missive the fourth, 2/27/3, barcelona, spain

well, it’s missive the fourth – late because someone complained to yahoo that i was sending spam, and they cut me off, which you’ll notice if you chanced to send a reply to missive the third. since i don’t remember half the addresses i’ve been sending missives to, this is going out to the select audience whose email addresses i actually do remember, which is a darned small subset, so feel privileged, please. and please do send this to people who know me so that i can get this message across:

i don’t have my yahoo account any more, so if you ever want to hear from me again, please reply to this alternate email with your contact information, because it’s all gone at this point.

i’m in dublin once again, marvelling at the difference. as you may know, i spent 6 years here in my early 20s, and tho i and it have changed incredibly in the intervening years, there’s still lots here to make me feel at home.

the thing i couldn’t take about barcelona, despite my glowing letters home all about the lifestyle, was the lifestyle. getting up with the shopkeepers is fine, but i’m used to getting up with the sun, not at 10, or 11:30. in barcelona i’d get up when the noise outside would refuse to let me sleep any longer. somewhere between 10 and 11:30 the cars would back up in the street from some obstruction (perhaps one of the many cruises of the garbagemen down the streets, admirable in itself), and people in cars in barcelona act like they’re in new york, and feel so self important that they honk for minutes at a time, figuring this will force the stoppage ahead of them to disappear. in fact the garbagemen will only shrug, and do what they’re being paid for, and never mind the impatient idiots stuck in traffic. the fact that it’s a one-lane road with no turnings doesn’t matter to anybody. the fact that honking isn’t helping doesn’t matter. it’s the expression of passion that seems to make all the difference, and since this is a macho thing, and since macho is good in spain, honking is fine. so, whatever.

and tho i wrote glowing accolades for the habit of siesta, because america could well do with such a habit, and tho i guarantee that it’s necessary given that you get up at 10 or so with no breakfast but coffee and eat a hearty lunch at 1 or 2, and need to sleep between 3 and 5, it still means that you’ve slept away most of the daylight hours. and to an artist this means sleeping away most of the hours available for painting. which is unfortunate. which i did for 3 weeks.

i’m sorry to say that i finished only 4 paintings in the 3 weeks i was there. altho i also did 2 silk paintings, which i have to consider only experimental, since i’m only figuring out how to do silk paintings, altho i really love them. but i came to barcelona to work, and didn’t.

i came to europe so that i could get some work done. i came to europe to figure out whether i wanted to move back to europe. i came to europe to get away from the endless phone calls and meetings and car trips that left me with no time to get any painting done in atlanta. i came to europe to say hello to friends i haven’t seen in years and who knows when i’ll see them again. i came to europe as an excuse to give away everything i owned and start over again without all the trauma of actually starting over again, sort of a shortcut. i came to europe to think, to reevaluate my life, to make decisions about what i want to do for the next while, to make a complete break with old patterns. i came to europe as yet another way of changing my life, which is what i’ve been trying to do for some time. and what i accomplished is…coming to europe.

i figured out that i don’t want to come back here to live, because it’s true that you can’t go home again; you can’t go back. i’m different, europe is different. altho there are loads of differences between normal american thinking and my brand of thought, that’s where i live, and i might as well live there. besides, my kid is there, and i miss her dreadfully.

i’ve seen my friends, i have the rest of this week to see most of the rest of my friends, and then i’m back in america.

i’m going to be in florida during march, thanks to a miracle and a friend, painting and finishing my book (both drafts of which i had on yahoo, which is now gone (momentarily; i believe in miracles, and this miracle is that i can’t lose anything that’s really mine, and thus my address book and my drafts are still mine and will be returned to me, much like the luggage lost from the trip from new york to dublin)).

i’ll be somewhere around atlanta for april and may, for the shows i’m going to do, which will make enough money to get me thru the summer, in residencies in connecticut and georgia, and then another miracle will happen to set me up somewhere miraculous. who’s to say. that’s the thing i’m leaving in god’s hands.

a word about miracles. i’ve been living on miracles since i quit my day job in 2001. the first miracle is that even tho i was sick constantly for months before quitting my day job (now over 2 years ago), i haven’t been sick a single day since then, even tho i’ve felt the back of my throat itch up. i haven’t needed to be sick, and so i haven’t been. i never get sick.

