I am a 53 year old American living in Spain, where I work as a translator. I have been married to María for over 20 years now and we have two daughters (19 and 17). My mother was born in Spain one year into the civil war and left the country when she was around 15. My father was born in Brooklyn, a first generation immigrant from Lebanon-Syria. Sadly, the link to Lebanon and Syria was completely lost (or was it?), but the one to Spain remained alive and vibrant and some 25 years ago drew me here to live.
What would this American living in Spain name as his strengths?
I am generous with everything but my time.
Could you name one weakness:
I am stingy with my time. You said one; I could go on and on, but … that would take so much time.
Continuing with some of Marcel Proust' famous questions, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
I am completely stumped. I do take some faint pride in that such a question should stump me. I would probably answer the friends I have made.
What quality do you value most in those friends?
An open heart, in the conviction that an open heart opens the mind, the eyes and most everything else.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I always have a very tough time with such questions because I tend to think that if I changed myself or my past in any way, the person answering this would not be exactly me so the reply would be different. It is sort of like aspiring to be tall enough to be able to see myself from above. But, I do mean to be a ‘cooperative’ interviewee here, Bonnie, so I will answer by saying, I wish I knew more languages.
You know, a lack of co-operation can make for a very interesting exchange ... maybe next time you will feel comfortable enough to be difficult!
I have read wonderful essays and poems on your blog. What is your favourite form of expression?
Have you had any of your work published? If not, is it something you aspire to?
The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa wrote that he had no ambitions for or in his poetry, saying that “I write down what I feel to lower the fever of feeling” and “writing poems is my way of being alone”. I share those sentiments and, I would add, the best discovery for me about the blog world is that I am not as alone as I had thought.
If I recall correctly, you were born in the United States. How long have you lived in Spain?
You are truly a citizen of the world! What are the advantages (for you) of living in Spain?
Oh, countless. But I am sure I would say the same about anywhere I lived. I tell myself that there is no spot on this earth that we could not live 1000 lives in without exhausting all of its possibilities. And I sometimes convince myself I mean it. But 25 years is a long time and I have come to love and embrace so much of the culture, the regional diversity, food, poetry and other literature, music, and above all, the people. It is always a bit silly to speak in generalities about such things, but I have to say that Spaniards are very warm and welcoming.
Are there any disadvantages you have encountered?
None that I need to name. In the spirit of my previous reply I would just say that the main disadvantage of being here is that I am not anywhere else. I love to travel and, were it not for how attached I get to people and places, I would have loved to live in many different countries. I do miss the US, my family and friends there, the New York City jazz scene… many, many things.
Who are your favourite writers, poets?
My favorite writers or poets change and evolve constantly. In recent times I am on a Mary Oliver kick. I also get much of late from reading Joseph Campbell, Roberto Calasso, Fernando Pessoa. I have always been a rather voracious reader but over the years have become an incredibly slow reader, mainly because what I read inspires so much that I stop at every paragraph and daydream and fantasize and scribble in the margins and whatever piece of paper is at hand.
What is your favourite cuisine?
What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?
Which living person do you most admire?
Probably Nelson Mandela in the world of the ‘famous’. There are so many ‘anonymous’ people whose virtues I feel inspired and humbled by that the list would be very lengthy.
Is there a historical figure, or a figure from literature, you identify with? Perhaps Don Quixote.
How does Lorenzo play?
I play with words, love puns to an obnoxious fault. I like to invent words. Also, I am a lifelong runner, but sore knees have made me quit and turn to biking. No matter how often I do it, there is something about getting on a bike that takes me back to being a little boy at play.
How do you attend to your spiritual needs?
Listening to music, visiting certain nature spots that have special meaning to me. Writing. Whatever makes me feel the buzz of connection to nature and other people. Long walks by myself on trails.
Is there one thing you wish you had learned or discovered earlier in your life?
Many, but I would say I wish I had not been as dogmatic and vehement about certain things (politics mainly) and achieved earlier in life the open-mindedness that I now prize.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fears are unspeakable and probably not very original at that, so I’ll leave it there.
What sustains you through difficult times?
I think I have a rich inner life I can recede into when the waters about me get too rough.
What two or three pieces of advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
Number one: never play poker with a guy named Doc. Sorry, I’ve been waiting to use that line for years now.
Actually, I have very limited faith in my ability, and the ability of elders in general, to really guide young people in any way other than by example, good and bad. This is probably due to my own thickheadedness when young. I would say travel, travel to new lands, travel in new cultures and travel in new languages. Travel until you richly grasp the wisdom of Proust when he said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
I'll watch out for that 'guy named Doc' in all my future poker games! Now, what brought you to blogging?
I needed a vehicle for expressing myself through writing.
How did you decide upon the name "The Alchemist's Pillow"?
It sort of came to me one day while running. As I don’t dream (or remember my dreams), I daydream; ‘directed dreaming’, I call it. Running was a way into that part of me. A pillow is the seat of dreams.
As for the alchemy, I like it as a metaphor for what we need to do with the world around us. Mary Oliver works alchemy in that she turns base materials around us into gold. Art does that in general. Also, alchemy, can be viewed as a failed enterprise, founded on a fallacy. Yet, from alchemy humanity developed much science, philosophy, literature, medicine. Reaping fruits from one failure after another is essential to human progress and individual spiritual development. Churchill said that “success is going from failure to failure without ever losing your enthusiasm”.
What is the significance of the blue elephant as your avatar?
I would like to know that myself. It came to me on one of those daydreaming runs and I feel that the lapis lazuli elephant chose me. One of my goals in starting the blog was to find out why.
What keeps you blogging?
Without doubt, the community of blog friends that has developed. This was a rich, amazing, surprising, stimulating and very, very satisfying discovery. A game changer really.
What have you learned from the experience of blogging?
Personally, that I want and need to write poems. Generally, that there are so many fine souls out there aching to engage in the kind of dialogue and multi-throated conversation that blogging allows.
What is your favorite word?
Hhhhmmmm… serendipity and synchronicity. In Spanish, simple rich words like amigo, alma (soul), abuela (grandmother).
What is your least favorite word? No.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Immersing myself in beauty in all its form; art, poetry, music, mainly jazz, but many others.
What turns you off? Bigotry, chauvinism.
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of water … how it babbles in a stream, murmurs in the sea, splashes in a city fountain, gurgles in a water fountain.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The blasted motorcycles ridden by so many kids here in Spain. Urrggghh!
What question have I neglected to ask that would give readers even more insight into who you are?
Have you actually read all those writers that you are continuously citing and quoting?
What is the answer to that question? No, but I’m getting there.
Thank you Lorenzo. It's been a delight to work with you on this project and to better know the man behind the blog.
Do check back after you leave a comment; Lorenzo will be responding to your comments here. To enjoy Lorenzo's blog, The Alchemist's Pillow click here.