far too much writing, far too many photos

Sunday: took a field trip. Hopped the Metro, made the trip out of the city center almost all the way to Barajas Airport to a hugeass exposition center, the site of, among other humongous affairs, the annual Leisure Fair (la Feria del Ocio). Don’t ask me what drove me to go to this event — I have no explanation. Saw it in local what’s-happening listings, felt myself seized by an irrational impulse. Next thing I knew, there I was, one among hundreds, then thousands that streamed into the expo center. The entry passage to the pavilions that housed the fair were off to one side, I noticed people heading in that direction clutched big green passes that lackeys tore bits off before letting anyone in. I noticed that, but try as I might I couldn’t see anywhere to pick up a pass. Finally went to the big info. desk, put the question to one of the women there who stared at me like I was mentally deficient and directed me to a row of ticket windows outside the building, was off to one side.

Bought admission pass, went back inside, presented it to ticket-tearing lackey. Ticket torn, I slipped inside to find….

Four enormous exhibition halls filled with stuff I didn’t want. All sorts of stuff, all of it products that might somehow — vaguely, barely in some cases — be considered to have a connection with leisure.

Furniture, especially leather living room furniture. Wii. Sharp flat-screen TV’s. Playstation. One or two stalls of decent art, many other stalls of hideous art (i.e., bad copies of classics like The Starry Night — but happily, nothing on black velvet and not a single image of Elvis in sight.) Cookware, with demonstrators making yummy-looking dishes that no spectators got to eat. Greenpeace. (Huh??) Jacuzzi’s. Prefab swimming pools. More prefab houses than I have ever seen in one place in my entire blessed life (most looking far, far too artificially rustic). Flats for purchase or rental in other countries. Motorcycles. ATV’s. Camper vans, camping trailers. Tents, from the modest to the wildly, bizarrely ostentatious. Stalls for campgrounds (called ‘campings’ here).

Entertainment! (space shuttle simulator to the rear)

A pause to retreate to a nearly-empty cafetería for a decent cup of café con leche and a half-decent croissant. A trip to a men’s room filled with the sound of kids carrying on — high-pitched voices talking excitedly, laughter, a few well-executed farts, more laughter.

Then back out to continue wading through the world of leisure:

Stalls for products made from aloe vera. A stall selling los libros más pequeños del mundo (the smallest books in the world). Stalls peddling trashy tchotchkes from Russia, from India. Huge lines of people waiting at stalls for Nestle’s, Buitoni, etc. for teeny samples of drink and pizza pockets. A stall with mountains of bonbons wrapped in brightly-colored paper. And finally, large, wonderful stalls of Spanish food from all over the country. No samples being handed out, but visuals that made me happy.

And finally out into sunshine/chilly air and down into the Metro, squeezing into a train filled with travelers making the trip from the airport into the city center, baggage on wheels everywhere.

Sunday. In Madrid. Taking in some weird entertainment.

España, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

These last couple of days, Madrid has turned dark with overcast and rain. A shock, and so drastically different from what the city has enjoyed this autumn that as I sat and worked on an espresso and something to eat in the local plaza’s cafetería, most of the rest of the clientele stared mutely out at the scene: low gray skies, rain coming down, people hurrying along, coats marked with dark moisture stains, shoulders hunched up. Literally half the people sitting at or near the counter stood facing the big windows that look out on the plaza, appearing either a bit stunned or sunk in unhappy thoughts.

It’s that kind of weather. The positive notes: the rain is good for the parched earth of the central peninsula, and last night the temperature slid upward substantially, from well below zero to substantially above. A small blessing that I appreciate as I squelch my way down narrow local streets.

