The Train in Spain

I’m sitting now as the sky gradually brightens, watching the landscape slip past my window. Barcelona is apporaching, another big city, but we’re not staying the night there. Tonight we will be on a boat, splashing around in the Mediterranean.

This has been a most pleasant train ride — smooth and quiet, augmented by the chicken and Russian beer Cassius scored as we waited to depart. Mmm… chicken. While on the train of course we had to go visit the club car (bar number 120), where we paid too much for beer but both agreed that there was some special charm in sitting in a bar and all the while getting somewhere. We hatched a couple of hare-brained ideas to exploit this good feeling — but those belong in the Get-Poor-Quick category, which has been languishing of late.

Not an eventful journey, but certainly a pleasant one.


Perhaps because Granada (map) is a large city, it appeals less to me. Perhaps it appeals to a sort of tourism I’m not as good at. It’s just that, for all the old things lying around, Granada is modern.

1492 was a big year in this town, as Ferdinand and Isabella finally gained control of the last of the Moorish holdout and set up their own shop here. (The former Calif was given a very large estate for his cooperation, and the Spanish promised to treat the Muslims well. They did for a little while, anyway.) Not long after that Columbus returned from the New World and fun was had by all. Some of the older Moorish architecture remains, and I find it much more pleasing than the imposing Spanish buildings that came later. It’s a shame that most of the mosques in the region were knocked down and replaced with cathedrals.

The biggest attraction in town, perhaps in all of Andalucia (Southern Spain) is The La Alhambra (As long as the Spanish are adding “La” in front of “Al”, I thought I’d go ahead and tack on a “The”). Some of the Moorish architecture in the old palaces is quite remarkable, especially the incredibly intricate molded stucco; I wished I could read the floral arabic writing all over the walls. The carved stone of the domes and arches was beautiful, and must have been a hell of a lot of work.

Courtyard with graceful pillars
Intricate stucco
The gardens were nice too, but hell, this isn’t a tour guide site. If you’re curious, go look up Alhambra in Wikipedia or wherever. I did take some pictures, the least sucky of which are now up in my gallery. (You can click any of these pictures to see a larger version, and if you just have to have the full-sized version of any image in the gallery, just ask.)

So that was groovy, a few hours well-spent, and there are lots more places in town (old churches, etc.) that we could poke our noses into, but I’m not that much of a nose-poker. I like to relax and get the feel for a place, but I haven’t managed that here, yet. I think it’s the bigness. I have put a lot of miles on the hiking shoes; if I keep this up I’ll get healthy. I better go find a beer somewhere.

Viva Zapata!

Last night I went to a place I really, really, liked. It’s not going to translate to the written word completely, but allow me to introduce you to one of the pinnacles of human society, the tapas bar.

In most parts of the world, one goes to a restaurant and orders a meal, or one goes to a bar and (perhaps) has snacks. The Spanish, however, don’t want to rush, they don’t want to be presented with a big pile of food, wolf it down, and then leave. Oh, no. Down here, not being in a hurry has been raised to an art form. If you’re going to spend a pleasant few hours in a place, perhaps chat with friends, perhaps read a book, you will drink slowly but steadily, and you will eat the same way.

Many bars here will have on display a limited variety of tasty little dishes that you can order for a reasonable price. It’s not always obvious what those dishes are, but there is generally food that fits any level of adventurousness. You can order several things at once, or you can periodically have another dish.

Zapata is somewhat unusual; many of the delicacies on display were uncooked, and prepared on order. Also unusual was that their menu actually reflected what they had, and they had some good, stuff, let me tell you. The Monteditas (little sandwiches) were a good value and really, really, tasty, especially the Zapata (pork, cheese, and stuff) and the salmon with roquefort.

We stayed quite a while, enjoying the atmosphere, some good wine, and nibbling on a wide variety of tapas. It doesn’t get much better than that. So if you find yourself wandering the streets of Cadíz and come across the place, do yourself a favor and pop in.


