Chronicle Foretold: Rehabbing Andalucía to NYC via Aer Lingus & Homeland Security
Dear Internet, Granada, Spain—Sept 15, 2013
... now for the return trip, retracing our steps in reverse, in english. Picking up from where we left off, our second day in Granada we went to see the Alhambra. J went with her colleagues the day before on some sort of organized tour that sounded awkward so we figured we'd see it on our own. Even went early, meandering through the city & then up a steep trail we remember from last time we were here some seven years ago.
Got up there & was looking around some & then got to an area where they were asking for tickets. Evidently the ticket kiosk is at the bottom of the hill on the road where all the tour busses & cars park. Thoroughly annoying. We saw a way to sneak in but it didn't seem worth it. Saw what we could without a ticket & then went back down past hordes of tour groups. Even if we did want to go in (at this point we were so disgusted we decided not) the tickets had sold out for the morning. So no Alhambra this trip, at least not by our own paid admission.
We kept walking up the hill past the Alhambra until tourist traffic thinned out & there were only locals on mountain bikes & then it turned to a dirt road through olive groves. Kept walking up & eventually into this network of trails. Wound around down to La Silla del Moro, overlooking down on the Alhambra.
Evidently in the not so distant past, gypsies (a.k.a. roma or romani) were squatting in the Alhambra (& why not, they have just as much right to it as the Spanish government ... though presumably the latter is doing a better job of preserving it in it's Disneyesque exploitation). After they were kicked out of the Alhambra, the gypsies occupied caves on the nearby hill, but it seems they've recently been smoked out of these ... strange how, just like in Rome, these gypsy camps mysteriously get burnt down?
Would've kept hiking further up but we were only wearing flip-flops. As it was, the goat trails were at times treacherous, a few times down-climbing sketchy cliffs with the help of trees. Our trusty orange flip-flops have served us well ... got them for a few bucks about ten years ago & have been everywhere with them.
Ended up in Albayzín, the old Arabic quarter & la Ladera del Zenete. Meandered through the alleys trying to find ones we hadn't discovered yet. As we mentioned in the last post, 7 years ago these streets used to be chock full of quality graffiti, but now they've been cleaned up quite a bit, whitewashed.
We showed some comparative photos in the last post of before & after. Can't decide what's more interesting/artistic—graffiti or graffiti removal. Seems to be a never-ending battle here. Even saw some freshly discarded spray paint cans, and guys (unconscious artists) with white paint & clorox cleaning walls.
Walked around the city more. Was looking for a bookstore but it was Sunday & everything was closed. Met some of j's colleagues for dinner & then ran into others (including this guy) & then there were 8 or so of us, drinking wine, beer & orujo (like grappa but even better) & eating paella & tapas until the restaurant closed on us. Then went to see Flamenco at Un Chien Andalou. Intense stuff. Not sure who the musicians were, but they kept calling the dancer 'guapa Maria'.
Didn't get back from An Andalusian Dog home until 2:30 or so, then had to wake up at 6 AM. J had to give a talk at whatever meeting she was going to. After that she was going straight to the airport, so i & i figured i may as well head on back to Málaga. Ran into a colleague of j's that was also going south, on the 7 AM bus, so i said my goodbyes to j & got in a taxi with him. Managed to get a seat on the bus. Still dark out, but couldn't sleep, just sort of zoned out in the darkness watching the sun rise over Andalucía. Got into Málaga around 9 & got a room. Found a bookstore, bought Poeta en Nueva York by Federico García Lorca & also his Dibujos Como Poemas, & also Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez & El Pozo Y Las Ruinas by Jimena Néspolo (all in Spanish of course).
Flâneured around the city center some—nothing in particular that interesting as far as touristic sights. All these European cities start to look the same to me. What's interesting is what's walled up behind the corrugated sheets of tin & makeshift construction barriers. Most of these subsequent photos were taken by holding my camera over the tops of these fences so we could see what was in there ...
Pablo Picasso & Antonio Banderas are from Málaga. Tried to go to the Picasso museum but it's closed mondays. Did see the apartment where he was born & lived until he was 20 or so (& then never went back, if that says anything). There was some kitsch on display & some god-awful pottery he made, otherwise not a lot.
