far too much writing, far too many photos

Just what it says — graffiti. Along a sidestreet in Madrid:

Madrid, te quiero.

Oops. Once again I did not realize so many days had slipped by since the last time I did the cyber version of scribble down a bunch of thoughts. Life’s picked up momentum, time/focus have been at a premium. (And to those few errant souls who have sent email and await a response, it’s likely that no response will be forthcoming for quite a while, for which I offer groveling apologies. I am simply not a reliable penpal right now. In the words of the immortal George Costanza, it’s not you, it’s me.)

With the DELE exam looming directly ahead (14 days and counting), I’ve attempted to get serious about studies, increasing time spent around Spanish folks, a state of affairs that, strangely, has resulted in loads more social hooha, me blabbering my version of their language at every opportunity. (My version of their language: a limited, at times comical, affair that seems to be creeping slowly in the direction of vaguely resembling the real thing.) Those who put up with me are mostly kind, patient, generous, for which I am sincerely grateful.

It is at times difficult to be in work/study mode while the local weather veers spectacularly toward summer. This neighborhood — a magnet for people looking to party and therefore active in the grayest, coldest times — has gotten way rowdy in recent days, the plaza down the street crowded with folks hanging out and buskers of various stripes stopping by to play a number, pick up a few bucks. There are those moments when they’re fortunate this flat didn’t come equipped with a rocket launcher or two — at this point I’ve heard so many freakin’ renditions of ‘Those Were The Days’ that, coming at the wrong moment, one more could easily push me right over the edge into homicidal flailing about.

On the other hand, as happens every year post-cold-season, my little bod is remembering all over again how good warm weather feels — its small version of waking up after a long winter withdrawal beneath cool weather duds. Suddenly every window in the flat gets thrown open as soon as I walk in the door from classes, which almost immediately seems like a poor substitute for actually being out in sunlight and user-friedly temperatures, leading to repeated urges to pull on sneakers or pointy boots, run back downstairs and out the front door to wander about, heading nowhere in particular.

Blah blah blah.

It’s late. They’re giving us the second of three dry-run DELE exams in class in the morning. Time to get some shuteye.

Madrid, te quiero.

This morning: me trying to wake up, standing at the counter of a local morning joint working on a cup of espresso and a croissant. Half-conscious, vision still a bit blurry, attempting to wade through the morning paper’s bad news to the happier sports and arts sections. A couple pulls up to my left, they insert themselves into the open space at the bar and order cups of espresso, registering on my still-not-fully-functioning sensory array as vague noises and movements. Minutes later, their caffeine arrives, the male of the couple extends an arm to pull his closer. His hand thrusts itself into my range of vision, looking — and I am NOT exaggerating — like the hand of an individual deep into the painful process of transforming from a normal human being into a full-fledged wolfman. Hairy like I can’t describe, black fur spilling out from his cuff and down his hand all the way to the fingernail joint. A display of hairiness like I have rarely seen in this short existence of mine outside of high-budget special effects. Unnervingly impressive.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how a woman (or another male, for that matter) could make intimate physical contact with a walking shag-carpet like that. (Not that it matters whether I get it or not, I hasten to add. I’m just saying.)

One morning a while back, during the course of an extended visit by a friend, I stumbled into the bathroom, managed to seat myself without falling over and passed a few minutes slowly returning to consciousness. Somewhere during that short, peaceful span of time, I became aware that the bathroom floor had accumulated strangely substantial piles of dark body hair, as if my guest had been shedding feverishly during his few days in my living space. As if a bear had taken up residence in my flat. Completely changed the way I viewed that individual.

Subsequent time spent with that same person — outside the flat, minus body hair falling like, er, little, curly autumn leaves — changed my view of him even further. Ah, well. That, sometimes, is life.

But you don’t want to hear me blathering about life.

This morning, as I dragged my near-comatose self out from under the covers, I heard the keening sound of swifts outside for the first time this year, their return to the area as sure a sign of spring settling securely in as the flood of tourists currently heaving about the city center. The weather has been wildly user-friendly these last few days, and people festooned with camera cases, daypacks and guidebooks are everywhere, the sounds of German and English chatter wafting through sunlit air. The kind of conditions that get me smiling, the kind of conditions that make it easy to wax pretentiously poetic in the most tiresome way. So I’ll spare you.

