Saturday, June 24, 2017

Firenze: I Fuochi di San Giovanni

Midsummer all over Europe retains its pagan flair for fire (bon-, -works) and drink, but in almost every country it was Christianized and renamed St. John's Feast, an homage to our locust-eating, sackcloth-wearing holy hermit.

A quick review of St. John's festivals I know:

In Finland, they'll be wrapping midsummer poles with bright ribbons, matched in the flaxen braids of little girls. Finlandia vodka, and Lapin Kulta.

France - what do they do? They're godless, or maybe I was when I lived there. Ok, quick research shows I was the godless one, and also that it is maybe more of a thing in Paris.

In the UK it is a quarter day. I want to say I have been in the UK for St. Johns, but can't really remember.

In Spain, there will be bonfires on the northern beaches, as nets of pescaditos are brought in to be promptly fritos on huge metal grills and devoured. The wind will blow cold as the night wears on and finally goes truly dark a bit before midnight. Estrella de Galicia and vinho verde.

In Firenze, it is an even bigger celebration, as San Giovanni is their patron saint. Fireworks galore. I fuochi di San Giovanni are set off at 10 pm from Piazzale Michelangelo, and stream over the Arno.


Of course Firenze is languishing in a puddle of humidity and heat under a severe weather advisory, so we have been scrambling to find a place to watch the fireworks from.


Traffic will be limited, parking impossible, security high. The bridges over the river will all be packed with tourists and locals (and mosquitoes).

It's still going to be hot even at that hour. I know this because our apartment is no longer cooling down after dark. There is no relief from open windows. Only biting bugs borne on stuffy still air.

Enter the Dutch reinforcements, late of Rome, originally from Amsterdam. Our friends from the kids' school, parents of two beautiful and pale little girls who are the same ages as Victor and Eleanor. They live in a house up the Via Bolognese, the old road from Firenze to Bologna with a view high above the city, looking straight down into the valley at a city that suddenly seems cast in miniature.

The view from the Dutch estate.
The mom messaged us yesterday to invite us up. JA JA JA we are coming! There will be grilling. Sprinkler running and a trampoline for the kids. Jason's at the store right now buying white wine and beer to chill.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Firenze: Midsummer

I spent the better part of the past 24 hours in a fevered fog, which was also alarmingly interrupted by a colossal toddler nosebleed. Most of the my morning was passed laid out on the floor in the living room. Lunch and a garden visit with Miss Busy followed.

Our sitter arrived after lunch and took Eleanor out to play, along with her own 8 year old daughter, who is adorable. I crawled up to Victor's top bunk and immediately rolled over into a dreamless sleep.

After dinner we all agreed that it was the perfect time to head out to the park. Eleanor got her sandals on before Victor, so I wanted behind with him while Jason and Miss Busy headed out first. I begged Victor to join me for some medicinal gelato. He was an easy convert to my plan, and we walked up Carducci to the ATM for cash. Victor is very good at cash withdrawals. he probably has all our pins memorized now. In fact, I am sure of it.

We walked to Procopio on Pietrapiana.
"Get me some gelato," Jason texted me.Victor selected fragola/panna, with sprinkles on top. I went for caffe bianco/baba rhum. Jason would be enjoying fragola/limone e basilico.
"Come on,Victor!" I urged him as we trotted along the street in a race against time with the extra coppa of gelato for Jason. I stopped to manage minor drips and to proactively like the sides.
"Come on! Come on!"

We arrived at the park in Piazza d'Azeglio and Eleanor was now on the slide. We quickly transferred the third coppa to Jason, and I went to the big kid swings to oversee our two sweaty, sticky charges. I looked around and quickly noted that were were well into Expat Hour: 8:30 pm, a decidedly unsalubrious hour for any Italian child to continue playing in the park. (Plus, ORA DI CENA.) I noted southeast Asians, many pale children, a handful of Africans in the calcetto mini arena.

I ran to throw my refuse away in a trashcan nearby, and saw out of the corner of my eye that a much bigger boy was trying to take the swing from her. I could tell in her initial whimper that she was gearing up. I walked faster back to the swing.

