Catorce: Days of ‘39

Yep, definitely back in America.

Fittingly, this writing exercise is ending where it started: en route. This time, I’m at the Jet Rock Bar and Grill in the Philadelphia airport. Def Leppard is playing, loudly. Several different college basketball games are on several different TVs. Hello, America! Beer please.

Also fitting: at some point this morning, as I was lopsidedly hustling through Spanish airports due to overpacking my shoulder bag and underpacking my backpack, my improvised fingernail finally tore off. RIP, nail: you were like the guy in the movie who died peacefully after fulfilling one final mission.

A few things I’m taking back from Spain with me:

— A bagful of falsetas and techniques that will keep me busy for years, as well as an expanded understanding of the sturm und drang one can create with six strings and a piece of wood. A well-played flamenco guitar is an orchestra in the maestro’s lap. In one of his greatest compositions (and that’s saying something), Saint Joe Strummer conflated the sound of flamenco with bombs — bombs from the Spanish Civil War, and bombs from the IRA and Basque terrorist attacks that were roiling Europe when song was written. Sounds about right. Can I hear the echo from the days of ’39?

(Jesus, what an amazing song “Spanish Bombs” is.)

— A renewed desire to write, and an enhanced enjoyment of the act itself. I’m a lazy writer. Most of the time, I’m not a writer at all. I know, I know — writing is a habit. I’ve heard it said a million times. But getting into good habits is hard. And for me, writing is like the agonizing process of endlessly scrolling through the selections on Netflix — you just never find exactly what you want. But developing a daily habit made it easier, and sometimes kinda sorta maybe even a little enjoyable, too. Almost.

— A soft spot in my heart forever for Cruzcampo and cafe con leche.

— A new appreciation of my ability to improvise, as I spent most of my time in Spain not knowing what the hell I was doing.

— A thankful heart for the friends and family who made this trip possible — especially my wife, who bravely shoveled snow in my absence.

Leaving, of course, is always hard. But with respect to Brian Wilson, I can’t wait to get back to the States — back to the best wife in the world and a new business that seemed to grow exponentially in the time I was gone, thanks to the tireless efforts of my partner-in-crime.

I was picked up at my apartment at 8 a.m. this morning (that’s, like, 4 a.m. Spanish time, especially on a Saturday) by a bleary-eyed, profoundly nice employee from the school I studied at — his name was Carlos. We jammed my luggage into his tiny VW and set off for the airport. His English was quite good, so we chatted about my trip. When we got to the departures drop-off, I thanked him profusely for his generosity and kindness.

“De nada, Scott,” he said, taking his time to annunciate an unfamiliar name. “Come back, we will wait for you.”

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