On grilling

It might be our reptilian brains, our primal instincts, but few things taste as good as grilled foods. It does make sense: fire + food, no middleman, no fancy sauce, no nothing.

Now, I got the secret to buying great secondhand stuff from Spencer, a brilliant and wise old student of mine: You have to watch Craigslist like a hawk. And I did, patiently waiting and searching for the right barbeque. When it popped up, I snatched it up.

It is a baby gas Weber grill (Spirit II E-210), but it is all I need, and it fit my teacher’s budget. I know, of course the charcoal ones are far better, but to cook for one person, it is a bit of a production, so I confess to falling for the convenience of pressing a button and presto!

I invited my friend Manuel to dinner in order to properly inaugurate (for me) the grill. I rarely eat red meat, so when I do it is a treat. I went to the butcher in town, The Butcher and the Bar, and bought a pound of filet mignon from grass fed, Florida cows.

Of course, I washed and cleaned the grill as the obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive Virgo that I am, and we were ready to fire her up!

It did not disappoint. The steaks (and the asparagus we threw with them) came out perfectly. My main concern was that being a small grill it was not going to have the heat to sear the meat, but I was wrong (as usual) (see the photos). Since then, I have also done swordfish, and it has also been delicioso!

So, if you are in SW Florida and want to put some shrimp on the barbie, hit me up!

Where are you on your journey? Richard Rohr (continued)

Spirituality and cigars, why not?

Where are you on your journey of self-fulfillment? Where are you on your journey of peace, inner and outer? Where are you on your journey of finding the real you? Not your things, your mind, or your TikTok likes, but your soul.

If you are on this journey, and I hope you are, and it is a journey, I hope that you pay attention to yourself, that you spend time alone cultivating, discovering yourself, call it what you will, your spirit, your soul. The first step on this long road usually comes about due to failure, breakage: a failed relationship, financial struggle, accidents, whatever. Without this fall, why would you need to rebuild? To re-calibrate? To question anything? Just go on your merry way with your ego, enjoy.

Otherwise, with every so-called failure, you release your ego; you embrace peace, you let go, you become more aware of your inner self. You rebuild and grow –and here is the catch- not necessarily stronger in the selfish way of thinking, but more vulnerable, wiser.

Why are you on such a metaphysical rant, Antonio? You might ask, and I am happy that you ask. You see, I have just read Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water and my mind has been expanded.

In his book, Rohr studies Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps from a spiritual perspective and re-frames your pre-conceived ideas of alcoholics!

The book is epigraphed by three quotes from three of my favorite guides:

“I did not come for the healthy, but for those who need a doctor.”

Jesus (Luke 5:31-32)

“Alcohol in Latin is “spiritus” and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison.”

Carl Jung, letter to Bill Wilson (1961)

And

“These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.”

José Ortega y Gasset

The first step is the hardest to take: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Most of the time our ego blinds us to our problems. This is why many times only a violent awakening will make us reach for much needed help. That is the first step, realizing you have a problem, it is much easier to dismiss it than to deal with it, and its roots…

Rohr analyzes every step in detail weaving spirituality into each rung of the ladder. It is an illuminating book that everybody should read. Yes, you too.

We all have our addictions our sins, it does not have to be alcohol or drugs –although many times it is. Rohr sees how “breakage” and coming out of it is deeply healing and spiritual. In Japan, when they break a plate or a bowl many times they glue it back together with gold covered adhesive, making the piece much more valuable. They call it Kintsugi, and it makes for beautiful, unique pieces!

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Enjoying mi reading

A good cup of coffee (continued)

Yes, I talk about coffee a lot, and not because I am addicted to the stimulants, in fact during recent fasts, (for colonoscopy prep and for Lenten Fridays) I lived fine without it. And I only normally only have one cup a day. A standard 16oz size, not the Big Gulp Americans drown in. Well, lucky for me I have found a great coffee place in my neighborhood in what is otherwise the suburban wasteland of Southern Florida.

Common Grounds is a great little place despite its common name. The grounds are not Common, since they are single origin, fair trade, organic, all the feel-good stuff, but it makes for a tasty cup. The place is cute with real vintage furniture, a piano you can write on -it gets painted over when it is full-, and friendly, skilled staff. I have yet to try their pastries, but they do look tasty!!

