missive the first, 1/29/3, barcelona, spain

well, hello there. i.ve been in europe for a week or more, and still have no idea what day of the week it is. or what time it is, tho i have to meet francis for dinner and drinks around ten thirty.

i.m in barcelona, where people don.t eat until midnight, and don.t go to sleep until well after 2. it.s not something i can easily get used to, because i.m getting up around dawn. however, that tendency is easily foiled by pulling the shutters over the windows. in which case i wouldn.t get up until 3 in the afternoon.

just in case you.re wondering, the following character – a period – is supposed to be an apostrophe.

i arrived in dublin at 5 am last thursday. it was 0 degrees. i really like centigrade, it.s so much more practical.

0 means freezing, and sounds like it. 12 means almost warm, and 16 is comfortable. if it goes over 20, people start complaining about the heat [in ireland], and if it were to hit 30 they.d all collapse and melt.

the dublin weather has changed since i lived there. actually, everyone allows how everything.s changed, but i don.t really hold to that. the weather used to be damned cold during the winter, and that means 2 degrees and bitter cold. like atlanta gets, but the humidity is always up around 120 percent – or higher, in dublin. and so if it.s 2 degrees [okay, 37F] and a million percent humidity, there.s nothing you can do but freeze. no amount of clothing is going to help.

usually, ask any irishman, it.s at least cloudy, if not raining, during the winter, and altho snow is extremely rare and sleet happens only now and then, it.s as hard to deal with as the odd ice storm is in atlanta.

things just don.t go very well when you.re too cold to move. and since there.s a certain absence of central heating there, people take to drastic cures for the cold, like constantly sitting in bars drinking pints of guinness, crammed next to the person closest to you and facing the fire. i don.t mind this cure, to be honest.

anyway, i got into dublin at 5, and got thru customs, which was delightfully casual, and in stark contrast to the security procedures in new york, where they made us take off our shoes and run them thru xray machines. i have a whole lot to say about american security procedures after 9-11, but won.t even start, because none of it is positive.

i sat around with all the other passengers awaiting my luggage, and was pleased to see my bag with the paints come thru just fine. i find i have to tell the security people in advance that i.m an artist and have all sorts of lead tubes packed closely in a box inside my black bag.

they think i could be a security risk, but i natter on about how i.m going to europe to paint and would they like to see my portfolio, and show them my canvas and watercolor paper, and be bright and cheerful, and they look at me sideways because they.re paid to do that.

i actually got one security guy who is an artist himself, and so we had a wonderful but short little conversation about quitting one.s day job and making a living in a more joyous and life-affirming manner. so, i got my black bag, with all my painting supplies.

but when the purple bag with all my clothes failed to materialize on the carousel in dublin, i was not all that worried. it was just my clothes, after all, and i can always borrow and visit second hand shops, and even all the stores were having the january sales if i was feeling desperate.

so i left my name and details with the nice aer lingus agent, and went off to catch a bus into dublin. it doesn.t get to be daylight at this time of year until 8:30 [and these keyboards are really funny as to where they put things like colons and apostrophes, and the special keys you have to hold down in order to get them. please pardon any creative diacritical marks i.m being forced to use].

anyway, it was still dark when i got to the end of the bus line. i didn.t feel like shelling out real money for an express bus, so i took the normal city bus from the airport, and rode squeezed in between several poor sods going to work. it was nice being squeezed in between them, because we were all warm, and many of them were catching up on their sleep. i recognized the streets as i passed them, having lived in dubin for 6 years in my 20s.

it.s a very old city, and even the outer suburbs were mainly built over a hundred years ago. the inner city still looks a lot like it did in its medieval beginnings, when it was a little twisty turny bunch of lanes inside city walls, with a castle and city gates and all sorts of funny little street names, like fishamble street, where they used to sell fish, and mollycoddle street, where they used to sell mollied coddles [okay i.m kidding about that one, but fishamble street is a real place still].

there are lots of .new. streets in dublin, but they.re all centuries old. the locals like to point out that their families were living in the street next to these particular new streets when they were first built.

so, i got into grafton street, the main shopping street and just around the corner from brendan.s flat, just as bewley.s restaurant was opening up, and treated myself to a real irish breakfast. prepare yourself. it.s two fried eggs, thick slices of bacon [rashers], sausages [bangers], black and white pudding [other kinds of sausages, and you don.t want to know any more], grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatos, and cold toast. with tea or coffee. if you.re really hungry, there.s also porridge, which is oatmeal, and useful for wallpaper past by the time you get it. and some people have scones as well, a sweet kind of biscuit.

i stopped with half the typical irish breakfast, limiting it to rashers, bangers, eggs, the vegs, and some tea. got to sit next to this really cool coal and peat fire, as well, which when it wasn.t smoking up the place put out a great deal of heat.

i used to sit in bewley.s when i lived here. it was the kind of place where you could buy a pot of tea, and nurse it for hours, filling it back up with hot water, and doctoring it with all the sugar and milk you wanted. i was very poor when i lived in ireland, practicing for these days – my days as a starving artist after i quit my day job [coming up on 2 years now, whoopee].