This turn in the weather has endowed this week with a strange sense of, well, strangeness. Making it feel like an extension of last week, unsettled and odd. One strangely positive part of last week’s weirdness was the continuing fall-out from the brouhaha at the Iberoamerican Summit in Chile, where Hugo Chávez’s ongoing love of hearing himself talk and talk and talk, could not restrain himself from repeatedly interrupting the Spanish President during his turn to speak, a show of bizarre behavior that included calling José María Aznar — ex-President of Spain and pal to G.W. Bush, tossed out of power in the wake of the Madrid bombings in March ‘04 — a fascist. Putting President Zapatero in the unaccustomed position of defending Aznar, which he did with poise, even as Chávez continued spewing verbiage out of turn, trashing protocol and acting like a half-bright child on an uncontrollable sugar high.

[continued in entry of December 4]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stringing Christmas lights in la Plaza de Chueca, Madrid:

España, te quiero.

Well, that was a strange, interesting few days. All the chickens involved in all that staying up late all came home to roost at the beginning of the week. Kind of. Meaning me experiencing something a teeny bit more than a cold and a teeny bit less than a flu-like thingy — my own personal mash-up of various bugs that have been making sweet fun here with the changing of temperatures that November has brought to this part of the world. And by changing of temperatures, I mean the sudden appearance of genuinely cold nights, bringing the shock of walking out into air not quite so user-friendly in the mornings. (The downside of being treated so nicely by the weather gods and goddesses for so long: turning a bit soft, so that when seasonable conditions suddenly show up, they have the metaphoric power of the proverbial bucket of cold water. My response: indignant confusion.)

All of which is to say that what passes for my daily routine got diverted for a while and I found myself falling into bed whenever the urge to curl up and drift off took hold. Kind of a luxury, really.

I’ve been getting together a couple of times a week with a Spanish friend, S., to sit in a café and talk — first in Spanish, then in English, then in a free-form blathering blend of the two. A classic intercambio, and fun. Have been learning a lot about this person, especially about her teen years when she was what she calls una niña repelente — something like what used to be called a poindexter when I was suffering through my teenage years. Dressed spotlessly, in classically nerdy a.v. squad fashion. Timid, quiet, had few friends. A target for bullies. A rigid, unloving, controlling father dominating family life. In other words, one more adolescent version of hell.

(My own version of that: 7th, 8th and 9th grades — from 12 to 15 years of age — were a bona fide festival of misery. In general, the further away from them I’ve moved in time, the better life has become.)

I return home from those blab-sessions energized from the talk and the caffeine, my clothes and hair stinking of cigarette smoke. (Despite legislation enacted by the country’s Socialist government banning smoking in public spaces like cafés and restaurants, la Presidenta de la Comunidad de Madrid has defied the law, framing it as a matter of individual rights, not health, and most places in Madrid remain unrestricted smokers’ zones, as they always have been, many posting notices stating En este local se puede fumar [Smoking is permitted in this establishment]). Some Spanish friends tell me that all the consciousness raising re: smoking in recent years has had an effect, that the number of smokers they know is steadily diminishing — that may be true, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it recently.

And I have to say it mostly doesn’t bother me much. The general energy is too much fun, smoke or no smoke.

[continued in next entry]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Looking up from la Plaza de los Cubos, Madrid:

España, te quiero.

Stayed up far too late once again, last night. Woke up this morning feeling like I’d been peeled off a length of bad highway, managed to pull on clothes, stumbled out the door in search of caffeine. At some point, I realized that a tune had been playing in my teeny brain since I crawled out of bed. An instrumental tune featuring a horn tooting a melody that sounded like something disinterred from the pop graveyard of the late 60’s or the 70’s. And sometime later it dawned on me that my inner jukebox had latched onto a scarily ancient cut by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. Did not want to know which tune, just let it play itself out until the hubbub of the rest of the day gradually overwhelmed and smothered it.

And it was a seriously beautiful day, with agreeable hubbub. One more perfect, sunlit bit of Madrid autumn, temperatures mild, the streets nicely filled with life. Being a holiday weekend, people pulling wheeled suitcases were everywhere. Cafés and restaurants did fine business. And I went out and took long walks, enjoying it all.

