Monthly Archives: August 2013

August 31

Well, yesterday was my last day at the agency that hired me earlier this year. I have been let go due to cutbacks and a badly-managed organizational crisis, which means I face, once again, a stressful race against the clock. Quite a tough one, really. Being let go in the middle of the Summer, in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, where my professional network is very limited and looking for a role that’s almost a luxury in Denmark makes for a very inconvenient scenario: if I want to stay here, I need to secure a new full-time contract before I run out of money. That is, finding a highly-paid job in less than a month.


Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

* * * * *

I’ve just been to my new favourite coffeeshop, Sort Kaffe Og Vinyl, and decided to actually start a conversation with one of the baristas there: a beautiful girl called Klara, whom I instantly fell in love with a couple of weeks ago. She’s not your typical Scandinavian hottie; not blonde, really short hair (like Sinead O’Connors circa 1989) and very soft-spoken. She has a lovely smile, too. I always hesitate when approaching people out of the blue, particularly here in Copenhagen where everyone is so reserved, but I have decided to start shaking things up a little bit around here so I went for it. It took a little bit of effort to get the ball rolling but shortly after it was all fine. Turns out Klara is learning Spanish and wants to travel around South America very soon so we briefly chatted about where to go, what to do and so on. We also talked about our names and the meaning behind them. Oh dear, I think I’m slowly developing a crush on her.

saturday morning

Once people started arriving, it was time to bring the small talk to an end and move on. I went to the back of the place, where you can’t fit more than 10 people, and sat there, sipping coffee and munching a cinnamon roll while reading the first chapters of “Things The Grandchildren Should Know”, one of my favourite books of all times. Given the circumstances, going through this masterpiece once again seems just about right, particularly on a day like today…

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August 28

Damn, it’s hard to keep up with this diary. I’m back in Copenhagen after a joyful weekend in Madrid, one in which I saw (among other things) a couple of one-of-a-kind newlyweds hi-fiving in front of a priest in a monastery. I’ll tell you all about it once I have the time to finish the post I have been writing for the last couple of days, but in the meantime, here’s a little bit of fun to keep you entertained while you wait.

Also, yesterday, in a moment of weakness and madness, I made the terrible mistake to suggest to my friend Rafa that Gianna Michaels had a serious contender that could potentially crumble her long-standing reign. Minutes later, I got an e-mail from him with this attached to it:

Imagen

Go ahead, Google Translate it, he has a point.

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August 23

Greetings from seat 25F. Two really good friends of mine are getting married this weekend so I’m off to Madrid for their wedding. My carry-on case is still in London and here in Copenhagen I just have a couple of really big suitcases so I have rolled up my suit, tie and shirt and put them all in this backpack.

backpak

Like a boss.

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August 21

I originally thought that indulging in my record-playing experience just before going to bed was a good idea, but it’s not. Yesterday I fell asleep before I even got a chance to press play. I was so tired. And a bit tipsy, too. Just after work, I went back home to have a Skype chat with a recruiter that is trying to help me find a job in Paris (yes, now I want to move to France. Blame my Summer holidays for it) and then headed to a CouchSurfing meeting that takes place every Tuesday here in Copenhagen. It’s an informal gathering in which travellers and locals mingle, drink beers, make friends, let everyone know they’re looking for a room or flat to rent (just as everyone else in Copenhagen) and share stories of travelling around the world.

We’re a quirky bunch; from engineers to dancers, from barely legal youngsters to well-seasoned elders, there’s all sorts of people coming together every week to have a drink and a laugh. The first meeting I attended to, three months ago or so, was slightly awkward but since then many of us have been showing up on a regular basis and now the meetings are mostly packed with familiar faces. Not that I remember all their names, or what they do for a living, but I don’t see them as strangers anymore and that’s great. Yesterday I met a really nice girl from Poland, a guy from Sweden and another bloke from Brazil that seemed just like the kind of people I would enjoy to hang out with. Of course, I might be wrong and they could actually end up being complete arseholes but I’m going to try to stay in touch and find out. I sort of liked them.