This afternoon found us in Cadíz, a port city on the Atlantic in southern Spain. Cadíz and Seville were boom towns back in the day, as most of the wealth extracted from the colonies in the New World passed through here. It all started with Christopher Columbus himself, who set out on more than one of his famous voyages from this port.

We arrived not by tiny leaking ocean-going boat, but by air-conditioned motor coach. We walked the perimeter of the old part of the city, and it’s quite nice. I took lots of pictures, and beyond that, there’s not much to report. Beautiful city. Many streets closed to vehicular traffic. Huge Carnival celebrations, apparently. Lots of streets with no cars. Lunch was good and it was cheap. They have the deepest, longest siesta I have yet encountered.

Those are the facts, and today, that’s all you get. Come on over and see it for yourself (or wait for the pictures, if any of them don’t suck).

All right, all right, I’ll give you this: I’m sitting at a sidewalk caf

Lazy day in Vejer

Street in vejer It’s an indication of just how good my life is that I can sit in a congenial tapas bar in a beautiful village in southern Spain (map), nibble good food, nurse beers out over a long stretch, watch the old men goof around, and call it work. I’m taking a brief break from writing, but I’ll be getting back to it in just a moment, after I decide what to nibble next. Electricity may be the limiting factor on my work day; I came out without a full charge, and outlets are few and far between. Still, I’ll nurse things along as far as I can, and I can always resort to writing things by hand. Crazy, I know, but if the cavemen could write on paper, so can I.

One thing I’ve noticed — in these little places, empty chairs at the tables along the wall are turned out into the room, rather than facing the table. It’s a subtle thing, and I doubt people here give it much thought at all, but the message is clear to me: even at the edges, you are encouraged to face into the room and be a part of all that is going on.

I hope, wherever you are, that your day is going as well as mine.

Road Trip to Gibraltar

It was a very pleasant day. I spent the morning puttering around, writing, then exploring Vejer. I stumbled across an Internet place and checked email, although the urgency has gone out of that. I found a little watering hole and, after watching as three people helped a woman negotiate her small car around and extremely tight corner (a forty-three point turn, I believe), I settled in and had a small beer and worked for a bit on Elephants of Doom. Overall, not a bad use of a morning and early afternoon.

I didn’t spend as much time at that bar as I would have liked; this day I had an actual schedule. At 13 o’clock I met with Cassius and his acquaintance Gabriel. Through the grapevine these two had stumbled on an opportunity to visit a guy in Gibraltar (map) and pitch a Web project for the government there. Gabriel is English but lives in a village near here, and has a car. At the appointed hour we hiked to his car, piled in, and headed out. We rolled past hundreds of giant wind turbines (“The same environmentalists who wanted them now want them to be taken down. They are chopping up birds, especially raptors.”) and windswept beaches (“This town is famous for its kite surfing, but the wind will drive you crazy. It is the only village in Spain with its own nut-house.”) and finally the rock came into view, with ships clustered around it, including a large cruise ship at dock.

Gibraltar from our lunch table We parked near the border and found a place to grab a lunch. It was a nice little tapas bar with all kinds of fresh seafood. We ordered too many things, and it seemed the guy was waiting for us to finish each one before starting to prepare the next thing. Each item was delicious. The bread was straight out of the oven, the octopus tender and succulent, the white fish of some sort light and tasty, and so on. The meal stretched out, which wasn’t a problem except that Cassius and Gabriel had an appointment. Finally it came time to leave, and Cassius went to settle up the tab. The conversation, he reports, went something like:

“We’d like to pay now.”
“You have to finish chewing first.”
“We’d like to pay now.”
“You have to finish chewing first.”

Apparently we were not allowed to continue nibbling after payment was made. Or something like that. Finally we were given a number, higher than expected but then again the portions had been bigger than expected, and payment became problematic. They wanted as close to exact change as possible, and that turned out to be a challenge for us. Finally pooling all our small change together we hit the right number and were free to go.