The boy's mother, however, beat me to it. and immediately knelt down and started speaking to Eleanor, who was still miffed and fussing. I walked up and greeted her. She was in full hijab.
Are these your boys? I asked her.
No, no Italian, she said.
You... Italian?
No, I said. Americana.
Wow! she said, her eyes widened.
Umm, grazie? I said. Not so great at the moment, but ok.
My sister USA.
Dove? I asked.
No English... no English.
We were unable to determine the location of the sister.
We worked out that the woman was from Egypt.
Cairo? I asked.
Yes, yes, she nodded.
She was really nice.
Her boys, aged about 3, 7, and 10, eyed us.
You.. Arabic?
No, not really, I said. Shokran, afwan, merhaba, mumtaza, la.
She laughed with obvious pleasure.
Mumtaza!
Umm, not really but thanks. You ... tourist?
Furrowed brow.
Poco tempo? Tourist?
No English, no English.

Her little boy had to pee so she took him around to the back hedge where everyone does this. Victor and Eleanor begged to play squirt guns, which I had brought in a large cloth bag from the apartment. We all went to fill them up with water from the fountain.

The two older boys looked with longing from the edge of the playground. They were handsome; the middle one had a small scab on his nose where it looked like it may have taken a direct hit from some sort of flying toy. Jason, Victor, and Eleanor started hosing each other down. The Egyptian boys smiled. You could see their hands itching to play. The oldest boy wandered off, but the middle boy stayed. Jason finally turned to him and offered him our SuperSoaker.

Here, take it, he said. Go get him, motioning to Victor.
That little Cairene boy's evening suddenly got 100% better, He and Victor whooped and hollered, chasing each other around the pavement, freely squirting each other. Victor was totally cool with dad handing off the SuperSoaker to another boy - in fact, he seemed overjoyed that another boy was squirting him back.

The mother came back from the pee excursion and began to take video on her phone of the squirt gun festival. The games continued. Eleanor appeared to be writing her name on a wall with her little squirt pistol. She eventually squirted a few dirty pigeons but wasn't really feeling it. Soon, it got darker, and the mosquitoes came out, so we asked the Egyptian boy for the squirtgun back, and poured the remaining water into the drain.

Shokran, shokran, the mother said.
Buona notte, we said. Buona notte.
Eleanor waved from my shoulder, Ciao.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Returning from La La Land to la Bella Italia

After a 24 hour trip to LA on Sunday followed by five straight days of nonstop work, it was time to head home: Italy. I continue to train myself to consider this internally as "back to the US" and "home to Italy."

Travis and I took a cab from the hotel to LAX, which on a Friday in summer was a complete zoo. (Fare: $75.) He disembarked at domestic departures, while I stayed on until the international terminal. Once in the cool, air conditioned hangar-like ticketing counters, my check-in was another breeze, taking all of two minutes.

Security also ran very efficiently (no wonder the grumbling Yanks at the start of the week in Rome), interrupted only by an amusing K-9 sniffing up everyone's pant leg while an American mother shrieked that the dog should not be let near her children.
"Don't worry about it, lady! If he wasn't fully trained he wouldn't be doing this job!" the TSA guard snapped.

I had three hours before my flight was to leave, so I indulged in some Very American Food (fish tacos, spicy guac, Modelo draft), and got a blowout and a foot massage at the Xpress spa. Feet were seriously throbbing after a 90-hour workweek. How do medical interns do it? I ask my parallel life. My flight boarded and again I was seated next to a petite Italian woman (this one from Mantova; outbound was from Pescara) who was delighted to debrief about NAFSA and American culture with me as we waited to take off. The flight was not full (shock), so I settled into my window bunk for a long nap.

BONUS: The movies worked! Ok, so still no wifi or charger but MOVIES. Wow a LOT of movies! Yay Alitalia! Including a backlist for nostalgic old people like me - let's re-live "Notting Hill" before Hugh Grant got creepy, or "Bridget Jones Diary".....  when was the last time I saw a feature-length film?! I don't even know. Something with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wrecking a house. Lost in the fog of pregnancy and post-partum sleep deprivation of the last 6 years.

I opted for "La La Land." At first, meh, but then I was pulled in, and by the audition scene I was crying in my seat, then reduced to complete puddle of tears by the flashback. The perfect film to cap off my week - I am still humming all the tunes. Then I watched "Manchester by the Sea," considerably more scarring but just as good. Wow when was the last time I just got to LOOK at something that I liked for FIVE STRAIGHT HOURS. This is the perfect flight.



