“sissy– silly– fou fou– little rat dog”– i can remember meeting my diminutive chum and thinking perhaps words similar, although the actual verbiage escapes me at the moment. i have never been much of a fan for smaller dogs, thinking them mostly high-strung and noisy, barking more than is needful, always underfoot, always needing a lot of attention. knowing this it never occurred to me that i might form a lasting bond with spanky. first, that name seemed pretty wiffy to me, so right off the bat my first move was to call him “spike”– he seemed to understand my plight, and never held it against me. he was like that, very wise at some things, and a fountain of good energy.

so– time passed, and he began to work on me, slowly at first. when we’d go walking his pace was always a unique jaunt, head tipped back and very regal, prince-like, that tail coiled to the max. he would always have a smile upon his face, especially at the end of the walk, when it was time for a little treat, fixing you with his little eyes and willing you to pull something out good to eat.

sometimes lynda would go for a week at a buddhist retreat or some suchlike, and we would spend a lot of time together. at first he found it hard to accept me, but after a while we got to be such good pals– he would bark and get me to bring him out into my sculpture studio, laying patiently under a chair as long as i wanted to be out there. we got to be closer and closer, and he enjoyed my company at least a small fraction of what he experienced with lynda, for which i am eternally grateful.

we had some ups and downs over the years, small things really– he was a very stubborn guy at times, not wanting to take a good walk or whatever, but they were only tiny bumps in the road and not taken very seriously by either of us. we knew how to get along and not get in each others’ way.

this last year he had been having some problems, more and more it seemed, but he was a real trouper, never given to whining or such, and it always seemed like he rebounded quickly, always giving me his smile and good humor. but the past couple of months his breathing got pretty ragged, and then about a week or two ago he got some sort of an infection as well– no energy at all, a little listless and not wanting to do much of anything.

yesterday afternoon, while he laid in our arms, mr spike passed away. i know he is in a better place now, and it is selfish to cry as i am doing right now, but that is the way of humans i suppose.

but i can do something– today i am going to be painting on my new piece. i just finished doing the basic painting, and was going to begin the second phase this morning– light and shadows, but i feel like i am just going to concentrate on the light this time, in his memory– good luck buddy, i miss you so much already



the return trip to barcelona was like being sucked through a glass straw backwards– it was one of those looong days!! actually slept in a little, but got up to gratefully drink down a couple cups of strong coffee, then a short wander uphill towards the ancient keyhole gate, but first a stop for breakfast– more coffee and some excellent eggs, listening to nina simone sing “i want a little sugar in my bowl”, made me an instant fan!! but enough lollygagging, time to clamber into the car and go to gibraltar!!

now, i gotta admit that i saw several good shots of this peninsula when i was driving down, but didn’t stop, and going back i had less luck, so this is the best you’re going to get!! parked the car and strolled into gibraltar, feeling ripped off that they didn’t stamp my passport– wanted that gibraltar stamp!! walked across the airport runway into town– that’s right, the runway– and had myself a little lookabout. it was nice, but with all the rush i didn’t have much time in which to give it justice– however, as louis prima was fond of singing– “next time!!”.

an easy smooth drive into granada, where i had a little map problem, but got it solved with a little local help and proceeded to the train station to drop off my bags, but granada has no such service– terrorism is to blame– and so had to tote them all over to the car rental place and then to a chinese food restaurant that was the very essence of mediocre, before launching myself back to the train depot– it was busy, but before too long the train was there, and i sucked down a strong gin and tonic and went to bed– this time there were no warriors in the passage to disturb my rest. not even the spanish inquisition, which i had not expected. reached barcelona in the early hours and found pablo and deborah’s place and kicked back for a while, did a little coffee and internet.