the second miracle is that i’ve been paying the rent, without a day job, for over 2 years now, and in fact made enough in my moving sale to afford to travel to europe for 6 weeks.

the third miracle is that money comes to me when i need it. altho i can’t account for it (which is going to make for some creative footwork when i do my taxes), i have always paid my bills and my rent, mainly on time.

i was panicking every two weeks for a while after quitting my day job, and while all i could see coming in was $15.68 every month from my little gift shop in virginia highlands, nevertheless something strange and unique would happen every 2 weeks, and i would manage to pay my bills. the kicker came when i walked in to willie rae’s restaurant in marietta, where i have some paintings for sale, and ben the owner wrote me a check for exactly the amount of the rent i owed past due. this is when the light went off over my head and i said “duh” and got the point.

the fourth miracle is that i’m always on time. i realized this when i was panicking about getting to my art classes on time early this spring. no matter what time i’d leave for my class, i’d get there just in time. if i left early, there was traffic; if i left late, there was an empty highway. i always got there just in time, and since i realized this, the principle has extended itself into all areas of my life. the point is that once you get the point, once the light goes off over your head and says “duh” and you realize that you’re living in a miracle, you then have an obligation to go, “oh, ok”, and live the miracle.

so now i expect that money will come when i need it, that things always happen when they’re supposed to, that i’m always on time, that god watches over me, and all sorts of things that rational, pessimistic (sorry, realistic) people will spit at.

and i’ve had plenty of fights with friends who will spew when i mention god, and say “feh” when i say miracle, and try and argue me into a rational, pessimistic, realistic frame of mind whenever i get a goofy grin on my face and go on and on about miracles.

because miracles work in my life. and that’s a major tenet in my best selling demotivational handbook, “lazy is good, quit your day job”. miracles happen. you have to rely on miracles if you’re going to quit your day job. in order to leave behind the fearful workaday world of lack and need and greed-is-good, and do whatever altruistic or selfish or indulgent thing you think is probably too good to be true. you have to give yourself over to miracles. you have to be willing, like the “fool” tarot card, like the cartoon character, to walk off the cliff. you walk off the cliff, you don’t look down. and you keep going.

i remember when i was doing this in the beginning, right after i quit my day job, while my money was running out, when if i was in my right mind i would be sending out resumes and waiting by the phone and visiting agent after employment agent, and was instead getting my sleep and painting all day. i thought of that cartoon character who wanders off the edge of the cliff and keeps going. and i kept thinking, “okay, i’m 20 feet from the edge of the cliff, and i’m still walking.” and a couple of weeks later, when i was even deeper in debt and still just painting, and still not panicking, i’d think, “okay, i’m 40 feet from the cliff, and i’m still walking”. and as it went on and on, i remember feeling that it was very interesting that i was not falling. and instead of panicking, instead of looking down, instead of falling, i kept going. i kept walking on thin air, i kept painting, following my dream, kept seeing miracles happen in front of me. and i kept telling my friends, “look at me, i’m the cartoon character, and as long as i don’t look down, i’m going to keep on walking on thin air”. and my friends were either more in the spirit of miracles than i was, or better believers in me than i was, because they didn’t try to talk sense into me, but instead encouraged me to keep walking. they were rooting for me (you know who you are, and i love you, and thank you, and extend that principle to you, as a matter of principle).

which is another part of miracles (if you can believe in a miracle for someone else, it’s more likely to happen. if you’re trying for a miracle, and can’t quite do it for yourself, having someone who believes in you can often do the trick until you catch on). anyway, miracles and how they work is going to be a large part of my book. and miracles happen every day.

i see it happen all around me, i see it happen in my own life. for instance. when i got off the plane in dublin, i was supposed to call brendan. but my plane was delayed. and he was in an important meeting and had his cell phone turned off. so i rang and rang, and there was no answer. so i caught a bus in, and lugged my bags to his house, but he wasn’t there. so i went to his local pub, and asked the barman if he was due in that evening, thinking i’d just sit down and drink the elixir of life (guinness in dublin, a different animal indeed from guinness anywhere else in the world, so rich, so creamy, so delicious). the barman hadn’t a clue where he’d be, but there was a couple at the bar who know him well, and they said go around to the health center where he’s got an office (brendan could choose to be rich, but lives poor, and devotes his spare time to helping the poor and the kids in his neighborhood, another story for my book). well, he was in his meeting, but his girlfriend brigid was there. and she wasn’t supposed to be there. she was supposed to be somewhere else, but had gotten out early and thought to go to the office and return some phonecalls and do some emails, and so she was there. and so she gave me his keys. and so i got into the flat. and it was a miracle.