We crossed the border (where only a cursory glance at the cover of our passports was required) and we were in the United Kingdom. We took a taxi to where their meeting was to take place, selected a pub to meet at afterward, and I headed off to explore the town.

Gibraltar is small, but on the not-cliff side of the rock people are packed into the town area, leaving the flatter areas for industry. I ambled downhill and found the Road of Commerce. This road is the reason the cruise ship stops here, not the spectacular scenery farther up the hillside. The town is a massive duty-free shop, and this road is the center. Closed to vehicles, it was thronged with tourists, popping from shop to shop, loading up on booze and electronics. Tourists and schoolgirls. School must have just let out, because there were schoolgirls everywhere, in their modest maroon skirts and white tops, traveling in gaggles, laughing about whatever it is schoolgirls laugh about.

I grew tired of this press of humanity and turned uphill. Quickly I was in a somewhat run-down residential area. For all the money moving around down below, not much of it seemed to be making its way up to these apartment buildings. The streets were narrow and connected by staircases, and I began to doubt my ability to find the designated pub in time. I decided I’d best turn my wandering in that direction, although often I had little control over which direction I went. Several times I had to negotiate with cars in the narrow streets. I found the right pub, convinced myself it wasn’t the right pub, went down to the avenue of shameless commerce (less crowded now), found landmarks, and went back to the right pub. I had just sat down with a John Smith Bitter (ahhh… bitter) when the others showed up. Naturally they had to have a beer also, then we all headed out to explore.

Macaque in regal pose It was generally agreed that up (into the steeper parts of the rock, which was a park) was better than down. Eventually we did a fairly long hike up and around, affording us spectacular views of shipping and industry. Up had definitely been the right choice. There is a network of caves up there, but they were closed. (Gibraltar eschews the siesta and things close at 5pm. What utter barbarians.) On the way back down we met some macaques, the only wild monkeys in Europe. They are wild only in the sense that they can sleep wherever they like. The sun was getting lower, and the monkeys were hanging out on the outskirts of town, waiting for the right moment to descend for an evening of foraging. I imagine it would be right tricky to keep a monkey out of your trash bin. As we walked on, we turned to see a macaque following about 50 feet behind us, and two more following behind that one, evenly spaced, like a platoon of soldiers moving into dangerous territory.

I got some very, very close pictures; we’ll see how they turn out. We returned to the border on foot, which involves crossing the runway at the Gibraltar airport. When we got there the red don’t walk man was on and the gate was closed. We had to wait for a British Airways jet to taxi and take off before we were allowed to cross.

Finally we got back to the car and I, for one, was glad to be off my feet for the journey home.

Vejer de la Fronteria

Vejer Vejer (map) is what is called a “White Villiage”. Perched on a hilltop, the buildings cluster and pile upon one another, and are all painted white. It is a small town, but it is dense, the city is folded upon itself; the streets and alleys twist and writhe, climbing from layer to layer. Many streets are too narrow for cars, even some of the ones people drive on. It is breezy up here, mitigating what would be a harsh sun.

From the roof of the place I am staying one can see a long, long, way — all the way to Africa, in fact. Beyond a shimmering stretch of Atlantic rise the hills of Morocco.

The bus deposited me here during Siesta, so there were only a few places open. I wandered for a bit, up and down the steep streets. There were few other pedestrians, but there were kids roaring around on scooters and atv’s. Occasionally a car would have to wait while I trudged up a road to a place wide enough for me to get out of the way. Once siesta was over I walked back down to the tourist office, found where an Internet shop was, and sent Cassius and email telling him where I would be. Then, there was nothing for me to do but be there. I sat on the sidewalk outside the bar. (Inside was crowded and smoky — there was bullfighting on the TV. I was curious, but I needed to keep an eye on the plaza.)

