A year ago I was spending ten or so days in Spain with my husband, on one of the best trips of our life together.  Now we are separated and I am spending a week with my daughter here in NY.  It hasn’t stopped raining for a few days, but it has been wonderful to see Zoe and be with the dogs.  Tonight we are going to a seder at an old friend’s home and it happens to be right upstairs.  Zoe wanted to go to a seder and I’m so grateful to my friend Barbara, who is also inviting my friend Mona, who’s flying in today from Los Angeles.  She reminded me that it is a mitvah (an act of human kindness) to have a stranger at the seder table.  Most people often say, “I’m sorry I don’t have room” – but Barbara says “Bring anyone you know!”  What a mensch.

Several people reminded me that going through divorce takes at least two years to start to come out the other side.  I’m solidly stuck in the middle.  Not miserable, but not exactly happy either.  Some days are fine, great even, I feel on solid ground and doing my meditation, my spiritual practice, my gratitude lists, my awareness of how good my life is – how many friends I have – how much I love my two dogs and my roommate is literally AWESOME – and other times, I would like to crawl into bed and take some drug that would take away the pain.  And then I remember Pema Chodron’s message, and pretty much everyone I read who says, feel it and it will pass.  So today I am feeling it, allowing myself to grieve and to remember the good times we had, especially on our trip to Spain.  A friend of mine told me that if you really feel the grief and let it pass through you, it probably won’t come out twenty years later in some other way. 

I’m going to start taking an acting class in the next week and that will be an excellent outlet for the sadness.  

Today, in Moscow there were subways bombings and more than three dozen people were killed.  I wish I had something more cheerful to share today.  At least Obama managed to get a health care bill passed last week!  It’s not perfect, but it’s a good beginning.

There – something positive.  And my daughter is sitting on the couch, a few feet away.  A friend of mine came over yesterday and met her and he pronounced her quite terrific.  And she is and I love her.

I got over the difficulties I was feeling about having fun (while the world is such a mess and so many people are suffering) and my trip to Spain was one of the best travel experiences of my life. Madrid, Segovia and Jerez were wonderful and I’d love to go back to all of those cities someday.

But I have to say, when we left Jerez to drive through the White Towns and spend a night in Ronda, I was amazed at how absolutely gorgeous Spain is. Andalucia – the mountains, the olive groves, the gorgeous cities built onto cliffs, the farms, it’s all so dramatic and beautiful. We took a road from Zahara, which turned out to be one of the steepest mountain roads I’ve ever been on – and honestly, I was a bit nervous. It zigzagged back and forth and you’d look straight up and think, “shit, we’re going up THERE?” We drove up the mountain on a narrow road with small cement blocks at the edge to keep you from driving off — and I was actually kind of terrified. I just wanting to get to the other side of the mountain — and then we found out the road was closed near the top and had to go back down! There was actually a sign that Steve saw that said something like “road cut 3 km” but he decided to go anyway and it turned out to be 13 kms, not 3.

We survived and afterward we had a very delicious lunch in Zahara (garbanzo bean and potato soup, albondigas and a lamb stew) and we drove an easier route to Ronda, which is truly spectacular. It’s built on a cliff, over a gorge, and looks out at the most spectacular views you can imagine. (It’s also where they used to toss political prisoners during the Spanish Civil War. Horrible.)

We stayed at the same hotel Rilke lived in when he wrote “The Spanish Trilogy” which I never read, but I did love “Letters to a Young Poet.” His room is still intact, on the third floor. The hotel is the Reina Victoria and the gardens and the views are stunning. I will add some photos as soon as Steve finishes working on them. I didn’t bring my camera this trip because when you have Steve with you, it’s hard to think about taking photos. Seeing the trip through his eyes is really interesting.

We wandered around Ronda and had a delicious goat cheese, pine nuts and spinach salad (with some kind of amazing crust on top of the goat cheese) for dinner, along with the ever present olives and a kind of fish croquet, along with one of the best red wines I’ve ever tasted. (And not expensive.)

After Ronda we got back in the car and continued driving through the mountains and stopped in Moron de la Frontera. Steve lived in Moron over thirty years ago and learned how to play flamenco from Diego del Gastor, one of Spain’s most respected guitarists. We stopped in a pena (a flamenco club) because Steve had a photo of Diego he wanted to drop off with the owner. After we visited, we took a walk through town. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great to meet Paco del Gastor (Diego’s nephew) and sure enough a few minutes later, I spotted him walking towards us with his grandson, Diegito, his protege. The only thing better would be to hear Paco play. He is a truly great guitarist.

We got back on the road and stopped in Utrera, where we had lunch at the home of a publisher and Steve’s partner in his flamenco project, Ignacio. Ignacio and his wife, Carmen were home and Carmen made us a delicious lunch. They spoke almost no English and I speak almost no Spanish. Steve translated and somehow we had a great time. Carmen served us a kind of fish paste that comes in a log and she cut up into little rounds and then put on mayonnaise. It actually tasted pretty good, although I have no idea what it really was. Then she served a pimento or pepper salad, and two kinds of fish stews, one was tuna and the other was shark, I believe, but she called it “dog fish.” The best part was dessert. It was called leche frita and she took it from the freezer, fried the small pieces in a pan and then rolled them in sugar. They had a crust on the outside and inside there was a vanilla, lemony firm custard. They gave me the leftovers of the dessert, so I was quite happy.

