Yesterday was one of those, “I forgive everything” days. Zero wind, sunny sky and not too cold. I spoke to several people during my two-hour walk and everyone seemed elated about the vexatious and stubbornly consistent bleak weather letting up for a day. Though I’ve been fortunate to have been able to avoid this year’s winter, I can totally relate to the sentiment.
Here’s a new piece I’ve been working on called Solidarity. It’s made of about a half dozen photos from various walls covered with a range of frayed posters, worn stickers and whatnot.
I woke up at 4:30 am feeling perky and thinking I should take advantage of the extra time before the day formally begins. Of course here in Vejbystrand, where formality is wonderfully AWOL and I periodically feel like I’m living in a twilight zone – a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity and where the collective silence is compact. No dogs barking. No scooters zipping about. No yelling. Just the wind whistling as it brushes agains barren branches or turns the corner of the house. I can’t hear the sea from here, not right now anyway. But there’s something comforting and subduing knowing it’s so close by.
After so many months using a 15-inch laptop for all my artwork, sitting in front of a 27-inch monitor again, with all its screen real estate and horsepower, feels a little overwhelming. As I go through various art projects initiated on the smaller screen and now get to look at them in larger, more detailed versions, discerning which to keep and what to delete is so much easier.
I woke up at first daylight, after my first night in Vejbystrand since sometime the previous summer. I don’t remember when I last slept here during the winter. Years ago.
Once up, I did my Qigong routine for half an hour and then made banana/cinnamon porridge. The sun was shining when I laster went for a walk along the soaking wet meadow and stormy sea beyond.
Down by the mostly empty harbor, a lady was walking her dog. I think it was a Golden Retriever. A couple of teenagers were playing on a swing and I wondered how come they weren’t freezing as much as I was. Trekked up from the harbor to the village’s only grocery store and bought more oranges and a few ingredients for tonight’s dinner; minestrone soup. Took the above shot just before the skies opened up and I closed myself indoors.
A bone-cold rain is pouring down right now. But that’s perfectly okay.
Whenever I’m here alone, I feel a wave of soothing melancholy come over me. And now more than ever, I can embrace it. I can’t remember when I was this quiet. I’m not peaceful, too much going on for that. But quiet. Which in itself is a most pleasant experience.
After five months on two wildly different continents, living in about a dozen hotel rooms and apartments, our fall/winter trip is slowly coming to an end. I’ve actually been in Sweden for a few days already. Flew into Copenhagen on Thursday. I’m writing this in a hotel room in downtown Göteborg after spending most of yesterday afternoon, evening and night with some of my oldest friends, three of which had no idea I was going to show up and got thoroughly surprised.
While Tommy Sahlin Jonas Bratt Lars Olemyr and myself enjoyed a spectacularly tasty dinner accompanied by a seemingly perpetual flow of fermented beverages at Stationen Norsesund, a fabulous little restaurant housed in an old train station near Alingsås, the fifth member of our vintage gang, Joakim Eklund played drums on stage to many old favorite tunes with his Westcoast band.
So, tomorrow, I’ll be eating brunch with daughter Elle who now lives here and then heading south to Vejbystrand where we’ll be settling in for an extended stay. After almost a half year of intense city life with all its benefits and irresistible but not always wholesome appeal, I’m so looking forward to quiet rural life by the sea.
Within the next two weeks, I intend to complete two new book projects and begin creating art for an exhibit in April. And just as I was finishing writing this post, an order for a visualization project appeared in my inbox. There have certainly been a slew of pleasant surprises since returning to Sweden.
I’m a Social Media Survivor. It’s been more than a month since I abandoned all of my Social Media channels and platforms. And there’s been absolutely no struggle whatsoever to make use of the time I’ve reclaimed. I do think of friends and family on Facebook and Instagram from time to time. And yes, I can get a little curious about what they’re up to. But the obstreperous level of sharing, the ridiculous amount of selfies and trivialities quickly reminds me of how much of their lives is actually spent – wastefully – on feeding an apparent addiction.