and miracles happen every day. more tomorrow. it’s been a long day. i’ve had dinner with my sister, i’ve walked around in search of the perfect pair of boots and given up the search, because i don’t need boots, and don’t need to spend my money frivolously, and now i’m tired and want to go to bed.

and so i will. tomorrow i’m starting on a picture of the flats brendan lives in. the city is bulldozing them very soon, and i want to give him something to remember. tomorrow afternoon i’m spending with my sister, who lives in a far richer strata of society than i ever want to, and will go to her house about 40 miles from dublin to spend the night (and avail myself of my first hot bath in a month, and i dearly love hot baths).

so i’ll finish missive this on saturday, when i get back into town.

in fact, it’s the following tuesday afternoon. i’ve found myself an internet cafe i can deal with. the one i was using before was maintained by chinese people who seemed on the rough side of society. here in dublin, there are gangs. but it’s not like gangs as we know them in america. it’s gangs of different nationals. so there are the chinese gangs. and there are the romanian gangs, and the pakistani gangs, and the russian gangs. and they compete with each other, but they also rule over their own. and it’s not wise to get involved, because you never know when you’re violating some gang rule or giving someone a challenge, or getting in the middle of something you know nothing about. i was advised in barcelona that it was fine to take pictures of people on the street, but there was a certain subsegment of middle eastern men who would not be pleased if i were to take their pictures. anyway, i’m in an internet cafe full of irish kids at the moment who are all busy either looking for porn or playing shooting games at 3 euro per hour, which is good for here. the rates were much cheaper in barcelona. everything’s cheaper there.

ireland is an island, which means that everything’s imported. and everyone’s used to this, so they’re also used to everything being more expensive than anywhere else. the prices are in a lot of cases higher than they are in america, which is strange, because nobody makes what they make in america for the work they do.

yes, there’s an 11 year old boy next to me giggling over naked women. ho hum. i told the story of spanish television’s friday night porn while i was with a crowd of people in an irish pub, and altho i was telling it in a rather soft voice to a female friend of mine, everyone at the table stopped whatever they were saying to listen to me, and i got embarrassed about it. their reaction was that there was a really good reason for franco, which was partially a joke, because franco was a fascist and nobody liked him except people who were exceedingly elitist with regard to money and power.

the concept of censorship is accepted here in ireland, because nobody here wants to see strip joints on every corner, and the reaction against child pornography here right now is intense, such that they’re putting people in jail right and left over it. here in ireland they’re reacting against the abuses of the church, which are more psychological than the raw abuse of power exercised by the government of spain.

the difference in culture is amazing. it was a running joke between us in barcelona that no matter which brand of native english speaker you were, there was still the everpresent danger of misunderstanding one another. the poor bartender who got to listen to us every night and try to keep up with his rudimentary english was at a total loss, but he got the joke as well. it’s not only that the same words and phrases mean different things from country to country, but it’s also that the land itself gets in on the act.

take the weather. now, i’ve broght the weather with me, as always. it went into the rainy season in full force the moment i left spain, and it warmed right up the moment i hit irish soil. but that’s not my point. it was cold in barcelona, and because the place isn’t used to cold, even tho it reached the 50s every day, it still felt freezing and everyone walked around as if it were upstate new york in february.

but when i came back here, the highest temperature is in the 50s, and people are wandering around as if it’s almost summer. it’s not just that the people are used to cold all the time, and so every degree of temperature indicates another season, but more like the land itself is used to being a certain temperature.

it rains a lot here. it’s on the cool side a lot here. it’s gray and colorless a lot here.

in barcelona, you expect warmth; you see palm trees and just know that it’s roasting in the summer. everything’s painted a warm mustardy color. here everything’s made of stone, and it’s all gray or red brick, with slate roofs that nobody would think of spending any time hanging around on, when in barcelona you put your laundry there and in the summer you spend most of the evening on the roof as well, with tables and chairs and grills and plants festooned about the place.

