May 27, 2004


What was once a 10 delay wait became a 15 and now, a 20 day affair. Everyone we talk to at the high speed provider at Auna gives us a different access data and installation requirement stories each time. Now, we are to wait until next week to get broadband.



...still waiting...

Meanwhile I?ve finished another painting... it took me a week of writhing, it was a tough fight... and I?m arfaid that it might look that way.

More pics coming maybe next week....

Posted by Dennis at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2004

May 18, 2004

Still Waiting

Sorry everbody, we?re still waiting for the DSL to arrive. Tomorrow, I hazard a query into the internet provider with my Espa?ol. Here?s what I think I sound like:

DSL Espa?ol: Hello welcome to Auna high speed internet, can I help you?

Me: Hello, I am arrange ADSL for my house before but now not here. Please forgive me my Spanish more bad.

DSL Espa?ol: Hello, can I help you?



Posted by Dennis at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2004

Middle of May

Here we are, in the middle of May... some news:

Stephanie?s back from LA. Her father passed away last weekend. The family has been under considerable strain over the past few months. "Sweet Release" as the lyrics go in the Gospel of Colonus. Back home, we can continue reconstructing what "home" means here in Tossa. Each moment building a new understanding of what life means, now that death continues to modify the shoddy understanding we had of it in our youth.

I?ve finished the first painting since departing Texas so many months ago. There are some changes to how I?ve painted before and there is a keynote that I am taking from the landscape and character of Tossa and the Costa Brava. There was a familiar agony of restarting the squish of paint in a new studio, but there is an ease and excitement of the feel of painting again. More of this when pictures flow once the broadband at home is up and running.

Ive read a few things: "Homage to Catalonia" by Orwell, who recounts his experience in the Spanish Civil War. Among other things, I had a better feel for the traditions of Anarchism and Communism here. Then, I read Hitchen?s recent book on Orwell, a great perspective adjustment on his legacy and how others from both sides of the political spectrum have annexed his ideas, or reputation. It was a good assessment of the internecene wars within the intelligencia, like Berman?s "A Tale of Two Utopias" or his recent "Terror and Liberalism". Now, I?m reading Robert Hughes book on Barcelona... called "Barcelona". Its wonderful to study the roots of the Catalan mindset, especially after getting a peek at it from Orwell?s Homage... and speaking here with locals.

I?m waiting for the next cuadros (painting panel) to be delivered by my carpenter. I?ve got works on paper prepared and I?ll work on these whilst I wait. The weather has been getting warmer and the sky is cloudless. We sunbathed for the first time today, we went shopping... building a new life brick by brick. A life after all of our fathers have now passed away.

Posted by Dennis at 11:24 AM | Comments (5)

May 9, 2004

Cajas and the Nite Out

The eleven boxes (cajas) we sent from Houston finally arrived last Friday. It?s funny how they change the homestead. I guess we has adapted to living out of our suitcases with the few things we had left here before and what we bought in the meantime. Now, we have as many household items you can pack into eleven 24x18x18 boxes.

The books! It?s so great to see them, pull them out and find places to stash them in this big house. Mostly old books half read, ones I wanted to read more thoroughly. Some of them are the old friends. It?s wonderful to see them on these few shelves.

Kitchen stuff, like cutting boards and the knives we like to cook with. Corkscrews, wood spoons, utensils that we have adapted to and now have to come depend on to prepare our food. And clothes, many of them winter clothes. It?s a treat to pull out the knit hats and scarfs against the cold (it?s not so cold here now, but I?m trying to live lean and not gobble up the heat whilst Stephanie?s away... kind of an austerity thing). And studio stuff, things like these great shears and extra paper and paint. I have squirreled away so much paint that the makeshift shelf I devised had crumbled under the wieght of them all. Now I have to wait until this first painting is done before I try to rebuild a better shelf.

Now for a story of the night out with Kiko..