I was sitting by one of the only two-way roads in the old part of town, but the downhill side was blocked by illegally parked cars. There seemed to be an unwritten rule among the illegal parkers, however, to leave occasional gaps long enough to allow downhill cars to duck out of the way when they met an uphill car. This worked 80% of the time, but more than once the downhill car would have to go into reverse and back up into the plaza to make way for the uphill car. If someone was behind the downhill car, they would have to back up as well. If someone were behind them… well you get the idea. A parade in reverse. The two locals who were out there with me would heckle and call out to friends as the cars did their delicate dance.

There is a big parking lot at the edge of town. There should be a big sign: “Welcome to Vejer. Leave your car here, for the love of Pete.” If it could handle the steep hills and paving stones, this may actually be a place where owning a Segway would make sense.

Once Cassius found me we settled in and went out to a place he knows nearby, then stopped into another that he had never seen open before. The first was nice, the second contrived and tacky, which gave us plenty to talk about. Most of the people in the second place were speaking English, few in the first place were. Fun was had by all.


Two things to know when you visit Seville: first, on the ubiquitous tourist map, north is not up, and second, don’t take anything personally.

I didn’t realize the thing about the map on the first day, simply because I didn’t really care where I was anyway. I set out in the correct direction relative to the train station, got to the center of town, got lost, found a hotel, and hung out. It wasn’t until today, when I had a specific place to be, that the map caused problems. As a result, I spent a couple of hours I could have been seeing cool things being lost. Oh, well.

As for “don’t take it personally,” I had been warned ahead of time that the residents here can be downright rude. I met a couple of very friendly, helpful people, but there were a couple of times I experienced the true Seville welcome. I think there is a dictionary of the looks they give you that I don’t know. I went into a little place to buy a bottle of water. There were other people there, so I set the water on the counter. The girl behind the counter stopped what she was doing and looked at me. To me, the look meant, “What do you want?” Apparently the look meant “You need to stand there a bit longer.” I opened my mouth to say that there was nothing besides the water, and she interrupted with “Just a moment.” Fine. She took money from the guy standing next to me, gave him change, and stopped. She stood, unmoving, looking at me. “This is—” I started. “JUST A MOMENT!” “Ok! Ok!” I said, waving my hands. She stood longer, waiting to see if I would say anything more, then very, very, slowly started to fill the other guy’s order, pausing every now and then to stare at me.

Not long after that I was in an electronics store, and the clerk looked past the people standing in front of me and hit me with a stare. Were it not for the fact that the others moved out of the way for me, I never would have recognized “May I help you?”

But that, I suppose, is Seville.

The city itself is impressive, and I regret only scratching the surface. The city center is one of the largest pre-car warrens of alleys I’ve ever seen, and it is great fun to just wander around. There are beautiful gardens and parks, and that Mediterranean sun just can’t be beat. But while I’d like to stay, Vejer calls and I must answer.

One the way to Spain!

My journey was no exception to this axiom, as I stayed at the Little Café Near Home (LCNH) after the game. I was just packing up my hardware when the guy at the next table tried to strike up a conversation with me. I think he was asking how I got the Internet there. That’s the question I answered, anyway (I don’t). The woman he was with did speak English (I got extra points for asking where her dog Dina was tonight), and we ended up talking until LCNH closed. I had always assumed the two were a couple, and he did refer to her as his přitelkinÄ› (which is a little more familiar than kamarada), so when another guy joined us and started hitting on her (and then some) I was a bit surprised.

The sound of the alarm was most unwelcome this morning. “Here we go,” I said as I hauled my sorry butt out of bed and considered the things I had delayed this trip for, still not done. I’ve had a bit of a cold the last three days, and that completely undermined the “boo-yah” attitude I needed, and the thought of going in to town to chase down things I needed was just too much. I’m sure I’ll feel much better about shopping on my way back from the airport when I return.

