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Observations on a New Life in Spain

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Addicted to ¨The Sport of The 3rd Millenium”

30 December, 2015 (07:14) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Those of you who have been following my writing and/or this here blog for any length of time will remember my days of being a tennis head. At the peak of my tennis career in New Zealand I was playing on 3 teams and became very active in the tennis scene. In New Zealand tennis is cheap, accessible and affordable. But not so here. It wasn’t easy to find people to play with in my new country. When we moved to Barcelona 9 years ago I kept tennis up for a few years, despite the fact that unlike New Zealand, there were no teams for me to join here, nor any social tennis clubs. In fact, the clubs that do exist are very pricey, which would be okay if they offered a social scene where one could meet other tennis players.

For awhile I played socially with a gay group called “Las Panteras” that met on Saturday afternoons, but that scene wore a bit thin when I realized all those boys were more than half my age and would probably rather play with other boys. I developed a wilier game though,  just in time to enroll myself in an organized women’s match at the club where I played with Las Panteras.  I was not hoping or expecting to win, but  to just to have a few fun, competitive games and get my ya ya’s off.

No one was more surprised than me when I won the match! There were 16 girls, most of them literally half my age. I was just hoping to put in an honest performance, would be happy just to win a game or 2. But for some reason, the tennis gods were with me that day back in 2008, and I won a trophy! Pretty cool! I was chuffed at the time, and realized I would never win another tennis trophy in this lifetime.  I didn’t make a big fuss about it, I just put my 5 tennis rackets  and  cumbersome tennis paraphenalia in the back of the closet.

Here’s my tennis trophy:


I’ve done a fairly good job of blogging about the perks and dives of being an immigrant here in Spain, of the exciting and rich experiences this country has to offer. I spent years riding around and photographing the intriguing architecture, recording unique sounds, getting to know the hills of Montjuic and Tibidabo, while absorbing Catalan culture. I even learned to speak conversational Catalán, which is a real ice breaker at pharmacies, super markets, dog parks, bank lines, street life.  Having been raised bi-lingual, I’ve always had a good ear for music and for language, which is lucky considering the life I’ve chosen to live.

Now, almost 8 years later, I’ve finally found a sport to replace tennis with in my life. The game is called Padel and there are courts at the gym literally across the plaza from our home on the beach. Our gym, Club Nataçion de Barcelona is a *real* club with lots of activities to jump into. Mark goes there  to work out and I go to swim. They have dancing, yoga, tai chi, aerobics, spinning etc. but we haven’t gotten that ambitious yet.

Until we moved to this cool new pad with the amazing views we lived in an apartment only a half a block away (yet worlds way) with 88 stairs to climb to get home. I have lots of happy memories, blogs, photos and well documented stories from those years, but there was a major drawback to joining a health club; the stairs. It was a workout to do those damn stairs every day just to take the dog down, do errands etc. To get involved in any regular exercise regime .  Just idea of taking a class was too much. They say you get used to stairs, but I can honestly tell you this is not true. Instead, after climbing the horrid stairs to our tranquil abode, I found myself smoking a lot of pot, and being ¨creative¨, unwilling to venture out again unless it was for guaranteed fun. I’d still go on bike excursions, but always combined them with taking my dog Quixote down to pee.  I rarely ventured out for the joy of movement, exercise, possible new friends…

But life in our new reality, began last July. The splendid move to beachfront apartment with sea views afforded me the luxury of not just joining but participating in club sports. Mark has become addicted to the weigh lifting machines and recently I’ve taken up a new sport; PADEL, to which I immediately became addicted.


Padel is the perfect game for me. It combines two sports I’m good at; tennis and ping pong. Its fast and reflexive like ping pong, but more physical, like tennis. And it is proving to be the perfect game for me; Its way easier to play than tennis, yet it involves the same set of skills.

It’s an outdoors doubles game and is extremely social. Its very popular here in Spain in all age groups, and has been catching on throughout Europe. The courts are smaller than tennis and have glass walls which are also part of the game. The same scoring system is used as in tennis, and the game follows many of the same rules, only the wall is part of the game. I enrolled in a few lessons at the club and was put in an intermediate group of “what’s app” (text) padel players who play at the club. Its fantastic! I get texts every day asking if I want to play, by members of the padel what’s app group from the club. So I’ve jumped right in and now play 2 to 3 times a week.