Not a lot of graffiti/street art in Málaga, at least visible from the street, though we did come across this fine goat:
Like Granada, apparently much of Málaga is being 'rehabilitated'. Many houses unoccupiable. Lots of demolition & construction, whole streets, blocks, under renovation. Buildings reinforced in the interim to keep them from collapsing, the exposed brick sprayed with some sort of orange foam.
Lots of panhandlers & people loitering with nothing to do, in particular mother's begging, saying their children can't find work but were looking. Otherwise, as we mentioned in the last post, the visible signs of the 'crisis' are not so obvious. People eating well, drinking cheap beer, talking on cell phones & driving cars, but they just seem generally preoccupied, like there is a heavy weight masking everything.
Went for a run along the waterfront, to the harbor where i saw the massive Costa Fortuna (whose sister Costa Concordia is being resurrected as we speak) pushing off from the docks. Then ran along the beach & even did some exercises on the par course equipment they have set up on the boardwalk. Then a refreshing dip in the sea, swimming way out into the blue, the same waters that Picasso swam in as a youngen. Then went back out later for fish barbecued on the beach near the lighthouse, a dorado & also sardines, with peppers & olives.
Meanwhile, j's flight was delayed which caused her to miss her connection so she is stuck in Madrid & being rerouted to London to spend the night in Heathrow. Flying really sucks in this day & age. We seem to have ended up in Spain a lot the last few years. Here's the video that was finally posted of j's acceptance speech for the prize she got, the reason for our visit last October.
Even though j left more than 24 hours before me, i'm catching up, in this 'Amazing Race' sort of race. She got diverted to Heathrow & there were no hotels with vacancy (it's fashion week in London) & they closed the airport (after she stood in line 2 hours to clear UK immigration). Evidently some nice Brits in a coffee shop let her sleep on their couch. And now she appears to be on her flight (no emails from her otherwise) so will beat me back to NYC ... but she is going straight to teach a class at Columbia so i might beat her home after all. Pobrecita, after a few hours of sleep our last night in Granada, she's gone from lecture to lecture with nothing in between except waiting around airports (or outside of them) & on planes going elsewhere but our destination.
My passage back has been relatively easier & purposeless ... woke up leisurely, got a coffee at the only open coffeeshop (run by Chinese so i had to basically teach them how to make it). Then the subway to the airport, dealing with incompetent Spaniards at the Aer Lingus check-in on behalf of hundreds of old Irish folks just politely standing around not knowing where to queue up. All for a boarding pass they wouldn't let me get online. Thru security which dumps you straight into the duty-free shops, pretty funny, a twist on 'exit through the giftshop'—enter through the duty-free shop—all these travellers with bulky roller bags & backpacks trying to navigate through precariously piled displays of expensive perfumes & alcohol.
Started to read Los Estratos by Colombian writer Juan Cardenas, but was too descriptive & operates on too many levels (as the title would imply). Seems interesting but too hard for me to stick with it amidst such distraction. So switched to Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada, by the more famous Colombian, Gabriel García Márquez—a much easier read, especially since we already read it in english a long time ago (as Chronicle of a Death Foretold). In fact, it's the perfect book to read if your Spanish is not up to snuff as there's little danger of getting lost—you know who dies & who killed him from the beginning. From there it's just a matter of filling in the details.
And the style in which he writes is very clear & matter of fact, told as if the unnamed narrator is a reporter. But then there'll be these random 'magical' passages thrown in which are amusing—that 'did we really just read what we thought we read' sensation is heightened in a foreign tongue, mixed with the lost in translation affect. We actually got a spanish-english dictionary (for when we didn't have internet access), but every time we've gone to look up a word it's not in there, even though it's good-sized dictionary, not pocket-sized. It's better anyway, to learn by context—if you see a word enough in various contexts you can surmise the meaning by triangulation.