If our species survives for another 200 years or so (I’m still optimistic), I wonder what future anthropologists, socialogists and psychologists will have to say about this odd epoch and what impact Social Media had on our (in)ability to focus and grasp significant, pertinent matters that need collective attention.
So, I feel liberated. Free like a bird. Or, maybe just self-rescued.
Shot the above (inverted) image just off the California coast.
We visited Museo Automovilístico de Málaga today. Had a nice long Sunday walk to the former tobacco factory where the car and fashion exhibit is housed. In short, we were blown away by the brilliant concept and even more by how well it was executed. The idea of attaching fashion to an exhibit of vintage and obscure automobiles, thereby attracting both sexes, is nothing less than genius. The image above is of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit decked out with hundreds of Swarovski crystals.
I’m all coffeed up right now. Started the day with a croissant and a Cafe Americano at a small coffee shop near Plaza Merced where the music was way too loud and the Feng Shui (風水) vibe unconducive for creative writing. Headed across the plaza and down the street to the Picasso museum’s café where I ordered a large Cafe Cortado and then discovered to my great chagrin that there were no wall sockets where I could charge my laptop’s depleted battery. Which was probably more intentional than an oversight – some cafés just don’t appreciate long-stay patrons like me.
So, now I’m back at Café Libo, nursing a Café con Leche and writing with increasingly jittery fingers. I’m usually all alone here, but today the place is packed with musicians, a small film crew and several German tourists. It’s so unusually busy, that one of the white coat clad ladies working behind the bar here even asked me if I was able to work with all the commotion around me. Fortunately, and for reasons beyond my understanding, I’m not too distracted, despite being all coffeed up. With noise-canceling Airpods and Groove Salad in my ears, I’ll hopefully be able to churn out around 1000 words before it’s time to leave.
Of all the visual impressions I absorbed while in Marbella, this shot of a fountain is possibly the most intriguing. I spent some time by this fountain, trying to figure out at what speed to best capture an abstraction of the flow of water and above all, the droplets. Finally settled for 1/4000 of a second and love the extremely shallow depth of field and bokeh.
Historically, every opportunity where a landscape (or, seascape) presented itself to me, I’d reflexively whip out my camera and capture it. Nowadays, I often refrain from that reptilian instinct and instead realize that as pretty as the view may look right there and then, I know that it’s not going to be something I treasure much. Just another photo that will end up unused, unviewed and gathering virtual dust in my already swollen, digital archive. I still might shoot it, but the level of enthusiasm will be barely measurable on any kind of creative scale or if benchmarked against other subjects or objects I energetically point my camera at these days. Motifs that I think I can use furhter down the road in a collage. Like this wonderfully tiled bench from the park just below our hotel room’s balcony. It reminded me of both Lisbon and Havana simultaneously.
Can’t help but feel a little (Lutheran) guilt about soaking up the sun here in Marbella. Some awful weather is currently making its way through southern Sweden. Either of us had ever been to Marbella before, so we decided earlier in the week, more or less on a whim, that it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Turned out that a client was going to be in town and wanted to schedule a meeting with me. Perfect timing.
We took a surprisingly comfortable coach from Málaga bus terminal about noon today and arrived just over 45 minutes later. For 48 hours we’ll be staying at a typical Spanish hotel (mucho marble) just a couple of blocks from the main beach promenade. While our room is best described as slightly better than humdrum, the view from the generously sized balcony is superb and overlooks a small public park. We can even see a sliver of the sea beyond the park’s treetops.
Not exactly shocked to hear so much Swedish and Danish being spoken in the cafés and restaurants down by the beach. Marbella has been popular for eons among the affluent. After more than a month in Costa del Sol, I totally get why so many Scandinavians love this part of the country. It’s about 11C degrees warmer here than in the warmest place of Sweden right now (Målilla/8C). Perhaps not quite t-shirt weather. But not far off. Though I didn’t recognize her myself, Charlotte noted how a Swedish celeb named Charlotte Perrelli walked past us during our 10k stroll along the Mediterranean this afternoon. Apparently, she lives nearby in a humongous hillside house.
