Saturday, October 17, 2009


In Barcelona I had a fever. The night, heated with its foreign shouts and laughter, drifted up to the narrow balcony through the tall open windows and stood eternal. I could hear a fight being broken up from the bar underneath and the scooters interminably plying by. That evening we had met up with a curator from the states. 

In El Born we shared a bottle of Grenache that turned into another and took to the meandering cobblestones. We ended up off Passeig del Born in a teeming little place with great strange paintings on the walls with a gorgeous dinner of tapas fusion. Afterwards, we walked through crowded Barrio Gotic, said our goodbye’s after which I had a nightcap at the hotel bar.


Earlier that day I felt overcome by fatigue but shrugged it off from the travel, splurged on a visit to Casa Milà, my favorite Gaudi, and absorbed the awe and wonderment. The undulating windows and the blue tiles made me feel as if I were submerged in the sea and I stood like Neptune on the terrace looking down at the boulevard from the Suess-y stacks and the tiled whaleback-like hump. 

Suddenly though, after the gentle day and that happy evening, I became achy from top to bottom. At the hotel bar I sat awfully aware something was off and I barely made it upstairs to my room. As my fever broke out I was doing my best to crawl into bed. I still had all my clothes and shivering uncontrollably.

The few weeks prior I had spent north of Barcelona in the arid rocky terrain of Montserrat. The Benedictine Monk retreat at Montserrat, some of the most spectacular mountain views of Catalunya and a certain fame for its numerous miracles associated with the intercession of the Black Virgin of Montserrat. In another ancient monastery where the monks once made wine and you could still see the stone shoots throughout the walls on the lower level, this is where my residency began and here is where I made these paintings.

The heat was sometimes unmoveable and we were valley-ed by the surrounding groves of almond trees, wild roaming boar and an old winery. You had to walk up out of the valley by a steep dirt road into a small Catalonian town for groceries, espresso or a milky Clara, a half-and-half composition of Damm cerveza mixed with sparkling lemon soda, Fanta limon, or a lemon Fante; Clara refers to the white of a raw egg, precisely the substance that a Clara resembles, at least in color. Or sometimes the end of the precipitous hike was not without a rewarding swim at the municipal pool where, unbelievably, you can gaze up from the base of Montserrat to the solid rock formations reaching up like wrinkly fingers, like drip-castles, and you can understand why Dali and Gaudi made frequent visits here. Afternoons at the pool with a Clara in hand, tipped back on a blanket in the grass and a book, this was good life.

There was another path you could take from the monastery that was mysterious. A hidden, seemingly haunted, grotto, a glassed-in Madonna and a cold running water pool cupped in front. From here the slender path up the hill was nearly vertical and the quick switchbacks, flanked by wild prickly pear and old growth yucca plant, allowed for secret offshoots of narrow terraced farming, a most interesting architecture of land and necessity. I jotted down quick ideas for further use; even my hikes were assiduous.

The first weeks in Spain, the weeks before my beginning my artistic endeavors at the monastery, I spent in a different fever. Barcelona has a darker, much seedy side. In El Raval, my strange lodging in a trendy hotel, offered a start like a shot fuse to a row of ladyfingers. Maddening yelps, it seemed, the night skies touted and gunshot and the Moroccans’ skillfully sweeping eyes.  The prostitutes I passed each day; behind my hotel they mixed along the graffiti-ed alleyway, of tiny brimming groceries, in fit-full colors and side by side to small festive clothing shops. I enjoyed being here, the grit of this neighborhood was vibrant and multi-cultural. There was an enormous amount of tapas bars and I spent my days on a rented Vespa, searching for Gaudi, collecting nuggets of visual information, drawing, painting and absorbing internally the language with passion and fervor.

The Mercat de la Boqueria in Las Rambla, a few blocks from my hotel and past the opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, is where I gathered lunches and dinners. An excited contrast of vibrant color, of fresh Catalonian ingredients captured in dazzling displays, the intention of which was with such fastidious care, where vegetables and fruits and just a myriad of aquatic delight; bountiful and freshly-caught, just hours out of the sea, was a feast on extraordinary levels. Tuna and salmon, cuttle fish, the feeders from the top, feeders from the bottom, a brilliant array of barnacles, spiny shellfish—Gaudi was everywhere, and a dozens types of shrimp, mussels, octopus, oysters, lobster and the more rare species, the plenty of which I have never seen but eyed me curiously as I ebbed by.

