June 20, 1958 – Friday
Set out this morning for Pisa. Passed many little typical Italian villages—two story shuttered houses. Arrived in Pisa which seemed quiet after Florence. A pleasant little hotel with a very nice gentle owner. Some of the people are so wonderful! Set out in the afternoon to see the Tower. Walked up a quiet side street and suddenly—there it was! Had quite a thrill at seeing it. It certainly does lean. On closer inspection—really a beautiful tower—surrounded by lovely buildings. Climbed to the top and on the way up met a girl from Berkeley who had been on the ship with me. Had ice cream with her and her father who was an Italian home for the first time in 25 years. She seemed a little embarrassed and I was sad about this. Afterwards joined by a handsome young blonde green-eyed Neapolitan—a lieutenant in the Italian air force. He walked me back to my hotel. Wanted to take me dancing. Later I walked among the backstreets and saw some poverty. Everyone out promenading. Music from an accordion, lovely sounds. This is really Italy! But so much poverty!
June 21 – Saturday
On the train to Margharita. As usual a crowded compartment. Many tunnels—glimpses of the blue Mediterranean—villages, castles, olive trees, marble works. Very beautiful and yet I begin to think of California.
Arrived at Santa Margharita—from the station lovely, but…at the tourist office engaged a room. The landlady came to meet me and we walked some distance to an old house—up dark dirty stairs where I found a tiny room. Felt a little depressed. Emerged later to the village. Everything had a peculiar smell and combined with the poverty made me lose interest in swimming. Later met a South African engineer who told me he loved the place and I felt a little better—but still—people should be better off than this. The village an old fishing village with fishing boats and nets. The ramparts and vestiges of old towers, etc.
June 22 – Sunday
Left early in the morning—relieved to be on the train. Necessary to change at Genoa. Saw the harbor where Columbus played as a child and from which he set sail. Transferred to another train and off to Cannes. The Italian Riviera no longer seems so romantic. Many villas but also very poor old villages. The sea beautiful colors in the light. People washing their clothes in the river.
On the train—in my compartment a fantastic Italian woman. Dyed hair, chattering away interminably in Italian. A shrill voice, on and on. Dirty purse, soiled contents, a heart of gold. Ate with gusto. By the time I left the train she was embracing me heartily.
Arrived in Cannes—the waterfront like California only Santa Barbara somehow seems nicer.
June 23 – Monday
Went to the beach—swam in the Mediterranean, the water colder and rougher than the Adriatic. Somehow the French seem a little indecent in their bathing attire. Also the women seem undignified in their desperate attempt to be sexy. My momentary feeling about the French is that I don’t care much for them actually. They certainly aren’t as good looking as the Italians. Am also disappointed in French cooking—however, still better than English.
At night a strange character—Salvador Rodrigues—half Spanish and half Italian—showed me Cannes from the old village on the hill. It was beautiful! Very tranquil. In the evening I saw the sunset and the colors were some of the loveliest I have seen—rose and violet and the sea changing blues.
I am staying in the “Little Palace” Hotel—but needless to say, its no little palace. It is time I should go home when a letter from Joe and David means more than a visit to Spain. Yet I must go to Spain! I have wanted to for so long.
The French are real types with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. The men don’t seem too attractive to me. Somewhat effeminate. I wonder if they care about politics—have only overheard one political discussion.
Yesterday a gypsy told my fortune in French. Understood a little—said I had been sick, nervous.
June 24 – Tuesday
Missed the train this morning. Had to wait until almost 4:00 p.m.
On the train to Marseille
The Mediterranean—a beautiful blue green fading into deep blue. Luxurious villas outside Cannes. Everything more prosperous here than in Italy. Old castles and fortresses side by side with modern apartments. Sunlight has a special quality here. Red rock and brilliant blue sea! Green pines, spectacular jagged rocks, red tiled roofs, shuttered houses, red sand. A strange red rock island with an old tower on it. Occasionally a ruin. This part of the Riviera is clean and beautiful! The old houses with the grilled balconies, tall shuttered windows and designs under the eaves.
(Like being alone in the compartment.)
Suddenly I remember—this is France—and now that I’m here—can’t help but feel, “so what!” I suppose I’m just tired. Would like to get out and live alone on the beach for awhile.
Inland a bit from the sea. Fields of grape vines. The hills rosy. Rock formations very interesting. A little like California except for the color.
French soldiers on the train.