The further south you walk along the coast here, when the pavement gives way to a sienna colored dirt road, way past the sprawling holiday resorts and ugly, beige high rises, the more beautiful it gets. Clusters of tall pines, batches of short palm trees, dense bougainvilleas bushes and aloe vera plants in between chalk-white villas in classic Spanish architectural style. Very picturesque, indeed.
Marbella is perhaps fancy-pantsy, but like almost everywhere else I’ve been to in Spain thus far, it’s an astonishing mixed bag of highs and lows here too. I wonder if modern Spain has actually ever had a profession called urban planners or if the public officials granting building permits and development licenses just hand them out haphazardly, without much thought or review. Or, is it nepotism at play here. Muy posiblemente.
Increasingly, I find that it’s the old stuff, the old stone houses, ancient streets and plazas with decades and centuries of layered patina, that entice and inspire me. Our hotel is actually smacked in the middle of Marbella’s old town. I hope to be able to explore it more thoroughly tomorrow afternoon.
Like everywhere else I live, steady or temporarily, I’ve continued to practice Qigong here in Málaga. We have a huge rooftop terrace that we share with others in the building, and as soon as the temperature rebounds from its current chilly dip, I’ll be back up there practicing my two Qigong programs, DestressRelax™ and MorningFlow™ once again. I’m currently working on a Qigong centric website that should be ready for public viewing within a week or two.
Charlotte captured the above pose, “Bow & Arrow” the other morning.
I suppose what got me thinking about this invisible but omnipresent topic was the distinct bouquet of garlic being sweated out from all the women and myself during the evening’s intense Ashtanga class. As soon as I got out of the gym, a cloud of Mary Jane, possibly coming from the couple sitting on a park bench down the block, completely enveloped me for a second or two. I’m not a user, but I’ll gladly admit to liking a whiff of cannabis once in a while. And there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ganja here in Málaga.
Continuing home that evening, as the sun was setting on the Mediterranean, I turned the corner and soon found myself walking behind a plump pair in colorful trainers, each holding a lit cigarette between their fingers. I increased my pace to avoid the couple’s second-hand smoke, passed them quickly and climbed up a flight of stairs that eventually leads to our street. Halfway up, the nauseating smell from fresh dog poop was slung at me. That too is a frequent odor here.
At the corner bar on Calle Los Negros 4, our current home address, the distinct yet alluring smell of stale beer caught my nose’s attention. A Norwegian tween, wearing a sweet perfume, exited our security gate as I entered the building. She was dressed and doused for an evening out for sure. Finally, once I stepped into the apartment, the pleasant smell of a mustard vinaigrette dressing and oven-baked almonds, hinted that we’d once again be eating a tasty salad for dinner.
The unrelated image above is a composite of odorless yet nonetheless intriguing walls I’ve photographed around our neighborhood.
There are surprisingly few co-working places in Málaga. There are a few, but none that meet my requirements. Not that there’s a shortage of cafés, tapas bars, and restaurants. It’s just that none of them I’ve visited have an environment that works for me. Either the music is way too loud (despite having AirPod Pro noise-canceling setting turned on), the establishment doesn’t have comfortable chairs or the place is just so busy that my concentration is constantly broken. Yeah, I’m difficult.
About a week ago, a friend living here in Málaga generously introduced me to one of his favorite places to work away from home at, the above pictured Café Libo.
I shot the photo from the same place where I’m writing this, the corner table to the very right when you enter the café. It’s the perfect “poker position” with nobody at my back and a full 180-degree view of the room.
The chairs are solid but nicely cushioned, allowing for extended work periods without bum or backache. The round table is at just the right height for a laptop. While the service is perhaps a bit too formal for my personal liking, it’s friendly nonetheless. And the café con leche they serve up at Café Libo is as can be expected almost anywhere here in Spain, a delectable experience.
I’m usually all alone at Libo, aside from the occasional musician or conductor that stops by for a coffee or a caña before heading back into the adjacent concert hall where rehearsals and practice can be heard from time to time during the three to four hours I work there.
Folks, for a digital nomad like me, it doesn’t get any better than this in Málaga.
Another NUA wall I’ve found here in Málaga.