There was also Bacalao—salt cod and then cheeses that were so difficult to decide which ones to try though each taste was a triumph. Butchery—game and eggs—whole legs of Spain’s prized hogs hung behind the counters; Jamon serrano, the famous cured ham of Spain, lean and salty, utterly delicious and ubiquitous with the most expensive, the jabugo, pato negro, costing over 200 euros per kilo. There were herbs, breads and pastries, wine—and olives! Beautifully lighted glass cases with generous white ceramic bowels brimming with olives. My favorite, the fat, green, aromatic manzanilla, but there were so many varieties, green and black, oil-cured or in vinegar, with herbs, peppercorns or stuffed with anchovy—stuffed in my memory. Oh, a dish of olives and a glass of good vino tinto! Such delightful lunches.

Also, interplayed in the market stalls were the tiny bustling open air eateries—El Quim was one such stand. On my way by one morning a stool opened up and I slid right in. Hungry and overtaken by the aromas of fresh garlic cooking, I immediately ordered the first thing I saw being passed over the counter that looked curious and delicious. It turned out to be eggs and fresh baby squid, Boquerones, truly one of the most interesting and wonderful meals I had on the street.

Against the swarming activity, the everyday ritual of locals and marketers haggling, bartering, squeezing and prodding, all played against the tourists and the so many different languages and the smells and flowers, utterly cacophonous and beautiful at the same time. Later the discovery of the much quieter Mercat del Born offered a much more relaxing atmosphere and a bit cost effective for my quickly diminishing stipend. But both markets were oases for lunch and dinner picnics and made it easier to go out a night and eat in memorable restaurants.

The day Michael Jackson died I was in the Barri Gotic. A bottle of wine and a dish of Paella Costa Brava at El Gran Café. Glamorous Modernisme, dripping red with velvet curtains, carved wooden details, gilded mirrors and warm globed chandeliers. Such elegance in the soaring pillars, which cantilevered a soft plinking of the piano player’s “Bewiched.” In the dining room, looking out onto narrow Carrer d'Avinyó, a bottle of red wine crashes to the floor and the evening balcony diners quickly survey the scene.

All over the city I fell in love. With the narrow streets, the enticing resteraunts, the palatable richness of life and the parks. Montjuïc, the large hill just that overlooks to the south of Barcelona, a lofty ride in a cable car from the Old Port, high up and languidly crossing the sea.

Views of bustling Mare Magnum, La Rambla del Mar, all the way to the mountain bluffs. Later it was great to drive the Vespa up there on the fast twisty roads for a glass of albariño on the National Palace, the Palace of Alfonso XIII and the Palace of Victòria Eugènia. 

Looking down on the Plaza España was a grand entrance passing between the huge Venetian towers and the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina. It made an exciting ride home, zooming up the elegant Passeig de Gràcia boulevard; running from Plaza Cataluña up to Avinguda Diagonal to the centre of the Eixample district. Bountiful wide, tree-lined with iron lamps, the opulent smear of light emminating from the designer shops; Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Lacoste and Cartier, glowing like insets of lavish gold, fabrics too fine for touch, draped across soft melon displays, the passing; so eloquently dressed, while I, all in a faintly oil, left a smoky wandering trail. It was the Gaudi that impressed me along these busy streets; the architectural treats of Casa Milà and Casa Batlló—an amazing adventure to just witness these beautiful masterpieces via scooter at night.  

Just outside of city center, a hilly green gently above Gràcia, Parc Güell overlooks Barcelona, situated and sequestered as if it were the city’s mind. Mid-morning and mild, a Vespa ride fueled by espresso and a pastry, a few things gathered from La Boqueria and another climb. The meander up among hidden villas; and a pact to return just to explore and live right here, to farther up where Gaudi’s visionary Parc Güell awaits in a dream. Hours were spent wandering about the paths, spying city views and the exotic plant life, the palm trees—it was here I discovered, to my amazement, the many flocks of bright squawking green parrots.

