Friday, March 19, 2004

Inside the Guggenheim, on an overcast day in Bilbao, I surveyed the various works of Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, and other classical and pop art. It was my fourth full day in Spain, and Spanish had finally shifted over in my head as the primary language. I didn't understand it, but I was finally used to its pervasiveness. In Barcelona, one occasionally heard English on the streets, and it was possible to approach strangers in English, if only to be looked at with a frown. But Bilbao was not nearly as accomodating. Spanish and the local Basque dialect, Euskera, dominated the streets and roadsigns. Euskera even had non-Romance language scripts, something which made the place seem much more foreign. We resided in the Casco Viejo; its ancient and curving streets cast a claustrophobic shadow over the town. The light drizzle was depressing and I was pleased to enter a spacious, modern museum.

It was upon this backdrop where I stumbled upon a collection of nonsensical, post-modernist video collages on the museum's top floor. As I investigated the various pieces with a half-lethargic, half-skeptical attitude, I noticed all the screens were speaking in English. As I'd been unable to read the attributing, Spanish plaques, this seemed like an obvious invitation to watch. Perhaps it was the jet lag, or the relentless travelling pace, but it seemed like months since I'd been able to understand anyone other than my friends. I'd only been abroad four days and already I was losing my mind. Clearly this contributed to my sense of amusement in any subject presented in English.

As comprehension burst back into the picture, one video in particular caught my eye. In interspersed, unrelated 30-second shorts, the video blended a series of the same monologue, delivered by very different speakers set in very different landscapes. The most ordinary, yet oddly hysterical clip came just 2 minutes in. A long shot zoomed in on a black man walking down the street, where he eventually passed a white man with a look of pleasant recognition in his face.

White Man: "HEY GARY! HOW ARE YOU?!"
(Black Man continued walking, without acknowledging)
White Man: "Gary? What's wrong?"
Black Man (With a look of disgust and contempt): "I'm not Gary."
End scene.

It was thoroughly perplexing. Perhaps it was intended to be a social commentary on our feeble perspectives and blurred recognition of people of a different race, but it was a rather lame one, if so. I stood there baffled. I couldn't stop laughing at "Not Gary's" expression and tone. He was ridiculously upset over this innocent mistake. As Nick entered, I relayed the nature of the exhibit to him and I convinced him to stay and watch. Everyone else came into the gallery just in time to catch the scene. The entire video cycle took 10 minutes, but it was well worth it to see it again. It doesn't translate well in telling, but for what it's worth, in that fleeting moment, I found comfort in hearing my native tongue and was highly amused by its unintended humor.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Granada is awesome. We spent the day hiking in Alcazar, the preserved remains of an enormous Islamic castle-garden. It was converted when the Christians conquered them, but there´s a whole can of worms to the story I´d prefer not to delve into. In any event, tonight is our last real night of the trip. We head to Malaga late tomorrow afternoon and fly out of there at 7 AM on Sunday, so the plan is just to wait it out at the airport when we arrive. So far on the trip, I´ve read Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, Survivor by Chuck Palanhiuk, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower (the author´s name escapes me). I´ve taken 158 pictures and my portable MP3 player will be out of batteries within one more hour of listening. For the flight home, I will occupy myself with my Spain Guide book, my notebook journal, and the charity of my friends to loan me their discmen. I also require the tolerance of those around me, as I´m out of clean socks and underwear. Vaya con dios.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I´m in Sevilla, I´ll be sleeping in a communal TV room alone tonight, because we couldn´t find a room anywhere in the city. Rough stuff, but I´ll be home soon.