Quiet red and green countryside. Strange patterns of erosion on the cliffs.
Old French villages—crumbling stone.
Must one travel to participate, be involved? Necessary to get first hand impressions—yet so much is superficial.
Villages on hilltops—in America they are in valleys. Really beautiful scenery. French peasants working in the fields. The ruins of a fort lonely on a hill.
The compartment suddenly crowded with French sailors—nice boys but a little crude and boisterous. Thought I was Italian.
Arrived at Marseille and was forced to disembark. Served as an interpreter for a German girl. The view from the station was lovely! I didn’t expect Marseille to have such a beautiful location.
Crummy hotel but must save money.
Walked out into the city. Very strange—North Africans here. A port town with some of the atmosphere of San Diego. Would be depressing to live here? Will try to see the exhibit of Modigliani tomorrow. Also catch a glimpse of the Chateau D’If.
June 25 – Wednesday
Modigliani exhibit: A thin frame between nothingness. Space looks out from the eyes. Man is only this frame, a single pierced dimension between here and nothingness—sadly elongated like the old paintings only instead of reaching into heaven, reaches into nothing. Oriental simplicity of a few lines. If there is anything that lasts it is their pure form—even the sculpture has this flatness of man pressed between—space—or rather, nothingness. Oriental—yet not quiet—desperate.
On the train to Perpignan
Many Spanish—my compartment filled with them. They look very poor and shabby, some with espadrilles and black sashes around their waists. One Spaniard has a long conversation about Spain with a Frenchman, the Spaniard a refugee from Franco, very bitter about Spain—perhaps a communist? They take out their lunches—long loaves of French bread with salami, wine, hardboiled eggs.
A glimpse of the Chateau D’If. A gypsy camp—naked babies—a gypsy woman squatting.
Past rice fields—everyone for some reason interested in these.
Finally arrive in Perpignan. The Spanish very sweet—so pathetic in their shabby clothes yet so kind. Help me with my suitcase.
A small town—not the exciting border town I expected. My hotel room dingy with the only window on the light well. Can hear all the toilet sound effects which seems to be my fate in Europe.
Find a new restaurant—the doors hung as in France and Italy—with dangling strips, I suppose to keep out the flies. The food quite good and cheaper than in Cannes. The walls hung with bad amateur painting and attempts at Chinese. The owner, a handsome fellow who tells me he wants to return to the Orient (lived in Indo-China for some years) also wants to study Chinese. Gives me the name of a little night club in Barcelona where there is flamenco dancing. La Macarena.
In the restaurant—four girls. Turns out they’re Canadian—from Montreal. I talk to them—then join them later for coffee. Typical sorority types on a big fling in Europe. (One has been to Santa Barbara). They invite me to join them on the ride to Spain in the station wagon they’ve hired. I accept with alacrity.
Spent a sleepless night.
June 26 – Thursday
The girls wake me up and finally after much fuss we all pile into the car. Much more fussing about places to sit, etc. I begin to feel sorry I joined the group—especially since I’m uncomfortable crammed into the front seat.
The roads are lovely—tree-lined, and I begin to feel excited! I’m really on my way to Spain. The architecture here is different. Finally reach the border and there are the Spanish! The girls by this time behaving impossibly. Snobbish, etc—not nice to anybody.
Character of Spain immediately reminds me of Mexico-past ruins on hilltops and old, old villages the color of the earth. There are the Pyrenees! Past doors cut into cliffs. People live here—gypsies I think. Occasionally see a cart with a gypsy family. Terribly poor—like animals—their hair wild, their clothes in shreds. The girls see nothing, of course, but chatter on inanely.
We stop in Gerona, I think—some car trouble—overheated engine. The Spanish gather around ready with advice. I translate. The girls go over to a lovely outdoor restaurant to eat while I explore the town. A carrousel with Spanish music. Men sitting at tables drinking. A river through the town and banked against it: rows of old houses, each with its balcony. Very poor and shabby.
I return to the girls and join the group. We order paella which is superb and incredibly cheap. Back to the car and then along the Mediterranean. Is this the Costa Brava? I feel disappointed. Perhaps it is north of here. Fishing villages—quite busy—soon reach the outskirts of Barcelona. I am disappointed again. A big dingy-appearing city. People very shabby. We look around for a hotel and the Spanish pursue us. The girls highly insulted.
