis

My director is my boss, no matter what. The director has to create the ambience, the mood, the environment where you create and develop yourself. As an actor you have to be connected to your feelings, emotions and experiences. You have to be honest and dig within yourself… then, let go. Flexibility is the key.

I try to be completely in my body, from head to toes, fully relaxed. I never took acting classes, it’s all intuition. But I took classes of everything else: ballet, gymnastics, music… and I quit it all. I half live in a fantasy world. Be relaxed but self-aware, learn to to find that middle point and just seduce…

In order to learn the lines I write them by hand and practice them in many different ways.

The script is the most important thing, even if it is ill shot, the story survives.

Don’t take anything personally; in this industry people talk a lot of shit you shouldn’t get upset about. In any art you have to really love it to succeed, because you have to go through so much…

Speak from the heart and look in the eyes.

Ben Kinglsey

What differentiates great from good actors is their levels of vulnerability: being completely vulnerable to the moment.

Empathy is our common currency.

Allow yourself to be discovered by the camera and the audience.

You are privileged; you must accept this with enormous humility.

Cinema: between action and cut it’s a sprint.

Theater: it’s a marathon.

Polanski honors acting. He puts the camera in exquisitely precise places and makes you feel part of a conspiracy, of making a film that will make the world awe. He loves the process of telling a story to the audience.
Acting is like hunting, you try to catch the character with little details. Then you just link all those gestures, words and emotions together…

My parents never appreciated what I did, and when the Queen knighted me, I felt that life was returning me the mother it had denied me. Life returns things in strange ways, but it does, you have to hang there.

If I went back 10.000 years I would be the old storyteller of the tribe. Through drama we look for our tribal identity. I would aspire to heal, comfort and amuse, like the man who told a story by the fire when the Sun came down. The flicker of a flame is very similar to the flicker of Cinema, it’s something very primitive. Storytelling is not a luxury; it’s a tribal need.

Archetypes are what make good drama, not stereotypes. Human patterns of behavior so well incarnated by the characters that they become universal. That’s why psychology takes names of the syndromes from Shakespeare or Sophocles…

Good writing is like music, you can’t go changing the lines, the same way you wouldn’t change the notes of a song. I only improvise when they ask me to. Good screenwriting is when you recognize each character when they speak. Iago is the bringer of chaos; each character has to bring something to the screenplay.

John Carpenter

When you get to deal with Hollywood the pressure falls on your shoulders, because people are putting money on you in order to make more money out of you… It’s all about the money; you have to give them money! It’s called show business, not show-art…

I didn’t find horror, horror found me. Once you’ve done something well, they want you to do it over and over again.

My favorite part of this business is when they pay me for remakes, all my life I’ve been trying to figure out how to make money without working. I wanted to do westerns but I ended up doing horror, what’s wrong with that? I got to become John Carpenter!

It’s all about creating a story with good characters, and stick to archetypes a bit. The secret with actors is making them feel comfortable. Give them what they need.

William Friedkin

Filming is about doing. I don’t look for philosophy, psychology or ideology. I look for emotions. I don’t think, I just do.

I don’t rehearse; I just talk to the actors. Each actor has a different way of preparing. They have to feel comfortable.

Only one thing: cast right.

I look for spontaneity, a feeling of reality, when the actors are not acting, when you can’t smell their acting. I don’t look for perfection, I look for spontaneity, and that comes from casting well and creating the right tone.

I know the genre and then I bend it, but I do genre.

I never say action or cut. Some of the best stuff happens after.

I rehearsed the Exorcist, and then I asked the actors to forget about everything.

The whole Exorcist is looped; there is no actual sound. If you want pure silence you have to do it after, the mic loves shit noise. You can also give directions to the actors while shooting.

The film is already in my head; I’ve already seen it beforehand.

I look at paintings for inspiration to create images that affect the collective subconscious and last through history. Where you put the camera, the way you envision the script is who you are.