I once painted a series of vibrantly colorful, abstract paintings with pipes as the main subject matter. I sold quite a few of them and can’t help but wonder if they’re still around. Somewhere.
To this day whenever I see pipes of any kind, I easily get excited. What goes on in those pipes? Are they filling or emptying? Is it sludge, freshwater or gas flowing within them? How old are these pipes and are they lined with asbestos, lead or some other slowly degenerating material?
My oldest memory of pipes?
When I was youngster, sometime back in the late 1960s, my brother and I would once in a while walk along the ocean from our rented beach house in Malibu (California) and eventually tunnel through a storm drain, essentially a gigantic pipe that went under the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and ended up in canyon or ravin just below the Santa Monica Mountains.
Walking through the storm drain was scary. The noise coming from all the traffic on PCH above was amplified by a factor of 10 and deafening. I would usually run as fast as my scrawny legs would hurtle me through and instead of feeling relief, experience a wave of angst swell over me when I realized I’d have to go through that same storm drain again on our way back to the beach.
Once we hit the canyon, though, there were licorice bushes to distract me. And if that wasn’t enough, my brother Nick would show me what he had been told was an ancient, sacred burial ground for local Native American Indians.
I discovered the pipes above the other day while walking through an otherwise nondescript lane Málaga’s historic barrio.
What I love about the historic center of Málaga isn’t what most visitors get excited about. I’m too jaded, I suppose these days and not easily impressed by cathedrals, museums or Roman relics. Sure, I totally appreciate the centuries-old narrow lanes, alleys, and promenades lined with cafés, tapas bars and all kinds of restaurants. But I actually prefer walking aimlessly around the less touristy areas where local life is relatively untouched and still a little grungy. Raw, even.
But what really gets my creative juices flowing is when I discover a surface like the one above. I just love how the wall itself – together with multiple years of varying weather conditions and restorations – has “collaborated” in creating a map of intriguing textures and colors. As an artist, my job is being able to observe, discover and compose such a surface’s natural beauty, and eventually share it. I call the genre Natural Urban Art (NUA) and I feel absolutely confident that Monsieur “Readymade” Duchamp would have totally agreed with me. I call the piece above, “Brunch at Yellow” after the wifi password at a favorite breakfast place on Calle Carreteria.
Clueless to why this shopkeeper was looking so serious, but the huge squash he was holding up for me yesterday afternoon during a visit to Mercado de Salamanca Market here in Malaga was certainly impressive.
Tonight’s class was good, and even if I’m not a huge fan of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, small and dimly lit yoga rooms, I still enjoyed pushing my stiff body’s physical limits. Unsurprisingly, the instructor guided us in Spanish, which I understand marginally better than Vietnamese. I can count well enough, so that made it a little easier to follow. And even if some might feel a little uncomfortable when I sneak peek around to see what needs to be adjusted, tweaked or stretched, it’s absolutely “necesario”.
I was the only dude at tonight’s class. Somehow I doubt that yoga attracts Spanish men. It’s probably not macho enough. They don’t know what they’re missing. Walking home from the gym today I realized how warm it felt. These past sunny days have given us comfortable evening temperatures. It’s still jacket ‘n sweater season for sure. But that could be over real soon. Maybe even by next week.
So happy for Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell for sweeping up so many Grammy’s last night. What a talented team. Sad to hear of the helicopter crash and tragic death of former NBA giant Kobe Bryant and his young daughter Gianni. Don’t understand why the pilot was granted special permission to fly during such extremely poor visibility.
Saw this fluffy mutt during yesterday’s visit to the always enjoyable village Pedregalejo on the north end of Málaga. Only after a while did I realize that the poor pouch might well have been locked in between the iron bars and the window by his owners. I really hope not.
After a few days of intense rain and relatively cold weather, the sun rose over Málaga this morning. Here’s what it looked like from the rooftop of our apartment building, where, as soon as it gets a little warmer, I plan on practicing Yoga and Qigong.
In a few hours, after four months in Asia, daughter Elle will arrive in Göteborg, Sweden. She sent me a safety-masked selfie from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport just before boarding. The scare of the Coronavirus is apparently widespread and growing rapidly.
