Year in review

22 June 2009

Dulces Fla aa

It seemed appropriate that a hazy, flawed photograph, taken absently on one of my last days walking to the bus in Jaén, should head an attempt to survey what got written this year, before my amnesiac return.

The oddest thing about coming back hasn’t been anything I expected. It is very easy to put one foot in front of the other. I am not viscerally shocked. There is too-quick familiarity, there are easy lapses into old habit. I stuff myself with everything I missed – breakfast burritos, Thai food, peanut butter, craft beer, manhattans perfect. I haven’t forgotten how anything tastes. The weather is cloudy & raining in Boston, in Los Angeles, in Michigan – I don’t really remember Andalucían sun, if there was such a thing. Even my sentences slip into an eternal present tense. Odd differences, little things shifted, but if you asked I couldn’t tell you what it all meant. It’s a relief to speak Spanish with somebody who understands me, but I don’t have all that many opportunities, and I don’t seek them out.

What it feels like most of all is that the last year was a kind of waking dream, now interrupted, and I worry that instead of being able to reflect on Spain I’ll barely be able to write it at all. It feels odd, and it feels normal, to be home, and I don’t know which is more strange.

In the meantime, while I remember how to remember, here are things written when writing was as easy as looking out my window and listing the things I saw.

When things were still new & I was about as green as you could get, I wrote breathlessly about the smallest things, my prose riddled with casual errors & opacity: cultural differences, the féria, popular music.

I thought a lot about words, but in an uncertain manner, sweat my way through a Spanish translation of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye,  and wrote about Castro & buying bread, and the colloquial expressions in the Spanish-English dictionary published the year I was born.

I wrote about local festivals in Jaén – the bonfires of San Antón, the sardines of Santa Catalina. I wrote about breakfast, pomegranates, churros, hand gestures. About poppies, old photographs, afro-beat concerts, the word “oodles.”

I walked around with my mother’s 35mm camera & took pictures of Jaén. When I forgot my camera, I wrote pictures anyway. I drew maps of American music. I made lists.

Occasionally, I abandoned pointilism & wrote essays – about Obama & racism in Spain; feeling like a child abroad; an incomplete series about my teaching, two parts; Christmas & the New Year with my family. I wrote about reading the newspaper a lot, & sometimes it had to do with Stateside politics, and when it did I usually found some way to talk about The Wire.

The itemized retrospective done, we’ll move on tomorrow to ammendations & corrections, to thoughts about method & purpose, & to (finally) some honest-to-god new writing.

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