On to the day.

*************

From the London Review of Books: personals ads worth the price of admission. (Example: “I like you because you read magazines with big words. And you’ve got great booblies. I can live without the first. But the second is non-negotiable. Shallow man, 34. When I say ’shallow’, I mean, damn. Box no. 08/08″)

Focussing sound.

They are Zogg.

Madrid, te quiero.

Strawberries — yesterday’s bargain (2 euros a crate at a local produce stand), today’s food party.

Madrid, te quiero.

Moments from the weekend:

Saturday — El Centro de Arte Reina Sofía:

Sunday — fleeing the city with a bunch of Spaniards, an excursion that turned out to be more like a forced march into the mountains (in the foreground: the token Irish lad provides the message for the day):

Details — possibly far too many of them — will follow. At some point. Don’t ask me when.

********

A reader from Beijing passed through this corner of the web yesterday, led here by what appears to have been a search for images of Vermont via a mainland China Google-style webpage. Not entirely sure why that got me smiling so much, but it surely did. Might simply be the idea of someone from an immense country on the other side of the planet connecting to a tiny, beautiful place via an image posted here. Or it might be that it sparked a stronger than normal feeling of connection with that lovely, mountainous bit of land tucked away between Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Québec and New York. I’ll be back there in a bit more than a month, and am looking forward to it. Not that I don’t love being here — I do. I’m simply ready to spend some time in the closest thing to paradise I’ve ever experienced: the warm season in the green mountain state.

Madrid, te quiero.

Found another überbug. Not in the kitchen this time — on my bedroom wall. At 5:55 a.m., as I pulled my sleepy bod out of nice warm bed for a fast stumble to the loo. Not the kind of company I’m looking to keep in the wee hours, if you know what I mean.

Thankfully, not quite the cockroach godzilla that the last one was but, as you can see, respectably sized even so. Man, what a way to wake up.

This morning, the women babes at the language school will be inflicting an old version of the DELE exam on us. This afternoon, a friend from Ireland (by way of Stoke-on-Trent, England) flies in. I suspect the afternoon may be much more fun than the a.m.

Updates in this corner of cyberspace will likely be spotty for a while.

Madrid, te quiero.

One evening, a few days back: after an extended period working here at the computer, I got up for my own personal seventh inning stretch, grabbed the remote, cranked up the tube to see what was happening on the local stations. A family sitcom played on one of the two state channels, the story featuring the father, a person slowly unraveling from overwork. I tuned in as something did not go the way he wanted and he momentarily lost it, raising his arms and shouting, “¡ME CAGO EN LA LECHE!” (Literally, “I shit in the milk!”) Reminding me all over again of yet another difference between life here and life stateside: what would be considered foul, unacceptable language in the universe of mainstream America is here often seen as just another way to express oneself. Just another part of life. Which is not to say that spewing pithy colloquialisms centered around lower body functions is looked on kindly by all the locals in all situations, just that highly colorful language is integrated pretty thoroughly in the culture, to the point that it can materialize in surprising fashion via pretty much any given legitimate media outlet. It’s such a normal part of life that I tend to forget about it. Until I happen across an example that, you know, stands out.

And speaking of pithy colloquialisms centered around bodily functions, language classes continue as the ongoing pre-DELE exam cram moves forward, me spending three hours every weekday in a small room with a blackboard, my adorable butt parked in a sophisticated instrument of torture posing as a folding chair. It’s a major amount of input, entailing substantial work outside the classroom, and I’ve experienced the stray moment of wondering why I’m doing this to myself. Then the instructor will drop a bit of language on us that reminds me all over again, at least in part, why. (One word: fun.)

For example — and I admit this may only be of interest to those of us who have at one point or another qualified as a teenage male — the word for both toejam and navel lint: pelotillas (literally, little balls).

Do not ask me to explain why factoids like that make me happy. I will not answer.

On to studying. Later.