It was cool enough to sit in the melding of architecture and plant form/sea form like the terrace supported by pillars, where, from underneath, is a certain lovely underworld. Looking upward I listened to the gifted street musicians while the notes from a bass cello and a violin entwined effortlessly. You could envision them swarming to the ceiling tiles, drifting to the top promenade and surrounding the undulating mosaic bench.
And after wandering the colonnaded paths throughout the park, there is a café where, sitting for a ponderous time, within the shade of a gather of umbrellas, I ordered an espresso, made a few sketches and finished with a glass of wine. Pure enjoyment. 

The next there was Parc de la Ciutadella, hosting an exotic array of Mediterranean ecology including one magnificent fountain, the Cascada, designed by Josep Fontseré with his assistant, the then young Gaudí, a strange and ostentatious wonder. You can spy grey herons here, the park is home to the largest colony of grey herons in Catalonia, I was told by a local. You can also use a rowing boat on the lake, though I didn’t. And there was an unusually larger-than-life mammoth elephant sculpture, tusks and all. What a green island to relax, to rebound for a while and to go for long walks, as well a picnic or two and to lie down and soak up the warm sunshine, which for me was my sketching, writing and making a few small watercolors. I thought if I would do anything at all I someday would construct such a garden. What dreams could be made here were plentiful and easy. 

After my first rush of Barcelona was an introduction to living somewhat in isolation in Montserrat at the monastery. The calm hot days, the vivacious communal dinners at ten, I began my first paintings here in an intimate format; on none other than rolling paper. I had been thinking of paper, I was sketching and painting small watercolors on the streets and gardens of Barcelona. On Arches and Cotman and Fabriano I painted with a small tin of multicolors and waterbottle. 

I was then in the mountains, in queue at the counter of the small town grocery and I spotted them, or rather, they came to my vision. Traveling for so long I rendered myself to a mindset of resourcefulness; I was inspired and ready for anything, come what may. The discovery of the rolling papers in that grocery called up my boyhood like an easy wave. How delicate I remembered the paper had been—and because I knew no translation for them—in the country no one spoke a lick of English and I, not very exceptional at Spanish let alone Catalonian, I pointed and re-pointed, made a gesture in my fingertips, of rolling out tobacco, the craft of smoke which procured the small flat folio.  

Painting on the tiny papers—they were about one and a half inches by three, seemed like the perfect thing to do. As a boy I never smoked, though my friends, who were older than I, smoked up a storm in the woods—if nothing, out of curiosity and the longing for brute growth and independence, the likes of Caulfield and James Dean, Harrison Ford in “American Graffiti” and anything Brando, or those orphaned boys in the S.E. Hinton novel, “The Outsiders,” they all easily come to mind. I loved being in the woods and went with them just for the forest. To be underneath a high canopy of deciduous trees, wading the river of fern and laurel and sit timelessly on a rock. That was natural to me, still is. And because I need to make things with my hands, while my good friends practiced a drag, directed an exhale, I carefully dismantled those cigarettes, their fine tooth in my fingertips, their briny odor stained in my palms. Those were fine memories and the rolling papers brought me straight back to the cool woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. During the evenings in Spain I had been exploring the mountains by running tirelessly through the dusty olive groves and up to the sloping runs of Montserrat that suddenly jutted upward. The rocky roads brought old stone farms to pass, some abandoned and beautiful to explore. One seemed surely deserted but contained a lovely raised garden, a free roaming donkey and a great place to sit under an old shady date tree. I scaled a bit up those solid rock forms and wished I brought my camera for the views and every evening I trudged back to the monastery, exhausted yet revitalized with fresh memories of the cool woods sitting in the back of my head. 