We landed late, and had to do the "here in Italy we do not have jet ways" rigamarole. My connection was about 45 minutes. Bus bus bus. Bus. Sweat. Sun. Crap, I picked the second bus, as I watched the first bus pull away to inch toward the terminal.

Rome, again, packed. I ran at top speed to immigration, and got bumped to the front of the line when I showed my boarding pass with its 2:15 departure. I ran ran ran to the gate. At gate, no information at all on my connecting flight. Only the fact that it existed. Boarding? Gate number? who knows? I was pouring sweat and so stood in line to buy a somewhat less warm bottle of San Pellegrino. I stood around and continued to monitor the screen for the flight update. Then I realized there was a set of stairs to the flight, behind the cafe! MERDA. I hustled down the stairs only to be informed the flight had closed.
It's not even 2:15! I protested.
Flight closes fifteen minutes before departure, she responded. Mi dispiace. Go get rebooked. Desk is like 2 miles back.
Good thing I bought that water.
Or assumed that those German tourists were also gawking at the monitor for the Firenze flight to post a gate number or boarding status.
Sigh.
So tired.
Stanchissima.

I trudged back up the stairs and towards Senza Assistenza. The next flight was at 10 pm.
I am not waiting here for eight hours, I said. I have small children at home. I have been gone a week.
The two stylish Italians looked at me from behind the counter. Their eyes widened.
How old? one asked.
Two and six, I said.
People always miss the connection from LAX. That's all we do here, pretty much. Rebooked missed European connections for the LAX flight. Oh yeah. All the time.
What should I do? is there no earlier flight?
Take the train.
Is Alitalia seriously telling me to take Trenitalia?
Si!
I left, and walked about 50 feet..
My bag! I have a checked bag...Where is my bag? I asked.
Go to this other Assistenza desk where they will help you.
I reported to that desk, where I was told to go to Assistenza Bagaglio. They should have your bag out in about 10 minutes, she said. Go.
I went to the third Assistenza and held up the line for a good 45 minutes with a customer service rep all to myself. I felt pretty Italian by then. I didn't lapse into English. I am not yet at Jason levels of official sangfroid, but I am getting much, much better.
I cancelled my re-booked boarding pass, and was told to go wait for my bag.
Nastro 16. I'll never forget it.
I sat there for two hours, in between getting to know everyone working at Assistenza Bagaglio, plus a few tour guides, and a woman from the airport who said she was conducting a customer service survey.
Please, don't talk to me, I said. I am very dissatisfied right now. I am so upset that I cannot speak Italian, I said in Italian.
She was undeterred.
She eventually wandered off to pester other international arrivals.



I finally got my bag and purchased train tickets at the baggage claim kiosk, then ran to the airport platform. I hopped on to the airport shuttle rain seconds before it pulled out.

It was packed. Hot. Standing room only.



I got to Tiburtina and found an ATM for the Firenze taxi, then dragged my huge bag over to Binario 6. The fast train I'd reserved pulled in minutes later.

Hmm, early, I thought, checking my watch. The door popped open and an Italian conductor grabbed my bag and hauled it on to the train. I followed.
The train immediately lurched forward.
Merda, he said, wrong train.
Che!!?? I said.
This is Italotreno. Privato. You are booked on the Freccia.
Merda!
Let's go talk to the capotreno.
Capotreno looked me over with a sad, sad face.
Got confused, huh?
Your colleague here pulled me onto the train, I said.
I waited to see what sort of official recrimination I might be subject to. A fine? New ticket? 200 euro cash? Crap, how much money did I get out. I tried to think. Not that much. By now I had been in transit for 24 hours.
Nothing. They were going to do nothing, Signore Capotreno waved me on to Carozzo 11. Just go there, he said. Please go. There will be a seat there. He gave his coworker a look.
So I rode Italotreno for free, in very fast, in air-conditioned, leather-upholstered comfort to Firenze.
No one ever came to ask me for my ticket, or who I was.
They have a nice magazine.

When I arrived home Jason was shocked.
Henry did that last fall, he said, and had to pay a fine plus the ticket. He eyed me curiously. What did you do?
Nothing really. Said I was sorry, and that the man had pulled my bag onto the train before verifying my ticket.

I sent about 4 customer complaints to Alitalia for all the broken movies, no wifi, delays, bad food, Rome connection, bag wait. They're only responded to the movies so far. Maybe the other ones are getting escalated up to the capo.