in ireland you have a small garden in front of the house and a larger garden in the back, and you look at these things from inside the house where you have a warm peat/coal fire going whenever you can, and endless cups of tea to cheer up your hands. on sunday i went down to bray to spend the day with my old friend kay. i walked across town to get the suburban rail that runs along the coast, and had a lovely time riding the train to where she lives in bray, a little seaside town about 15 miles south of dublin, in another county, and round a whole bend of mountains. we had lunch in a tourist trap that served wonderful food (parsnip roulade, here’s a nice-sounding recipe http://homepage.ntlworld.com/robertseymour3/cheese&parsniproulade.html) , and wandered around afterwards looking at the absolutely outrageous prices on clothing ($100 shirts with a little embroidery on them, made in india, etc). and then we got back in the car and jaunted around the wicklow mountains for hours. over hills and dales.

ireland is a network of twisty turny roads lined with hedges and walls. so that you can’t actually see where you are until you pass by an opening somewhere. and every time you pass by a hole in a hedge or a drive into someone’s house, you see far vistas of field-marked hills, rolling away into the distance, finally butt-up against some huge mountain thing that has only heather on top of it.

you can’t actually stop on the roadside to take a picture, however, because the roads will only take one car, really about 1 7/8 car, at a time. every time another car comes along going the opposite direction, it’s necessary to roll into a ditch on your side, and then roll back onto the road. now, kay is exceedingly good at doing this, and will drive at full speed right past another driver. she’s always enjoyed doing this. and she’s driving on the left hand side of the road, so her instincts are totally different than mine. i would have slowed down to a crawl; she hurtles past.

i long ago realized that clutching the seat and the door handle has no effect on whether you live or die, and only irritates the driver, so i don’t have these habits. instead, i rely on her experience and my seat belt, and the fact that i’m probably not going to die in a car crash, and even if i do – sure don’t you have to die anyway. so i enjoy these little thrills. and concentrate instead on seeing thru the gaps in the hedges and walls so i can ask her to find a spot to pull over, so i can walk back 3 /4 of a mile to take a picture.

i love spain. i am really attracted to the landscape, the mountains, the farmlands. it’s kind of like southern california. but i’m totally in love with ireland. there’s something about the landscape itself that has always captured my heart.

and even tho the people have changed since the european union made everyone rich, and then recent events are making everyone poor again, the land itself is still a bumpy green thing that has me jumping up and down in my seat every time we pass over the top of a hill and see the land laid out before us.

some of wicklow is cute little towns with adorable pubs and itty bitty laneways. part of wicklow is country road with hedges and walls and ancient houses and farms. part of wicklow is mountains-of-the-moon bog, where it’s all brown this time of year, and you could easily get lost and starve to death if you wandered off, there’s that little to guide you.

but i’m back in dublin now, with only another day to go. i’m having dinner with my old artist buddy diarmuid (pronounced dermot) and his wife mary (that.s mary) tonight, and we’ll talk about old times and avoid talking politics. i’m still walking everywhere (losing some of that weight i put on in spain), and still have several photos to take of dear little alleys, but basically i’m spending my remaining time lazing in pubs, reading books, taking notes for my demotivational handbook.

i’m getting my rest, and wondering what’s going to happen next. because, while i have certain plans for the next few months, all my stuff is still in storage, i have no place to stay during april and may, and no idea what i’m going to do as far as the fall show season in atlanta goes, or where i want to settle down after my series of residencies ends.

i could end up anywhere, but i want to stay around allison, so i’ll probably be somewhere within a 6 hour drive of atlanta no matter where i end up. or something.

i’m depending on miracles to land me in the right place. they’ve been working for me so far, and i see no reason not to trust to them even more as time goes on. it’s kind of strange having no home to go to, but, really, nobody really does have a home.

we’re all visitors to this planet, this life, and tho we choose not to see it that way, our lives in general are just a series of miracles, every day.

please do send this to people, because i’ve got very few email addresses, and no way to get them back unless people contact me. i’ve got nothing for memory as far as these things go, and so it’s going to be a slow thing, but then on the other hand, perhaps i was relying too much on keeping in touch via the internet.

i’d write more letters, but my handwriting stumps most people.

see you soon.

love jeanne


  1. […] missive the third – 2/13/3, barcelona, spain. missive the fourth – 2/27/3, barcelona, spain. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: