DENUNCIA (denouncement?)

The police report that the Barcelona police officer handed to the French bride was mostly bilingual (French/Spanish). The list of possible items stolen on the back of the ‘denuncia’, or police report, reminded her of vocabulary listed in tourist phrasebooks or beginner school manuals.

Check appropriate : Accessories, clothing, jewelry, camera…

FRENCH CAR, ITALIAN WEDDING  DRESS, JAPANESE CAMERA

¿Tengo cara de turista? This expression in Spanish means “do I look like a tourist?” It always reminds me of the risk travellers face: being cheated or robbed.

The French bride scoured the streets searching for clues. Meanwhile she followed the rules, filled out the denuncia for both the Barcelona police and French insurance company. She got the run-around everywhere. This extract from the manuscript of One Dress, One Day gives a hint of her experience.

“A city police officer passed in front of Uno’s usual place under an arch within the arcade on the edge of the plaza. With the officer was a half-dozen cadets carrying metal barricades designed to line the parade route.  Before they could do much, a young honey-blond lady rushed up asking for help in a nasal, accented Castilian. It all poured out:  her automobile had been moved or taken during the night; she and her husband were honeymooning here. She feared the worst:  thieves had stolen the car. Worse, they had got her wedding gown in the back.  The supervising officer put on a good show for his trainees. After all, tourism kept the Catalonian economy alive and the ’92 Olympic Games were coming. With a faint smile, he explained politely the denuncia claim the señora would have to make at the commissariat. He then muttered in Catalán that she was a dumb blond to leave exposed her valuables in a car, especially a Renault with French license plates.”

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Desfile, or Procession, in Semana Santa



One Dress, One Day takes you to 1990, to Barcelona and to SEMANA SANTA (Holy Week) in Spain. 

The ancient Greek tradition stresses time over place. Aristotle prescribed 24 hours. Famous tragedies like Antigone and Electra follow this rule, more or less.  As the title suggests, One Dress, One Day divides into the components of a Spanish day: madrugada, manana, mediodia, siesta, tarde, anochecer, noche, altas horas de la madrugada, amenacer. 

The one day of this tale falls within Holy Week, the Lenten period before Easter. The Semana Santa, or Holy Week, must be experienced in Spain. The heavy, pervasive mourning resounds in the various processions of the penitents who parade their religious symbol (usually a Madonna statuette) or Paschal scene as a float.  Some bear crosses and walk barefoot in rough robes.  Many wear hoods.  It is an impressive sight for believers or non-believers.  Inma, one of the characters in One Dress, One Day, finds herself watching a late night procession.

“Theirs was an old cofradia, El Santísimo nombre de Jesús, with a well-worn white silk banner held high by the leader and hung throughout Holy Week in the plaza mayor, too. Several nazareños marched barefoot on the cold damp pavement or cobblestones; some shuffled along in shackles. The burliest brown friars bore unhewn wooden crosses on their backs. All had taken a vow of silence inside the nearby chapel before beginning their march.”

The drum often marks time for processions. Sometimes a trumpet and a small brass section complete the corps.  Mournful, haunting, the sound at night evokes the pain of the Passion. Yet, many Spanish churches hold Lenten concerts of classical music, usually religious like Stabat Mater, to prepare those awaiting the Resurrection.

Pepe prays.

In One Dress, One Day, José (Pepe) craves a drink. 

“Despite the hour, he got up to brew his first espresso of the day. As he rinsed and wiped the heavy aluminum cafetera, Pepe poured his feelings out to the bird. Groggy, he still enjoyed a drag, but always without a drink. He had to stay sober because there were too many times that he could not remember what had happened. Alfonsa did remember, though.

The famous AA prayer hung painted on a plate in the narrow hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.”

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Niebuhr first wrote the prayer for a Massachussets sermon as early as 1934 and first published it in 1951 in a US magazine column. The prayer spread through Niebuhr’s sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.

The prayer has appeared in many versions. The most well-known form is a late version, as it includes a reference to grace not found before 1951.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Another version: O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The earliest recorded reference to the prayer is a diary entry from 1932 by Winnifred Crane Wygal, a pupil and collaborator of Niebuhr. Wygal was a longtime YWCA official and all early recorded usages were from women involved in volunteer or educational activities connected to the YWCA. 