I was very, very happy to be home. I had missed my tribe - this was the longest I'd ever been away from Eleanor.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Week in La La Land


I say this only out of affection. I love LA.



What do I love about it? Everything, as a visitor.

But I also remember this glowing feeling when I had only ever been a tourist in Manhattan, and when I actually moved there it was far, far different. It Did Not End So Well. But NYC and I made up over and over again in 2002 and 2003.

I do not think we have any imminent plans to move to LA. But, much like a crush at far remove, I am just going to enjoy this feeling of Crushing on LA.

Dreamy SoCal sera

When I was growing up, LA held the following sort of place in the imagination: Den of Sin. State of Crazy People. Loonies and Hippies. So Expensive! Those People Are Crazy.

Look at the performer. No soul! She left it at the door, clearly.
Note: these are my people.

The PR in my childhood about LA was horrendous. It extended to California in general, a cesspool of lost morality so deep and so murky that one might never hear again from loved one should they there venture. Who moves there? Just give them all your money at the door, and maybe your soul too, while you're at it. Just cut to the chase. It will happen eventually.

And yet. Since 2009 I have taken three trips to LA, twice for the same weeklong conference downtown, and once for our friend Jack's wedding. Maybe the common thread of Jack is what makes LA sparkle so? I would not be in the least surprised.

The NAFSA conference each year draws about 10,000 attendees. It is a madhouse of international education. My workweek was no walk in the park. Up at 7, at expo hall by 8, presenting and client-ing until 5, evenings full of receptions with more prospective clients and clients.

Slipping into my professional Yank persona
And yet. The fresh air, those trees, her gentle buildings, the feeling that there are things happening here, this is a growing place. The ocean, public beaches, the fresh-squeezed juice and carnitas, the people everywhere, all kinds of people just doing their thing! Little Tokyo and mochi and amusing retail; the garment district and its swarms of buyers picking over bolts of bright fabric on the sidewalk in the sun. Rooftop events looking over the skyline into hills. Mission churches and people eating food that I was ready to swipe from them just for the spice. I was just downtown that whole week, plus a few excursions as mentioned to the beach and Little Tokyo thanks to local friends, but I slurped it up and soaked it in.

Little Tokyo
 I love the type of personality who works in my greater field. International educators are expansive thinkers, people wth experience, the type of person who will challenge your assumptions and later check in on you to see if they've changed, congratulating you if they have or listening if they have not.

Satu the Texas Finn

Regina, friends since 2006

The inimitable Bill, who heard my cry for MORE JAPANESE CULTURE
and within hours rolled up in his green Tonka truck!
My colleagues: bar none, a witty and ebullient lot, definitely the sort you want to keep company with if the workdays are 17 hours long. Or more.

Jack, who just makes LA more more

My colleague Travis
Ritually slaughtering Tim - good fun 
Interesting note: my journey with Terra Dotta, this long and fruitful association, began eight years ago at this conference, when, in 2009 with my then-colleague Alice, I met the founders, Garrett and Brandon. I was a ride-along on a client hello (OU Study Abroad had recently purchased and implemented the software, led by Alice), but I remember thinking then, cool people, bookmark for later.

Back in America: wow, this is so easy in English! Wow, I am hearing like 100 languages. I love accents in English and everything else. I spoke Italian every day; they were all over the place.

Italians. They see my frames, they talk to me.
The sheer diversity of people, all kinds of people, everywhere. A LOT of people. A few moments in our corporate suite: who ordered the abomination called BBQ chicken pizza? what is this salad? A moment of cultural patience (thank you Italy) at the hotel as clerks shrugged their shoulders, unable to locate my package: oh well.

with former colleagues and new friends

Each year I half dread this conference for a couple months beforehand, but when I am at it, it is easily one of the highlights of my year, each time.

Alighting in Rome, Late May

The first hay harvest
rolled up into blocks and balls
Dotting those eternally-tilled fields

Portly Americans gulp Coca-Cola
instead of coffee in the pre-dawn

Albanians sport interesting shoes
New Yorkers wearing summer's cheap straw fedoras
Indian grannies in fleece and bare feet
The New Yorker fedoras dispute with an Albanian family
Albanian mother: large protruding moles
Albanian daughter: nascent moles, same neck location
A towering outdoorsy American father
Entertaining his three small copies

Everyone on edge
The line is too long! the tourists cry
The uniformed Italians sigh and give up
While all of America mutters in line
They need organization
This should be better
This is all wrong

May 28, Rome - Fiumicino

Italy to La La Land: My First Trip Back

I traveled back to the US for the annual enormous NAFSA conference the first week in June. I'm segmenting this story for ease of conveyance. (And apologies for the hiatus, but life has been slammin'.)