I also met a guy from the US, who just arrived to Copenhagen a few days ago. He’s like a skinnier, younger, red-haired, slightly shorter version of Rick Rubin with with dreadlocks, who was born in Syracuse but that until last week resided in California, mainly because weed is legal there. This guy is one of those people who would make you feel at ease right away; he’s eloquent, calm, well-mannered, and has a certain aura that makes it almost impossible not to talk to him.  He sat down next to me, beer in hand, and after going through the mandatory CouchSurfing questions (where are you from? do you live here? how are you liking it?) we started a conversation I wish I had been able to record. I must wear a wire next time, just in case I come across some equally interesting character.

Turns out that in 2005, this fella took part in a hardcore protest against the US Government. Being a Government employee himself, his outcry was not very well received and, after a heated argument, the Police kicked the shit out of him in his University campus and threw him in prison. They presented various charges against him, which he fought in Court and won. With no strong evidence to convict him, the Police released him and sent him home but he soon found out he actually had no home to go to; his house, with all his possessions, had been burnt down while he was in jail. Retaliation? So it appears. A while later, as he was cruising in his car one evening, he was stopped by an undercover patrol. It was the FBI. Shit went down again so tired of it all, he decided to leave the country for good. He booked a flight to Europe but was stopped in British Columbia (where the plane had to make a stopover) because he appeared red flagged as a “Domestic Terrorist.”  He was sent back to the US and on top of that, the airline lost his luggage. The latter turned out to be a good thing as he was actually able to make a claim for compensation and get some money he then used to buy a new air ticket. He eventually managed to leave the country and is now in Copenhagen, where he hopefully will find a Danish wife, have kids, go for a walk every morning and live happily ever after.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: the guy is full of bullshit. He has to be, there are many holes in that story. Besides, what the hell could he have possibly said to unleash such a ravenous reprisal, FBI agents included and all? Well, apparently, you wouldn’t need to say much. As Donna Anderson explains here, The Feds can spin off these lesser-known cases and charge people of “Domestic Terrorism” just because they can. The same way UK authorities can go after a journalist’s partner and destroy hard drives without giving a shit about press freedom, civil rights or privacy. They have power and they use it, whether you like it or not. So yes, maybe this guy was full of bullshit and made up this whole story after smoking one big fat joint in Christiania, but in the light of recent events, he might as well could had been telling the truth. The world is fucking insane, after all.

Ok, now a quick update on that record-playing ritual I talked about. Yesterday I couldn’t deliver but on Monday night I listened to a trippy live version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”, recorded at The Empire Pool, in Wembley, back in 1974. I like to listen to Pink Floyd when I’m about to sleep. I actually listened to this very same album on my LND-CPH flight last month, just because it gets me in the mood for dozing off. Not that I find it boring or anything, I just like to listen to it with my eyes closed, lying still, and that normally happens when I’m about to hit the sack. Give it a try next time you’re in bed, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’m off for a drink with my friend Carlos, a Venezuelan dude I met here in Copenhagen. If I come back home early and not too drunk, I’ll play Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland”. I think I’ve never listened to it carefully before…

[ Listened to: Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland ]

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August 19

Nice, warmish day in Copenhagen, a city that looks fantastic when the sun is out. If only that happened more often. Sigh. To be honest, after spending almost 3 years in London, the weather here doesn’t really bother me as much as it probably would if I had come straight from Venezuela, but still, I wish there were more than just a couple of months a year of slightly summery clime in Denmark. Oh well.

