Image courtesy of Rosanna Piano
When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
I got off the bus in Barcelona and had a panic attack. The signs were in Spanish (!), which I suddenly realized I didn’t actually know. What was I doing here? Yes, sí, a beautiful girl had invited me. But really? Well, all right, that was true for the bottom half of me. But the top half was still “searching for something.” Was there any reason to think I’d find it in the vacuum left by Franco? No. Except that I hadn’t found it in London or Paris. So why not here? I went walking, journal in hand, and then stopped to write:
“Things were strange enough when I did understand the language. I’m pretty sure I just asked a woman at the Barcelona Zoo where I could buy a ‘bag of children.’ Sí, I try to hablar with native flair, but I suspect that when I do I must have the same dull, sweet expression as my friend’s Irish Setter when he says, ‘I love you’ in dog.
“Still, I do love the Barcelonians. Because they’re lost like me. Me, silly, brilliant, gifted idiot that I am, so rich in my poverty, so poor in my wealth. Barcelona is:
the sweetest raisins I’ve ever had
and men with streaky beards
and women as lovely as sand
and priests who stand in doorways
yelling at bums who dribble
and pee in dancing fountains
and down by the harbor
old ship’s cats
who’ve lost their sea-legs
boney things who stammer when they meow.
I saw a pirate in a doorway
but the best he could do was a canary.
I was lost, and the Voice hadn’t disturbed my sleep for three nights now. Which was good. Not really. I missed it terribly.
Like me, Spain was trying to find itself. Except that, unlike me, it couldn’t get on a bus; it pretty much had to find it in Spain. In my journal, I wrote, “What were you doing, Francisco Franco? Look what you did.” In Girona, where my bus had stopped on the way to Barcelona, I’d spotted a school of dolphins, and written:
With gentle, undulating,
pink and purple dispositions,
the dolphins sail the Costa Brava.
I think dolphins are
a lot more human than people.
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