Statistically, more people stand in the fast line than in the slow line. Today I didn’t notice the sign over the counter that said (in Czech, of course) “Counter for people with bizarre problems we’ve never seen before”. The graying woman in line in front of me actually started shouting at poor Lucie, the woman who had to deal with a homemade dog carrier that had sharp posts sticking up and the wheels came off of. I have no idea what the problem was with the next group, but eventually it required a conference of several people to resolve. That’s when the next lady started shouting. I had to chuckle; the speed of the line was not going to affect what time we landed in Madrid. Finally things started moving again, at least until the shouting woman got there. There was some problem with her ticket, but fortunately this time it was resolved more quickly.

Now I’m sitting at the gate, and as I typed that last sentence the guy with the homemade dog carrier got summoned to the counter. Apparently he’s not out of the woods yet.


I’m in Madrid!

As I walked down the aisle in the plane, I thought, “Damn! There’s even less leg room that usual. Then I got to my row – an exit row! Horray! Once I was wedged between the other two guys, the flight attendant came by to give us the spiel about how to open the door in an emergency. “Czech? English? She asked. “Czech” the guy on the aisle said. She’s Pretty, I thought. I listened with rapt attention as she told us how dozens of lives, including our own, could hang in the balance. I nodded in understanding. Blue eyes, I thought. Luckily there were no emergencies on the flight, and the door remained safely sealed.

Continuing with a theme, there were two lines for passport control; only after I was trapped did I realize the other line was being serviced by two windows, while mine was serviced by only one – and there was some kind of problem with the guy at the window. There was quite a bit of consternation when some people were told to fill out a form and go to the back of the line – there had been nothing to indicate that anyone needed to fill out anything. I figured that would be my fate, too, but apparently not. I wonder where those guys were from.

After a few nervous moments while he flipped through my passport checking dates he stamped it, making it at least plausibly deniable that I didn’t know I have overstayed my visa. (I have been told I need to leave the European Union every ninety days now, whereas before I only had to leave the Czech Republic. If true, European Union countries could send a lot of Americans home if they wanted to.)

Things were getting interesting with the form-filler-outers when I cleared passport control, and yes, it involved more shouting. I am no longer in the land of stoic and reserved Czechs, not at all. All passport control places that I’ve ever seen are the same. There is a row of glassed-in booths, which contain uniformed bureaucrats looking for reasons not to let people into the country. There are lines of people waiting to be reviewed, and there is a zone between them, the land beyond the line that no one must enter until summoned. Violation of this rule undermines the the security of sovereign nations, and can lead to war.

The Form People, having been invited into this space only to be handed a form and sent packing, did not all leave The Zone, as it provided the only flat surfaces other than the floor for the filling out of forms. The bureaucrats shouted at them. Like proud Gypsy squatters, they held their ground. As I left, one of the Passport control guys had quit his glass cell and was waving his arms as one might to chase the goats out of your garden. I didn’t stand around to watch, wanting to get to customs before the people who had to wait for their bags.

Now I sit in the departure lounge at the train station, munching a fairly tasty sandwich. The security is tighter here that I have seen in train stations in the past; all bags are x-rayed and there is no more hanging around on the platform while you wait for your train to arrive. This feels more like an airport than a train station, although I should say the appearance of security is tighter; if the woman watching the X-ray screen opened her eyes while my bag went past I didn’t see it.

In summary, Tram Metro Bus Airplane Metro Metro Metro High-Speed Train Seville!

Hockey night at the Little Café

A year ago I sat here at the Little Café Near Home to watch the Czechs skate against Canada for the world championship. All the tables were reserved last year, but there was room for me and my guests at the bar.

A year has passed, and the puck will drop in fifteen more minutes as the Czechs defend their title against the Swedes. The Café is surprisingly empty tonight; there are a couple more options in the neighborhood now, but more important is that the NHL was on strike last year. Last year the rosters for the various nations reflected the best those countries had to offer (with a couple of notable exceptions); it was like several dream teams playing against one another.

Even the czech regular season was something special last year, as the best of the local boys got to play for their home towns rather than for some city across the Atlantic. (On a side note, the NHL would do well to play more games earlier in the day; there are a lot of people over here jonesing for a chance to see their local heroes play, but when games start at 3 am, the audience is limited.)