Film is the most collaborative of mediums, you have to be communicative. Working with a crew and cast is like riding a horse, sometimes you have to let the horse find it’s own way…

I like pure cinema, a chase scene, silent cinema… You can only achieve through motion picture

Always try to see the big picture, with the final objectives in mind, the long term goals.

John Avildsen

Capra told me that if you need to keep all those people awake in a dark room, you need to keep their attention. Do whatever you want, but don’t bore the audience!

It’s all about story and rehearsing. Training, like Rocky. When he climbs the stairs he has already won the battle, even if he loses afterwards.

Actors put the literature in film. The rising of an eyebrow, or the locking of eyes are done by the actors, not described on the script. The script is the story. That’s why everybody loves actors, when they are good.

I’m always my own camera operator, it’s faster and it makes me think more in terms of pictures.

– What do you love about making movies?

– It’s not work. You never get enough sleep though.

Studios: let them think you listen to them and then do whatever you want.

If you don’t want to be fired, make yourself indispensable.

People must care about your characters; otherwise you’ll lose the audience.

Wim Wenders

Like Pina did with dancing, I had to create my own discipline. There was nothing in cinema I could build on.

Werner Herzog

He didn’t tell me anything remarkable, aside from how much he enjoyed watching Barça and Madrid play against each other… But it doesn’t really matter, I know he would have recommended me to do something bold and daring, go into the wild, look for signs of life. He followed Aguirre into the dense Amazon jungle. I followed Coronado into the endless plains fo the Mid-West… Elective affinities.

Parerga & Paralipomena

In this city “car” doesn’t mean car. It means “money”. No one really cares whether you drive a Mercedes, a Lexus or a BMW… Actually, some people do, but that’s not the point here.

Every Friday at Sundance we have a screening of a short. Last Friday we screened “Las Palmas”, a great metaphor for the invasive tourism with a little baby as the protagonist. The person who presents it says: “this film is genius, and if you don’t like it, I don’t want to have anything to do with you”. Films affect us emotionally, to an irrational level, and people often feel personally offended when someone doesn’t agree with their taste.

I edit a music video for a former Terrence Malik’s Director of Photography. He tells me that “Terry’s movies should be watched as poetry, as phenomenology, as the specialist in Heidegger he is…”

Some people think I’m good at editing… But I don’t like it… The curse of being good at something you don’t like… I recently read that the biggest curse of the contemporary man is trying to succeed at something he or she is not good at… these are bad times for neurotics…

I write to advice myself. I’m the first one who benefits from my own writings… If someone else does: Win-Win. Winning like Charlie…

Going to Portos still in hung over just before they close, someone tells says: “What up! That’s a great cheers for fears style. Have a good day bro”. I don’t even know if I understood what he meant.

“Man up!” Such a great expression… Almost as good as: “Grow some balls!” > Ball > Sleazeball:

I meet Ron Jeremy four times in a period of two months. First at the Rainbow Bar & Grill, where I see him fall asleep on the table… and after that I hear him theorizing about Cristobal Colon’s journeys. Next time, at the Screenwriters’ Guild, where he is attending the premiere of one of his non-porn cameos. We eat dozens of shrimps from the same dish and look at each other hesitantly. The third time, we meet at Ivan Cane’s Was Cafe, with Jeff Goldblum playing the piano in the background, and by then he already recognizes me. We have a weird Hollywood-style empty conversation (based on projects I don’t really have) until McAfrica, an elderly party animal, shows up and makes the conversation even more surreal. Being already considerably drunk, I vow and express how much I love both of them, I hug him, I kiss her, and leave. In our fourth encounter, I’m at the Rainbow again, this time with my mom, and I’m telling her about the time I met Ron Jeremy in that very same spot, when suddenly Ron appears from behind, taps me on the shoulder and greets me as if we had been friends for years.

Paradoxalia:

It’s so funny it’s not even funny.

“Everything in moderation, except for moderation” my room mate dixit.

The only thing I would put myself as an example is the fact that I would never put myself as an example.

I say “thank you” to my boss and she thanks me for thanking her: “Thank you for saying thank you”.