Stopped to see a small exhibit of the work of Takashi Murakami, a showing that turned out be very small, almost minute, with little documentation or explanation. Until I watched part of a video about the artist, saw in the background of some scenes walls covered with his work, stuff that looked way more interesting than what I’d just seen. Got me wanting to see more. (That’s a good thing.)

Stopped in at a cafetería, sat at the counter, sipped a decent cup of café con leche, paged through a newspapers, watched the people around me (most of whom seemed to be working on glasses of beer instead of getting a caffeine fix). Reflected on the singular late-night/early-morning life in my barrio, how there’s sometimes more going on at 3 or 4 a.m. — more noise, more people in the street — than at 3 or 4 p.m. And remembered something from a couple of nights earlier.

Me waking up at 2:30, 3 a.m. to the usual nighttime soundtrack. Plus something more, the sound of amplified voices, odd enough that it got out from under the sheets and over to the window. Threw it open, stuck head out. Down below cars passed along the narrow street, groups of revelers moved along narrow sidewalks. And across the way, a male and female stood at the door of the funky-ass haircut shop — an establishment catering to the chicest of the fringe, dealing in wild, eye-catching cuts and bright, bright dye jobs, its calling card the mannequin inside the doorway done up in wacky wigs and outfits.

The female leaned out the doorway, a bullhorn to her lips, calling out something I couldn’t decipher, aiming it right at passing cars and pedestrians. The male, unsteady on his feet, took the bullhorn, began an inarticulate shpiel, unable to get the knack of using the bullhorn, his voice remaining unamplified. The female grabbed the horn back, her amplified voice cut through noise of cars and people once more, though the words remained elusive. After a few minutes, they retired unsteadily, laughing, the door to the shop closing. The sound of cars and folks walking re-asserted, feeling relatively peaceful in the wake of the bullhorn hooha.

Returned to bed, woke up close to dawn, the world outside much quieter. Except for one unhappy male who pounded on something metal once, following that with a shouted, “¡Mierda!” (“Shit!”) A pause, again the sound of fist pounding metal, again the cry of “¡Mierda!” Then silence.

Early morning angst. Sometimes all one can do is open one’s eyes, listen, then drift back to sleep.

España, te quiero.

It’s a holiday in Madrid (el Día de la Almudena, la santa patrona de la ciudad), most of the city is shut down.

España, te quiero.

On this day of clear blue sky and November sunshine flooding in through clean windows, I’ve been appreciating little things. Lots and lots of little things, along with a few things not so little. It’s a process that could be deadly boring for anyone not me — keep that in mind if you continue on.

For instance, some basics: having a roof over my head. A roof over my head, four walls around me, and a strong, secure, working door. In a building currently free of work crews, and therefore free — after nearly three long years — of dust, of scaffolding, of noise like you wouldn’t believe, of workers showing up between 7:30 and 8 o’clock every weekday morning, yelling back and forth as they ascend the stairs, leaving cigarette butts in their wake. A living space that feels like home, that’s felt like home for several years. Austere, sparely furnished, which is okay by me. A couple of comfortable living room chairs courtesy of Ikea, a reasonably comfortable bed, a pretty good shelf-size stereo. A few lamps, a decent TV, a couple of clocks, an armload of books and CD’s. A working kitchen that gets nice afternoon light. With responsive landlords, who are good people. A slew of little details that add up to a sizeable chunk of my daily reality.

More: The laptop computer I spend far too many hours planted in front of, and the money that allowed me to buy it — zipping through my life, leaving a fundamental a little machine in its wake, one that is central to what passes for my existence. Programs and applets — lots of them free — that unknown people spend time developing for my fun and convenience. Flashdrives, cellphones, digital cameras. CD’s and DVD’s. High-speed internet (a massive blessing). Websites like Blogger, Statcounter and Facebook, providing major resources of one kind or another free of charge. Email and IM, keeping me in touch with friends and loved ones spread all over the map.