Incorporating the wall into my game has been the only challenge, but I’m quickly learning the tricks. I love the wacky part of this game; lots of silly corner shots, crazy bounces, and lots of running around. If you’re a net player like me, there’s also lots of jumping. Its fast paced, fun, and a good workout. Padel has provided the one missing ingredient to my otherwise happy, fulfilling and successful life so far; its like tennis only easier, and perfect for my age and motivation. Being an ex tennis player gives me automatic court cred here, and my ability to consistently whack a ball has other players starting to notice. I’ve only been at it a couple months, but all those years of tennis (and ping pong)  has enabled me to easily transition into my newfound padel career, heh heh heh.

This is what “professional padel” looks like:

According to the AB Sport Club – self-styled Home of Padel in USA:


Padel is a racquet sport played extensively in Spain, Europe and Latin America. It is considered a tennis-squash hybrid.

The game of Padel is always played in doubles on an enclosed court. The balls used and the scoring is the same as normal tennis, with a key difference which is the underhand serve. The rules of the game allow for the use of the back wall and sidewalls resulting in longer rallies.

Padel is a great sport for players of all ages and skills, as it is both quick and easy to pick up, and it is less physically demanding than similar sports like Tennis. Most players get the grasp of it within the first 20 minutes of playing and find it easy to achieve a level of proficiency so that they can enjoy it because the game is not as dominated by strength, technique and serve as it is in Tennis. It is considered a family game and a very social sport. Men, women and youth can compete together without physical strength being key to win. Padel has gained tremendous popularity due to its simplicity and similarities to already existing racquet sports.

I’ve only been playing for 2 months, yet I’m getting better and better at it. I’m trying to befriend the wall, with some success. Hitting a ball as hard as I can against a wall in order for it to rebound onto the other side of the court is not something that comes instinctively. My coach gave me some technique but hitting it against the wall with all my strength is counter intuitive. I’m learning though. Padel is a gratifying sport because I see noticeable improvement in my game every time I play.

I’ll have to take a selfie with some of the kooky characters I play with – having a fun personality is a big plus, so I’m using my Californian charm to make new friends. It great to be involved in something other than my projects, dog walks and bike rides. Most padel players are Catalan, so I’m now learning how to not just keep score in Catalan. but to make silly exclamations in Catalan as well; good fun.


Padel is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court a third the size of a tennis court. Scoring is the same as normal tennis and the balls used are similar but with a little less pressure, the main differences are that the court has walls and the balls can be played off them in a similar way as in the game of squash and that solid, stringless racquets are used. The height of the ball being served must be at or below the waist level. The sport was invented in Acapulco, Mexico, by Enrique Corcuera in 1969. It is currently most popular in Hispanic American countries such as Argentina and Mexico as well as in Spain, although it is now beginning to spread rapidly across Europe and other continents.


click on the following link to learn why Padel is set to become the sport of the 3rd Millenium.

Padel is very convivial. The distances between all the players are a lot smaller than with tennis, which means that it is easier to communicate between rallies, even with the opponents. Compare it to squash, but with 4 players. No wonder it is very popular to practice the sport with business partners or colleagues.

Padel is also cheaper than tennis. The courts are considerably smaller than tennis courts, which means less space is required to build the courts. Prices to rent a court are generally the same as renting a tennis court. As padel is always played in doubles the cost per player is lower.

I haven’t been at it long enough to have anything more to say on the subject, other than that I highly recommend it! I’m hoping to find players in L.A. when we go next month, because I’ve found some courts there. However I have no idea if the padel scene is happening in L.A. yet or if any of my artsy music friends are up for trying the sport of the 3rd Millenium...

Endless Sunrises in Barcelona

29 December, 2015 (22:01) | Living in Europe | By: admin

After my last long overdue blog about conceptual art, I thought I’d do a quick photo blog of some of the magnificent sunrises I awake to every morning at our new place. Every morning I wake up excited to see what colorful tableau the sunrise will bring.


This is what I wake up to every morning.


Life is a beach!


IMG_3475IMG_3486IMG_3632DSCN5021IMG_3419IMG_2953IMG_2969IMG_3246Amazingly, the big, rectangular building in the last photo is where we now live and from where I have taken all the above shots. I am living in heaven.

Conceptual Art in Barcelona

29 December, 2015 (12:02) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Once Elia returned from Santander, she had a lot of writing to do. She totally made herself at home in Gracia, using the extra computer work station, she figured out how to play Pandora Radio through the wireless speakers. But despite her intention to throw herself into her Santander project, she found herself in a fun flirtation with our artist friend, Federico Mañanes, (aka Fede) who she met in Gracia.


After familiarizing himself with Elia’s work online, Fede understood that not only does she possess sexy curves and a winning personality,  but she is a world known artist (in the performance art milieu).  So he asked her to come up with an impromptu performance for his solo art show on the following evening at a nearby gallery.