Just as important as the coffee, the time you take to enjoy it, the space, the ceremony, your relationship with the barista, all make up your sensory and spiritual experience. Something that is normally mostly lacking in the big chain coffee shops.

The best company I can find nowadays here is a good book, as you can appreciate from the photos.

So, there you have it, if you are ever around Boynton Beach, hit me up, otherwise head over to Common Grounds!

Tacos

Strangely enough, I rarely write about food, which happens to be one of my favorite things! Well, we’ll try to fix it…

As an old family member used to say: “I will eat anything that does not eat me first”, so I´ll eat pretty much anything – except maybe that Corsican cheese with the maggots (it does explain Napoleon being Corsican, though). At any rate, one of life’s simple pleasures is street food.

And what better example of street food than tacos? Of course, there is street food everywhere there are streets, so I remember fish and chips growing up in London, crêpes in France during my summer internships, hot dogs and pretzels in New York, churros in Madrid, Dholl Puri (curried yellow split-pea flatbreads) in Mauritius, etc. etc.

My first visit to Mexico was for work in 1993, and I can testify that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Many tacos later, in Naples I was blessed (a word I hate to use because we are all blessed, we just don’t see it or do not want to see it) to have Taquería San Julian. While not a stand, but a “real” -if humble- sit down joint, it made exceptional tacos. In fact I took my students there to order their lunch in Spanish as the oral component of their final exams!

Florida, unfortunately, does not have a rich heritage of street food. In fact, it does not have much heritage at all. The native Seminole population is limited to a handful of casinos, and until the late 18th C. nothing much happened here. What about fried alligator? A handful of “native” Floridians will shout. Well, when was the last time you saw a fried alligator stand on a street corner? Fortunately, enterprising Mexican immigrants have filled that vacuum with delicious tacos!

In a providential twist, there is a great taco trailer that parks -literally- around the corner from my house. So, guess where I end up when I am in a rush, or feeling lazy, or just craving tacos?

Although I have had tacos at Michelin starred restaurants (Punto MX in Madrid) and they were delicious (and expensive), tacos are meant to be eaten on the street (Florida does not really have sidewalks so one must eat in the car).

In conclusion: Thank God for tacos!

Downtown Miami

I have been to Miami many times, but I had never been a tourist in Miami. That changed on Presidents Day. My goal is to discover Miami from a historical, chronological viewpoint. This meant starting from the mouth of Mayaimi river (now obviously Miami) where the Tequesta tribe lived. Nowadays that is the heart of old downtown, a gritty area dominated by 80’s vintage office and apartment buildings.

An oasis in this concrete jungle is the Gesú church. This beautiful Jesuit church sits where the original Jesuit mission was. It is the oldest in South Florida and is certainly worth the visit. Other spots to explore are Freedom tower, modeled after the Giralda, the old minaret, now bell tower of Seville’s Cathedral. It used to house the Miami News, but is now part of Miami-Dade College.

The main tourist trap, I mean attraction, is the Bayside Marina, mall, restaurants, etc. It is a sprawling, generic, commercial area, full of tourists, obviously. This is the spot to have a mediocre, overpriced meal, to go on a celebrity homes cruise, a motorboat cruise, or just a regular old “booze” cruise.

The American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, is also downtown, as is the Perez Art Museum if you are into Contemporary Art, the History Miami Museum, etc. Stay tuned for more chapters as we continue to explore Miami, layer by layer!

Nature in my Southern Florida neighborhood

If you have at all followed this blog, you know how important nature is for me. Although I am a city boy, I grew up spending every weekend and Summer in the country. I still crave nature and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I have written before about the benefits of “forest bathing”, “Shinrin Yoku”. Although Boynton Beach is a suburban wasteland, there are a few great places to connect with nature.

The first and most obvious is the beach! I am lucky to live close enough to the beach that I can go for a run or if conditions are right, an open water swim about once a week. It makes my workout into a meditation; the sea clears your mind! I also go to the beach for my weekly “volunteering” shift where I walk and clean, mostly plastics, but also papers, old flip flops, etc. from the shore.