The guy that gets shot, Santiago Nasar, is of Arabic origin, which on the first reading didn't occur to me as strange, but thinking now it seems a sort of spin on Camus's The Stranger (that we recently re-read in Cambodia). We know who kills Nasar, but we don't know why, or we know why (brotherly jealousy), but we don't know if the reasons are justified. So there's this thread of somewhat meaningless & unjustified violence against Arabs in both books—what's with that? And the voice through which it is told, an almost scientific omnipresent narrator, exaggerates the sense that there's more to this than a simple murder mystery, but that that the whole community is responsible for allowing it to happen.
... i spoke to soon, about my flight being easy. And also speaking of being wrongly accused ... the Aer Lingus flight from Málaga to Dublin went without a hitch, except i noticed that the boarding pass for the next flight to NYC had a boarding time of 5 minutes before we were scheduled to land (even though our flight to Dublin was ahead of schedule). The old Irish dude next to me noticed & as we were getting off he kept telling me to just push my way off & tell everyone i had a connection to make, but we told him no worries, that the actual scheduled departure was more than an hour away, but then he starts yelling, «everyone step aside & let the lad thru, he's going to New York City». Of course that didn't accomplish much except get me a lot of glares. Hustled as much as i could, though a security check & when i went to check the monitors for my gate it just said to proceed to US CUSTOMS PRECLEARANCE.
Whatever, followed the signs. By this time there were other frantic passengers trying to push past me until someone pointed out that we were all on the same flight 109 to NYC. Safety in numbers, the flight wouldn't leave without us. Through another security check & then US customs/immigration. This is where things took a turn. The customs woman swiped my passport & asked the usual questions, then paused, looking at her screen & called one of the security guards over & told him to escort me to so & so's office.
I was taken into a side room & told to sit down & wait. Then some redneck with a buzzcut & attitude to go with it started asking all the same questions over & over—where did we go, why did we go, what we did for a living, etc. Even started asking in detail about the nature of the books we published, maybe we gained a reader ... but i'm guessing not. The whole time buzzcut asshole took copious handwritten notes. When i asked if i was being detained for any particular reason he didn't say anything. When i expressed concern about missing my flight, which was boarding, he said, «don't worry, you won't miss your flight ... if you just cooperate.»
OK, fine. I took a seat & chilled out while he 'made some calls,' casually chatting with people. Then he asked more questions, rewordings of the same questions over & over, as if i was a lying criminal & he might break me. The three things that seemed to really bother this buzzcut asshole were 1. that i didn't have a landline, only a cellphone. 2. that i didn't checks any bags & most importantly, 3. that i was travelling with a one-way ticket.
Buzzcut Asshole wanted to know all the flight information, to & fro, how i purchased the tickets, what credit cards i used. So i told him how i flew to Málaga from Newark on a free ticket that i got from United, but didn't have enough miles for the return, so i purchased this one-way on Aer Lingus. He asked all about our partner in crime, j, what she did, why she was in Granada, & why we were flying separately. Kept asking me if i was sure i didn't have any other bags, and if so, why? Because i travel light, since when is that a crime? He asked what exactly i was bringing back from Spain. I answered: 4 books, opened my satchel & showed him the 4 above-mentioned books & my laptop & dirty change of clothes. He didn't have much interest in looking further in my bag or searching me, which is weird, why else would i be detained? He asked how much money i had ... i opened my wallet & counted it out for him, 65 euros & 28 dollars & change. Then he told me to take a seat again, that he needed to make a few more calls.
He went into another room where i could see him but couldn't really hear him, he seemed to be talking to someone higher up, called him sir, relaying the information he'd scribbled on the notepad, looking at a computer screen ... who knows, maybe they were reading this blog. Or maybe i was flagged because of this blog (in particular this post). By this time there were 3 or 4 others working the case (all Americans btw, stationed or flown in to Dublin—your hard-earned money at work keeping our country free of terrorists), coming in & out, talking to Buzzcut Asshole, glancing at me through the glass. Any questions or small talk on my part were met with silence. Except they let me use the bathroom & get a drink of water. A few others, an Italian guy & an older Russian couple came thru, but all they needed to do was to identify that some baggage was in fact theirs & vouch for the contents.