A thought that when it tries to think of itself, doesn’t remember what the actual thought was. Such thought arose a considerable amount of existential anxiety in me. What if it was an important discovery? The though of forgetting a thought… What does it mean “to think” anyway? I guess it’s just an instrument of research, a questioning device that when it folds upon itself and sets up questions about its own nature tends to end up short-circuiting.

Paradoxically, paradox seems to be the only steady fundament of thought. Cogito Ergo Sum. God created the world with a compass.

Epilogue:

“The soul is a circle”

Plato (citation needed)

FUCK

1

There is an expression that I’ve already heard too many times not to comment upon: “Been there, done that”. A lot of Americans use this expression when they talk about their trips, particularly when they refer to Europe. Sometimes I feel like the Old Continent is almost seen as a theme park, as if the Tour Eiffel, the Sagrada Família or the Coloseum, were its attractions… Been there. Did this and that. Ate pizza in Naples, paella in Valencia, smoked hash in Amsterdam, and Swedish girls were so hot!

But how about: “Been there, stayed a while, and experienced life as something more than a check list?”.

2

Travel. Feel the resistance of the air as you are moving, be free, wander around… Because he/she/they know that life is a one way journey and that there is no return ticket… “You only go around once”, as Woody Allen would put it.

Because of my nomadic inclinations, I’ve been physically and psychologically injured multiple times, and in multiple ways. So, why this obsession for being in motion, for going somewhere else, for discovering the world? I’ve always liked living ready-to-go, and as much as I need stability and routine, I would never change it for spontaneity. I just can’t refuse a call for adventure.

Freud said that we channeled our sexual instincts through work, that we needed to work in order to not go crazy with the lack of “fucking everybody around us”, and therefore be able to sustain a family and keep the morality. But I would say I need something else than just work. I need to work and travel, or maybe to be working while I travel. All I need is to write and travel.

3

Airport. Christmas. Los Angeles – Barcelona, through JFK. A guy called Tucker Max is the New York Times # 2 best seller… This fact has been bothering me since then, which means that I will have to give it a shape. Only when I put it into words I will forget about it.

Tucker Max is a sort of unrefined Rousseau that explains his private life without any self-censorship. Basically sex and alcohol stories. A lot of drunken sex. He claims to be verbalizing (and doing) what most people (men) just dare to think… After reading a few pages of his book Assholes finish first, I ask myself – What is “being honest”? It all depends on where you want to stop pushing yourself towards honesty – I answer. There will always be a reason behind any adduced reason. The capacity for justifying oneself is infinite.

Freud. Repressed instincts. Whoever talks about them automatically has a point. Whoever tries to be honest till everybody blushes – although he may be completely misguiding – generates interesting questions right away… Are we all obsessed with sex but afraid to accept it? Are social conventions too rigid? Is there something like a “reasonable” prejudice? All I can do here is simply quote Aristotle: “Man is a social animal”.

4

Just by saying “I don’t mean to be rude” doesn’t mean that you are not being rude… That goes for you too Pau.

5

I once heard Robert McKee say that “the main problem people have is that they never learn to love”. Angel Delgadillo, the man who reinvented the Route 66, told me from his barbershop in Seligman (Arizona) that he had to love his wife and his children more than he loved himself, or otherwise it wouldn’t work.

One of the few things I’ve learned about myself is that I tend to behave by contrast. I become shy in front of outgoing people, I’m optimistic in front of pessimists, I’m crazy in front of serious, I’m left in front of right… and the same, but accentuated, with love. I’m still learning to love, because I don’t know myself well enough to love consistently and without reservations. There are many ways of loving, but only one way of being in love: willing to give in, no matter what, and I guess I’m not yet ready for that much self-compromise. Learning to love is key. Many people think it just comes like that, but it demands effort. Love has to be taken care of, it requires all our energy 24 hours a day, that’s why creative people often have to choose between their work or their love. They are both full-time activities.