Today I’m starting something I hope can become a nice little ritual of mine: listening to one record a day without any interruptions. After reading this post by Mikael Cho a couple of weeks ago, I realized how rare it’s for me to listen to an album in its entirety without any breaks; I’m always clicking through spare tracks on Spotify or shuffling playlists on my iPhone. Apart from the new Queens of the Stone Age record, which I’ve been listening to solidly for the last couple of months (and L.A. Woman when I’ve been off for long bike rides), I haven’t really sat down to experience an LP the way it should be so, from today onwards, I’ll do my best to play one record per day and listen to it carefully, with headphones, and without interruptions; not while doing stuff on my laptop or cleaning around the house or checking my Twitter feed on my phone, no. I will try to close every browser window, turn off my mobile, and just sit there (or lay in bed) and devote my full attention to a collection of songs that were meant to be enjoyed in a particular order, from beginning to end. I have asked my friends to help me put together a to-listen list, feel free to contribute to it by leaving your suggestions in the comments.

Oh, and It’s my sister’s birthday, today! She’s terrific and one of the finest human beings I know, I wish I was back home to give her a big hug and have an equally big piece of that wonderful chocolate cake she told me she was going to bake today. You know, it’s a little bit sad to acknowledge that since I left Venezuela three years ago, I have missed every single of her birthdays. And my mum’s, my dad’s and my aunt’s, too. They have also missed mine and if it wasn’t for Skype, I’m sure nostalgia would have devastated us all by now. We try not to make a big deal out of it but deep down, those little moments are the ones I wish I didn’t have to sacrifice in order to go after the things that make me happy.

On days like this, I can’t help to wonder if I’m ever going to regret it…

[ Listened to: Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon (live in Wembley, 1974) ]

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Things My Mother Taught Me

I am back. For the few people who have been following my irregular blogging efforts over the years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; every now and then, I go through an emotional outbreak, get depressed, deem whatever life stories I had plans to share in public totally worthless and throw in the towel, only to pick it up again months later, pretending nothing happened and brushing the whole incident off with a half-smile.

This time around, though, the situation feels slightly different. This comeback is the result of various recent events coming together; a combination of realizations and flashes of insight that affected me on so many levels that left me with no other choice but to do something about it. Right now.

I think it all kind of started when my mum asked me to send her pictures of my birthday party and my holidays in France. I had spent most of my time wandering around Paris and Montpellier on my own, and for some reason I didn’t take any pictures on my birthday (which I decided to spend in London, with some of my best friends), so I mostly had snapshots of old buildings, charming alleyways, sandy beaches, crowded parks and street art. Not a bad mix, really. The beach pictures were particularly nice and summery so I made a quick selection of my best Instragram shots and sent them over Whatsapp. A few minutes later, she replied back: “Yeah, that place is beautiful… but I meant pictures of you. Don’t you have any?” What? I don’t have any pictures of me, I was on my own! And yes, I could have taken a selfie, but I hate selfies. Hate them. Why couldn’t she take my lomography-like beach shots as good-enough evidence of my holidays? It bothered me a bit so I texted back some insolent bullshit. Shortly after, she kindly replied: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I just think that when you grow old, you’re going to wish you had more pictures of you and your friends, and you will not have any.” I took a few seconds to read those lines and then it hit me, like a fistful of steel straight to my stomach. Blimey, she’s right. She is so right.

I stayed with that thought ringing in my head for days. I kept thinking how many things I can’t remember about my life, and how much I can remember about someone else’s. Like my friend Ross’, for example. I met Ross 12 years ago and have been reading his diary on a regular basis ever since, which is why sometimes I could reassure him we had a particular photo of your favourite rockstar, somewhere in a hard drive or hidden between thousands of contact sheets. I knew he had shot it because I remembered reading about it. I knew in which city, or had a vague idea of the year/tour in which many of his photos were taken, just because I had kept track of his work over the years through his diary. I suddenly realized that I could remember more details about Ross’ life than I could remember about my own and that, my friends, is seriously fucked up.