The earliest printed reference, in 1936, mentions that during a speech, a Miss Mildred Pinkerton “quotes the prayer,” as if to indicate it was already in a circulation known to the reporter, or that Pinkerton relayed it as a quote, without mentioning its authorship

NOTE: The prayer has also been falsely attributed to a variety of other authors.

Genuine precursors

EPICETUS, a Greek philosopher, wrote:

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.”

SOLOMON IBN GABIROL, an 11th-century Jewish philosopher wrote:

And they said: At the head of all understanding – is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change.

The philosopher WW. BARTLEY juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
Spurious attributions

Use by twelve-step recovery programs

The prayer became more widely known after being brought to the attention of AA in 1941 by an early member, who came upon it in a “routine New York Herald Tribune obit.” AA’s staff liked the prayer and had it printed in modified form and handed around. It has been part of the group’s personality ever since. Grapevine, The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, identified Niebuhr as the author (January 1950, pp. 6–7), and the AA web site continues to identify Niebuhr as the author.

A slightly different version of the prayer has been adopted by twelve-step groups:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

It can be said by anyone of any denomination, almost any faith. The character Pepe has a copy hanging on a wall in his home.

Dios mío, concédeme

Serenidad

para aceptar las cosas que no puedo cambiar;

Valor

Para canbiar aquellas cosas que puedo ;

Y sabiduría

Para reconocer la diferencia

Santa Eulalia and Sant Jordi

FOUND DISPATCH FROM BARCELONA

Fin de semana: Santa Eulàlia

¡Este fin de semana en Barcelona hay una gran fiesta por Santa Eulàlia, copatrona de Barcelona, la cultura popular de raíz tradicional sale a la calle para celebrar la Fiesta Mayor de Invierno. Gigantes y gigantas, dragones, diablos, bailes tradicionales, el Àliga, la ‘gegantona’ Laia, ‘castells’… El viernes por la noche tiene lugar una nueva sesión del ciclo de conciertos Las Noches de Invierno, que dan visibilidad a las propuestas emergentes más atractivas del panorama actual.

February has Saint Eulalia while April has Sant Jordi (George) so we are now in between celebrating Barcelona’s co-patron saints. 

Saint Eulalia (Aulaire, Aulazia, Olalla, Eulària) (c. 290–12 February 303), was a 13-year-old virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the reign of Diocletian.  There is some dispute as to whether she is the same person as Saint Eulalia of Mérida whose story is similar. Of course, anyone familiar with saint’s martyrdoms will recognize similarities. Two to three saints’ stories often meld together over time, as is the case with Saint Catherine (Sienna, Alexandria)>

For refusing to recant her Christianity, the Romans subjected her to thirteen tortures including:

  • Putting her into a barrel with knives (or glass) stuck into it and rolling it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulalia “Saint Eulalia’s descent”).
  • Cutting off her breasts
  • Crucifixion on an x-shaped cross. She is depicted with this cross, the instrument of her martyrdom.
  • Finally, decapitation.

A dove supposedly flew up from her neck following her decapitation. This is one point of similarity with the story of Eulalia of Mérida, in which a dove flew from the girl’s mouth at the moment of her death. In addition, Eulalia of Mérida’s tortures are sometimes enumerated among the Barcelona martyrs, and the two were similar in age and year of death.

Eulalia is remembered with statues and street names throughout Barcelona. Originally interred in the church of Santa Maria de les Arenes (St. Mary of the Sands; now changed to ‘of the Sea’,  (St. Mary of the Sea). It was hidden in 713 when the Moors invaded. Recovered in 878, it was relocated to a sarcophagus in the crypt of the newly built cathedral dedicated to Santa Eulalia (1339).  The festival of Saint Eulalia is held in Barcelona for a week around her feast or name day on February 12.

The Christian knight, protector of Barcelona

Sant Jordi, the Catalan equivalent of Saint George, is a very popular figure in Catalonia. He is the Patron Saint of the region, and Catalonia even have a Saint George Day – El Día de Sant Jordi, on April 23rd (Saint George’s name day in the Catholic church).
If you visit the Barrio Gótico of Barcelona especially one figure dominates in paintings, sculptures, alcoves and fountains.  It is a knight with his sword high in the air fighting an enormous dragon. The knight is of course Saint George, in the Catalan version,Sant Jordi.

