I Digress...to Spain

Welcome to the first post of the “I Digress…” category!

All of the previous posts have been part of “The Story” category, which is the main line of this blog. However, sometimes I have to jump out and dive into another train of thought.

Many of you know that I went with the Battlestar Galactica Orchestrato do a concert in Spain, specifically in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. The following is a stream-of-consciousness sort of dip into the beginning of that adventure, specifically the first leg of the plane trip, back in July. Come with me as I Digress…to Spain…or maybe just, towards Spain…



(Me, backstage at the Fimucité Film Music Festival, with some A-hole in the background.)

I am at 35,000 feet and to my right there is a body of water bordered with the patchwork of agribusiness, and to my left there is a computer screen with sound-wave blobs. We are somewhere over the East coast of America, and Bear McCreary, crowned in headphones, is working on the soundtrack album for SOCOM 4, a video game. One more hour or so until we land in Boston, so we can board another plane to fly to Madrid… so we can board another plane to fly to the Canary Islands, and play a film music festival called “Fimucité” on the island, Tenerife. So far we’re all good, not excessively cranky for having had to rouse ourselves at 3 am to get the airport by 5am.



(Paul Cartwright, pictured with his date for the evening: Fangled, Retro, Analog, Nicely Nasty, Is Exciting, or "Frannie.")

Paul Cartwright (violin) was in rare form this morning at LAX, though Paul is usually in some sort of rare form. In line for baggage check it appeared that he had actually forgotten English. That could be ok if he could now learn Spanish instead, maybe he could be our interpreter. My 3rd grade Spanish is coming back in drips, but my brain is not completely on either. Maybe this morning we’re all in rare form. Everyone is undercooked at these hours.

Now in flight, Steve Bartek (guitar/electric sitar) is about 10 rows behind Bear and I, near the lavatories – he’s at that part of the center walkway where the bathroom line gets congested and people find themselves, pressed by proximity, having conversations with strangers who need to pee. A little while ago I was standing in that line, and I ended up getting stuck right at Steve’s seat, so we started talking about the book he was reading. It’s some kind of social history of Iceland. He began telling me about diseases, odd household habits having to do with hygiene, and kitchen floors with feet of collected filth from multiple generations. Filth so thick, that the homeowners themselves did not know that the original floor was made up of wood panels - they assumed it had always been dirt! At this point the line moved up.

Would you like to know the best way to spike up one’s OCD cleanliness tendencies?

1) Talk to Steve Bartek about unseemly habits in colonial Iceland. 2) Go use an airplane bathroom after doing so. 3) Add minor air turbulence.

After I had applied and re-applied several strips of nearly transparent toilet-paper to the toilet seat, I tried not to think about it. I tried not to analyze the thinness of the toilet-paper, and consider how tenuously its fibers are held together. I tried not to let my brain explore this, but I couldn’t help considering that the quality of the paper was so tenuous and thin, I swear one of the fillers in airplane toilet-paper pulp must be anti-matter. I cursed Star Trek for opening my mind so readily to this concept.

Tried not to think about it.

Ok, now hands washed, good - dried, good – slide door latch to “vacant” and we’re out. Ok.

Back at my seat I’m settling in again,  having my obligatory shock/awe Sky-Mall read. (Do people really buy tissue dispensers shaped like the heads on Easter Island? Where you pull the tissue out the nose hole? Moreover, somebody thought somebody else would buy this?) So just then, Steve comes down the aisle and taps Bear, who taps me.  He has his book with him.

“Raya, read these two paragraphs”

“Which?” I ask Steve, reaching across Bear to take the book.

“These.” He points, and I see a wickedly amused expression I’ve come to recognize.



I recognize this face from the Halloween concerts we used to do, when he would toss out a weird chord inversion occasionally to mess with people. I know this face. Still, I begin the passages, and I learn that at a certain time in Iceland, clothing, including undergarments, were generally washed but twice a year. Add to that, the choice solution for this once or twice a year wash was warmed urine. I mentioned this to Bear who replied, “Well, I’m sure it got rid of the B.O. smell.” Not what I was thinking, but can’t argue with that.

There were also details about the cleaning out of utensils, namely bowls, or – correction - THE family bowl, that everyone ate from. Apparently this bowl was also subject to the twice yearly cleaning, but not by urine. For bowls it was a cleaning with lamb stock, or licked clean by dogs.

When I finished reading, I looked up to see that Steve had been standing in the aisle, to view my reactions. His amusement at my involuntary cringes and eye-pops was apparent. Honestly, I love reading about cultural histories, even with a gross factor – all cultures had their “grody” period. We’re still pretty gross now from an environmental angle, however this particular account presented a visceral “ick” for me, and Steve had been taking this in from the aisle with glee. I looked to Bear, he was lost in headphoneland, oblivious and immune. It’s ok. Iceland gave us Björk, they can do no wrong.

So now we’re making our descent into Boston and I’m rubbing anti-bacterial gel on my hands because at this point I just have the heebie-jeebies all together. Bear is still playing with sound-wave blobs on his laptop, below us the squares of civilization have gotten slightly bigger, and Paul Cartwright has picked up his copy of Skymall across the aisle. First leg of the journey done.

This is one of very few journal-kind-of-things I did while in Spain. I intended to do more, but jetlag is a tyrant, and I missed sleep altogether for about 3 nights. I was completely screwy for most of the week, honestly. I feel like it was 2 days of travel and one loooong day in between…with a damn lot of pork involved. And then I had to sing in 4 languages, so you know.

…And then Bear caught a cough, so he was up… and I tried to sleep in the bathtub one night, but that’s a story to be told over cold Sake, or “aqua-man” shots.

Exhibit A: Bear McCreary with "aqua-man" shot, Los Angeles, Spring, 2010.



(anyone remember this from twitter?)

…Tune in Thursday, when we go back to “The Story” leading up to Record Deal #2, by way of … My first Agency and “ye olde Hollywood hustle!”

Raya Yarbrough

Singer, Composer, writer of absurd stories about LA, chanteuse on Outlander, BSG, DaVinci's Demons, & I used to date Dick Grayson.