After completing a few small works on rolling papers I decided I needed a scale change. I needed for them to be bigger. Tiling the small papers together for the larger works was a natural amendment to my ideas. Using the rolling paper connected with my childhood but also, in retrospect—as with most art; experimentation in different media and form brings out the subconscious, I had been most concerned with nature however the completed paintings took on the unmistakable appearance of the tiles and mosaics I had been discovering and living with; the Gaudi and the Moorish-influenced tiles. Deconstructing the painting by it’s small rectangles, working on them individually and then rebuilding the works onto the wall was a different process for me and allowed surprise. 

For a few weeks I painted in this manner until it was time to get back to the city again. And here is where I caught my vertiginous fever and thought I would disappear like an apparition, like a stream of wafting smoke. I could not help but call up the haunting imagery from the Paul Bowles novel, “The Sheltering Sky”. In my hotel room with tall ceilings I was shaking uncontrollably. It was the middle of the night. Quickly my shaking would vacillate to a fiery hot sweat. It went back and forth like this for an interminable amount of time, I hardly slept at all and read halfway through the only American novel I could find on the bookshelf in my room. 

Somewhere near dawn I think I finally did get some rest and I spent the following day walking around the city in somewhat of a daze. My recovery was oddly instantaneous—with the aid of some heavy-duty over the counter fever medicine. I took it easy in the park, making a few watercolors and headed back to the mountains. 

But I was restless back at the monastery and with country life and a decision was made to wander further north to explore the shores of Costa Blanco. Watching the city disappear into the rolling hills and small towns of Northern Spain I passed through fields of sunflowers and I kept thinking about Van Gough, his yellow house, appropriate for a trip so close to Arles in the south of France. Intense yellows and greens and blues, you could envision the defining brush strokes and direction of paint. These fields held a rushing vitality just as those Van Gogh paintings, the cypress trees, the blue skies and bucolic life. What a tumultuous and passionate fellow, created so many works and left us largely unknown, around the same age as myself…Tea in the Sahara. Passing those tremendous fields of sunflowers, all facing a single direction, I thought how intensely beautiful they were and at the same time, how beautifully violent. 

I woke up in Roses to the arc of blue Mediterranean. Brilliant and ebullient the journey began to climb up over the steep mountains of the Cap de Creus, the easternmost part of the Iberian peninsula, the Mediterranean end of the Pyrenees. Slow and steady the steep ascend rendered me wide–eyed and pressed to the windows. Sewing lines of meticulously piled stonewalls and low stacked stone dwellings—architecture that followed the landscape, disappeared into hills and prairie, melding effortlessly throughout the windswept slopes. Among cacti, scrub, sage, thorny broom and French lavender the coastal town of Roses was getting smaller and smaller. The back and forth sway was exhilarating but by the cresting switchbacks of the downward side to secreted Cadaqués I was rendered nauseous. Perhaps an appropriate foreshadow to a Dali adventure. 

I have never been to a more romantic and mysterious city in my life (second only to Naples). Like a pearl from the sea, this fishing village clings to the side of a mountain, whitewashed with breakthroughs of the Mediterranean, hidden arcades and a road that hugs the incessant laps of the evening tide. The narrow streets of climbing vine are very steep, paved with rough slate and zigzag over the mountain like a rabbit warren. They become windy alleys by night, all leading down to an array austere beaches. But first from a distance; the far rocky coast is fringed by beautiful crisp and quiet coves and then you approach Cadaqués as if you were to approach a wild animal. 

Almost completely cut off by land, this fishing village remains hidden until you get to it. Isolated by the mountains of Pani Puig, Puig Bufadors and the rest of the Emporda, a comforting sense of isolation, and yet the cafes and bars were continuously full of activity, the nightlife was bustling with small excellent restaurants, the best of which were hidden in the secreted alleyways; one of certainty was the Mermaid Restaurant, hidden on a small dead end alleyway off of Carrer des Call, a tiny street named sa Sirena (Sirena literally is mermaid in Catalan) but before you turn the corner, there laid out in tiny stones is an urnshaped mermaid leading you, if your nose doesn’t lift your attention from the path. I stayed at an old hostel near the highest point in the center of the village, just a few steps away from the 18th Century Santa Maria Church. The concierge would bring out jam and toast and espresso in the morning, plates of cheese as well and answer with a curious lengthy and dipping, “sshhee, sshhee”. During the evenings the windows in my room remained open to the cool breeze and the quiet meandering from narrow Carrer de s'Esglèsia. One evening they were singing a birthday song below in Catalan as all the shop owners gathered with slices of chocolate cake on plates and flutes of champagne and mingled in the setting light.