“You’re great,” he told Elia, “Let’s do something together. I have an opening tomorrow night and I’d love you to improvise a short performance for the occasion,” while batting his long eyelashes.

Elia loves fun projects, and she took a liking to Fede, so she came up with an idea on the spot and asked him to bring her a giant cheap canvas or something that would work as one, plus some water based paint and a paint brush or two. Of course she  pulled me into the performance as well.

This is what we came up with. In my opinion the rehearsal is hilarious, much more so than the live performance the following night, but that was fun as well, though the crowd didn’t know how to react, heh heh heh. In the actual performance Federico would paint the walking canvass as it walked through the space, while I filmed it on my iPhone. Silly fun!

Elia is the type of artist that is always working on or researching a project. Its her life. Her work is very daring. For relaxation she likes to go see what other artists related to her field are doing because it stimulates ideas.

She wanted to go to a couple conceptual art galleries that had the work of one of at her friends, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who has become well known since she last saw and worked with him.

I realized how refreshing it is to have a girlfriend here in Barcelona that wants to go to get to know what’s going on in the art world. Although I don’t seek it out on my own, I enjoy conceptual art when its clever or unusual or comes together to make an effective statement. But with only a couple weeks left before she returned to Costa Rica, I also wanted her to come spend some time at our new beach digs.  So we made a plan to go to one gallery, spend a couple nights at my beach, and then visit another gallery afterwards.

Conceptual Art in Barcelona
The Design Hub Museum in Barcelona
(Museu del Diseseny de Barcelona )
IMG_2690Fora de Lloc  entranceAlthough the Design Hub is not easy to access unless you arrive by metro or know your bus lines, its well worth the visit. For this show, Titled Fora de Lloc (translates to “Out of Place”) we enter through this “remembrance of a door”, an impressive installation, leading past a gold covered human body, which is more impressive in person than in the above iPhone snapshot. Her friend Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s installation of 25 modified padlocks which can be interconnected to create assemblages or chains was one of my less favorite works, although I understand its concept. At first this piece was one of the what I call “lazy” contributions, where the intellectual idea is possibly more interesting than the piece itself. I could say the same about the hanging sculpture next to it of a hat meant to be worn by 3 persons instead of one, but I love the whimsy of it. But despite my original perceptions, the  combined images of those two pieces started to work on me.  The curator (and former Philosophy major) Rosa Pera did a good job of establishing the theme as we enter an oblong hall which eventually fans out.

Hub Disseny BcnIMG_2675

The big hall is busy with the work of scores of artists, architects, sculptors, multi-media artists.

IMG_2678Fora de Lloc 3

What I enjoy about conceptual art is when a piece actually gets me to think outside the box. Although only a few individual pieces moved me to new thoughts, the total effect of the works of 40 artists all with the theme of displacement stirred me to an interesting inner dialogue about my personal feelings of being out of place, not just here in Barcelona or back in New Zealand when I lived there, but even where I was born, in Hollywood, where I felt like an outsider for most of my childhood. Elia and I (and my dog Quixote) spent a couple hours there, taking it all in.


1 – My dog adds an “out of place” element to our experience, for dogs are unwelcome. He hides quietly in my red bag while I literally drag him around 2- To turn on this light you have to pull on the noose.

Rather than go on extensively about the content of this thought provoking exhibit, I share the  official video:

Some of the entries were disappointing, and reminded me of work I myself did over 30 years ago. Others provoked interesting thoughts, which means the exhibit as a whole is doing its job.

Elia made it a point to meet the very approachable and friendly curator, Rosa Pera.

Elia near friend's exhibitELia and Rosa

Its not my intention to write a long-winded art critique, I am just sharing this experience because there is always something interesting going on at The Design Hub in Barcelona.

After this, Elia and I kicked around my beach pad a few days, swimming, laughing, watching people, exchanging deep thoughts and observations. Its interesting; the effect of being surrounded by so many tourists, beach goers and vendors is one of perceived anonymity. We were able to discus some of our deepest personal thoughts in this environment, with no fear of anyone trying to listen in. I may someday dedicate an entire blog post to this phenomena of anonymity in big, happy crowds, and combine it with a series of chance conversations with strangers I meet while swimming in the sea.

After our  few days dedicated to fun beach relaxation we set out for The Blue Project Foundation, another Conceptual Art Gallery which also showed a work by her friend and former collaborator, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. This small gallery is in the El Borne neighborhood, walking distance from my beach pad.

