Thursday, 17 May 2007

Altered states: Ikea Zen and cough syrup

It's been a hazy, somewhat nauseating couple of days, but I am pushing on through and getting lots done and I am enjoying the colors, too.

First I'll tell you about Ryan. Ryan is 23 years old; he's from Ohio, my daughter Libby's best friend from high school. Ryan graduated in December from Kent State and he's joined the Peace Corps. He'll be off to Senegal in September, but till then he's at loose ends...and he's loosing them all over Europe, using our shack on the plains of Spain as his home base. He's a sweet spirit and a strapping lad, extremely helpful in the kitchen and with lifting and moving heavy things. And he speaks good French, which is sometimes very handy around here.

So when he's around we make good use of him -- he was hauling heavy things from barn to garage the other day, carrying my over-full grocery bags around Sahagun, replacing the propane tanks when they go empty, and installing our shiny new wifi router, too!

He gives excellent advice as well. Yesterday i woke up with a deep, heavy, painful cough in my chest. We went into town to do the shopping, and Ryan said I had to get some cough medicine. So I did. And when I got home and took some, it made me incredibly high, slow, and stupid - even beyond my usual! So Ryan said "no more cough syrup for you, ya junkie!" and warned me about climbing up on a chair to do whitewashing.

I ignored him, of course. The whitewashing went just fine, and another great swath of the patio is now blindingly white, and I didn't go crashing to earth (although I did crush another rosebush.) The sky was incredibly blue, the songbird we call "Placido" did an exceptional number from atop the old TV aerial, and I took a dreamy nap in the Hermit Cave/despensa.
I don't remember much else about the afternoon.

I didn't feel well so I didn't have dinner with the lads. Ryan said I shouldn't do strong medicine on an empty stomach, so I ate some ham-and-cheez flavored potato chips before my bedtime double dose of cough syrup. (I was, after all, duly following the advice of my friendly pharmacist. Who'd also told me the medicine wouldn't interfere with my ability to drive or operate heavy machinery!)
Anyway, I woke up in the night sicker than a dog, which is not so nice when you sleep in a cave and you have to go scuttling outdoors across a debris-littered patio to make it to the bathroom in time. I did, barely.
Turns out the cough stuff is loaded with codiene. Which has always just killed my stomach.
When they do drugs here, they don't mess around, man.

From now on I'm sticking with brandy.

This morning I had a free pass to stay in bed, but Ryan and I instead at 9 a.m. were in the Kangoo car (our 'furgoneta,' a sort of cross between a minivan and a farm wagon) and on our way north to the mountains. We were headed for Oviedo, the big city of Asturias... home to a fabulous collection of Romanesque churches, medieval saints' relics, nouvelle seafood cuisine... and an IKEA store.

We need to buy a kitchen for the new place. I already had something in mind, having scanned the catalogs. I figured I could get in there and get out, quick, because I deeply dislike shopping. Shopping for anything for longer than about 20 minutes sends me into a strange Zen sort of catatonia. Somehow I detach from the experience, and can sort-of see myself in the store, walking the aisles, choosing stuff, putting it in the cart... but I am not there.

Extended shopping times, especially in crowded stores or sunless shopping malls, gives me a lasting excruciation I can only liken to ennui. It's shatteringly boring. I would almost rather watch an Arnold Schwartzeneggar movie than spend an hour shopping. Even when I really need something.

Patrick, my husband, is even worse. I can be completely focused, following a precise shopping list and successfully filling the cart with much-needed items, but after about 15 minutes he will stop dead in the aisle, turn to me, and say "I've had about enough of this caper."
Five more minutes on, and his face goes red and his breathing becomes ragged. "Re-eb!" he'll whine. "I'm going to throw myself on the floor in a minute and start drumming my heels and holding my breath!"
About then I usually tell him to get the &^%$ out of here and let me @#@! finish what I'm doing. Because by then I've passed into my Zen state of non-attachment, and none of his behavior can touch my buddha consciousness.

Anyway, I digress. I took Ryan along because he loves shopping and he especially loves Ikea. And we both needed some time away from the chaos and night that are our home these days. Paddy happily chose our hellish home over the mall.

The drive was beautiful: mountain peaks straight out of Walt Disney movies, baby foals grazing with their moms on steep, green hillsides, flowers abloom, the sky full of circling hawks and diving storks, the two-lane twisting 17-degree grades populated by men in BMWs in a blazing rush to pass me when there's an obvious lineup of tanker trucks laboring up just ahead. (Driving in Spain is a real-life adventure. I deeply believe than anyone who can drive here can drive anywhere in the world. Except maybe London, Baja, and Paramus, N.J.)

We got there. I got Zen. We got a kitchen design completed, and bought a load of other doodads we needed.
We wandered into the adjacent shopping mall -- it was huge even by American standards, with wide shiny corridors that require street names to keep you oriented. We ate pizza and drank Cokes. We bought a wireless router, so everyone can roach our signal who's inside our walls. ( to make it work with my Mac...grrr.)

We only got a little bit lost going home. It took about an hour too long, and as we unloaded the car I marveled at the things we'd bought. It was like I'd never seen some of this stuff before, especially a particularly atrocious throw-pillow. And a latex dog toy shaped like a grinning yellow carrot. What the ^%$.

So, people, when you come to visit you must remember why it is that two people who are reasonably well-off enough to quit their jobs and move overseas cannot seem to rustle up silverware or rugs or furniture that matches or even somehow coordinates. (sometimes it doesn't even hold up under the weight of said visitors..)

It's not that we lack funding, or taste, or a desire to live well. We simply cannot shop.

By the way, Patrick's blog address is . It is quite acerbic and literary.
Ryan's is .He will tell you what is REALLY happening around here.

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