everyone else was extremely poor, as well, and so a cafe society consisted of people who would otherwise be out on the street scrambling for a living, but who instead sat inside nursing pots of tea and talking incessantly about all the important things of life, waiting until they could go around in the evening for a pint, which cost a whole lot more than an endless pot of tea.

it was almost 8 when i finished my breakfast, almost light out, and at that point i considered it almost proper to call brendan, with whom i was to stay in ireland. however, he was at his girlfriend brigid.s, some distance away, and said it would take him some time to get there, so i went back to bewley.s and had more tea. it was nice, but i was getting wired.

like i.d been able to sleep on the plane. it was a crowded flight. mind you, it had cost me $99 one way, so i wasn.t complaining at all. i.d sat in the airport in new york for several hours waiting, had a couple of pints of guinness just so i.d be able to tell the difference between a real pint when i got there, and made a couple of calls to friends just to discuss thoughts i had about flying and travelling and how lonesome it can get.

but on the plane itself i wasn.t much in the mood to talk to folks. i was kind of tired, and the woman next to me was wearing eyeshades and earplugs the whole time, so i tried to sleep too, but there was this little kid, poor baby, who was overtired and stroppy the whole time, the entire 6 hour flight.

that is, until we were 20 minutes from landing, when she fell into a deep sleep. poor mom, having to deal with her, walk her up and down, try to distract her with an entire passenger seat full of toys, and chase her at times the entire length of the plane when the kid would get away from her.

the passengers were mostly irish, and they.re well used to children, so nobody much minded that she was acting up, because they.ve all been there. and to tell the truth, the louder bother was from this pair of friends seated several rows away from each other who spoke at great length about sports and such, and then fell asleep and snored even louder.

so, when i got into brendan.s flat and settled into my room, the first thing i did was to get into bed with all my clothes on [his flat is very old, and there was no central heating since the place was built in the late 1700s. the only heat in his flat is actually the small fireplace in the living room, at the entire other end of the building from the bed i called my icesheet.

so going to sleep with all your clothes on is a normal type of thing to do. as you warm up, you wiggle out of a layer at a time, finally ending up with a final layer we.ll call pajamas in lieu of anything more descriptive.] i woke up around 1, and went out into the daylight, and started renewing my old friendship with dublin.

it was great. i had a pint right away, the creamiest and most delicious liquid on the planet, and later i went around to the shops and bought some lamb and some vegetables and made myself a stew that would last the entire week i was there, figuring i.d save my money for the pints.

so, fast forward a bit. the days immediately blurred into each other. and it didn.t help that every day was warm [14 degrees, that.s 58 or so], and blue sky. it didn.t rain once the whole time i was there

[tho i.m assured that i brought the weather with me, and it left with me as well. evidently ireland is now in the midst of normal winter weather, freezing cold and rainy. but that.s okay, because i.m in spain now, where it.s freezing as well, but their version of freezing cold starts in the 50.s, and i can deal with that.

one of these days real soon now it.s going to hit 70 something, and i.m going to start wilting with all the other tourists, while the locals will be grinning and saying .finally. in spanish.

i saw some of my old friends in dublin. brendan and brigid, of course [brigid who lent me some clothes, thanks girl], and my old friend kay, and my old friend marie. these are people who knew me when i wasn.t myself, and we.ve been friends these 25 years with lots of catching up to do. over pints, of course.

but in the main i didn.t want to spend a lot of time socializing, because after all i.m here to paint. so i completed 4 paintings and a piece of silk in the 5 days i was there, and figure i.ve got some catching up to do.

the first thing i did when i got to spain, where the prices are much lower, was to go out and buy 2 meters of canvas and some more silk painting supplies. and now the canvas is cut up, and some of it is taped to the wall in my studio where i.ve got the outlines of another koi painting already up.

that.s why i.m sitting here in this bright fancy internet cafe, listening to all sorts of languages around me, and typing as fast as i can, because i actually filled my quota of painting, had my nap, and have a few minutes to spend before meeting francis for dinner and drinks.

he.s doing a poetry reading tonight, for a bunch of argentinians, in english. something about drinking. so, because i.ve been here almost an hour, and my butt is sore, i.m going to sign off now.

i.ve got a lovely front end of a floor of the building francis lives in, and my studio takes up most of the space, of course, with a sleeping alcove behind it. and i.ll be starting on several paintings when i get up tomorrow.

my purple bag arrived just the morning before i left dublin, so now i have that polaroid camera, and have taken several instant pictures of bars and courtyards and street scenes, and am anxious to paint them.

[and thanks, brendan, for lending me the loan of your digital camera when i was in dublin. thanks to you . was able to do the paintings i did, of bars and canals and local buildings.

it.s always the same. i paint the things that draw me, and they’re always the same things. it.s just an excuse to hang around the sight of brushes and canvas, and the smell of turpentine and linseed oil, which are heavenly perfumes to me.

i.ll write again soon, whenever i.ve got some time and feel accomplished and too wrung out to paint anymore.

i won.t be able to answer very many letters, because i.m travelling, and that.s why this missive is going out as spam, because there.s no way to send out individual letters. and why bother, anyway? it.d be too difficult to find new ways of saying the same thing.

later, it.s time for dinner.

love jeanne


  1. […] missive the first 1/29/3, barcelona, spain. […]


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