Thursday, April 15, 2010
what did i do on my first weekend in madrid?
i went to...an "american" party!
that's right...they actually have american-themed parties over here, and you will be thrilled to see what they think of us haha
i didn't really realize that "nerds" were such an "american" concept...until i went to an american party and was faced with like 100 of them. one chick was even sporting fake braces!
i think the quintessential post-it phrase is "kick me", but...close. javi's costume was very thorough...he even brought a spiral notebook, an apple, and a tuna salad sandwich wrapped in saran wrap
i don't know if this was part of the "american" theme, but there were boxes & boxes & boxes of sangria in the kitchen.
football player...with cape haha
um how much do you love the walking hot dog? ("perrito caliente" as they say in spain)
i didn't need a costume...i came as all-american alvaro's authentic american accessory
my favorite quote from the night:
-javi calvo (above), upon pulling my very american listerine strips out of my pocket & letting him try one:
"it's like a gum...but quicker!"
Posted by Jay Brannan at 7:38 PM
Thursday, April 8, 2010
oh hey there, vatican city. see that tiny little cupola at the top of the dome there? brace yourselves, cuz that's where we're headed.
this was the easy part. the beginning of the climb. i wish i wasn't so fucking terrified for the 2nd half so i could have taken photos to show you how fucking tiny & claustrophic & twisty-turny it gets once you get up inside the dome
when i got to the first stop-off of the climb, i almost barfed and passed out from terror. you basically end up on this VERY skinny little catwalk that encircles the inside of the dome, looking down into the basilica. there is a gate/fence thing that goes up way above your head, but it's so high up and so narrow and so packed with tourists, all i could do was think about the catwalk crumbling and all of us plummeting to our deaths amongst piles of rubble, popes, fanny packs, and visors.
it was so terrifying, i was so afraid i wouldn't be able to get down without walking all the way around the catwalk to the exit on the other side. i had to basically turn my head towards the wall and move as quickly as i could to get to the nearest exit. i got a couple better photos later, but here was my first attempt at a photo as i reached my hand out towards the grill & snapped as fast as i could haha
this is the curvy roof terrace of the basilica where i hung out for maybe...30 or 40 minutes trying to work up the courage to go up into the tiny stairwell that winds through the dome and up to the outside ring of the very top.
i was trying to find other English speaking tourists to ask them how bad it was - how narrow the walkway was - if you had to walk around the outside a long way to get to the exit....
i even phoned my friend Marco, and kept walking back up the steps and into the dome to the base of the stairs...then back out...then back in...
the entrance to hell.
i wish i had taken photos of the line going up this tiny staircase...as well as the long winding staircase inside (including the part where the walls of the dome begin to curve in, and eventually you walk up a TINY spiral staircase that includes a vertical hanging ROPE TO HELP YOU KEEP GOING UP). but i was too focused on my survival, my dizzy head, and my wobbling knees to document those parts. anyway, we're not there yet.
finally, at about 20 minutes to closing time, i made the decision that i had come THIS far, i had to do it. that if all these fucking billions of tourists every day could do this and survive, then the odds are unlikely that i'll be the one to go tumbling down the side of the basilica, or that there will be an earthquake and the whole place will cave in.
so i'm standing at the base of this staircase, and these 4 American students end up behind me. one guy is talking about how he's claustrophobic and i turn around and say "i'm terrified of heights. i've been up here for 30 or 40 minutes trying to decide if i can make it up there or not".
now this is what really made the experience special. i'm sooo fucking happy i ended up braving this feat, and that i made it to the top, and that i got to see the view & say that i did it. but the really magical thing for me was that these 4 students were so nice to me, and basically talked to me the entire way up to keep me distracted -- and we're talking 10 to 15 minutes of climbing...something like 300 very crowded steps! i'm not kidding that my knees were shaking the entire time, i was totally dizzy, and i am shocked that i didnt actually start to cry. but the people behind me were soooo nice and so helpful, and there's really no way i would have survived this experience without them. it seems small, but when people ask me if i believe in angels...those are the kind of people i think about.
st. peter's square from above
at the top, there is an inner ring and an outer ring. i started out by staying in the inner ring and sort of reaching my arm out over people's head to snap photos. eventually i (still wobbly-kneed) worked my way out to the outer ring, and even worked my way out to the very outside railing & turned my back for a photo or two!!!
i stayed up there for longer than i expected, and am really glad i made it. it was very terrifying, but honestly it was the fear of the unknown that was the worst part...not knowing what it was going to be like...how long & how bad the staircase would be....how small the landing would be at the top. truthfully the indoor catwalk was the worst part. on the way down, i did make my way back inside for a few better photos, but that part really was terrifying.
after finally getting my feet back on the ground, you get dumped out into St. Peter's basilica...a truly amazing room to behold (i had been in here on a previous visit)
uh, why yes, that is Michaelangelo's legendary Pietà
why is it when you ask another tourist to take your photo, they always do it with the worst framing imaginable? "hi, excuse me - would you mind taking a photo for me with michaelangelo's legendary world's-greatest-work-of-art, and make sure my head is right in front of it?"
afterwards, i called my (other) friend Marco [everyone in Italy has the same name], and he drove me up to the Gianicolo hill for an amazing view of the city at sunset
i have several photos of this sunset - it looked like the sky was literally on fire
...and with the lovely Marco #12049B-N
i've had so many amazing & lucky experiences in my life, yet there are so few days when i truly feel alive. this one goes down in the history books.
and to C.J. and friends, from the cupola: if you ever need a favor...i owe you one.
Posted by Jay Brannan at 8:15 PM