Wednesday, November 27, 2002

And now a special Thanksgiving edition of Dilettante, straight at you from the heart of Barcelona, just off Las Ramblas. It�s been a rocky, wonderful, tumultuous trip so far--in many ways the honeymoon is eerily reminiscent of the relationship it celebrates, in that it has been so full of highs and lows that eventually you don�t know if you are dying from beauty and wonderfulness or just wishing to put a bullet in your head from the brightness of it all.

We came in on an evening flight to find our room, an extremely modest pension in the Barri Gotic quarter. JM booked the accommodations, and somehow I had failed to take into account that my wife is BUDGET TRAVEL WARRIOR EXTRAORDINAIRE!, so she feels, for example, that television and toilets are luxuries for the weak and decadent. The light was a flickering florescence just beginning to fail, the room had no power outlets and the two tiny beds made of plywood and some sort of stretched out muslin. And those are the good qualities--to get to the Death Room you need to walk down a long hall where the lights have gone dead, until you reach the dim outlines of your cell.

As you might imagine, we then had an excellent fight--I was sullen and bitchy, she was haughty and imperious, and when the dust settled we had a new room (my idea) in the same hotel (my concession). The new room was a lot better--no scary hallway, some better lighting, a balcony, a luxurious double bed...still spare, but a long way from horrifying death trap.

We were exhausted, so we laid down to take a nap...and upon awakening, my bride had lost the ability to move. JM has a bad back which rears its head from time to time, but in this case it had really outdone itself--a brand new kind of pain, and a whole side of her body was basically immobile. I had images in my mind of our future: we would live in this pension, and every morning I would carry her down to Las Ramblas, the exciting main drag of Barcelona where she would sit, begging for change as a paralytic cripple while I cavorted at her feat, dressed in an excellent macaque monkey costume, screaming out my love and pickpocketing tourists.

It wasn�t as funny as all that, though--she really couldn�t move, and somehow we had lost all our ibuprofen and about 30 euros on our transit from London to Spain, leaving us drugless and cash-light. I really started to consider that this might be serious--JM is a dramatic lady, but she was in real pain, and I wasn�t certain what kind of injury she had.

I hoisted her up slowly, in a sort of winching method the macaques are known for, until she was finally standing after ten minutes. Then we got out the door and up the street, where the wisdom of JM�s hotel-choosing became apparent: EVERYTHING is open all night long, and within close walking distance to our hotel. We managed to get superstrong ibuprofen from an all night pharmacy, some wine and tapas and a small pizza before stumbling home at 3am, where we slept...and mercifully, in the morning my wife had been spared. She�s not dancing yet, but it looks like we�ll make it through the rest of the trip.

Barcelona is amazing--so much color everywhere, and the public art is outstanding. I love the clean lines of the buildings, and the elegant integration of the gothic architecture with modern glass, steel and less-modern explosions of Modernist�s a visual feast. The market near our hotel is just fantastic, with all the foods on earth laid out in perfect precision, fruit displayed with a precision reserved for moon landings--apples go here, oranges here, and the plums are lined up in their small and perfect cradles, each to each. The plazas are everything I�ve hoped for: smaller than Madrid, but lit up with the same Mediterranean light beneath the unexpected grace of palm trees that look as though they�ve sprung from the land overnight, shooting up impossibly high and thin into the sky.

We haven�t seen anything, and we�ve seen everything: we�re on honeymoon, and that informs all our choices. We don�t seem to ever keep any schedule, never know when we are going to wake up or go to bed, but at the same time there is a restless peace I haven�t felt in years--we are doing what we want when we want it. Tomorrow we will be seeing many of Gaudi�s masterpieces and the palaces of Catalunya on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Though I know we will spend this day well, I keep thinking about my family, especially our family in Seattle where we spend each Thanksgiving with the Dovers, a drunken orgy of love and well-wishing...I hope that it goes off well, and I�ll be thinking of all of them as we do our best to find some turkey and mashed potatoes out here. I have a lot to be thankful for, but mostly I�m just thankful to be at this place in my life, with my wife for whom I give thanks every day.