Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spy Towers, Rock Monsters, and Ghost Pirates, Oh My. Also Spain.

Things I did in and around Sevilla! In order of appearance in my mind as I try to remember what I did:


On my very first Saturday in Sevilla, the rest of the students in the program and I went to an old roman ruin right outside Sevilla, and its name is Itálica. There was a big coliseum and a ton of old shells of buildings and fancy olden-style old roads and loads of other cool historical mosaics and such. Apparently a lot of the stones had been stolen by the moors at some point to build other stuff, so there was a whole 'nother layer of history going on there too. (like a socio-historical cross-section of petty imperial squabbles through the ages)

So here's some.. um... roman stuff

The stereotypical roman roads were the coolest though; I've never wanted a chariot so bad in my life.

We even saw the rich neighborhood and the remains of the bath house, which I assume is where all the rich Romans would hang out and talk about Zeus when they weren't either riding their chariots or watching people die in the arena. (I know Zeus=Jupiter for the Romans, but Jupiter makes me think planet and Zeus makes me think white-bearded Disney character, so I'm sticking with Zeus. I've already made it clear that I am not particularly enamored with factuality.)

 Speaking of which, here's the amphitheater/coliseum/death-trap/lion-and-gladiator-filled public spectacle.

It was the very beginning of the summer program and I still didn't know the other students or the professors very well, so it felt more than a little ominous when we slowly lined up and marched out into the middle of this menacing monument to mortality and cheap placatory thrills.

Whether or not the teachers had originally been planning a Hunger Games/Battle Royale type situation for their still jet-lagged and culturally misplaced innocently academic victims, fate had pity on us that day and decided to let us live. Maybe the lion smuggler was stuck in traffic; maybe the long-dead ghosts in that sacred arena quietly made their haunting voices known to those who would've done us harm; maybe the wide-eyed innocence of my professor's newborn daughter gave our would-be tormentor new hope for life and a more agreeable disposition towards foreigners, or maybe we were never in any danger at all and I just have a vividly paranoid and wildly unstable imagination; I guess we'll never know.

(Maybe my whimsy is trying to kill me; that doesn't seem especially implausible. [IT DOESN'T??? That's more than a little disconcerting.]) (My whimsy seems to be showing up more and more in my blog these days; WAIT DOES THAT MEAN MY BLOG HAS SOME KIND OF CONSISTENT NARRATIVE THREAD THAT TIES THE POSTS TOGETHER???) (This blog is really just a story about me and my whimsy? All these random life-events and trips to Europe are just side plots and flavor text? At this point I'm pretty sure "relatively implausible" is a totally irrelevant descriptor which is no longer of any use to me.)

(So assuming this blog is at its core a story about me and my whimsy (as my whimsy is necessarily part of me, I feel no compulsion to courteously place it before my own name. ["my whimsy and I/me"] That would be silly and probably indicative of some kind of vaguely dissociative mental dysfunction. Let's assume now that everything else I do is in no way indicative of any sort of thing at all similar to that thing I said either. Assumed? Good.)

So assuming this blog is a story about me and my whimsy, then the most important question now is what kind of story it is. a grand one? one with lots of tense silences followed by cars exploding? a hard-to-read and endlessly-aggravating-to-middle-school-children Homeric epic? a Shakespearean tragedy? a cheesy romantic-comedy vaguely based on a Shakespearean tragedy? A witty but ultimately bland action buddy-comedy which finds an inordinate amount of its humor in race jokes? A ridiculously meta and up-its-own-ass-with-pretentiousness quirky indie movie with a wealth of obscure and inexplicably outdated pop culture references and Nicolas Cage?

 Great question(s). I would stick a random picture of Mr. Cage in right here and let you think about that for a bit, but I'm not very good at Internets and I'd probably end up stealing the picture.

Proceeding with the...um... story. For lack of a better word.

So I left the roman ruins, energized and thrilled to encounter life anew, inspired as I was by my completely illusional near-death-or-at-least-impending-mortal-peril experience. (I am no longer sure if 'illusional' is indeed a word or if it means at all what I think it does, but I'm going to leave it there and act like I know what I'm talking about.)

Then we went to the beach! The beach and surrounding area were called "Matalascañas," and among other significant features, THERE WAS A HUGE-MONGOUS GREAT BIG ROCK IN WATER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BEACH.

I found it insane. and cool. insanely so.

 Supposedly maybe the rock at some point fell from some kind of tower or wall in place there but that doesn't make sense because it's smack dab in the middle of a beach and there's water there and it's a real big rock.

It's obviously a man-made real big huge-mongous rock though, so there should theoretically be a true and well-recorded origin story somewhere, but I haven't been motivated to really search for one and I've stubbornly refused to believe any of the one I've read already, so we're just going to assume that it's been there forever and that all we have in this day and age are fairy tales and fables postulating fanciful ways that A) a thunder god may have marked this beach thousands of years ago with a mighty tower to exemplify his resolve against the evil water deities, only to slowly see his tower worn down by the water gods and their obnoxious powers of erosion, B)  a giant falcon may have ripped the royal tower from the top of the brightest castle of men and dropped it on the frightful forces of the sea as they slimily slid-marched to battle, not-so-subtly demonstrating his avian superiority over all other peoples and elements of the Earth, or C) a rabid rock monster may have slipped on a beached seal, died, and decomposed into a more manageable shape.