On the opposite, Western edge of town is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge which consist of two parts, a mile boardwalk in Florida subtropical forest, and massive swamp that you can walk next to, or canoe on. Here you can see a lot of Florida wildlife: gators, deer, and plenty of birds.

Finally, a few blocks from home I have the Seacrest Scrub Natural Area which is a small park mostly hosting Gopher turtles. This little park is perfect for a quick walk to clear your mind, meditate or just wander.

So I can’t complain as far as outdoor venues is concerned.

10 years (almost), 200 posts, 100 likes

This was the start of a beautiful friendship (with Rocinante, not with the salesguy)

Time flies when you are having fun, as the saying goes. This blog, that started as a travel log for my motorcycle trip visiting grad schools for my PhD is hitting some important milestones:

First, we have posted over 200 posts, so that is something. That coincides with our upcoming 10th anniversary (it will be on July 31, but still, I am ahead of my time on everything except the rent), which translates to 20 posts a year, so about one every couple of weeks on average. Sorry I am a bit of a nerd.

100 likes means that every other one of my posts gets a like. Hey, I will take it!

My tops posts are the one on Don Quixote and his influence on Existentialist philosophy, and my dad’s eulogy.

Thank you to my readers for making this possible.

Enjoy my first and most recent photos posted on AntonioyRocinante

On minimalism

For the last few years, I have been trying to consciously deepen my spirituality. I have focused on my body – mind – soul connection, if you follow this blog (thank you), you will have already read about my retreats and my constant search for deeper meaning in life.

Well, one of the aspects of this process has to do with stuff, yes stuff – we have too much. For years, I have thought about my stuff, my belongings, clothes, furniture, accessories, gadgets, etc., and my attachment to them. In 2018 I got rid of many things when I moved back to Spain from the US, bringing with me only two suitcases and having only a couple of boxes –and two bicycles. This was not as traumatic as I thought it would be, and quite frankly I do not remember most of what I left behind. Now back in the US I am very conscious of how to go about starting, basically from scratch, since this time I only brought with me the two suitcases, no boxes, not even the bicycles!

Minder is meer. Mies van der Rohe

After four months I still do not have a sofa. Yes, I did buy a bed at Ikea, I am not sleeping on the floor just yet…. One of the many criteria about investing in new things is: Is it sustainable? My dining room table is from the Habitat for Humanity Store which means it is recycled and I helped others in my purchase.

Free of stuff I find it easier to focus, I am reading much more, I have not needed to hire a cleaning lady, I just sweep the floors once a week. Life is much, much easier! If you do some quick research you will find that the happiest people on the planet happen to be the Buddhist monks, further investigation will reveal that they only personally own about 8 things (something like 2 robes, 2 towels, a shaving blade, a bowl, a belt, and needle and thread). Obviously, I own many more things than a Buddhist monk, but a, there is a goal, and b, the important bit is being very conscious about your possessions.

Since in the US it is basically impossible to live without a car (except if you live in one of the few real downtowns) I bought a 2017 VW Golf. Possibly the best value for money in automobiles. As I stubbornly hold on to my vanity and ego, I did make sure it is a manual gearbox, because as everybody knows, if you drive stick you are a better person (or at least a cooler one).

The other day I saw a documentary about minimalism, based on a recent popular book, it reinforced everything I have been considering for the last few years. When I followed up on the documentary, I realized there is a whole movement dedicated to de-cluttering one’s life, simplifying, minimizing, tiny homes, etc. etc. I guess I am not as cutting edge as I thought I was, but at least it is good to know.

I used to have an empty cardboard wine bottle box and I would fill it with stuff that I no longer needed, clothes I no longer wore, books I had read and so on, and when it was full I would take it to the thrift shop and grab another empty box to start all over again!

There are many advantages to living with less stuff: you have more time to do things you would not do if you had a lot of things. For me, it is reading, I am reading a lot these days. Living with less means you save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on buying things, duh. You also have more clarity, literally and figuratively.

In conclusion, I recommend you think about your things, what do you really need? and start a cleansing process, or call it a curating process and you might feel better about it. I think you will appreciate it. Have any thoughts or ideas? Let me know in the comments, thanks!

Lightning visit to Chapel Hill

Since graduating in 2016 I had not been to Chapel Hill, and I was dying to go soak it up. So a few weekends ago I jumped in my car and drove off to my beloved Alma mater in North Carolina.

