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 was young and in love–with whatever I could find to be in love with. I was lost on purpose, having chosen to run away from answers that were frighteningly large to look for ones that were just my size. True, my lives of happy materialism and decadent sensualism had failed, and yet…
I’d come to Barcelona because I’d met a carefree California beach girl who turned out to be a passionate Spanish revolutionary. And suddenly there I was–searching for the meaning of life again.
After settling into my tiny papier-mâché hotel room, I called Gabriella, and we had lunch at her home. I soon discovered she was an espresso-guzzling communist from a family of intellectuals who’d drunk champagne the night Franco died. They lived in a rambling city-view apartment with woody walls the color of walnuts and olives (you could see the Palau Nacional from there). By comparison, the room I was staying in was so flimsy I kept expecting a hand to reach in and fish around for a prize.
That evening, Gabriella took me down an alleyway past bustling mercados and crumbling cathedrals to a tiny cafetería de comunistas.
There was a sign there that said, “There is no future, there is no past—there is only the present.” And suddenly, I knew it was true…ish. I began to grow excited again. Had I finally found a my-sized passion? There was only the present! I wanted to open my present, to reach inside and fish around for the prize! I wrote in my journal:
“The walls were scaly with sickles and hammers,
and words to Catalan marching songs.
It was like church!
There were holey sweaters and cigarette censers,
and holy manifestos of liberación
that made everyone’s eyes
flash like shorts in a wall socket.
We laughed as we passed around the pourón,
a glass pitcher with a long, holey stem,
from which we extracted holy streams of wine
to pourón our palates.
It like was an anthill of anarchy,
a singing, jolly mess of Marxism!”
Did I have doubts? Of course. But I swept them under that raggedy rug, and sang! Why? Because, as full of holes as their ideals may have been, they fit like a warm, baggy sweater. And because…
Gabriella was just so damned pretty.
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