Then I came across this post by Holly Brockwell (who I would love to date if I could) and it was then when I decided that it was time to start a diary, once and for all. I had been toying with the idea of starting a diary for quite a while but I just never put that plan into action, maybe because I always thought my life was way too mundane to be documented on a daily basis. I still kind of do but after reading Holly’s post, I thought: yeah, why not? I opened a 750words account, determined to start my journal that same day, logged in and quickly realized it was going to be impossible to pull it off on that platform. I know you don’t have to write everyday, that you can stop before reaching 750 words if you feel like it, but still, I knew those empty boxes were going to haunt me forever. You see, I’m the kind of guy who can’t have unread messages on his inbox lingering for too long, it makes me anxious. If I get a comment on Facebook, I have to check it. If I get a mention on Twitter, I need to find out what is it about. Having those little red notification circles on my phone distress me, so the idea of potentially finding a long line of unticked boxes – a reminder of how good I am at not sticking to my promises – was a little bit off-putting.

I wanted to find a balance between the strict day-by-day format that 750words encouraged and my erratic blogging pattern, a middle ground between writing every day a set number of words and not writing a single word in months. In the end, I decided to settle with a Ross Halfin meets Mick Wall meets Doogie Howser format, only that I don’t travel as often as Ross, don’t write as good as Mick and I’m probably not as smart as Doogie. I bet you can’t wait for me to get started.

The decision to keep a public diary instead of a private one has been influenced, partly, by a a blog post, a web project and couple of books I’ve been reading over the last few months: “Why go out?” by Sheila Heti, 40 Days of Dating by Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, Russell Brand’s “My Booky Wook”,  and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown, a writer and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. After watching her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability, I decided to give one of her books a try and despite my general aversion towards the self-help genre, I have to say the book is quite insightful and some of her observations fascinating, particularly if you are interested in human behaviour and social interaction.

In addition to the diary, I will also try to take more pictures. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see me in them. With the ubiquitous camera phone, hundreds of photo-enhancing applications and photo-sharing services available, gadgets and whatnot, I fail to understand why is it that I don’t document my life with photos as much as I would like to. And I don’t mean the things I see around me but the things I do, the strangers I meet, the people I hang out with. Just to give you an idea: I have met Jimmy Page, one of the greatest and most influential musicians in history, at least 12 times in the last 3 years. For a Led Zeppelin fan, that’s a big fucking deal. Ross introduced us back in 2010 and since then, just out of luck, by chance, only because magical things happen in London, we have been out record shopping, eating burgers and attending concerts together, I’ve been to his house, I’ve got a Led Zeppelin II red vinyl and a guitar pick as a present from him, and YET I don’t have a single photo with the man. Not one. Nothing. And you know what? I have never asked for it, either.  I wish we had a photo together, just so I can tell my kids and grandchildren all about it one day, but the fact is that I don’t and somehow I’m OK with it.

This detachment might have been fueled by a short speech John McCrea gave between songs the day Cake played at The Troxy, back in 2011. I have checked on YouTube and there seems to be no evidence of that particular rant but apart from giving away a tree to a member of the crowd in one of the most amusing guessing games I’ve ever witnessed (remember kids, say no to vertical video!) and performing a killer version of Short Skirt Long Jacket, at some point that night John addressed the audience and imparted a piece of advice I will never forget. And when I say I will never forget I don’t mean the actual words (which I have indeed forgotten and won’t be able to quote for you now), but the meaning behind them: when seeing a bunch of hands in the air, taking pictures and making videos, McCrea said something like: “Stop taking pictures, you don’t need to prove to anyone that you are here. You know you’re here, I know you’re here, that’s all that matters.” I was struck by that statement. It made wonder why exactly is it that we take pictures these days. Are we taking pictures to document precious moments we probably would cherish in the future or are we taking pictures just to have solid evidence we can throw at other people’s faces to show them how oh-so-cool our lives are? I don’t know, maybe a little bit of both.

In any case, I will try to take them more often. And I will try to write regularly, too. My relationship with Copenhagen (a city that after 6 months I still haven’t quite figured out), my current plans and this kind of midlife crisis I seem to be going through at the moment might be just the kind of encouragement I need to push this forward.

Just keep your expectations low. I’m just an average bloke, after all…

PS: Like Clockwork… Best Queens of the Stone Age record to this date. Period.

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