Mornings were comprised of a walk straight down steep Carrer des Call, a whited tall valley to the sea. Everyday it was a surprise to enter the peek-through and enter the Plaça del Doctor Trèmols where people would mill quietly in search of espresso and breakfast. Here, sitting in the evening on the stonewall or a sea-facing bench with a bottle of wine and some cheese this was the perfect place to watch the waves and the setting sun or the people, or both. Before entering the plaza, before the low archway, just on the inside of the village sits a small fruit and vegetable market and a cheese and meat shop to stock up on lunches and then out for a walk in any direction. The dramatic terrain, the narrow and stony beaches; any one of them was remarkable for an afternoon of exploration or just reading and sketching. Also in the mornings, pre exploration, off the village's main square Es Passeig, situates a frenzied pastisseria. Excellent for espresso or tea certainly, but also for the amazing array of pastries; trays and trays of mushroom-cap-shaped cakes, the base of which I was told is just sugar and butter with a little sugar on top, a sort of sponge cake, gets their lineage from the eighteenth century. An indelibly sweet snack; they baked different kinds everyday—some were “flambejat” with rum. The croissants were excellent as well and the barista always said “Mercy” to me.


Tiny and old, the weatherworn Catalonian ladies, after pointing sharply and haggling gruffly inside the little fish market, to my amazement, always made up the village hills with their fish and fresh bread in basketry. After a long day out walks home for me were nearly always a slow surrender to the serious hikes all the way up to the daunting white walls of the Santa Maria Church. When the bell rings, from underneath you can witness its pregnant shape penetrating the tower against the blue sky. The octagonal bell tower, appropriately enough, was used as a lighthouse by the local fishermen and there is an inscription, curiously on a sundial directly gracing the bell tower’s façade. It states ominously; “ If I have no sun and you have no faith, we are nothing.”

It did make me think of Hemmingway. I though of him often. “The Sun Also Rises,” has been in my mind for so long and now I was in Spain. Driving the Vespa by the Plaza de Toros Monumental, was exhilarating and yet I did not have the heart to enter. I thought of those stories mostly here because it felt to me like it was an undiscovered little city filled with romantic wonder and danger. But those bells would ring all through the village and make you remember you were someplace special. Inside the Santa Maria Church is quite a surprise. I had been there for a while until one day I noticed the door was opened and I went in. Within the dark interior, for a moment frightfully, is a most impressive Baroque and golden altarpiece. The artist Pau Costa started this masterpiece in 1727 and it was dedicated to "La mare de Deu de l'Esperanca", patron Saint of the village. The figure central to the altarpiece is a representation of a pregnant Madonna, golden with lovely thin swimming hands and her flesh painted a light rosy-porcelain, matching her quite regal expression. Set in further; both scenes are golden dioramas and concave to the repeat of the womb or perhaps it is, still a womb but more an opened egg and may perhaps be an influence on Dali’s obsession with such imagery—this scene is situated directly over the Madonna, a carved representation of the “Coronation of Mary” (The final episode in the Life of the Virgin, and follows her Assumption) complete with a half-bare Christ, God the Father and lingering Holy Spirit like an apparition in the topmost egg dome. High up and swarming in the arches, the entire golden alters’ relieves are surrounded by golden winged angels. Their child bodies are painted the same pallid fleshy glaze; it’s a wild sight and it’s been said that the local fishermen used to hang live lobsters among the angels. This might be a Dali fable but I want to believe it, like those disembodied heads floating in the gilded wood iconography. 

Cadaqués was an attractive distraction but it was time to get back to the monastery and make some paintings. However my arrival at Montserrat, the country life I left had come to, had changed radically. The quiet monastery grounds were now teeming with festival. 