I wonder what it’s going to take, epidemiologically speaking, before Chinese officials responsible for providing informed guidelines and implementing/enforcing regulations on hygiene and animal welfare, start taking their jobs seriously. Doesn’t the government in Beijing understand the potential risks, even after Sars and other related viral epidemics that stem from unhealthy food production practices? And while they’re at it, maybe it’s also time to start promoting a plant-based diet to its 1.5 billion population.
I’ve been to so many food markets in China and other parts of Asia. They’re often fascinating, exotic places filled with vibrant colors and a wealth of rich, often pungent smells. But after each visit, I am convinced that excluding meat and poultry from my diet is so right.
The lack of empathy for animals in general and the brutal enslavement these creatures must endure in factory farms before reaching the dinner table is symptomatic of a mindless society that has lost touch with the planet and where common sense is long, long gone.
The sheep above are from an island in Sweden called Orust. As soon as they saw us, the fled. Rightly so.
This piece is aptly called “Which Switch?”. It’s based on a photo shot somewhere within an old industrial workshop in Malmö, Sweden. I’ve sold it in varying sizes and on different materials, but I wonder if the visual appeal of those that have bought it is at least partially aligned with my initial concept of what it means to have too many choices and the mental stress from chronic ambiguity.
I was recently once again invited to the juried exhibition arranged by the cultural association MKK during Malmö Gallery Night 2020. Last year’s show went really well with a steady stream of visitors and four works sold. Looking forward to participating again with new pieces. Now all I have to do is create them…
These words are written from a hotel room in Malmö, not that far from where I shot the above scene of Möllevångstorget – one of Malmö’s most popular and culturally eclectic, open-air markets. I’m currently watching a live broadcast from the US Senate’s impeachment hearing in D.C. with a stream of German instrumental electronica from the Internet station Groove Salad of San Francisco as backdrop music to the unusually syrupy proceedings. I just got back from the hotel’s lobby bar where I ate two tasty Mexican tacos (veg) provided by a kind woman from Columbia (Bogota) who also supplied me with a cold draft beer named Eriksberg, a neighborhod on the outskirts of Göteborg.
Back in Malmö for the first time since the beginning of last October. First visit of 2020, even. Enjoyed a spectacularly glitch-free trip up from southern Spain. Connected to every means of communication beautifully; taxi, plane, train. Yes, it’s grey and cold. Yet somehow hopeful. Here for a few days to work for Mr. Stordalen again.
The fact that the trashcan above had the text “USAME” on it vertically was so poetically apt, that not getting a shot of it would have been malpractice.
I seem to be following in love with Spain again. It’s been an on and off relationship since we lived in Mallorca many moons ago and I’m now back at the point where I find there’s more to appreciate then to dislike. I still easily overdose on tapas, though. And in the long run, the omnipresent, life-embracing, late-night culture, is way too alluringly insalubrious for me. Last night was spent with friends at a couple of real gems, a tiny bar run by a couple from Belgium called Fonzo and a wonderfully outlandish “speakeasy” called The Pharmacy where they have a wide selection of both tasty and colorful concoctions of 100% liquid prescriptions.
Visually, Málaga’s Centro Historico and the downtown area is nothing short of fantastic. So much wonderful patina, artful decay, and brutal contrasts between the obsessively well-kept, endlessly neglected and stuff that is just downright butt-ugly. Best of all, Málaga feels so manageable and accessible. At least when compared with Madrid or Barcelona – and though there are quite a few Swedes here, it’s not nearly as incestuous as Palma de Mallorca can be. Málaga is kinda the perfect sized city. Now, if we could only find somewhere to live…
Shot this gang of four-legged buddies just outside of the prestigious store, El Corte Ingles earlier today. Come to think of it, I don’t really know if El Corte Ingles actually is all that fancy. But since the brand translates to “The English Court”, I’m just assuming that at least at some point in time, it aimed to be high street. Today, I doubt if most Spaniards even think about what the place is called. And those pugs could obviously care even less.