And those friends/loved ones. All of them, no matter the depth or importance of our connection — the ones who have hung around and remain featured players in this life of mine and the ones who have come and gone. All kinds of people, dragging all kinds of experiences into my existence, from the blissful to the hellish. At the risk of sounding tooth-rottingly saccharine, I am more grateful than I can say for them all, whatever course those relationships took or continue to take.

I suspect more time may get devoted to this kind of thing in future posts. As boring as it might be for the unsuspecting souls who stumble upon this page, it feels right fine from my side of the equation.

Here’s hoping your day brings an embarrassing abundance of things to enjoy.

España, te quiero.

I didn’t mean to stay up until three a.m., but I couldn’t help myself. There are times when surfing Spanish television becomes genuinely addictive. Especially late at night, when decent movies trade off with in-country programming that ranges from toxic (gossip, ‘reality’ rubbish, ‘discussion’ shows that get people yelling at each other over current news) to pretty good (Buenafuente, Noche Hache).

And occasionally, when there’s nothing wildly wonderful on, I find myself planted in front of the tube enduring something I would never inflict on myself back in the States simply because it’s been dubbed into Spanish and I can rationalize it away as ongoing language work. (Which it actually kind of is.) But even that has its limits — CSI Miami remains every bit as brain-destroying in Spanish as it is in English.

Late last night: found myself watching Real Madrid lose in spectacular fashion to Sevilla. Then found myself watching ‘A Time To Kill’ — a hard-working cast trapped in an overblown story, me enjoying the novel illusion of Sandra Bullock speaking Spanish — which gave way around 2 a.m. to ‘Army of Darkness,’ a bit of B-film fluff that Sam Raimi cranked out early in his career, the last entry in his Evil Dead/Necronomicon trilogy. (How do I know about this? From post-university years spent nursing an innocent love for B-films in all their tawdry cheesiness. You know you’re in trouble when you’ve seen a film so many times that you can watch it dubbed in Spanish and recite dialogue in the original English.) It’s an example of low-budget tackiness done with the kind of love and humor that lift it above your normal B-film dreck to… to… well, a higher level of B-film dreck. Because it’s still a B-film, 80 minutes of relentlessly-padded, low-budget cheese. But with some blissfully wacky moments. And with Bruce Campbell at his absolute funniest. And with aggressively creative script and camera work. And it is just so silly. So silly that it had me chortling out loud, even as my sleepy bod tried desperately to get me to kill the telly and head to the comfy confines of bed and sleep.

A question lurking behind all the hilarity: why am I home watching TV on a Saturday night? The simplest answer, requiring the least thought: sometimes it just works out that way. And sometimes I am just fine with that. Joining Madrid’s Saturday night throngs can get so intense. Bars and restaurants packed, rivers of people moving through the streets. Lots of noise, lots of activity, lots of trash strewn around. It’s an impressive spectacle, sometimes fun, sometimes tiring. And if you’re okay with your own company (as I am) and activities don’t fall into place come a weekend night, a night home can be a fine alternative. Which has its advantages: My clothes don’t smell like cigarette smoke the next morning. I laugh at my jokes. (Mostly.) I like my taste in music. I don’t get impatient if my Spanish is less than perfect. (Mostly.) I’m easily pleased and wildly appreciative when the time and trouble is taken to make me a meal. Once in bed I tend to hog the covers, but that doesn’t seem to bother me too much.

This is not to say that I am my dream date. Or my dream mate. Devilishly adorable, yes. With a distressingly cute bum. But the gender thing? Completely out of whack. Not the brand of bod I’m looking to cuddle with, not the kind of face I want to open my eyes to at the start of the day. (Finding it waiting in the bathroom mirror is one thing — having to get out of bed and stumble down the hall first gives me time to prepare. Finding it next to me under the covers would be a whole other plate of chorizo.)

But you don’t want to know about that. If you’re smart, you don’t want to know about any of this. So I’ll stop blathering.

Later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dusk, la Plaza de Santa Barbara, Madrid

España, te quiero.

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