The new residents, the most of which were from Norway—nice enough but truly odd to be living in Spain among so many Norwegians—mind you, these were nice and interesting people, however they were entirely friends and family of the residency owners and not there in the mode of creation whatsoever. Their holiday turned into a bit of a nightmare. The unfamiliar faces and their children mingled in the all-night-long evenings—with some really great stories and amazing traditional Catalonian guitar playing, that was the best part however I was here to paint. Our communal dinners in the courtyard literally went all through the night—every night, and the distraction was apparent. In addition to this there was also a not-aforementioned incident involving a much necessary but neglected trip to the hospital emergency room, a hot ripping ride in the lorry with the chef and a small town twenty miles out, the likes of which will not be discussed at the present time.


Vis-à-vis the decision was easy; Costa Blanco was my studio, this is where my inspiration was coming from. I packed up the studio as quickly as I could muster, and the room and the vegetation I had collected. Johnny Shaw drove the lorry, bags and all to the Barcelona Nord. But timing is everything when you travel and in Spain making connections throughout the countryside is essential but sometimes a bit ambiguous. To be stranded is an unpleasant proposition, especially when funds were getting tight as they were then. The objective was to not have to get a hotel room and spend a night somewhere by accident. That said, Johnny Shaw zipped down to Barcelona, through the impenetrable city traffic, entered a wrong way street and bumped up onto the sidewalk right at the door of the station. This was after he accosted the Policia in a municipal lot were he was tersely asked to turn around and leave.


The first time around the trip to Cost Bravo had been relatively easily. Somehow that had all vanished. Connections were tight. I embarked on a different route and consequently in Figueres (birthplace of Salvador Dali and home of the Dali museum—his father was a public notary here—and what a bit of an oppressive town) I missed my connecting bus or, actually, had gotten there right on time but the bus was filled—the last to Cadaqués. I watched as the bus pulled away from the station distraught. Spending the night here in the small dirty station was out of the question. Fortuitously, a young couple, who were also on their way to Cadaqués from Barcelona, we connected through our distress, broken English and broken Spanish and made friends as the boy called his uncle which, moments later, procured a car. The ride was extremely fast and precipitous. In the front seat I kept my eyes on the road and widening at the quickly approaching bumpers, passing cars on two lane country roads, winding up and winding down the mountains. I was in fear of getting nauseous, which I easily fell into again—even now when I think about those rides over the mountains I get slightly nauseous.


What a reprieve to be back in this little fishing village. Cadaqués was my home. It was time to settle in and make this landscape my studio. Mornings were spent walking the coast, exploring, painting and dreaming. In the evenings I ran the coastline, the bluffs and coves, through the arid mountains, the steep grades of packed dirt and cacti to further secreted coves and distant lighthouses. On one such evening I set out into the steep hills south of town determined to make the lighthouse. Which I did but what I didn’t know was that there was a beautiful inland cove, wide and deep. High in the mountains I ran the thin tightwire trail that circumnavigated the perimeter looking far down the steep sheer bluff at the blue water, the languid wooden boats and the nude bathers. 

I collected species I thought were interesting and planted them on my small balcony as I always do when I go someplace, along with the plants gathered from Montserrat. When I wasn’t busy hiking, I was selecting a different beach to camp out and make watercolors. The placid blue seas of summer, the boats and ships of all different sizes are anchored in the bay. I’m told the very deep waters of the bay of Cadaqués is Catalonia’s largest natural harbor. And looking across the coves you can witness the abrupt coast, the sheer high cliffs, tiny islands and reefs of rocks. The boats, and old and wooden, specifically the Vela Llatina or “Latin Sail,” with over 2000 years of history, is the most traditional sail in the Mediterranean sea. I had fun painting their shape and making drawings.