On this day, tradition has the girls giving a book to the boys who give roses to the girls in return.

The rose motif stems from the myth, since after Saint George killed the dragon, a rose came up where the dragon’s blood was spilled. Giving books is more modern and highlights International Book Day. (Note that  both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23rd, both in 1616. This odd trivia fact was highlighted during the 400-th anniversaries of their death celebrated around the world three years ago.

Saint George, the most famous Christian dragonslayer, holds tremendous power in many European centres besides Barcelona. In fact, he is the patron saint of 15 European countries.

Lenten Acts

Lent, or Cuaresma, culminating in Semana Santa

The religious tradition of depriving one’s self of meat and possibly other favourite things (sweets, alcohol, sexual intercourse) extends across time and borders. Christians may prepare for Easter through Lent thus heightening their awareness of their faith and sacrifice.

Cuaresma is the Spanish term for the 40-day period ushered in as carnival (mardigras) ends, in other words, on Ash Wednesday, the day after ‘fat Tuesday’. 

One Dress, One Day evokes this spiritual act of preparation for Easter.

Reminder: this entire story takes place within 24 hours during Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Barcelona in 1990.

In the extract that follows, we experience the arrival of Uno, the blind lottery ticket seller, in his Asturian village farm.

“Nieves began bustling about the roomy kitchen with whatever leftovers could be found.  Plates, glasses, cutlery clattered as Nieves scurried and Mother barked orders. There was little variety in the menu because officially it was Lent; however, these were tough times, too. After the thick mustard-color cloth went down on the broad round table, Nieves laid out a crusty loaf, a ball of typical Cabrales cheese and a reheated fabada made of well-stewed fava beans.”

In terms of other appetites among other characters, there seem to be siesta changes in urban Barcelona. Inma, the pouty barmaid, notices differences in her love life with the two-timing politician Gustavo Rubio.

“The jangling phone jolted her back to reality.  It was Him, capital H.  He was coming early that afternoon.  Siestas during the Holy Week were starting earlier and growing longer.  Inma remained standing so as not to wrinkle the iridescent creation.”

Judging by the Cover

Never judge a book by its cover?!

Recently a major publishing house sent an e-mail asking me to vote on two different proposed book covers for a non-fiction work on financial scams. Clever marketing: Use a focus group to judge a product then market the product to that same group.

Obviously, the publisher knew enough to profile me and chose well, as both author and topic interest me.

Advice abounds on building a platform and knowing your readership.  Key question: Who is your reader?  Answer: Female. Romantic. Curious.

I asked my friend, a graphic artist, to design a mock-up cover for my manuscript One Dress, One Day. Naively, I believed accompanying artwork would make my proposal stand out. I sent mock-up covers to only two publishers. Nothing.

Of course, all the how-to-get-yourself-published advice columns and websites tell you the opposite. Perhaps I was influenced by Céline Dion’s story about how as a teenager, she wrapped her demo cassette with a big red bow then sent it to her future agent and husband, René Angélil. Too enthusiastic? Too late.  A lesson for me.

Fortunately, my artist friend became so involved in the manuscript that she begged for more. As a reader and artist, Joy responded to the drama, setting and pop culture but primarily became fascinated by the characters.  “What happened to the thief?” Joy kept asking me.  “And the baby?” [NO SPOILER ALERT]

At that point, my concept was a short hybrid text, a novellario, but now I am fleshing out my cast of quirky characters.  The thief, his lover, … this sounds like a lush Greenaway film with cannibalism. Rest assured, One Dress One Day resembles Almodóvar’s colourful cinema. A romantic romp in bittersweet Barcelona, circa 1990. Tapas and Sangria plus pop music within one dramatic 24-hour period.

Joy’s professional perspective not only led to the eye-catching illustration seen here but also reminded me to keep telling the story.  Rather like gossip, readers want more…   about the stolen wedding gown ensemble and how it touched the thief, the barmaid, the farmgirl, the blindman, the politician, his wife, the bride and groom plus the middle-age couple.

Here are the mock-ups. Which illustration did I prefer? The cover with a vague romantic couple in the background or the other with a blurb at the bottom of the image?   Flamenco? Taxi? 

Honestly, both covers inspire me to keep chronicling the lives touched by a stolen wedding gown.