I was nonchalantly not at all checking my flights the Friday before my Sunday departure. Suddenly, my phone pushed an Alert Traveler notification about an Alitalia strike. On Sunday, May 28. The date of my departure. My flight, leaving from Rome at 10:10 am ... the strike, starting at 10 am. Super. All ground crew and air traffic control. I did some quick internet research and saw that yes, this was actually A Thing. 

I called Alitalia, who confirmed my flight was operated by KLM, thus not affected by the strike. Alitalia never messaged me or email me about the anticipated delays and cancellations, not to my phone, not on email, not when I checked in at the counter in Firenze. Nothing. 

My early hop to Rome got out on time. Arriving in Rome, the place was mayhem. Huge lines, cranky tourists. I wrote a quick poem about it I will post in a follow-up. It was the same weekend as the British Airways system meltdown, so there were a lot of people who had been milling about the airport for most of the weekend. Tempers were short. Lines snaked on for ages. Airport staff appeared to have given up.

In the terminal, I saw that the strike was impacting many flights, as about half of them looked cancelled, which did not at all corroborate with my interweb research from home. But I felt forearmed with patience as I had known this was a likelihood for a few days before I started my trip.

So many cancellations.


I headed to my gate and settled in with my best effort at a zenlike demeanor. The direct nonstop was delayed again, and again. People insisted on remaining in line even though no boarding was happening. I momentarily became the news bureau for my section of the line as I shared the information from my Alert Traveler app, and nosily pressed the front desk for details. A woman from LA who had been bumped from a cancelled BA flight the other day was near hysterics. I advised them all to take a seat, I was going to go get my second breakfast. They laughed, but I wasn't kidding. I'd been up since 4 am.

Fortunately the coffee and pastries in Fiumcino are excellent.
When confronted by disorder and grouchy travellers, see to it you obtain treats for yourself to manage.


Pretty Fiumicino. Lovely recent reno.
More beautiful FCO.




I returned from my seconda colazione just as the desk announced the flight would be boarding soon, to loud applause (oh, Italy ....) My new friends looked at me in amazement as asked me how I timed my coffee so well. I replied there was no way I would pass up my last macchiato for a week, and that the cornetto integrale alla frutta di bosco was fresh out!

I was in a row at the window (of course, this way I can always sleep in-flight) next to an Italian woman who was also headed to NAFSA. On her other side was a chicano man from Santa Barbara, coming back from a European trip with his older mother. The Italian and I immediately hit it off. I thanked her for also being small so that I did not have to share my seat with some huge person's spillover, which happens to me a lot. 

The plane was in a right state. Filthy, pitted out before we left. But we are going direct nonstop to LA from Rome, so this is awesome, right? Right?

No wifi on plane.

No charging outlets in seat.

The final straw - a thirteen-hour flight with my entertainment module broken. Yes, just in Row 36. All of our screens busted. No music, no news, NO MOVIES. No movies. Good thing I brought an analog book. I read the whole novel. Then I outlined it in my notebook and analyzed it for plot and character. I got bored and went into the aisle where I chatted with a lovely couple over the airplane swill that passed for wine. I gave one of them a ton of free opinion about midcareer and working remotely. And not going to law school. He was being laid off from a large biotech firm so had many concerns and ideas to review. What are you going to do when there's no movie at your seat? Go find some people.

The food was awful. Poor Alitalia, to have sunk so low. 

But on a plus note, the flight crew looked cracking in all their Diego dalla Palma couture.

I did get a bit of sleep too. Travelling west - far far west - is so much easier than travelling east. The body can deal with a long day far better than a missing overnight.

Seriously - no wifi on a 13 hour flight? why? why?

I arrived in LAX and was quickly processed through US immigration, where I was given a receipt for entry in spite of my passport. This is weird. Why do we do this? Did the US seriously just introduce MORE paper into an already cumbersome and lengthy process?

The CBP official who stamped me back in was a congenial African-American muslim man. I felt instantly reassured by that. So it hasn't all changed overnight, I thought. Wow, people are friendly here. Wow, we are diverse.