The Blue Project Foundation

The show we saw was called “Little is left to tell (Calvino after Calvino),”  with 12 works, grouped in pairs representing an eclectic group of conceptual artists who analyze each of the predictions Italian writer and philosopher Italo Calvino advanced in his posthumous book, Six Memos for the Next Millennium. The artists were asked to represent the themes he put forth; visibility, quickness, lightness, exactitude, multiplicity and consistency.

For me this small exhibit was more of a photo op than an intellectually stimulating one. It was the usual combo of a few clever works, and a few lazy ones, neither artistic nor conceptual enough for my tastes.



“Simply Red” by Daniel Firman was one of my favorites, with the Calvino theme of multiplicity. The artist explains, “I always think building as a sculpture/image that escapes from its original form, particularly in the works that are based on the principle of accumulation or agglomeration,” which is a bit wordy considering how this sculpture of plastic, clothes and objects speaks for itself. I found this piece to be aesthetically satisfying. Also, it makes for the perfect selfie backdrop, heh heh heh.

Elia’s friend Rafael Lozano-Hemmer had one of the more interesting installations, titled 33 Questions Per Minute. on the theme “quickness”

Blue Project FOundationIMG_2710

The computer program uses grammatical rules to combine words from the dictionary and automatically generate 55 billion random questions at a speed of 33 per minute. The program has been programmed to avoid repeating the same question and will take over 3000 years to present all the possible word combinations. The viewer is asked to type in a question, and if its not one that’s already been asked, it will display in the little green read-out displayed here. Elia typed in her classic question, “Does Love Exist?”  Apparently no one had asked that specific question before.

IMG_2705 Another hangman installation, on the theme of “lightness” was called “Second Chance” by Elmgreen & Dragset. It has a rope covered with bronze. I’m impressed by how much time and effort must have been involved to construct this. It works as a metqaphor for the challenges and failures that happen to us all in life, where nothing is clear-cut. Is life worth living? Could suicide be a metaphor for the challenges and failures that happen to us all in life?

Blue Project Foundation 7
I dismissed this painting of a maze at first glance, but then when I really studied it I was charmed by it because it shows where and how someone made it through this maze by doubling back on their tracks.It is meant to illustrate the theme of consistency, but I’m not sure how the theme relates to this work.

Blue Project FOundation 8IMG_2713¨Nuages” by Xavier Veilhan on the theme of visibility. The viewer is encouraged to see images of things that mean other things. This was one of the more interesting pieces artistically, as it was fun to circle around it and view at it from different angles and distances in the room.
(The other piece with visibility as its theme was of a canopy of white canes, which was a cool concept by Sophie Cale, though not worthy of a photo.)

Blue-Light3This is a shot from a video by Ignasi Aballi on the theme of quickness. Its another example of a work that is more conceptual than it is art, in my opinion. The artist says, “There is no more activity than seeing the sand falling down. It appears to choose slowness over quickness.”  This was one of the lazier pieces I thought, more conceptual than art.  It would take more than a video of an hourglass to make me ponder the pace of modern life and embrace the concept of slowing down over quickness.

Blue-Light BIG CRUNCH CLOCK – Gianni Motti (exactitude)

This is supposed to be a whimsical scenario for the ultimate fate of the universe. Again, yes its conceptual, but is it art? The slightly pretentious narrative tells me The Big Crunch is a possible scenario for the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the “metric expansion of space eventually reverses and the universe recollapses, ending as a black hole.”  But if I hadn’t read this I wouldn’t have had these thoughts, which is why I wasn’t overly impressed with it.


Blue-Light2 Eclipse by by Laurent Grasso 

“There is something ominous in the modern sunset” the catalogue explains. This piece took some thought, work, and artistry (neon, mirrors, etc)  I liked it. Its meant to also be a tribute to the Michelangelo Antonioni film from 1962  by the same name (L’eclise). What I like about this piece is that without reading any info on it, I understood it and although my iPhone photo doesn’t do it justice, in person I think it stands alone as a cool art piece that could fit in other modern art scenarios. Unlike most conceptual art, it evokes a feeling.


… Months after beginning this post I finish it … Elia returned to Cost Rica, did a successful performance of the piece she and Orlando worked on in Santander, and now it is almost years’ end.

I miss Elia, for she is a great accomplice, instigator and confidante. It is my deepest wish that someday she figures out a project for us to work on together – she is motivated by projects, and I am inspired by her. We agree this is something to strive for, but its up to her to make this happen. She is due to return to Spain next year for a famous festival in Cadiz – which sounds like a perfect excuse for another road trip.

I leave you with this clip of Elia, dancing on my balcony, laughing in the wind.