***********

A genuine shop-window display (in an otherwise normal make-up/wig shop) seen this morning along la Calle de Hortaleza, Madrid:

Madrid, te quiero.

Sometime during last night’s wee hours, the song ‘It’s My Life’ (originally by criminally underrated Talk Talk, recently redone in cheerfully over-the-top fashion by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt) wormed its way into my teeny brain, coming to life as soon as my eyes opened this morning, playing itself over and over and over. Not that I’m complaining — it’s a fine, poignant tune, a nice soundtrack for a cold morning.

And it was a genuinely brisk morning. Winter has reappeared here, settling sneakily back in yesterday as the temperature dropped throughout the afternoon. With nightfall, a cold, gusty wind got blowing and the mercury slipped below freezing, sparking amazed, plaintive noises of distress from the underdressed locals (myself included). North of Madrid snow fell, this morning’s news bringing reports of roads closed in various mountain passes. Never really any telling what April’s going to bring, is there? (On impulse, I checked the weather for Vermont where it appears that the lying bastards in the weather biz are also mumbling about possible spring snow.)

This morning, doing some errands near Sol — deeper into the city center, a zone thick with tourists these days — I stopped in at a drugstore where a matronly, 60ish English woman made smiling complaints about the weather. (”I came here to get away from the cold,” said she. “It’s worse here than it is at home!”) The counter help responded with good-natured assurances of warmer weather’s return. She looked over at me as if for confirmation, I smiled, saying nothing. Too early for weather blab. I’d done plenty just getting myself out the door to pick up some groceries.

Outside, the morning slowly got underway, sidewalks gradually filling with people. A white westy terrier trotted along behind its owner, stubby tail wagging with every step, curious about whatever it passed, trying to get a good whiff of everything it could, including the legs of two construction workers who didn’t appear interested in cooperating.

Someone else passed walking either a large whippet or a small greyhound, the dog so light on its feet that it barely seemed to touch the ground. It watched the passing world, its eyes suggesting deep melancholy, its expression sad in a way I haven’t seen in a long time on any face, canine or otherwise — strangely at variance with its body’s easy movements.

A father, tall and Iberian looking, walked slowly along with a beautiful little girl, maybe three years old, her wrapped up in warm clothes, the two of them hand in hand. Two men standing in a pharmacy doorway said gentle hellos to the child, her dark eyes regarding them seriously, her gaze steady. One of the men bent down, extending a large grown-up hand toward her — as she passed, the child reached out, their fingers touched for a moment, the man’s briefly pressing hers in greeting. Faces all around watched, everyone smiling with enjoyment of the scene.

And then the father and daughter were gone, moving off down the sidewalk. The two men in the doorway squinted up into the sunlight as they stood talking to each other. The day moved on, as days do.

April 9th, 2005. Madrid.

Madrid, te quiero.

An eye-catching example of political graffiti, seen this morning along la Calle de Fuencarral in Madrid:

Background: 11-M is the term used here to refer to the Madrid bombings of last year, shorthand for March 11. ‘11-13M’ would refer to that and the subsequent two days, a period in which it’s widely considered that the then-ruling party, el Partido Popular, attempted to hide and manipulate information related to the bombings, trying to buttress their position in national elections that happened on March 14. Instead, they were voted out. Ángel Acebes is the number two person in the PP, an individual given to calling names in most unpleasant fashion with little provocation.

A common image from the days following 11-M were white handprints, a way of showing opposition to terrorism and solidarity for those affected by terrorism. The face in the graffiti’s red handprint belongs to ex-president José María Aznar.

Madrid, te quiero.

Yesterday morning: dragged my sleepy bod out of bed, made the long stumble to the kitchen. Pulled up by the sink, groped a glass from the drying rack, turned on the tap. Felt something brush my right foot. Looked down, found myself staring blurrily at a hugeass bug. Not a cockroach, exactly, or at least not the model I’ve seen stateside. Two inches long, perhaps a touch more. Wide, bulky, clad in shiny black armor, big antennae waving about as if confused, nonplussed (understandable given the sudden appearance of a gigantic — all things being relative — honkey in what had been a peaceful space, wide open to exploration).

