Tango at Luna Red

My intent wasn’t to to sit fireside at a Spanish tapas restaurant

on a day that commemorates Mexico’s triumph over France.

It wasn’t to sink sweetly into Argentine nostalgia,

while pulling salt from the rim with a light touch of tongue.

But when a couple on the patio excused itself from the only set table

to tango under suspended lights,

I dissolved into inky darkness

and watched, invisible, as they traced the outlines of their kingdom.

Reina, his only subject.

Rey, her every move.


a Lesson in odd pairings

Typically, the Baroque Period nauseates me. The harpsichord bouncing about in lively jubilation, the echoed runs leaping from left to right hand — it’s a dizzying party at which I’ve never belonged.

But something weird happened today as I drove down to Santa Barbara: I enjoyed Bach. Somewhere near Los Olivos, strands of mist highlighted shaded mountains, and like a Kauai landscape, the heavy grey sky invited me closer. The miles moved quickly; I tore at them steadily as the opus grew like a giant flower in my mind. What I saw was strangely misaligned with what I heard, and ordinarily, I’d never put the two together. But for those brief moments, they exposed an unusual, beautiful partnership.

When the piece was over I shut off the radio.

In silence and the slow lane, I preserved a feeling and wound through Los Padres National Forest until I hit Cold Spring Tavern. That’s where we agreed to meet, the friends I made in Argentina and I. It was a halfway point, excluding Caitlin’s trek from Michigan, and it held its distance from palm trees and oversized TVs.

It was the first time we’d all been in the same place in over two years and it was a biker bar.

By the fire we drank our beers and began to buy and sell stories for the price of laughter. There was so much to share but we effectively shrunk the years we spent apart. One by one, all at once, over the blues band that played in the corner, we talked. As men with tobacco stained mustaches ate their tri-tip sandwiches, we reminisced. As deer heads watched over us, and wooden planks supported us, we caught up.  There, our South American conversations were out of context. What we heard was so different than the sights that surrounded us, but they fit and all was cozy and right.








The two together

American photographer, Diane Arbus, captured deviant and marginal people whose normality seemed ugly or surreal. Her favorite subjects were dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, and circus performers.

Swedish-Argentine specimen of perfection, José González, created this addictive listen with side-project-band, Junip.

His lyrics fold into her photographs like flour overlapping eggs beaten and sugar stirred.

Play. Scroll. Wonder.

No one else around you
No one to understand you
No one to hear your calls
Look through all your dark corners
You’re backed up against the wall
Step back from the line of fire



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give or take a year

Nostalgia frequently gets the best of me. Its magnetic pull sends me flipping back through my journals to brush off moments of time covered in a year’s worth of hustle and dust. This time last year, I was weighted down by 40 pounds of camping and survival gear, coexisting with the elements to trek 60 miles through unearthly terrain. The thought of it makes my blood rush with adrenaline.

About a month ago, I was talking with a coworker about this habit of mine to compare my days to their 2011 equivalent. She confessed a striking likeness, although instead of peering backwards she is marching forwards. In her journal she describes where she’ll be in exactly one year. What she’ll be doing, saying, eating, wearing. Which tea she’ll choose in the morning, the circuit she’ll take Kenneth, her St. Bernard, on for an evening stroll. She gets absurdly nitty gritty with the detail. And then forgets about it. For a year. Only to check-in and see how close or how far her now is to her then.

I have a tendency to look back. She to look forward. What connects us, though, is our current. The fragment of time that stands directly between one year past and one year future.  It’s the anchor, it’s the root. It’s the only moment of its kind, yet we all have it in common.

This is where I was one year ago. But it’s not where I am today. I’m grateful for that, as odd as it may seem.


unexpected connections


A strange thing happened twice tonight.

I was sitting under the ivy of my favorite coffee shop with my Argentine lady-friend. Fragments of light from the string bulbs above us reflected off of our glasses and shone over our tazas de te like spotlights. We chatted for our usual hour or so – catching up, exchanging stories, and wiping away the rust from my Spanish speaking vocabulary one verb conjugation at a time. Animated as ever, and in true Argentine fashion, we spoke with both our voices and hands. The relationship was weighted more heavily towards gesticulations, though, so much so that a random passer-by, Finnigan, thought it only right to interject into our conversation, breaking the ice with a clever:

“I like you guys. You talk with your hands.”

First, Finn, neither of us females are guys. Second, you’re absolutely right. We, of Mediterranean influence talk with our hands with nothing shy of theatrical dedication. Why you have now chosen to segway your observation into a twenty minute conversation about fish and foreign films from the ’60s is entirely beyond me, but I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to share. I’m glad you saw us as two agreeable guys who were all about your kind and cooky conversation.

Finnigin First, Troy Second.

After tea with Silvia, I headed to Cal Poly to board myself in a broom closet of a practice room. Just me and a baby grand for an hour. Halfway through a Chopin piece, I see a head glide into view. It does not glide out, and an eager brow raise communicates, “Can I come in?”  I nod and lose my place in the score only to find out that Troy here hadn’t reserved the room like I had originally suspected. He hadn’t come to kick me out. He just popped in to introduce himself and drop a line of praise, commending me on my fancy finger work from a nervous distance.

Pleasant surprise.

I got to thinking, tonight my hands brought me two unexpected connections, and were solely responsible for pushing my view of the norm. They reminded me that people are passionate, people are courageous, people are kind hearted. People want to talk, share, and relate. My hands collided our worlds tonight – my world and Finnigan’s, my world and Troy’s.  What a treat to know that people are apt to act on an impulse.

I wonder what the next thing to catch your eye and pique your interest will be. Will it be initiated by a stranger? Will you go up and talk to them?

After poking around for visual support, I couldn’t help but relate a hand to a word. If you stare at it long enough, it makes less and less sense. Suddenly you can’t equate a part of speech or meaning to it, and in an instant, you don’t even understand how you know to read. Is that right, you wonder? Is that really how it’s spelled?

It’s a mad, mad world.


Violeta Lopiz

Unsure of my motivations for loving Violeta Lopiz’ illustration…

Option 1: Her leading man’s caricatured features all too perfectly resemble my father’s younger years, before the Y2K robbed stores across America of canned goods, batteries, bottled water, and him of the greatest stache of all time. Or Option 2: She’s from Ibiza. She speaks spanish and illustrates for children’s books in Spanish. All while my heart inflates with nostalgia and I grow more and more ‘home’sick for Argentina.

the meaning of words

I love words. I love them in English, I love them in Spanish, I love them in Greek. I love them when I don’t understand them, when they’re terrifyingly complex, when they roll of the tongue, when they’re perfectly simple and succinct. When they’re strung together, when they’re alone – hopelessly, or happily, I love them.

On my weekly lunch date with my Argentine lady friend today (go ahead, call me a Golden Girl), we deviated from our usual topics of family, embarrassing memories and daily stressors, and dove in to the linguistic pool. We started and ended our conversation with the spanish words ocupar – to be busy, and preocupar – to worry.

Silvia dissected the latter into two parts: 1. pre and 2. ocupar. 1. Before and 2. to be busy.

A lightening rod of enlightenment electrified my body – its tissues, nerves, synapses.  To worry, preocupar, is nothing more than to busy yourself, ocupar,  before it’s necessary to. It is nothing more than wasting precious mental energy centralizing thoughts on an event before it even happens, if it even happens at all! It was there in Luna Red restaurant, sitting across from Silvia, and at a table next to a woman in her late fifties whose breasts noticeably defied the natural pull of gravity, that I realized how much time I’ve been wasting busying myself with thoughts that don’t even deserve the time it takes to be thought up. No more.