Fransisco (Kiko for short) said he?d be by around 11pm to have a drink with me. That was perfect timing to get some stuff done and cap the night off. I didn?t expect too much, drinks in a bar around the corner and we would call it a night around two, probably.

At the fist bar, "Sa Torre", Kiko tells me of a dilemma he?s contending with. He?s animated: "Dennis, I cannot believe this is happening to me." (Kiko wants to speak English, and so he begins with this but breaks into Spanish at the stumbling blocks.) It seems he is being chased by a guy in town. "I tell you he stopped his car in front of mine and he got out with an iron bar!" Now this guy is the husband of a childhood girlfriend of Kiko?s. All that was water under the bridge of course, but this guy has an idea that his wife is still in love with Kiko and therefore revenge must be had. Kiko shrugs his shoulders, "I don?t understand, what is his problem?"

So Kiko jumps in his car and finds a path out of the roadblock and this man throws the bar, jumping into his car to make chase. Kiko?s freaking out and as they are driving the tight streets of Tossa, he relises that he needs official help. He dials the Police on his cellphone: "I have a man chasing me who wants to fight, I am coming your way right now!" And incredibly, the assailant chases Kiko right into the arms of the police, who restrain him. An official police report is filed (the assailant?s name is Se?r Bizzaro, perfect, eh?) and this document is handed about the bar to the amazement of the bartender and others. We talk about self defense and I argue for simple awareness and not to start martial arts training, or carry a knife or anything like that. "Kiko, the hazardous times are between 4pm and 10pm when this guy is getting drunk. Just keep your eyes open and know what?s happening all around you." I tell hime the four rules of fencing: "Distance, distance, distance, distance." As we depart for the next bar, I stop at our house and fetch the pepper spray that we have for just this kind of occassion. A perfect gift. Kiko smiles incredulously, "I cannot believe what is happening in my life now!"

The next bar is a place in which Kiko?s wife works. She?s from Castille, Spain and was trained in wine, hospitality arts or something like that. She corrects my Spanish and I enjoy the pride she takes in her language. I notice that the other Catalans, who normally make a distinction of Catalan language and culture ("Dennis, Catalonia is the Switzerland of Spain."), do nothing to throw a wet blanket on her pride. Tolerance is beautiful.

The bar is empty and the door is half closed, early. It seems the rains have dropped the patron level in the town. I meet the owner of the bar and Kike (a nickname for Rico), a couple not yet married. Kike has just rented a place near ours and Kiko has some fun with him, "Kike, I can?t believe you live in a Cinderella House!" Evidently Kiko, who is builder in the town, doesn?t like the aesthetics of the remodel of Kike?s house, a rennovation that ignores the rustic roots and drowns that beauty with too many "pretty" finishes. Everyone is having a good time, muy amable.

By this time, we were in yet another bar that was just around the corner. I was surprised by how nice the interior was, I had underestimated it from outward appearances. For a reference for my friends in Los Angeles: Chinatown has two bars that are worth going to: Hop Louie and the Mountain. I was beginning to realise that this little town of Tossa had many, many Hop Louies and Mountains in it. I begin to ask just how many, but my new friends don?t know how to answer. Beers are flowing, as the guys bellied up to the bar send over a couple of rounds to say hello.

Kike begins to tell me about Issac Asimov and his "Foundation" series. I remember reading this when I was a kid. "Tranto is like the EU." Tranto (sp?) is like the Federation of Gene Roddenberry?s (sp?again) Star Trek. I guess Tranto has some advesary and Kike spices up the conversation by suggesting that America is that advesary for the EU. I responded with "we?re all in this together" and "we?re all family, America is the child of Europe" thing. And after some discussion of the special Greek and Roman roots of Europe, and how America shares those roots, we relax under the banners of fraternity. By this time their English is gone and my Spanish is tolerated and more beers came our way.

