I’m not exactly sure what Mitt Romney meant when he recommended self-deportation for all the illegal immigrants – in the next breath he categorized about half of America as a group of indolent free-loaders waiting for their dole checks to arrive in the ( nearly free ) US post, so I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind if some or all of us ( I think he really meant whoever didn’t vote for him ) would get ourselves out of the country , pronto.
So, I did. But I voted first.
I write this from the amazing city of Valencia, Spain. I’m here for the staggering amount of four months, teaching at a new graduate program of Berklee College of Music. The school is located in the City of Arts and Sciences, a massive architectural wonder built a few years ago in the heart of Valencia. There is simply no way to describe my workplace – I will include a few pictures, but basically it looks like the Starship Enterprise needed to put down somewhere, and chose this as the Mothership.
I live in a two-floor garret located in the neighborhood known as Carmen – basically the Casbah of Valencia. The widest street is narrower than your basic alley – they build small concrete pillars along the edge of the sidewalk – the theory is that there ought to be something other than blind faith separating the pedestrians from front bumpers. So far, so good.
Some initial observations:
Most of the cabs are Toyota Priuses. Heat is carefully regulated in the homes. Lighting is dim. There is a new bicycle system similar to that in Boston, and it’s already a big hit. It adds up to an energy awareness we have absolutely no clue about. If we lived like this, and diverted the savings to the deficit, it would disappear in a year.
Everybody is thin. I think they lose weight running around in the showers trying to get wet. Meals are frequent and small. There is a scale in my apartment, but it’s in kilos, so I have no clue. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Forget the theory that everybody speaks English – outside of school, nobody does. But the Spanish are basically nice people, and like the rest of us, what would be the point of being rude? They want to help, and with the aid of a translation app on my I-phone, I seem to be able to get where I want to go, and pick up the lingo along the way. Speaking of which, a lot of the signs are in two languages – Spanish and Catalan. Which is another form of Spanish. Old ways die hard, and a number of the denizens here are clinging fiercely to the old ways, so in an effort to appease the traditionalists, there are two forms of Spanish, old and new, being spoken and written in the city.
A surprising number of the people I meet are ex-patriots from various European and English-speaking countries, i.e., Australia, France, Denmark, and points in between. They came here for a job, personal relationship, or they just drifted in on the tide, and realizing the weather is terrific, the cost of living is low, and there is no end to the nightlife, they just hung on, hunkered down, and figured out how to game the immigration laws. It reminds me of Santa Monica in the eighties, when people just sort of drifted west until they bumped into the Pacific Ocean, and decided to make a life out of it.
The economy here is in the tank – I know because I watch NBC news. Mind you, look around the corner, all you see are people trying to make their way. I suppose it’s possible they’re all talking about their version of the fiscal cliff, but if so, it must be a funny cliff, because they seem to smile a lot.
A few decades ago, the city fathers, having grown tired of centuries of flooding by a centrally located river, wisely diverted it to a series of floodgates north of the city. Left with an abandoned riverbed in the heart of the city, they providentially and painstakingly built an incredible central park out of the riverbed. Known locally as ‘El Rio’, it has become the true Central Park of the city – imagine the Esplinade of Boston, three times as wide, running down the middle of the city, for miles, with well-lit bike paths and walking lanes, safe as the White House lawn, populated like Times Square at Christmas – full of joggers, walkers, dog-walkers, and soccer fields ( lots of them ). It’s about three miles from my apartment to work, and so far, as commutes go, it sure beats Route 128.
Lest you think I’ve forgotten about the things that matter at home, I’ve been looking for a place to watch the upcoming playoff Pat’s game. The only local Irish bar I’ve found has advertised an upcoming ‘American football’ game – Atlanta versus San Francisco. I took the owner aside and patiently explained that this couldn’t really be an ‘American’ game, for the simple reasons, A) Atlanta seceded from the Union in 1861, and B) San Francisco seceded from the planet around 1969, the Summer of Love, which I understand is still actually going on there. He patiently explained that neighborhood rules will not allow him to stay open after midnight, when the real ‘American’ game will start. I am currently making other plans. Stay tuned. Over and out.