And then we raced off to Sevilla and that was the high point of the trip.

We met Steve’s friends Richard and Andrea on Friday afternoon in a beautiful outdoor cafe. They had sailed across the Atlantic in a sailboat last year and are now living in Spain, on the coast. Steve met Richard over thirty years ago in California. Richard plays guitar and sings and he’s a bit of a novelty in Spain. We stayed at Richard’s daughter’s in-laws’ home. One of their homes. Think lifestyles of the rich and famous…think palacio with something like twelve bedrooms and forty or fifty rooms..think enormous interior garden filled with huge plants and Roman columns, several large roof decks, antiques everywhere.

The owners came down on the fast train from Madrid late Friday night and couldn’t have been more hospitable and welcoming. And they spoke almost no English, so it was difficult to communicate, but it was still fun. We had breakfast with Maru and Enrique every morning and spent some time during the trip with them too.

The high point was on Saturday night. We went to a flamenco concert and Pepe Torres, who is also from Moron and a great nephew of Diego’s, was one of the dancers. Steve has become friendly with Pepe, who is also a member of a group called “Son de la Fontera” – one of the most popular groups in Spain. They have played all over the world and Pepe is a phenomenal dancer. Andrea calls him the “Fred Astaire of flamenco.” He also sings and plays guitar brilliantly and he is a wonderful person. The concert had five women dancers (if you want to see real attitude and power, watch a great female flamenco dancer). There were two male dancers, Pepe and another guy, and several guitarists and singers. This particular show generally sends really excellent artists off to Madrid, where they sometimes become stars and form their own companies.

After the concert, we met Pepe for a drink (he drank Coke – he had one more show to do that night.) His wonderful wife Sarah met us there too and then we went to the other side of town (the Macarena – don’t blame me if you start singing that song, I did.) We went to a bar that one of Sarah’s friends works at. Richard brought his guitar and he and Steve played and sang and then around one a.m. Pepe arrived and he played and sang too. Andrea danced with one of the women patrons and I think that everyone in the bar was shocked at how great Steve and Richard were. When Pepe came, I could see how much he appreciated hearing Steve play the guitar – since he never knew his great uncle, Diego, and Steve learned so much from Diego. It was really eye opening for me and I was very proud of Steve. And I stayed up till almost three a.m. and enjoyed every minute of it.

The other highlights were going to the Alcazar in Sevilla, a magnificent royal residence that I can’t even begin to describe, except to say that the buildings and the gardens are spectacular. And the cathedral in Sevilla is the third largest in the world, and the largest Gothic building, a wonder of architecture.

And then there was the first two nights of Semana Santa, a celebration that goes on for the week before Easter all over Spain. Every night, long processions of people dressed in what can only be described as a Ku Klux Klan type of costume (I guess the Klan stole it from them) but in all different colors with hoods that go up to a huge point. They also carry enormous long candles and give out candy to the kids and there’s incense and enormous floats with the Last Supper and other scenes, and forty or so men are underneath the floats carrying these heavy things for miles (they switch off somehow.) All you can see is their feet. And there are bands and singers and people come from all over Spain to see this spectacle in every city and town.

What I loved most about Spain, besides how beautiful the country is, is how friendly most everyone was and what a strong sense of family and community exists there. The nightlife is so different than it is here in the states – the restaurants and bars are bright and packed and people stay out till late at night, talking and laughing and drinking. But I never saw anyone drunk, anywhere we went. In the south they still close the shops mid-day for a few hours and take siestas. The food is delicious – are the ingrediants just fresher? My favorite tapas were grilled squid, rounds of bread with a paste made of tomatoes and on top, anchovies and a kind of sardine, jamon (ham, like nothing we have here) and a million kinds of olives.

Oh, I almost forgot. One of the reasons Steve was in Spain was to see a flamenco photography show at the contemporary museum in Sevilla that had the work of eighty-six photographers, including Steve. His photos were two of the best! The show may come to NYC, I will keep you posted.

Steve’s flamenco photography project will be opening in Sevilla on September 18, 2009. I definitely hope I can go.

While we were away, Lucy got sick again and had another serious urinary tract infection. Zoe handled it. And on the way home on the plane, I watched “Marley and Me” which was a silly movie, but at the end Marley (the dog) dies and I sobbed along with everyone else on the plane.

I had twelve fantastic days and I am so grateful for that experience.