After stopping for the night at a roadside motel in Florence S. Carolina, I arrived in Chapel Hill in time for lunch. I walked across the ghostly campus to see my dear friend Mandey at her restaurant, Imbibe. She did not know I was coming and was very surprised to see me! She fed me a gorgeous pork belly sandwich!! I was happy to see they had successfully transitioned to a delivery and pick up restaurant! Unfortunately, the upstairs bar, Zogs, my second home in Chapel Hill was closed due to Covid. From there I walked down Franklin Street, across town, enjoying the energy and the community, something that I dearly miss in nameless, faceless Florida. I am glad to report that The Yogurt Pump is still serving (from a window) the best frozen yogurt in the world. My old friend Jedd has opened a cigar shop (World Headquarters Cigars) and I enjoyed catching up with him for a while. My next stop was the Student Store!! Where I overspent on UNC gear, although truth be said, it was mostly presents for family. I took the long way back, stopping to meditate at the Arboretum.

Confession time: The Catholic church at UNC, The Newman Center, is across the street from the Carolina Inn, the quintessential Southern hotel. From my first days in North Carolina, after church on Sundays I would go across the street to the Carolina Inn, get a coffee and sit in the lobby to read. Once, when my sister came to visit, she stayed at the Inn and had an amazing experience! So, at last I bit the bullet and stayed at the Inn, I was dying to, and it did not disappoint!

I had socially distanced dinner with a handful of dear old professors: Cristina, Oswaldo, and Irene. My heart was overjoyed with happiness to spend time with them.

Sunday morning, after a perfectly Southern breakfast –including grits! I crossed the street to church. Mass is normally being held outdoors on the parking lot during Covid, but due to the rain, mass was cancelled and the ceremony was going to be livestreamed from inside. At the beginning they did not want to let me into the building, but when I identified Father Bill, they did. Seeing Father Bill was a more moving experience than I expected. Mass, with only a handful of parishioners, mostly undergrads, was simple and beautiful. After mass we could not abide by the rules anymore and Father Bill and I fell into a heartfelt, teary (for me) hug.

After sadly checking out of the Carolina Inn, I drove to Irene’s house for lunch. And what a lunch it was, full of good food, laughter, memories, conversation, and needless to say: gossip! After that, it was a sad, lonely, and rainy drive back to Florida, stopping to sleep in Savannah Georgia.

Now I can’t wait to go back and see all the folks I missed in this lightning visit (you know who you are), and to go to mi favorite places that were closed for safety’s sake. As Terminator would say: “I’ll be back”.

The pros and cons of multiculturalism

Moving from NYC to Boston 1988

We first moved to New York In 1977, I was 12. From there we moved to London in 1979, from there to college in Boston in 1983, and so on for back and forth between the US and Europe. As I recently wrote in my “Diversity Statement” for a job application:

I have had the privilege of growing up in multicultural and multiracial environments, cities, and schools: New York City, London, Paris, Madrid, Boston, etc., so since childhood I have been bathed in diversity: cultural, racial, religious, sexual, socioeconomic, etc. On top of that I have had the privilege of traveling widely.

So, while being multicultural is definitely an enriching experience, it does have its drawbacks: The first one is that you no longer “fit” into any particular “set” culture, you become a bit of an outsider whenever you are in an environment of population that is “born and bred” in a place.  The second and more insidious aspect is that you might no longer meet certain legal or bureaucratic requirements to say, work in a place.

This is what happened to me when I returned to Spain in 2018. My US degrees (Including a PhD) are not recognized in Spain to work as a teacher. Furthermore, to get all my paperwork approved and transferred and certified and triple stamped would have taken years. Besides the paperwork, there is a mentality issue. Teachers in Spain are generally not a respected, appreciated, and certainly not well remunerated part of the population. There are historical and social reasons for that, but I will leave them for another post.

Long story short: I have returned to work in the US as Assistant Professor of Spanish and Assistant Director of the Language Department at Saint Vincent de Paul, a major seminary in Boynton Beach Florida! This was not an easy decision, leaving everything behind for a job, but I could no longer live in a country that refused to acknowledge me professionally.