feeling like i needed to take a walk, i moseyed over to a park close by– the name escapes me now, very annoying– in the late 1800s there was a world fair here, and there are still a lot of things to be seen. it was full of people the last time i went there, the visit a week or so prior, but this time it is mellow and exactly what i wanted to experience. the pond in front of what i imagine could have been called a “folly” so long ago was, instead of dull and flat, filled with sunshine and the fountains were playing, etc.

every time i needed a little space and quiet in barcelona, this is where i would come– to this park, filled as it was with strollers, people with dogs, girls with guitars, singing very well, a bald slovak arguing with his wife, and then seeing him race off to put the collar on a dude on bike, accusing him of stealing their plane tickets and cash, really shaking the guy up. people sitting on the benches talking, eating, smoking (europe is still a haven of smokers, for good or ill), drinking from bottles and cups and discussing things at full volume– share your conversation!! truly a smorgasbord for me, as i love to watch people in all forms and styles– it fills me up and gives me some spark with my work for some reason, like i am the wand in a candy floss stand– only i ain’t sweet!! i saw jugglers and tricksters and romantics in the shade, ducks and swans in the sun, and ate it all with a spoon.

next morning i went back to the wondrous familia sagrada, once again early, and the gods were with me– the light was right, and the pond across the street pretty much deserted, like a huge water droplet upon which was reflected the temple.

sublime, and truly moving, but i was in for a true shock– my last time here i had missed the larger part of the experience– the interior. there is no way to accurately describe nor photograph the sense of huge space inside. there is construction going on, piles of material here and there, heavy machinery– but nothing registers except the space and the wondrous light to be found. there are colors of stained glass puddled on the floor and oozing from between pillars, transforming the workers, oblivious in heavenly hues as they discuss the next piece of masonry, or the shape of a corner. took the elevator up into one of the towers, getting a crow’s-eye view of the construction. unfortunately, the grafitti people had already made their marks in furtive places, so that the rest of humanity could know that stephan and muffie had been there first– must have been a religious experience, i suppose– immortality in barcelona. but for that it was absolutely tremendous, looking out over the smoky city, confronted with gaudi’s iconic stone and ceramic cones– it seems to me that the last, and largest, of these towers has yet to be built, my apologies if i am wrong, but there is space up there and materials galore.

exhausted and wrung out– i won’t even go into the museum and galleries and the like to be found here, just too much stuff to describe– i tottered into the cafe picasso and chowed down on a wonderful lunch of perfectly fried calamari on excellent bread. interestingly enough (or as some would say– “ironically enough”, even though in fact it is not ironic at all)– picasso actually hated both gaudi and his chapel, so someone either had no idea or was making a joke here.

another of gaudi’s works is the parc guell, much photographed and worth a walkabout or seven, above which was his residence. i say residence, as i have read that after a certain amount of time he rarely left the site of the familia sagrada, sleeping and eating there. he was run over by a vehicle and died in the hospital uncared-for, as his clothing made him look like a vagabond. the house is full of marvellous furniture and beautiful views, not all of whidh are to be seen in their original setting, but a reserved opulence is to be seen, as is his taste for modernist stylings.

but, back to barcelona, back to the fabulous markets– fresh feta cheeses, fresh bufalo parmesano, olives and oil that taste like one has always heard. the tomatoes alone are worth an essay!! prepared a couple of meals on this leg of the journey as well, the freshness of the ingredients making my work as easy as it was superfluous.

another night it was tapas, one of the staples here and all over spain– had eaten tapas in both granada and cadiz, but this night, being guided by the hosts, was a maximum effort. i tried so many that i have no recollection of any specific one, but all were marvellous, and when i go back i shall make a better inventory. also of great mention was a chocolate shop that was as much a feast for the eyes as it was for the palate.

sooner or later, reality was going to intrude though, and finally the last day came. time to go. i got up at 3:30 a.m. to catch the first flight, which corresponded to 8:30 the night before in cozumel, and by the time i put my head down on the pillow at home it was 10:30 at night– suffice it to say that it was a very long 26 hours.

hey, isn’t that the familia sagrada over on the middle left?