This year the NHL playoffs are still going, so the talent available for the IIHF championship is diluted, but there is still something special about this tournament in the hearts of every Czech.


The first period is over and the Little Café is pretty full now; the only empty table is the one directly under the television. Alas, the Czechs gave up two goals in the first twenty minutes, and Sweden is very hard to play catch-up against. The good guys had their chances, but never put the puck in the net.


Oh, the second period. Oh, the horror. The Swedes owned the Czechs at both ends of the ice. The Czech passing in particular was poor — it seemed like the Swedes knew where the Czechs were going to send the puck before they did. As the period progressed the Swedes got more and more uneven chances. In the period the Czechs had four shots on goal, all from the outside.

There was one point where the crowd here got excited. The cameras found the Czech Prime Minister in the crowd, and the entire bar started jeering. Something about politicians using their positions to enrich their friends. Good thing that could never happen in the US.


There’s still quite a bit of time on the clock, but the game is over. The Swedes are playing protect the puck, while the Czechs are playing miss the opportunity. (I was typing while watching the game and looked down to see that I had written pooprtunity. I almost left it in.) It looks like the Swedes will add a world championship to their Olympic gold. Oh, well. There’s no denying that they brought the better team to the game tonight.

One of my favorite bits of trivia

When the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889, it was the tallest structure in the world, a title it retained until the Chrysler Building in New York eclipsed it 41 years later. The Chrysler building held the record for about a year, only to be surpassed by the taller but far less attractive Empire State Building.

So, what had been the tallest structure before the Eiffel tower, and for how long did it hold the record?

This isn’t really a quiz since the answer can easily be looked up, but I’m going to let people post answers in the comments just to add that little bit of anticipation.

The cover letter I’d LIKE to write

One of the biggest hurdles on the way to becoming a commercially successful writer is getting your first book published. This requires convincing total strangers to take a chance on you, and that means you have to present yourself to total strangers in the best possible light. The first light flashing along the runway to stardom is the cover letter the agent or editor will read. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if the cover letter isn’t perfect (as long as it’s clean), but it is likely the first bit of your writing your potential business partner will see.

Publishing is a name-dominated industry. When you have never had a novel published before, you are at a disadvantage. It is much safer for a publisher to go with a writer who writes complete crap, but crap that sells. The cover letter, therefore, is all about getting an agent or editor excited about your story — excited enough to eventually risk thousands of dollars (for an editor) or hundreds of hours (for an agent). For that reason, the cover letter is all about the story, the thing the reader of the letter will eventually have to sell.

As I sit and continue to hone the letter, I feel that perhaps for me the cover should be more like the ballyhooed End User License Agreement for Jer’s Novel Writer. More about me and the way I do business than about the actual issue at hand. And so I give you the cover I would like to write.

Dear Editor/Agent

I am a writer. I’m not some guy who scribbles in his spare time, I write all the time. Sometimes I forget to eat. Man, did that ever piss off my ex-wife when I would get dizzy when I stood up from my computer and she’d ask “when did you eat last?” (only she didn’t speak so formally) and I’d think for a moment and try to remember if I ate yesterday and generally I’m pretty sure I did or I’d really be a mess now so I’d say “yesterday…?” and she’d roll her eyes and say something like “How can you even do that?” and I’d say, “well, I was in a groove” but she never appreciated that kind of stuff.

We’re still friends, by the way. She’s remarried, couple of kids, everything’s cool.

So, eating turns out to be pretty important, not just for marital tranquility, but for health as well (remember the dizzy part?), and that is why I am writing to you, dear Editor/Agent. I can happily spend every waking moment torturing myself for just the right word, but sooner or later I have to go to the grocery store, and they always want money. While I would write for free (in fact I have been for some time), I cannot eat for free.

I know, I know, it makes no sense to me, either. Accepting that, the obvious solution is to sell my writing, which is something you could do far better than I.