6

It’s a sunny day in Southern California, as usual. I sit at the terrace of the coffeeshop right accross the street from where I live: Simply Coffee. Burbank calm. Nothing happens. It smells nice. My street, Lima Street, is full of magnolias and pines, that’s why. I can see Magnolia Avenue from my front yard. I can see my front yard from Simply Coffe. I can take a sip of Vanilla Latte. I take it.

A well-brewed tea or coffee can supply an upgraded version of the “now”. Caffeine sharpens the brain. As if it was a pencil, it helps define the traces of our thoughts and perceptions.

7

When I was a kid I spent my summers diving. I guess the reason why I’ve come to love films so much is because I slowly learned to dive into them… I’ve learned to give in, to let them fill me with images and sound… Suspend the disbelief… Surrender to fiction… Allow them to blend with my world, like an octopus does on the sea bed.

Film studies were what brought me from New York to Los Angeles, but when I got here, the shock of Hollywood’s Industry was so strong that I felt the need to transfer to Documentary. What surprised me the most about my new studies was how the teachers were constantly repeating that “in Documentary we look for the Truth”. As if there was something remotely close to it…

It is because I know that there is no Truth, that I usually try to have really simple projects – I will end up complicating them anyway… Finding some sort of truth requires absolute diligence in dealing with any subject, but at the same time it takes a multidimensional approach. Truth is always ready to escape and hide behind reductionism. Like a chameleon, it tends to camouflate with whatever looks better on her.

Most of great documentaries, and also films, are basically a simple idea hammered in many ways, from different perspectives, and approached with a unique style. Simplicity made complex, so that it acquires verisimilitude. All this makes me remember a quote I red years ago in Schopenhauer: simplex sigillum veri. Simplicity is the seal of truth.

8

I see a man. There. At the line of Porto’s, just three people ahead of me. How can someone so thin be so hairy? I mean, where is all this hair fed from? I mean, which is the source of the hair substance? I mean, what the fuck? I mean how is that possible? I mean, that’s a lot of hair-weight for so little muscle, not to speak of the fat he doesn’t have… I mean, why the fuck does he even bother to wear a moustache?

Thinking about the hairy man I realize that people say “fuck” all the time. I sadly verify that I also say “fuck” a lot, even in my thoughts. That makes me feel much more integrated in this country, I guess…“Fuck Fuck Fuck”, in almost every sentence. But do we really think about the meaning of the expression every time we say it? To fuck. Think about it.

9

Human beings seek instant abundance and overflowingness. We all look for el Dorado. That’s the reason behind the Gold Rush, the Wild West, the New World… the Homo Sapiens heading out of Africa… There is always a promised land behind the horizon. Canaan. Jauja. Silicon Valley.

Abundance however, is often at odds with measure and elegance. Maybe the price for having money is not knowing how to spend it. Maybe because all the time and effort were put into accumulating wealth instead of refining the spirit… Some parts of LA make me think this thought may even be right.

10

I started working. I’m on my OPT period, a one-year working permit that the USA grant to international students once they graduate. After a few weeks of adapting to my new two jobs, I suddenly rediscover shirts. Now I wear them almost every day. Sometimes I wear them open and with a t-shirt underneath, as I loved to do years ago in high school.

Women like to use their intuition. They like to sense. Men, generally more concrete, tend to definition. Women like waves and transparency. Men prefer tight clothing; they want to know what’s going on, literally, without hints, codes or hidden messages. Women are professionals of intuition, which us males have somewhat atrophied. In Ancient Greece, men were represented naked in marble torsos, while women’s sculptures were mostly dressed, just insinuating the curves with their garments stylishly falling over their curves.

Men are visual, we always want the lights on, we feel through the eye. Women don’t need that, because they sense with more intensity and depth… the touch, texture and smell are key to them. They not only like open shirts for men, they also love to put them on, particularly in the morning. They know they are extremely sexy. I try to play their cards, insinuating instead of falling into the widely expanded American vigorexic model. And all this absurd nonsense just to justify open shirts to myself…

But the bottom line is that we all want to call the attention of the sex we feel attracted to. Even if we dress like we don’t care, we still want to be noticed and recognized by our beauty. Our sexual instincts are always there, fucking everything up.