Saturday, August 06, 2005

Goodbye Spain

Tonight, I will take the metro from Puerto del Sol out to Plaza de Castillo and then take a bus or cab to Chamartín Train station to catch my overnight train to Barcelona. In the morning, I will change in Barcelona for a ride out of Spain and back to Montpellier where I change trains again for Nice. My journey westward is over and I am heading east and south, to Nice, Rome, Naples, then north and east to Heidelberg and Berlin before heading home again at the end of August.

It has been a very interesting stay in Iberia. Despite the heat that has driven me inside nearly every afternoon for a siesta or for a session at the computer, I am finding that Spain and Portugal are home to some very friendly people and that I think I could make my home here if I ever have to leave the US. In Portugal, I found it weird to be in a country where I had to communicate in a language that was neither mine nor theirs, a situation that I had not experienced in over eleven years when I visited Greece. Of course, in Greece, I just spoke English, but in Portugal, it was easier for me to communicate in Spanish than in English (with some notable exceptions). As a result, coming back to Spain has seemed like a simplification in some ways. I find myself actually understanding conversations that are taking place around me in Spanish, and I am better at expressing my own needs in Spanish than I was before I left the US.

Tomorrow, though, I will be returning to France, a country where I am able to speak the language better than I speak Spanish and where I know the culture more definatively. In particular, I will be returning to Nice....

When I was last in Nice, I hitch-hiked my way in with two insane Italian ladies who drove me from the middle of nowhere near Marseilles and went 100 miles out of their way to drop me right on the Promenade des Anglais right in front of Old Nice and the home of my high school French teacher´s parents. That afternoon, there had been a minor earthquake centered at the airport in Nice, and a chunk of land had fallen off into the Meditteranean. As a result, there had been a small tsunami...large enough, actually, to wash out roads and to deposit sailboats in the trees along the coast from Nice through Monaco and on to Menton. I took the train to Menton to visit a family that had hosted me when I was sixteen years old and had a very difficult time returning to Nice that evening when the buses and trains were hindered by the debris of the wave.

My plans for this visit are to return to Menton and to find out if any of the people I knew then are still alive and in the area where they used to live. There was a bad history between us, an unrequieted love between their daughter and me, and when she finally decided to marry a casino security guard from Monaco, there was a good deal of tension between us. He never was very friendly and I have to say I was glad to leave his home the night we met in 1980.

Beyond spending time in Menton, I hope to see Monaco again and perhaps to visit the beach in Nice.

I have found myself thinking of Mario a lot today. The fact that this man is so very sick and living on the streets has me quite worried for his fate. I know that we arrived at our similarities differently, his path through drug use and mine through being a gay man at the wrong time in history, but now that we are both here, I feel a great connection with this stranger. Perhaps it is because I know from talking with him that his prognosis is really not good and that with a viral load in the millions, he will not likely see the winter. When he talked to me of his dreams, I knew that they were likely to remain dreams and nothing more than that and it makes me terribly, terribly sad for him. When he looked into my camera and saw his image, he was taken aback by what he saw, but he knows that power of his image and the hope that we both share that our conversation on film will have some impact on the world. I watched him walk and saw the stutter in his step, and was reminded of the same movement when my friend Donald was sick. Perhaps Mario serves for me as a person to whom it is not too late to offer what I wasn´t able to give Donald. I don´t truly know what it all means yet. I only know that if you are in Lisbon in the Baixa-Chiado area, overlooking the city, and you see a sickly man stumbling along with a sign asking for your help....please give him all you can and tell him Ron says hello.

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