After discovering a water leakage from the ceiling of our old apartment here on Calle Los Negros (yeah, I hate the name too, apparently, the street we live on right now is where the first emancipated African slaves were allowed to settle, which doesn’t explain why it’s still called “The Blacks”) we were offered a new place further down the hallway. While it won’t ever win a prize for its interior decorating, it’s undeniably bigger, brighter and has two bathrooms. Not sure if we’ll be allowed to make the switch permanently or, if not, how long we’ll be able to stay in this new place. We are, after all, in Spain where Captain Whimsical and General Mañana still rule the land. But for now, we’ve never been more comfortable in Malaga.
Update: we have to move out tomorrow…but as compensation, we’ve been offered a smaller and darker apartment with only one bathroom. And if we’re really lucky, the new flat will be even closer to where the building’s ongoing construction is best heard and felt. So there you go.
We live right just a few hundred meters from Plaza de la Merced, arguably most famous for being the square on which artist Pablo Picasso was born. So, as one can imagine, there is no shortage of physical and lyrical references of the neighborhood’s favorite son there. Like this cutout at one of the half dozen taverns and taperias on the sunny side of the square. Oh, and if you were wondering, Paco is still missing. Just heard a dozen or so shoutouts.
Paaaco! Paaaaco! Paaaaco! As I’m typing these words, there’s an old lady across the street yelling incisively down from her kitchen window. She’s trying to get in touch with someone or something called Paco. Her voice is cranky and nagging and if I were Paco, I’d definitely stay the fuck away.
As tiring as it is to hear, I can’t help but wonder if Paco is her dog, her husband or a son. Maybe it’s her lover and he’s just got so insanely sick of looking at her and listening to that demanding, scratchy voice, that he just picked up and left, sneaking out while she was taking her morning dump. He might even have thrown himself out the window and is now slowly and painfully crawling his way to his newfound, albeit crippled freedom. If it’s her dog, I pray the tortured creature is long and forever gone.
Today I bought something I never conceived I would own, namely, a shopping trolley. Not that I had any prejudices about them per ce. Sure, they’ve been around forever, I just never envisioned that I’d have the need to use one. At least not at 56.
Here in Málaga, the only way to really enjoy a shopping experience, at least when buying groceries, is at the formidable Mercado Central de Atarazanas. It’s a classic indoor market hall filled with rich colors, intense smells and buzzing with activity. Gothenburg has a similarly lively indoor market, much smaller though. I love these places. There are plenty of smaller Mercados around town. But they’re grimy and shabby and reliably uninspiring.
Since we’re currently living aways from the Mercado Central, we were advised by Swedish American friends to immediately invest in a shopping trolley. So before today’s market visit began, I bought one at a hardware store near the market. As convenient as it was to just relinquish everything I purchased straight into the trolley’s belly, it felt a little awkward walking home with it wobbling unsteadily behind me. Not that I haven’t rolled camera bags and cases hundreds if not thousands of miles over the years. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if a new era hadn’t just begun. That once you start using one of these trolleys, you just never stop.
I could never have carried all of today’s stuff home in my arms. The weight from the large watermelon, giant beef tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, roasted almonds, carrots, oranges, and raisins was just wonderfully offloaded by the little trolley. And the only reason I broke into a slight sweat on my way home was because of the relatively hot midday January sun. Shot the trolley just down the street from our temporary flat where there’s a ton of most beautiful murals and graffiti.
It was certainly a long-haul, but a surprisingly smooth ride traveling to Málaga from Bangkok via Copenhagen. Not a single hitch or glitch along the way. We even managed to sleep 9 hours straight our first night as residence here in Andalusia.
There doesn’t seem to be much tourism in Málaga this time of year. Which is just fine for us as it’ll provide an opportunity to get to know the city before the inexorable tourist season kicks in.
The above piece was created from a dozen or so images I shot during last year’s visit to Málaga. In the middle of the collage is a young Chinese tween I saw outside of a hotel, possibly waiting for a taxi or an Uber.
Her head was slightly bent downwards, as if she was in deep prayer. Her eyes entranced on whatever was happening on the giant screen she held in her tiny, bleak hand.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a solo Chinese tourist before.