Formentera in the Time of Cholera


Garcia Marquez writes, It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

And so I went to Formentera. I went with many objectives and none at the same time. I wanted to sleep, to release myself from thought, to turn off, and to discover something. I did not want to discover myself. I think that I have found myself, and that every day I am finding that same self in more and more places. Whereas Marquez writes about unrequited love, I was searching for the unrequited self. As a matter of fact, in Spanish, Marquez’s prose reads, “amores contrariados” meaning that love that has gone astray as opposed to being unfulfilled. So, I suppose I was searching for convergence, a place to periodically converge. A place to find what I lose on a daily basis. And so I set out with my trusted friend, Manolo, who was also in seach of something left behind, but that is his story to tell. Mine goes like this . . .

A few years back, Manolo and his brother Pipo began travelling frequently to Formentera. This small island, just a short 25 minute ferry ride from Ibiza, became one of Manolo and Pipo’s favorite hideaways. As a matter of fact, it became a bit of a burden to hear him always talk about Formentera this and Formentera that. Manolo is family and his family has always been like a family to me. This September we all suffered the tragic loss of Pipo in a senseless traffic accident. Since then, Manolo and I have always joked about one day giving everything up to move to Formentera and open our little lounge for those who are escaping from things like WiFi everywhere and the rat-race.

So, this trip to Formentera was very special. As a matter of fact, when we were boarding the ferry, Manolo kept asking me if I was ready for Formentera, that there was still time to turn back. As the ship sailed, I kept thinking of the film “The Thin Red Line“. Do you remember the beginning when one of the protagonists is locked up on the military vessel and being interrogated by the character played by Sean Penn? He remembers the people of the island where he went AWOL, and he says something like, “I have seen a different way of life”. Well, this trip was the first time that Manolo returned to Formentera since last September, and I wanted to see the “different life” on the island.

I tried to pack accordingly. I prepared by uploading a surplus of music for my iPod, including amongst other new purchases, the following: The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (talk about convergence and life “contriarada”, this musical gem was lost in the Smithonian vaults for almost 50 years until it was recently discovered); Herbie Hancock’s Possiblities; Stan Getz and Bill Evans; Clifford Brown and Max Roach (another truncated life); Dhafer Youssef’s Divine Shadows (but I would recommend Electric Sufi); and of course, Uom Kalthoum’s The Lady. I also took along James Baldwin’s Another Country. William keeps insisting that I add a plugin to my blog with my music play list.

I flew in to Ibiza from Madrid and waited for Manolo and the ferry for Formentera at the Port. The sun was shinning and it was 9 am. Manolo wouldn’t arrive for another 2 hours. I put the headphones on and began listening first to Joni Mitchell’s Both Side Now. Why if I had such other fantastic new music? The clouds were so perfect as I was landing over the sea. The sea was calm and textured and bore a striking resemblence to the skin that covered my grandmother’s chocolate pudding when I was a child. And so, I waited listening to Joni and then turned to Thelonious and Coltrane.

Hundreds of new blog entries danced in my head, like it were Christmas, but there was no WiFi signal. So I just waited and listened. Then I kept receiving emails from work on my trusted Blackberry. The previous day, Monica (my new co-worker) had put me in contact with Beatriz via email by attaching links to both her and my blogs. And on this Thursday morning in the sun, in the Port of Ibiza, I began to receive emails from Beatriz. She is a poet, the real thing. So somewhere between “Monk’s Mood” and “Epistrophy”, I learned plenty about Beatriz and about poetry. For example, to my great frustration, I discoverd that Beatriz knows something about clouds, french, and the piano, whereas I know nothing of these. The last thing I need is another friend with whom I don’t have time to spend, but I think it would be nice adding a poet to my list of the disappointed.

At the port, I also learned another interesting piece of information about myself: I am perfectly happy to only speak English and Spanish. What I love is the sound of language. It is great to be able to listen to language and not understand the words. That way you can project any meaning onto the words that you choose or simply enjoy the words as if they were the sounds coming from musical instruments. What is worst of all is when you actually understand what is being said and are forced to follow someone else’s conversation. You learn that people have the most irrelevant, mundane, and even offensively simple-minded verbal exchanges. It is analogous to having someone fart on the elevator. They are sharing their innermost bodily stink with you, the doors are shut, and there is no where to go for fresh air. So, I sat and listened, mainly to Mallorquín being spoken, and loved every minute of it.

Finally, Manolo arrived and we set off for the island. I don’t remember much of the time I spent on Formentera. I didn’t really reflect. I just was. I went to the beach and concentrated on not getting burnt by the sun. During the evening I ate dinner and at night I tried to sleep (the first night I dreamt of work non-stop and kept waking to my blackberry). The last day on the island, Manolo and I had lunch with his brother’s friend, Begoña, and two of her friends. We then all rushed to the catch the returning ferry. To my surprise, there standing next to me on the ferry was Beth, from the second edition of Operación Triunfo. I purposely didn’t speak to her as I did not want to have to amend my previous blog entry on celebrity dating.

Anyways, as the ferry headed towards Ibiza, I was thinking, what if we just don’t get off the boat, if we simply kept on going? It was rainy and we (Manolo, Begoña, Beth, and I) were out in the open air, the boat’s wake trailing behind. I was once again reminded of Mr. Garcia Marquez:

The captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelids the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then, he look at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.

“And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” she asked.

Florentino had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, eleven days and nights. “Forever,” he said.

When I finally reached the center of Madrid in my taxi from the airport, a strange and disappointing feeling of comfort ran through my body. I was then reminded of the last line of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rise“, “isn’t it pretty to think so.”

I wonder if it had all paid off in the end for Florentino?


Filed under Digressions, Friends / Family, Jazz

6 responses to “Formentera in the Time of Cholera

  1. Let not a culpable and pernicious indifference to the odor of instinctive reflex in a confined area ever induce you to neglect those who are considered common (“people” in your words), for it is the popularity of the common man that that strives in collectiveness, and alienation the result of intelligence.
    Popularity leads to intercourse, individualism does not. Perhaps the ladder is the “Culp” (my made up noun for “culpable”) of all of your recent years of chaste.
    Nice photos! que envidia!

  2. eric

    What if you bring D to F and we open a “meat and potatos” place worthy of Bond himself?

    By the way, we will probably need to give Manolo a catalytic converter. DO NOT GO IN THERE!!!

  3. Pingback: Grave Error » Conocer y conociendo a Beatriz Russo

  4. Pingback: Grave Error » Thelonious Monk, trouble-shooting the silence

  5. Pingback: Grave Error » All I leave behind

  6. Pingback: Grave Error » Beauty on the Beach

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