far too much writing, far too many photos

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I write this sitting on a couch in the sprawling lobby of a hotel in Blackpool, England. Out the window: muddy-looking ocean covered with white caps from a cool breeze. Now and then a trolley slides by — I can only see the top half, it passes with the slow, steady movement of an ocean-going vessel.

Blackpool: an old resort town that, at one time, may ahve been the pinnacle of elegance, with an underbelly of wonderfully cheesy sleeze. An interesting place, the skyline predominated by a tower built in 1894, reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower — a finely-woven meshwork of girders, thrusting gracefully up into the sky, overlooking a miles long expanse of beach and ocean. Also overlooking a heaving mass of arcades, restaurants, chip shops, hotels, the occasional lapdance joint, etc.

Blackpool, a resort town with a suspiciously phallic subtext:

I’m here with a friend attending a convention, the hotel crowded and busy with people — families, groups of friends, folks in big meeting mode. Our search for lodging happened at the last minute, we managed to get a room at the Hotel Metropole (no, the name doesn’t refer to something from an urban stripper’s act), an ancient hotel a couple of miles down the strip. We arrived yesterday evening beneath mostly gray skies, breaks in the clouds providing ethereal sunset light, the streets mostly empty. What we saw on entering the building was an old, old place, big shabby salons peopled mostly by old, old folks. Next morning, skylights providing a wash of sunshine, everything looked more inviting, more habitable. And many of the old folks responded to a hello or good morning with sweet smiles and tones of pleased surprise.

Dermot, coming here for the convention, asked if I’d like to go along, I was on that kind invitation like a cheap suit. His car, in for repairs, turned out to need more attention than he’d been banking on. Luckily, I had a silver rented Honda Jazz parked outside his humble abode waiting to be useful — we packed bags, tossed them in the rear, hit the road just in time to join the Friday rush-hour exodus north. Two hours later: Blackpool. Ocean, amusement park, downtown designed to hoover as much cash as possible from visiting tourists, and hotels/b&b’s everywhere — a positive infestation of lodgings. As Dermot put it, any room within the city limits that could be converted into a sleeping space has been so transformed.

Two days earlier I’d been in Sevilla. One immediate difference between the two places: Sevilla was fully under the sway of springtime. Blackpool still struggled under the weight of the cold season. And something else: in Blackpool, I saw nothing indicating Easter’s advance. Sevilla, on the other hand, was neck deep in preparations for it. Hundreds of thousands of people will soon flood the city, for the entire week of Semana Santa the streets will be choked with crowds and processions. It’s the biggest event of the Sevillan calendar, signs of the looming onslaught were difficult to avoid — shop window displays, posters advertising Semana Santa events, stands selling incense and special incense burners, work crews preparing public spaces for enormous numbers of spectators.

Seating stands going up behind el Ayuntamiento (city hall), Sevilla:

Most streets in the center were nicely alive, the sounds of voices and music blending together in easy, liquid fashion. Caf├ęs, restaurants, stores of all kinds. Looking to pick up some reading in Castellano, I came across a book store with the sixth Harry Potter prominently displayed. The window, I vaguely noticed, also featured a fairly sweeping display of religious material, something that barely registered given the city and the season. On entering the store, however — a sizeable concern of two or three levels — I realized it dealt in essentially nothing but Catholic/Christian material. Books, calendars, tchochkes, craft supplies, posters (images both cheery in the vein of sunshine/rainbows, and darkly heavy in the way Spanish Catholicism can be), candles, etc. And the new translation of the sixth Harry Potter installment — virtually the only visible representative of what might be considered secular, not to say pagan. I grabbed one, paid up, stepped back out into the morning.

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The South Pier, Blackpool

Madrid, te quiero.

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