Receipt not valid for cash return. 
What 20 hours of travel from Firenze will bring you to.
My friend Janice, superstar traveler and UCLA PhD student, picked me up at baggage, where she immediately drove me to a beach, per my request, to get a nice eyeful of the Pacific, my favorite ocean and lungsful of fresh salty breeze.

We were instantly rocketed into LA car culture, Parking was impossible. Fortunately, we had just picked up a nice, vitaminy fresh squeeze on the way. Janice paid $13 on a credit card so we could park for about 40 minutes. We got pedis after the beach, and hit a CVS so I could buy everything on the family import list. I knew I would have no time to do this during the insanity of NAFSA week, so wanted to knock these tasks out first. Fortunately I had fantastic ground support to aid me in the completion of these items! I count myself very lucky that this is almost always the case for me. And conversely, I have been happy to be that support when it was my turn.

Next segments: NAFSA week, and returning home. More pictures included, and a lot to cover.

Meanwhile, amusing life has recommenced in Firenze.

Poem coming right up.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Further Linguistic Considerations: or, My Mind Has a Mind of Its Own

Today I finally got to be the parent to accompany Victor to Mondobimbo, which reasonably sounds like some sort of bordello, but in Italy it is Baby World, which is not at all insulting for boys and girls under the age of ten who want to go to a repurposed-ice-rink-meets-Denver- International-Airport with no air conditioning and lots of stored gardening supplies behind the trampolines, and various other OSHA violations liberally strewn about the place.

It was the birthday of a little girl named Giorgia who is in Victor's class, and a fair number of his classmates showed up to toast her in the ball pit, playing air hockey, and jumping on assorted inflated furnishings.

The Spanish family from his class is leaving Florence early next month for reasons related to Fiorentina's season finish (this is a European football [soccer] thing). The dad, coincidentally also named Victor (I LOVE THIS NAME FOR OUR KID), must now look for coaching work elsewhere as the entire coaching staff has been let go in a fit of fan-fuelled community pique.

The parents are lovely people, outgoing and lively, and I am sad to see them go. But every time I try to talk to them my brain shorts out. It happened again at Mondobimbo with each of the four of them in turn. I think I would like to see a neurologist because there is so much language in my brain at this point that my mind can't keep it straight.

I was explaining to Victor-dad a variety of things about our schedule here, when we moved here, what we think of the school etc., and words were spilling forth from  my mouth, but in alternating sentences between Spanish and Italian, without conscious effort. Like, it is just happening on a software level.

I recognize that Here Is a Spaniard, Engage Spanish, but also the awareness level for You Are In Italy is permanently switched. My brain is not reaching for Spanish in a fumbling way. I know how to explain any of this calmly in either Spanish or Italian: basic conversational discourse.

So I am laying all this out to the catalán football coach, and our conversation is smooth and he is understanding me just fine, until a third message flashes on the marquee of my conscience which says You Idiot What Are You Doing Pick a Lane and Stay In It.

After this linguistic buffet of a conversation that bizarrely also inserted some English here and there, I am running after Victor yelling at him in Mondobimbo in Spanish, ¡Victor! Ya hemos terminado, ¡ven pa'ca porque nos vamos pronto! ¿Me oiste?

The Italian parents are looking at me curiously trying to figure out what just happened, isn't that the American mom, why is she yelling, ¡Victor, mi amor esc├║chame! like a Spanish lunatic?

The short answer is: I just don't know. I have no idea. I miss my Spanish, receding on the horizon, lost on the Italian sea.

This never happens with French here in Italy. Yet I remember when I was in France as a student in 1995 and 1996, I routinely (and inconveniently) experienced something similar with French and Spanish, happening most often and embarrassingly with prepositions as I subbed out "avec" ("with") for "con" ("with" in Spanish, but "bastard" in French, as in "t'es gros con.") In that year also my Spanish came as quickly in the service of expressing my thoughts, as my native English always does.

But alas, Spanish is much more erratically attending me here, when I am able to rouse it from its dreamy lazing and felt impressions tied to gut memories.

My mind has a mind of its own.

In other observations, however, this is great news for my writing. I am 43 and getting real sick of my own thoughts. How wonderful that I can have small chapters where I just can't even control intellectually what goes on upstairs, or in the attic, or the storage unit.

Victor on trampoline, while the part of my brain that controls language is doing something similar.