As we exit the bar, I figure this is the signal end of the night. Two thirty am. Kiko and I say goodbye to the other two and we walk back into the direction of the house where Kiko parked his car. Kiko says: "Dennis, do you want to stop at a disco near your place?" Now, I never found the discos attractive here in Spain. I mean, my late teens and early twenties was forged in the disco era of the late seventies, and I thought had my fill of the pulsing lights- dance floor spin that record Mr. DJ shake your groove thang- thing. So with reluctance we push past the doors of the Tahiti Club.

At first, it looked like a mild version of what I feared. But then I began to notice a slew of details: The music was live. And the patrons, who were mainly all on thier feet and mostly dancing (feet kicking and hands writhing, Flameco-like to my eyes), were mouthing their lips, they knew the music. All guitars, the singers were Catalan, indeed the whole bar was filled with locals. Then act followed act and the music was awesome, one after the other five or six in all. Kiko tells me: "Dennis, this place is dangerous in the summer.. if you enter alone, you will not leave alone." Note to self: don?t go here alone, Dennis.

And Kiko notices that there is a celebrity in the midst: Betts. He yells out: "Betts!, Betts!" He screws up his courage and approaches her, telling her she has to meet his Californian friend. I tell her she must be the Madonna of Catalonia, not knowing if this referent is appropriate, taking the risk anyway. She shrugs and takes the compliment. I realised that the social boundaries are so different here in this part of Spain.

I get home at five am, motor reflexes destroyed. And the whole of the next day was spent in bed, wondering why people mess with thier equilibrium like that. But this time, we have our DVD?s, fresh out of the eleven boxes, perfect to nurse an ebbing hangover with. I eat soup and piddle in the studio as I wonder how to get the ball rolling again with the paintings.

Posted by Dennis at 7:26 AM | Comments (1)

May 7, 2004

Information Aged

It?s been one month since I?ve had a high speed connection at home and I?m missing one badly. All we have is an old television set that was left in the house from the previous owner (13 channels solamente) and our primitive antenna rig can only recieve one station with enough clarity: BBC World. Call this revenge, my surf report pals stateside, as you will.

The surf report is a small chat circle of friends to whom I send (and some respond) a digest of interesting sites. It might appear to be news-blog-like (Instapundit, Iberian Notes) but I wouldn?t compare it to the quality of what these super heros of the bloggerverse actually do. The surf report is an effort to share information that I am absorbing with pals with which I enjoy news-topical discussions with. I was tired of shouting across the chasm of our separable info-verses, everyone locked in their own bubbles.

This blog is an extension of my studio... and while an artist?s studio can be thought of as a reflection of that artist?s life, my art life has focused on the life of paint... or "breathing life" into a material that had been declared dead in our time. I had narrowed my focus even though I had treated my education up until that time with the most extravegance (g-d, do I need spelll check now): Navy, Architecture and a little over a fifteen year saunter as a substitute for undergrad art school. I had prepared myself almost perfectly (an undergrad humanities degree in literature would be the capper) for what the artworld wanted (far-flung, neo-Smithson, make art with anything within your reach) and then I turned my back.

I did this because I wanted to turn towards painting, and I knew that I couldn?t paint the things I have done in the past decade without a brilliant focus upon it. I did this too, because of the hubris I saw and still see in the artworld too, an unselfconscious pride in its achievements. I did it in honor of the great painters I weaned myself on as a kid, for the week I spent in the Prado in my teens, astonished, floating. I did it because I?m stubborn and they said it couldn?t be done. I did it simply because I wanted to... passionately.

And I think this weblog is a keyhole to the rest of the world. I?ve been thinking about installations, making things like sculptures of conversations and recreating the C.I.C. (Combat Information Center), fused with an idea of how to start up an alternative architectural practice... I want to do some drawings of it and I?ll show you later when we get our broadband.

When we get our broadband. Next week? That?s the promise. I miss the spontaneous google searches. I miss the backstory that can only be found with a broad news scan and weblog surfs.