As a concrete example of the stuff I’d like you to help me sell, enclosed are the first few pages of The Monster Within. It’s about a mercenary named Hunter, and let me tell you, Hunter is messed up. You read the first part, and you say, “Dang, that guy’s messed up.” Then you read the next part, and you say, “Dang, that guy’s really messed up.” Then you read the part after that and you say, “Holy Crap!” but right after that is “Ooooooh.” That’s when you flip back to the other parts and say “But I thought… dang! Now I get it! Hunter is monumentally messed up, and wicked dangerous.” You gotta love heros like that. There’s sex, too, and it’s not even gratuitous.

Monster weighs in at an all-muscle 140,000 words; it’s a powerful beast that will grab you by the throat and drag you from cover to cover.

Unless you don’t like that kind of thing, of course. If you’re shy, the beast will simply hold your hand. Enclosed is an envelope plastered with stamps worth damn near a buck of my food money, just so you can get back to me. (Note that although my mailing address is foreign, my not-in-the-US-ness is not formally recognized by any government. You can pass me my grocery money just as easily as you could to any other US citizen.)

I have another work in progress, The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy, which is exactly like almost every other fantasy novel except it has evil talking squirrels and a hot stepmother.

Hungry Writer

There are a couple of reasons not to use this cover letter. First, it makes me seem psychotic. It’s important that people don’t realize you’re psychotic until after you ink your first book deal. After that it’s marketing gold. Second, the tone of the cover letter is light and flippant, and the tone of the novel isn’t. This would set up false expectations. One could argue that Editor/Agent would appreciate both cover letter and novel for their unparalleled (adjective carefully chosen, just beating out orthogonal) use of the English language, and would forgive the difference in tone, but Editor/Agent seems to be easily distracted.

On the other hand, the query does use “wicked dangerous”, and ends with “hot stepmother”. I bet Editor/Agent doesn’t get many queries like that!


My Plane to Spain Delayed a Couple Days

I was planning to fly over there this morning, but the list of little things holding me back was just too long. I’ll be heading out on Monday, now. It promises to be a good time; I’ve never been to Spain before.

We all have our sad music

As I write this, it is late at night. It’s the time of what if, the time when the demons visit, poking me with their sharp sticks. It’s the time of memory and regret. I’m listening to one of my favorite singers.

This music I only allow myself occasionally. Her voice is beautiful, haunting. When I listen to her sing, I remember her passion, her pain, and her humanity. I remember watching her perform in my home, and I think of what almost happened. In this case ‘almost’ is about the same as the chance of Earth taking a nose-dive into the sun, but there was a moment, defined by a shared joke, that we were in the same place.

I wanted to kiss her, but for all the familiarity and alcohol we were still a thousand miles apart. Better, then, this perfect memory of perfect longing, uncorrupted by the ugly truth of the next day. Better to listen now to a voice that will always say something different to me than it does to anyone else. Better to remember her scent, her laugh, her smile, and her eyes, her eyes.

Her memory of the night is probably so different it’s comical.

But what if I had kissed her?

Thunder and Lightning

There aren’t very many thunderstorms here in Prague, so when one happens by it’s cause for celebration. I’m sitting at the Little Café Near Home right now, and outside the window the bottom has dropped out of the sky and the rain is dumping down.

I saw the first flashes off to the west, over Žižkov, and as the storm gained intensity the thunder went from a rumble to a crash. The street outside has become a river, and people are dashing into the café for shelter. They have to fight their way through the knot of people crowded under the tiny awning over the front step, and were there room I would be out there with the other spectators.

The window is open, however, and I’m ignoring the occasional raindrop on the electrical outlet in favor of the the clean, fresh rain-driven breeze. What’s the worst that can happen?

In the time it took English Loud Phone Talker (Elpht) to come in and polish off his Red Bull and espresso, the storm passed. The smell lingers, but not even distant rumbles are audible anymore.