This went on for about an hour, my departure time came & went. Aer Lingus was calling them, we could hear the agent at the front desk answer back, «yes, we have one back here» & she said my name in a hushed tone. By this time i didn't give a shit—i could only laugh at the absurdity of it all. I got nothing to hide except me & my monkey. Aer Lingus called back again & said the flight was leaving. «Just give us five more minutes» this other US customs guy said, then went to tell Buzzcut Asshole. Things got a bit more urgent, uniformed people running around, others came in to relay more questions. Finally Mr. Buzzcut Asshole comes out & hands me my passport. I asked, «is there anything i should know for future reference?» To which he just responded, «you need to RUN» ... no explanation, nada. Not that i pressed the issue, because running is one thing i'm good at & if someone tells me to run i run.
The take-away message from all this? If you fly one-way, expect to be interrogated or strip-searched. We've actually flown one-way on Aer Lingus before, but that wasn't a problem because we were flying one-way from the U.S. (to Rome) without a return ticket.
Buzzcut Asshole escorted us to the door & pointed in the direction we needed to run. We took off at a sprint. Down a long corridor, at the end of which some security guys were urging me to hurry, waving at me like third-base coaches but then telling me i needed to go thru security yet again, «take off your shoes, take the laptop out of your bag, but hurry!». It was bizarre. Thru the metal detector, slipped my running shoes back on & took off running again, down another long corridor. I could see the red-headed Aer Lingus people at the gate now, yelling at me to «RUN FASTER!» Seriously. I was almost offended, i mean, i take pride in my running ability & was in a full-on sprint, my satchel flapping at my side. They told me they were closing the doors & that i needed to hurry, as if the doors were irreversibly closing on their own accord & there was nothing they could do. And indeed guys in orange vests were in the process of closing the doors, just as i slipped through.
And then i became that asshole you've undoubtedly seen, when the plane can't leave because they are waiting for one passenger. Everyone glaring at me as i made my way down the aisle. «It's not my fault!» i said to no in particular. «You have our wonderful homeland security to thank for delaying our flight» ... which did little to put them at ease. Some dude in a suit was making himself comfortable in my window seat, 42K, sprawled out with his computer & papers. Fricking vultures. He went back to his inside aisle seat & our consolation prize is that i have a 2-seater to myself, where i sit now. Except Aer Lingus makes it so you can't put the seat divider up, so no laying down. Despite having the coolest name ever, Aer Lingus sucks. They serve one round of drinks (at a price, of course) & after that you have to walk all the way to the front of the plane («please don't bother the attendants sleeping in the back» they'd announce on the intercom that kept feeding back) to get water, but no more drinks. They blamed it on US regulations.
Started to read Lorca's Poeta en Nueva York & Néspolo's & El Pozo Y Las Ruinas, but both were a bit heavy & my brain was fried. Started to watch some Terrence Malick film with Ben Affleck, but it was too pretentious & slow, like all his movies. Watched all of 42 even though it was terribly made. Tried to sleep some without much luck. I was in the middle of watching some documentary on cross-species communication & relationships, but then colonel Lingus turned off the entertainment system with like an hour left, again blaming it on regulations (even though other airlines let you watch until you land). I think i missed my calling—if i could do it all over again, i would've gone into the field of cross-species communications, especially when animals adopt other species of animals as their own & what the language must be like between them (see also our Nurturing the Language Instinct post).
Landed at JFK, air-trained to the subway, A train to 125th street. As always, glad to be home, surrounded by weird people of diverse backgrounds, with abounding opportunities if you set your mind to it. Makes Europe seem so boring & homogeneous & conservative in comparison. Went straight to Bettolona to meet j, without even going home first. Ends up she also got flagged by homeland security, was grilled & quasi-strip-searched, twice—taken to a private room where they frisked her & scrutinized her dirty underwear. At what cost is this freedom & 'security'? And yet another shooting on US soil. They take all these measures & violate us, our privacy & rights, when the one right they can take away that would make a difference (in regards to 'homeland security')—the right to bear arms—they won't touch with a 10-foot pole.
To everyone else, the Brooklyn Bookfair is this saturday. We screwed up & ordered two copies of Pynchon's The Bleeding Edge, so we'll give it to the first person that visits our table (#27) & asks. We also have an extra copy of Motorman in Spanish, free to anyone who wants it. Of course there'll also be plenty of Calamarion on hand ...
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