This apartment is not a roach hotel, never has been during my time here. Teeny tiny ants have appeared this spring, poking innocuously around the kitchen end of the space, too shy and in numbers far too small to get bothered about — apart from that, the encounters with alien life forms experienced here can be counted on one hand. Two hands, counting the occasional sighting out in the stairway. Nothing to complain about for three and a half years of tenancy, especially factoring in the building’s age.

As my half-open eyes took in yesterday a.m.’s big bruiser and the information found its way to mental processing centers, my little bod leaped into the air as if we’d just come face to face with something created by H.R. Geiger. A moment of my body going Whoa! before getting a grip. I put my still-empty glass over the critter, slipped a sheet of paper under it, opened a window, dumped the intruder out on the ledge. Studied it for a minute as it checked out its new situation (fresh air, lower temperature, noise of people down in the street), thought about grabbing my camera, decided against it (critter too creepy looking). Got on with the day.

This morning: woke up around 4 a.m., found myself thinking entirely in Spanish, as if a switch had been flicked. Flowing easily, naturally — pure, uninterrupted Castellano, continuing that way until I fell back to sleep some time later. When I woke up for real around 8, the world outside audibly gearing up for the work day, my thoughts had reverted back to the normal English/Spanish mix, where they’ve remained for the balance of the day.

Strange.

It’s Wednesday. I have no idea where Monday and Tuesday went.

On to schoolwork. Later.

Madrid, te quiero.

In the interest of cheap laughs science, I tossed one of this journal’s recent entries through the Gizoogle transmogrifier. The original can be found here. The improved, ghettoized version follows:

Recent sights/sounds:

– Beginn’n last weekend, mothafucka: People wit suitcases. Everywhere ta help you tap dat ass. Also, an upsurge of foreign languages overheezee around tha city centa. Its just anotha homocide. B-to-tha-izzoth those th’n, sure signs tizzle Shot Calla vacation has been gang bangin’ at a gallop.

– This last Wednesday, at the gym: a she-male with the gangsta shit that keeps ya hangin. Not yo garden variety wanna-be gangsta — a amazon. Big, blonde, impeccably done up in workout gear wit da big Bo$$ Dogg. Clearly bustin’ physical attributes of biznoth denominizzles. Wit a baby-fizzle appear’n strangely incongruent on thiznat bizzy physique. An image I found oddly blunt-rollin’ com’n as it did before mah fizzay espresso of tha day.

– Today, as I left tha gym (you’se a flea and I’m the big dogg): an elderly couple, look’n ta be wizzy into they 60s cuz this is how we do it. Walk’n togetha arm in arm, dressed in Sunday clothes, her carry’n a sprig of sum-m sum-m green. He had apparently jizzust murmured into her ear — sum-m sum-m intimate, perhaps romantic. Her cheeks showed color, she radiated pleasure, her smile reflected tha young woman who stiznill lived witin that body. A bootylicious moment.

– I go through streaks of findin weed-smokin’ money straight from long beach nigga. Coins, bills, you name it. Happens a lot so i can get mah pimp on. This morn’n on tha way ta piznick up tha morn’n papa, I saw pieces of papa in tha gutta thizzay resembled bills, saw they were jizzy wastepapa but found me feel’n thizzat it would not come as a surprise ta stumble across some real money. Witin 60 seconds, a five euro bizzle appeared before mah fizzy. Then, hizzle an hizzy ago, I found a wallet in this rhymin’ stairwell. Contain’n credit cards, forty euros — ‘n again, not feel’n like a surprise thiznat I’d be tha one ta come across it. Thizzay pile of cash is jizzy steppin’ through — I’ve already posted a notice down by tha main entrance clockin’ tha shot calla ta stop by. In tha meantime, I’m hav’n fun being a cizzay magnet mah nizzle.

Madrizzle, te quiero.

Self-portrait — el Museo Thyssen, Madrid:

Madrid, te quiero.

Shop window near la Plaza Mayor, Madrid:

Madrid, te quiero.

Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © runswithscissors. All rights reserved.