I miss Stephanie too. Right now, she?s bedside with her Dad. Times are really rough over there. We talk every day. She tells me stories that are hauntingly similar to when my father was ill, his mind fogged, not knowing what is wrong, forgetting how he got that strange place in life. Life is stubborn, and it?s not a pretty sight when the fingers reach the end of the tether... and even so, thank g-d that it is stubborn. (I try not to tell all of it here.)

Back to the studio. Then tonight, Kiko (a nickname for Fransisco, our friend who happens to be our contractor) and I will rendevous for drinks. His favorite: "Nocandos", no can do?s. Time for an espa?ol workout. People tell me my Spanish is getting better, but I can?t tell... I feel less so. I?m starting to think in Spanish, a few phrases here and there. But the brain feels more addled than strong. Let?s hope this is a good sign.

Posted by Dennis at 4:56 AM | Comments (4)

May 6, 2004

Passing Storms

Thanks for the messages on the blog and otherwise guys. I promise to reply to everyone once I get the internet hooked up at the house. Right now, it?s a furtive drop into the internet cafes whereever I can find them.

Weather report: Low pressure zones passing to the North and South of us shot a lot of cold nasty weather by. Temps dropped to the low fifties but now the sky?s blue and we are moving upwards of sixty. There was not as much rain as before, but alot of wind and great stormy surf. It was a good time to watch the sea break on the rocks. The heavy winter coats are back in the closet and I expect them to stay there until October.

Too bad that Tomio & Naomi missed a stay here in Tossa, their schedule was too tight and they had to leave Barcelona for Paris a day after I discovered his message on this blog. Although our house?s accomodations here in Tossa is not much to compete with their room at the Gran Hotel Havana smack in the middle of Barcelona. We were able to talk on the phone and I could hear their amazement at the wonders of Gaudi.

Living here in Tossa sans auto leaves us with the option of dropping into Barcelona for a day trip via autobus at eight Euros each way. For friends visiting us, I?d recommend that a day trip is enough as the bus drops you off at the North terminal which is to the East of the old city center, plenty close to walk to whereever you want to go. I?ll be interested to hear John Chappel?s (Ibrian Notes, in the soup of links to your left) advice about the night life action in Barcelona. But Tossa is pretty nice... pretty too, and a good respite from a pedestrian day in BCN.

The bus thing is a bummer for going to the art openings, everything opens around seventhirty for a couple of hours and I imagine that if we meet the right people, we?d want to hang out for the late night action. The last bus leaves at nine-ish, which leaves me with a geeky feeling, but whatever. A car won?t be an option until the exchange rates gets closer to parity (late summer, according to the BBC, but what do they know).

Yesterday was the first work in preparing the first panel for painting. I?ve glued the first linen to the panel and wrestled with a pathetic stapler (grapadora), tossing it into trash in the process. I miss my tools stateside... but I?ve got to adjust to the reality here. I?m also testing the latex prep with several swatches, which I should finish today. The rest of the afternoon is going to be about work on paper, tiny sizes prepped long ago, I have to wait until our boxes yet arrive (other studio gear) from the March 15th shipment from Houston.

Last night, I had dinner with Joan, Rosa and family (Anna, Josep and the kids Pau and Marta). Delicious food, two kinds of tortillas, peas and ham and pemientos, pan Catalan, salad, strawberries (fresas) and coffee and wine. Armed with my pocket Franklin Larousse dictionary, it was hours of brain wracking Espa?ol... fun and gatifying (these people are so generous and loving), but my brain throbbed as I walked home near midnight. Mi espa?ol is mas de menos en lat ma?ana y menos de mas en la noche.

Posted by Dennis at 7:24 AM | Comments (1)

May 4, 2004

Barcelona Report

For this first foray into Barcelona, here?s the skinny:

Everything?s closed. Just the Museum and most of the galleries. But abundance did favor me however. I stumbled into a gallery near the museum that was resusitating (sp?) the career of a.. er painter (??) who died int the mid seventies unkown, and who knows, pennyless. His stuff (aluminum and gold foil in stripe patterns) looks like it might have been done by a hip twenty something today. I note the Steve Balkinol and ersatz photowork in the backroom, so i ask the girl behind the desk in fractured Spanish about the scene. It turns out whe went to art school in Miami, so she delvered an analysis in English and sold me a guide book ("Curator") and I was off to the races.