I´m at an internet cafe in Jerez, Andalucia, which is in the south of Spain. It´s difficult typing on a Spanish computer, so please forgive any typos, lack of caps, etc. It´s gorgeous here, the streets are ancient, beautiful, with cobble stones and people strolling everywhere. I arrived last Friday in Madrid, which was a bit overwhelming at first, but I managed to find my way alone on the excellent subways. I will say that my idea of putting fun on my list is not easy for me, since I almost never drink alcohol, I try to watch what I eat and get plenty of exercise. Since we´ve been here I´ve been drinking beer, wine, sherry (that made me the most drunk). I´ve eaten chorizo, ham, pork, steak, eggs, desserts and I have to say that the food here hardly resembles anything I eat at home. Is everything fresher? Whatever the reason, it´s delicious.

We went to Segovia on Saturday to visit friends of Steve´s and Segovia is a gorgeous city. We went out at night to a bar and restaurant a few miles out of the city and the castle and cathedral on the hills were lit up and stunning. I will add some photos as soon as I can figure out how to do it.

It´s been very interesting meeting all the friends Steve has had for years – Gines and Vicky in Segovia (and their cute beagle, Sparky, who made me miss Lucy and Lola.) We met a curator one night in Madrid who had had a few too many drinks, so that was challenging. Steve couldn´t understand a word she said, but I did pretty well. Last night we met Steve´s friend Norman, an American who recently moved to Jerez after twenty years in Madrid and today we had lunch with Estella (she´s from the Bronx). She recently published a book about the origins of flamenco. Each meeting generally lasts about three hours and includes a great deal of eating and drinking. I was feeling a bit stuffed every day, so I´ve cut back on the alcohol and food consumption, but it is a very interesting way of life. Work is generally considered something that is done a few months a year and hopefully doesn´t get in the way of socializing. As an American, I feel a little guilty. I read the Times on-line and worry about everything that´s happening in the world, even though I know that I put fun on my list and for the next six days I should just have another tapas and a beer.

More to follow. Tomorrow we go to the White Towns in the mountains. We are spending the night in Ronda. This is all a dream for me, having never been to Spain before. Friday through Tuesday we will be in Sevilla. I feel very lucky. Spain is muy fantastico!

I’m just going to see a part of Spain, mostly Madrid, Segovia and Andalucia (Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda). I was a nervous wreck yesterday about going at a time when I don’t have a job, my dog Lucy is old (14), life feels so unsettled, and traveling makes me nervous.

On the other hand, what the hell. As my friend Mona said yesterday, with everyone she knows who is dealing with life threatening illnesses, we might as well go when we can and enjoy it.

And my friend Maria said so succinctly: “Put fun on the list!”

So I’m off to have fun. And I hope you can too, wherever you are. Take some time for fun. I’ll write from Spain, in between tapas.

One more thing…I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Adriano Borgna, to see if he could help me with my back injury. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he practically cured it. It’s not completely gone, but I can hardly feel any discomfort or pain. He opened up the chi, energy, and I feel good. I guess there’s a reason it’s been around for something like a thousand years, right?

I woke up, drank my cup of coffee, realized that my back is still killing me from my dancing experience this past weekend (where I tried to show that a fifty something woman could have starred in “Flashdance”) – and then I took my dogs out for their walk.

And that’s when I watched my cute little Lola fall down a long flight of stairs. Lola has arthritis and she has been having a slightly difficult time for the past few weeks going down the stairs. Any smart person would always have her on the leash so if she did start to fall, she wouldn’t go too far. But I am not a smart person, especially at 8 am. I was a sleepy person who wasn’t really functioning.

Lola looked completely shaken up, her right paw was obviously hurting her, so I carried her most of the walk and then waited until the vet’s office opened. They said to bring her in. (Naturally.) An hour and a half later, two x-rays, a thorough examination to the tune of $350 and some medication, she thankfully has no internal injuries or broken bones, just a sore leg.

My back is worse. I’ve never really had a bad back before, this is new to me. I’m getting on a plane in two days to go to Spain, leaving my very old, incontinent Lucy and my slightly injured Lola with Zoe, my newly turned 21 year-old. Pray for us.

Okay, it’s not the arctic, but if you’ve read this blog you know I have a tendency to exaggerate. (And make many typos.) This morning, when I took the dogs out to the park for a walk it was about 15 degrees but felt like -2 (according to weather.com.) We just have to get through today (high 25 degrees) and tomorrow will practically balmy. (35 degrees.)

Anyway, I wanted to give an update on my two friends L and O. L went to Gilda’s Club yesterday after a harrowing weekend of feeling terrible from chemo. She finally decided it was time to go back to get support. Years ago, the first time she was diagnosed with cancer, she’d been a member of a group there and loved it. But she hadn’t been ready to go back until yesterday. After spending a few hours, talking to people, she said felt much better and will be joining a group that meets weekly.

And my friend O had laproscopic surgery yesterday and no cancer was found!

So – that’s very good news.

Steve is in Spain and his photography show has been postponed from March to September. I’m going to meet him there in a few weeks and that will be my first trip to Spain!

Today I’m going to a performance workshop and I may have to get up and do the first few minutes of my monologue. I’ll let you know how it goes. I have so much performance anxiety and this workshop teaches people how to cope with that and also how to better communicate with the audience. Scary.