I find a hotel and separate-after paying them more than I should. The Hotel Urbis resplendent in decaying glory—high gilt ceilings, cherubs, the grand décor of a Victorian Spain. But a second look shows the shabbiness. My room pleasant compared to others.
Later I explore the city—still quite disappointed by Barcelona. Compared to the Italians the Spanish look shabby. Many wear mustaches. The market is like other European markets—full of strange smells—vast amounts of fruit and fish, wonderful appearing seafood! But the smell!
June 27 – Friday
I walk over to the University, explore more of Barcelona. Disappointed in the products in the stores. Spain is poor, and much dirtier than Italy.
This is the first fascist country I’ve been in—temporarily fascist—and I feel it. Is it my imagination? Many policemen about-yet the country doesn’t look as poor as I thought—no worse than my early days in California during the depression. The narrow streets of the old part of the city are like other old European cities. Very narrow streets, strange smells, dirt, the odor of urine from passageways, little shops—each selling its own specialty—a grain shop, a butcher shop, fruits and vegetables.
I wonder what the students are talking about. Are they fascists? I would like to talk to some students—it will be possible later perhaps. I don’t find the men as handsome as the Italians; the young men are quite thin.
Sitting in the courtyard of the University of Barcelona. Mostly men students milling about. Pleasant here with arcades, plants—a little of the same atmosphere as the Italian universities. The students look young. Students the world over—what will they all do? What will happen to them? The Catalans speak very fast. Students half bow to professors.
June 28 – Saturday
Explore more of Las Ramblas—continual movement up and down the boulevards.
Last night I visited La Macarena, a small café with a bar. It is filled with Spaniards—dancers and singers. Sitting at the table is expensive so I stand at the bar. They all talk to me. One is a gypsy. Very earthy! The singing and dancing is wonderful!! This is more like Spain. One boy, a singer, I like. I feel I know them. And yet…
June 29 – Sunday
I am taken to a fireworks display by one of two students I met. His name—Manuel—father killed in Civil War—seems afraid to talk about politics (the other boy wasn’t). However did tell me that there are many revolutionary movements among the students. He is a very nice boy. We mostly talk in German since he knows no English. The crowds are more interesting than the fireworks. I love the spontaneity of the Spanish. ¡Que bonita! Things catch on fire from the fireworks—and no one seems to mind. Just an added treat. Manuel seems to like me very much. He is very nice—intelligent—but more like a university student than a Spaniard. It’s a great strain always talking in other languages.
June 30 – Monday
I visit La Macarena again, welcomed by the Spanish who all seem to like me very much. I have a wonderful time. I love Spain. I love the Spanish. Not the elegant dandies on the Paseo de Gracia—but these Spaniards from southern Spain. And the music! I feel there is a volcano inside of me. And I like Julio. The Spanish know how to treat a woman (so do the Italians) and I feel good here because I am a woman. It is better when I cannot speak or understand too well because there is a simpler more fundamental communication. I understand afterwards what he says to me—something I would never tolerate from an American.
An American pilot buys me drinks and comes to talk to me. A handsome fellow who makes me laugh—because he is simple too—which is a difference. Not earthy—and I don’t feel the tremendous sexual appeal of the Spaniards (and Italians). He seems to like me very much. How a person changes! I wouldn’t have liked him ten years ago.
I want very much to see southern Spain—but it perhaps will be too hard. Especially since I don’t have much money left. It is difficult. Perhaps if I saw southern Spain I would never come back to the U.S.
The reason this life is satisfactory—poor as it is—is because there are these marvelous releases—something totally lacking for me in the U.S. where the tensions are almost unbearable for me and there is no way I can relieve them. These people are poor—often hungry—work hard at pathetic tasks—yet they have their wonderful music and dancing. It is so primitive and says so much that can only be said just in this way—as far as I’m concerned. That is why I feel good here. I am not comfortable in the U.S. because of the conflicts I have within myself—no matter how outwardly comfortable my life is. I must be two things—because of the division in me.
On the Paseo de Gracia
Up and down. Not so crowded here as on the Ramblas. People more prosperous. Some very elegant in the latest styles.
An old woman lugging a pile of newspapers.
Once in awhile a donkey cart jogging by. One almost forgets the traffic because of the very graceful and pleasant boulevard with broad walks—a fountain at one end. Sycamore trees—very leafy and cool. I now have some feeling of the paseo. In the evening a man passes by with tapers to light the gas in the lights on the street
Whole families come out for the stroll
I am beginning to have such a feeling for Spain!