But my point is that the rock is huge and random and pretty cool and in the middle of the beach.

orwellian spy turret. now you know what they look like.
 Here is also a conspicuous tower which was clearly visible from where we sat on the beach. Spooky. "Orwellian Spy Turret" sounds like an appropriate title.

 And now let's cover some of the other cool things in Sevilla! (disclaimer: the beach was not in Sevilla. I'm a dirty liar.)

This is me being musical in the park of Maria Luisa, which is a huge and beautiful park next to la plaza de España, which is a thing of which we will talk in a moment. Picnicking is something we did a lot of while in Spain, and the parque de Maria Luisa was one heckuva place to picnick. Well, besides the blistering heat, numerous sprinklers which kept us on edge the entire time and limited the picnickable lawn area, and the wide array of partially clothed couples scattered around our picnic like animatronic and vaguely erotic greek statues.

 (Please assume that all typos are intentional.)

Relevant side note: In Spain, houses are for families. If you're going to hang out with a friend, you go wander around in the street or go to a bar with him. You don't bring them back to your house all willy-nilly at random just to *hang out* or *play a few games of smash brudders on the wii*, because HOUSES ARE FOR FAMILIES. Of course I'm exaggerating and generalizing, but it is a prevalent trend/custom, and it is not to be reckoned with.

What makes thatthis side note relevant: this rule affects not only friends, but special friends. So if you want to spend time with your special friend, you just go hang out in the park and make-believe you're alone. (It helps maintain the illusion if you close your eyes and make enough noise to drown out other people's conversations)The fact that the majority of Spaniards under 25 years old consistently live with their parents only serves to exacerbate this common conundrum.

That all probably seems really weird and grossly public to you, but keep in mind that modesty works different in Europe. (In that it doesn't.) You know what they say about Americans in European Saunas: Spotting one is as simple as finding the fidgeting, awkward one who's still wearing their towel, seated among a veritable forest of stark naked men women and children

(I'm not sure if they actually say that but I'm fairly sure I've said it at least once)
(Punctuation is for wimps. Boring ones.) 

 Here's a slightly skewed and misleading view of La Plaza de España! Right next to el parque de Maria Luisa, it's basically a semi-circle of big government buildings with a cool fountain and plaza in the middle and a little canal thing all around the plaza. People had little boats in it too--almost like it was the cheap kiddie version of Venice. (but with infinitely less dead mobsters and drowning indebted gamblers)

lol carriages. At least in big places like this they were usually better about picking up the horse poop.
 If any of this looks familiar, it's because it's Naboo from Star Wars Episode I, which is AWESOME. (Objectively I know Episode I is probably the worst Star Wars movie and just generally a bad movie on the whole, but it was the first one I saw and I loved it and I haven't seen the whole thing since and thus it's my favorite. I can't help myself. It's like it's my childhood lover who got away and now I unfairly compare every woman I meet to this misremembered childhood fantasy, making them pale in comparison to the tedious, overacted, unnecessarily confusing girl with the bad Jamaican accent and big ears that I remember from the elementary school playground.)

Actually wait maybe this was only Naboo in Episode 2. I have no idea but I don't care; this was Naboo and Naboo makes me think about Episode 1. My hopes and dreams all died with Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul, my favorite characters ever, and thus I have no reason to care about any movie after Episode 1. As I've said before, I know that is irrational and wrong, but I can't help it. Please forgive my childish whimsy, for it know not what it do.

Here's paddle boats on the beautiful river of Sevilla: Guadalquivir. It was named thusly by the Moors when they ruled Southern Spain from their royal seat in Sevilla. Guadalquivir means "big river" in Arabic, and they named it so because, well.. uh, it's big I guess.

 And this final picture is of me and my shoe relaxing on the river Guadalquivir in a paddle boat. (I was being lazy at the time.)  The river cuts right through some of the most important-interesting regions of Sevilla and it's cool.

Also that shore right there looks cool. Like the everglades or something.

Notice the big tower in the first picture? That's the Torre de Oro, (tower of gold!) which used to be a really big deal before Sevilla got very big (now it just houses an incredibly eclectic "naval history" museum. It's got model ships and paintings of random kings, so it's pretty much indistinguishable on the inside from any other tower or castle or aristocratic mansion or spooky forest lodge inhabited by ghost pirates ever. If you look closely at the second picture you'll notice the tower still in the background. Yay!



  1. Two thoughts:
    1) Whimsy = Yes.
    2) Maybe just leave a bank at the bottom or top of the page with all the extra punctuation you might have missed, and let the readers place them themselves. Like this:
    You open parenthesis more often than you close them, so make sure there is plenty of closers!