Round the corner from Cadaqués is Portlligat, Dalí’s long-time home. He bought this little fishermen house and moved here with his wife Gala. These days, the Dali house is a place of pilgrimage for aficionados back then it was strange and small. The bay here now is anchorage shuffled in with motorboats and yachts, a mythical and enigmatic mooring. Almost sinister, you can say, in the piercing angles of evening sun. The atmosphere of which—the surrounding cliffs, imparts to a living inexplicable landscape of Dalí. He represented this world many times in his paintings of which you would not believe really existed until you are there within it. It was exhilarating to run along the cliffs of Cap de Creus and watch, as I believe Dalí had, as the swells of the sea crashed up against them, and the flocks of gannets, and the seagulls and the shearwaters took searing dives on the battering gusts of wind. Getting lost on the peninsula felt as if I were entrapped in one of those Dali paintings. Actually it felt as if Hitchcock placed me in Spellbound, that dream montage with eyeballs, scenes designed by Dalí himself. And there the sea in all its moods, continually affecting a presence of Dalí and charging my own work in different ways, not quite suffused with a spirit of the strange, but with unmistakable affection and admiration.

I should say, my draw to Cadaqués was unexpected but serendipitous the way I found out this magical place has had a reputation for a larger art and bohemian culture. Certainly the profound influence this strange landscape exerted on Dalí’s fanciful sensibility is apparent in his paintings however Cadaqués, has been an place of inspiration to the likes of Picasso, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Max Ernst, Man Ray but even John Cage and David Hockney and, I am even told, Walt Disney spent some time here as well as Albert Einstein, who played his violin on holiday.


One terribly beautiful but windy day I was having espresso at a café, called Meliton. The local wind, the tramuntana, howls down off the snow-clad summits of the Pyrenees and goads the Mediterranean into a raging ocean. Some evenings the sudden wind would toss the old wooden fishing boats and bring waves crashing up the ramparts. That afternoon in the hot sun the wind was so strong it blew my espresso cup, saucer and all, right off the table and all over my shirt and shorts in an explosion. I had my hoodie in my satchel and so I made into the bathroom to rinse out my shirt. It was here in queue where I was confronted with Marcel Duchamp. On the wall I noticed a half dozen curious photographs collage-ing the wall, salon-style. Apparently the Meliton was Marcel Duchamp’s chess playing café. In addition to some excellent black and white photographs there are some great ephemera, some in Duchamp’s own hand. I mention these artists and thinkers because. And next to beach, Llane Gran is a house where the Dali family spent the summers when he was a child—the house belonged to Salvador's sister till recently. But apparently this is the house where Dali spent some days with the poet his good friend Federico Garcia Lorca, one of my favorite poets and also the film director Luis Buñuel, a director I have thought a lot about. Together, the three of them wrote the “Un Chien Andalou” script here. Slicing up eyeballs—remember that Pixies song? Never mind Debaser, remember the film imagery? A surrealist masterpiece. And there is other curious evidence; outside the church there was always a white 1968 Land Rover, owned by the Dali’s own photographer who had a great curious studio across from the hostel. A sort of cabinet of wonder in black and white images and collections of Leica’s, and Nikons and Olympus’.

The last days in Cadaqués were peacefully brilliant and I went on many runs, exploring as many views as I could find. Each bottle of wine that was finished on the beach in the evenings was thoughtfully absorbed with a piece of nice cheese and some olives and amazing local sea salt and almonds. Days melded into night and into morning, right into departure early in August as the town began filling up with people. The Cadaqués International Festival of Music was beginning and every year the festival brings many talented Musicians to this remote fishing village—some of the best classical artists in the world, I was told by a Norwegian Visual Poet. Musicians to the likes of: Andre Watts, Ivo Pogolerich, Maria Joao Pire, Sviatoslav Richter, Montserrat Caballe, Josep Carreras, Victoria dels Angels as well as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stuttgart Orchestra and the Franz Lizt Orchestra of Budapest. Tents were rising to the palms while the on coming traffic from Roses and stretching way over the mountains was stifling bumper to bumper. The last two days in Spain were spent in Barcelona in an old hostel situated in El Born with a wrought-iron balcony overlooking my favorite, Parc de la Ciutadella. The busy traffic below, the foreign murmur and the sweet sunsets reaching over the park—my stipend had vanished and I was dreaming, promising, I would find my way back to Barcelona.

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