First, I tried to check out the local state run school called "Massema", but no luck. I turned into a courtyard that was a mix of civillians and urban warriors, and the riff raff were thicker the deeper I went with people sleeping in stairs and doorways. U-Turn (chickenshit that I am).

I got lunch and plot the rest of the day: I figured I only had the time to find an art store and see the galleries at Carrer Consell. Not knowing where to go (I wanted to ask the art students where they shop), I went to the one I knew of at C/ Ferrar in the old City. The boutique thing is freaking me out: little tiny bath oil sized bottles of mat resin (I need gallons) at perfume prices... so I buy cheapo bottles of transparent latex to experiment with later. There?s an art store in Girona that I?ll have to see if they have what I need. Teh ramifications of this: I will have to find the right way to build my supports for the work, it looks like I can?t make them in same way as I did back in the states.

Gotta go, my gallery dealer in Tokyo is in town and he lost my number, so he left his in this blog. It looks like we might hook up after all! Cool.

Oh yea, I hooked up with an internet provider this morning. The first try was a no go, they couldn?t handle Macintosh. The experience communicating over teh telephone was a bear, after three operators, I found one who was charitable enough (one told me to find someone who could speak Spanish and hung up on me) to make it happen for us.

More later.

Posted by Dennis at 8:42 AM | Comments (2)

May 3, 2004

Oh yea...

Oh yea, we painted our first floor last week. It took 40 liters of paint and five days of concentrated effort. Brutal effort. We had to backtrack after using the wrong color (them color charts are funny... color is soooo contextual), we had this pickish thing going on, it looked like a house for a Saudi Prince in Bel Air. Joan and Josep were extremely helpful in driving us to the local Bauhaus (Home Depot) several times. We feel like family.

Posted by Dennis at 4:32 AM | Comments (0)

El Ultimo

OK. The title of this entry was to be "Extremis", but as I sit here in this internet cafe, I hear a lady say these words to her child... I figure it?s slightly better.

First of all, the bad news. Stephanie?s father has taken a turn for the worse. He has been fighting cancer for the last nine months and even though he?s been tough, the cancer has been a little bit tougher. (I wrote a description of it, but it seems a little too much, this last sentence will have to do.) Stephanie is on her way back to California. We don?t know how long she will be there, we?ll know when she sees her dad. Meanwhile, it?s me and Juno in this big house.

At this moment, I?m in a town South of Tossa, called Blanes. I?ve been looking for a hardware store that a local construction worker in Tossa told me about... but no luck. it?s past eleven and it looks like I won?t make it back for the Spanish class in time (sorry honey, I?ll make it this Wednesday) but I figure it?s best to do one thing right instead of two things wrong. My last resort was to ask a local policeman for the whereabouts of this "ferreteria", but either I didn?t understand or he was guessing. I saw this internet cafe, and I thought I might as well try to blog it (my last attempt failed as an internet cafe in Tossa).

Today?s mission is to get some glue and brads to fix the linen to the panel. (Did I report that I have had a panel made by a local carpenter?) Whatever happens, this must be made manifest today. Tomorrow, I go to Barcelona to hack into the contemporary art world there and find a decent art store. I need matt resin bad. Or gesso. If successful, I get to paint soon. As for the artworld search, I don?t know what I?ll find. I?m going to go first to the Museo de Artes Contemporania (sp?) near the old city center and ask people there what?s happening. I might seem a bit geekish, but that hasn?t stopped me before.

Also, We have phone line installed and I get to call about an internet sonnection today. They tell me it?ll take fifteen days. Stay tuned!

Posted by Dennis at 4:25 AM | Comments (1)