Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Time Travel to Formentera

I recently received a Facebook message from Bruce, an old college  acquaintance. Haven’t been in touch with Bruce for over 20 years, but he found himself thinking about a trip we took and wondering if I remembered more than he did about what happened on it. Luckily, I still had my journal, the first one I wrote to be followed by 47 more years of journal writing. And so I typed over my entries from that trip.


I was a senior in college touring Europe with the Antioch Chorus, some 30 hippies singing the sacred Masses of Guillame Dufay and Johannes Ockeghem in the great cathedrals of France and Italy. We had been together for about a month, going from Amsterdam to Belgium to various parts of France and then had a two week “vacation” free to do what we liked. I decided to go to Spain with three others—Lexi, Bruce and Suzanne. We started hitchhiking in Southern France, but it soon became clear that four people hitchhiking were too many. So we split up—Lexi with Susanne, me with Bruce—and decided to meet in Barcelona. The eventual plan was to go to the island of Formentera, where Lexi had a friend who offered her house for us to stay in. 


This entry was from Barcelona, written two days after my 22ndbirthday. My life then appeared as a marvelous banquet with an enticing table set for me and an invitation to sit down and enjoy. That wondrous sense of adventure and possibility and blank pages to be written, that delicious uncertainty about what life would bring to me and what I would offer it in return. I read again now at the other end of that banquet, looking back with gratitude and wonder at that beautiful meal shared with friends on top of a hill overlooking the city. I’m not getting up from the table yet, still another course or two (one hopes!) awaiting and other people at the table, even if now on small screens. So sweet to remember this time of travel and comradery and youth in this other time of sheltering, solitude and eldership, not as nostalgia, but as simply another dot on the same line of a long life. Here’s that 22-year old:



7/30/ 1973  “The snail crawls two feet—and the day is over.” An appropriate haiku to describe the pace of this line at the ticket office for boats to Formentera. But no matter—a chance for me to write a bit about Barcelona, this city with an unmistakable magic. A pedestrian city with many walkways lined with trees and alleys where cars never venture. The weather is warm and breezy and the city pulses with activity, drawing one immediately into its world.


The city  lives in passion, one becomes lost in the dance of events,  filled with delightful smells and sights, a carnival of impressions that carry you away. Its loudness is the chatter of the teeming jungle, the animation of people and animals, not the mechanical roar of machines that pervades most cities. ALL LIVES, ALL DANCES AND ALL IS LOUD a line from some poem that comes to mind. 


The open-air market is filled with all sorts of fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish and meat. We shopped there, milling about and moving from one stall to another guided by our appetite and our pocketbook. Then we ascended via metro, cable car and cable railway to the Tibidabo, a small mountain that watches over the city. Found a table in a park and picnicked on strawberries, grapes, peaches, dates, figs, peanuts, bread, goat’s cheese, blue cheese, wheat biscuits, green beans, milk and wind. A welcome balance to the frenzied activity below, sitting on top of the world bathed in silence and sharing food with friends. We then strolled to the amusement park which crowned the hill and had a quick battle in the bumper cars. It brought me back to the Jersey shore, walking the boardwalk and pausing to watch how everything glowed in the night and feel the beauty of the moment. 



Tickets finally in hand, we head to the boat leaving for Ibiza. Said a simple goodbye to Janet, a good spirit who I enjoyed. Then boarded the boat, hung over the deck and watched the people gathering to see us off and the workers tying up cars and boats to load onto the ship. Rolls of toilet paper suddenly appeared from nowhere and within minutes, colorful streams of paper where flapping in the breezing, connecting the ship to the people below. I caught one and flung it down to a beautiful grey-haired woman with marvelous blue eyes that were opened wide in childish delight. She caught it and we remained connected for 15 minutes, maneuvering in and out of the criss-crossing paper and adjusting to the various wind speeds. It was an art and we played as if it was a matter of life and death to maintain our bond. I started praying that our line wouldn’t break, I got so involved. An incredible spectacle as we stood waiting, the air streaming with toilet paper, people shouting back and forth, huge smiles and great festivity. And all this for a nightly 10 hour board ride! It seemed that there were some regulars in the crowd who came every night just to see boats off. (I definitely want to do that when I return—I am fascinated by the light-hearted seriousness people put into useless activities—sailing boats in fountains, unraveling toilet paper as ships depart—they seem the only things really worth doing). 


The boat finally took off. My paper-mate and I were out early in the contest, having a short roll. We bade each other an affectionate farewell as our paper blew off into the distance. And now we are 30 minutes out to sea. The night has fallen and I sit on the deck, amazed that I find myself here. Ships hold such a romantic appeal to me, a dream from childhood come true. I am happy now…


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