far too much writing, far too many photos

One evening, a week ago. Riding the Metro into the city center, the train pulling into Sol. A strange aspect of traveling by subway here: much of the time, people crowd around the doors wanting to the be the first ones out. Once out, those first ones slow down and spread out, making it difficult for others to get past. Happens so regularly that I now often try to be the first person at the door so that I’ll be out and free of those whose goal seems to be making life harder for those trapped behind them.

This trip: the train pulled in, slowed down, came to a halt. People outside gathered around the door, in particular one balding, slope-shouldered 70ish gent in an old full-length coat. He planted himself directly outside, right in the middle where he would be sure to make it hard for anyone to leave. I gazed at him, his eyes met mine, expression appearing strangely sullen and defiant. The doors opened, he tried to charge straight in, not waiting for any riders to step out onto the platform.

I stood directly in front of him, extended my arm to obstruct his charge, preventing him from shoving me aside. He couldn’t get through that way, so moved behind me, shouldering people there out of the way. As I stepped out, I looked back and saw him pushing his way toward an empty seat. Then I was off, en route to another train.

At that other train: the doors opened, people exited squeezing around a short, rotund South or Central American woman who stood by one of the most outsized baby carriages I’ve ever seen — perfectly positioned to make getting in or out of the car slow and tricky. As I squeezed past, I asked her to provide a little bit more room, she refused. Luckily, she got out at the following station, leaving everyone room to breathe, enter, exit, stretch and tap dance (if so moved).

We’re not always at our very best, we humans — we don’t always try to factor in those who share the planet with us. On the positive side in this case, though, is the basic fact of Madrid’s Metro — that it exists, that it provides excellent transit above and below ground all around this city, that it’s mostly efficient, mostly comfortable. It’s a major component in making existence here doable. And it provides some excellent photo ops.

España, te amo.

This is a true story:

During the 15 misguided months I spent in L.A. (misguided not because L.A. is a terrible place — it’s an interesting place, with a lot to hold one’s attention; it just wasn’t home and I had no real idea what in hell I was doing at that moment in what passes for my life), I had some notable adventures.  Some of them more notable than others, for varying reasons.

One of the more notable ones:   a womanfriend decided she wanted to set me up with someone she knew, I decided to go along with it.  A nice person, turned out (I’ll call her Joanne, this friend of a friend I was getting set up with).  As was I.  Two nice people, doing the dreaded blind date thing, one of the only times — maybe, now that I think about it, the only time — that I’ve ever consented to the blind date thing.

Joanne and I spoke by phone before the event, decided on a night of dinner and dancing.  I picked her up at her flat, she turned out to be friendly, bright, very cute.  (As was I.)  We checked each other out in that casual and not-so-casual way that happens on first dates, the overall vibe was chatty, well-intentioned, cautiously optimistic.  And despite all that, it quickly became one of those encounters where things just do not fall into place, no matter how much both people involved may want it to.  Awkward and clumsy rapidly became part of the overall vibe, to the consternation of us both.  And we just couldn’t find a way to shake that off.

The restaurant was a long ride from her flat.  The plan:   have a leisurely dinner, head to a disco, then I’d drive her home.  At the restaurant — as we gamely continued chatting, learning about each other, trying to figure out why things between us just did not want to go smoothly — she decided she had the wrong shoes for dancing and wanted me to drive her back to her place before going to the club.  A long detour through awful traffic, a prospect that had me feeling a teeny bit dismayed.  But that’s what she wanted and I didn’t argue — ’cause after all, it was her shoes, her feet — but at that point alarm bells began to go off for me.  The kind of big, whooping alarms that mean warning! warning! reverse course! get out now — this means you!

We made the big detour, she grabbed different footwear, we set course for the disco.

The disco: a big gay dance club I’d gone to with a bunch of friends two weekends earlier.  We were a coed group of six or eight, most of us going to this venue for the first time.  And it turned out to be big fun. Well-attended, great music system and light show, big dance floor — crowded, but stiflingly jampacked.

The club’s layout:   coatroom, lounge, huge dance floor.  The lounge had a pool table, comfy overstuffed chairs and sofas, a high ceiling.  The walls were used to project slides of locations around L.A., places both touristy and local, creating nice atmosphere.  We spent time around the pool table, then went in and danced for a long, long time.  A good evening — so much fun that I figured it would be failsafe with Joanne.

Which, in keeping with the general direction of the evening, did not turn out to be the case.  We arrived at the club, stopped at the coatroom.  And for some reason, whatever boys were doing coatroom duty that night decided they didn’t like Joanne or did not especially want a female on the premises that evening. Or something. Whatever was up, they made things difficult for her, unpleasant, and me trying to smooth things out had no effect.  It was like the slow-mo car accident thing — I watched it happen, had no power over it, could only hang on and hope too much blood wouldn’t get spilled.

When she finally stumbled away from that unpleasant scene, stunned at the inexplicable difficulty of, well, everything (much less what should have been a simple handing over of a jacket), she joined me in the lounge, stopped to catch her breath, took a moment to look around.  Which was when we both saw that the slides being projected all around us on the high walls were not those pretty L.A. scenes I remembered from two weeks earlier.  This evening they were shots of males in leather outfits, many of those outfits with strategic openings to air out certain body parts.  Bears, many of the males being shown — sizeable and hairy, doing the bear-dressed-in-kinky-leather-outfits thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Joanne and I stood for a minute, absorbing this unexpected spectacle.  After which she turned to me, face radiating a spicy mixture of unhappy emotions, and said, “WHAT KIND OF DATE ARE YOU?”

I had no answer and by that point I didn’t care.  ’Cause the fact that she’d come out with that single outraged question made the entire evening worth the discomfort.  It’s not every day that you get a great story (complete with punch line) out of a first date.

The first and only date in this case.  For some sweet but unfathomable reason, she called one evening a week or two later and actually suggested taking another stab at an evening out.  I had to pass.  ’Cause I am just not a glutton for punishment.

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In case you’re wondering why this page has changed so suddenly in so many weird ways:

Google/Blogger decided they are no longer going to support the way this page was published up to now, forcing many folks who had published through Blogger for many years to, essentially, change or die.   Not a very nice thing to do to someone, but there it is.  In the case of this page it has meant a hurried shift to Wordpress, using one of their free, basic themes.  Not wildly attractive, with a cramped format, but better than a big, sudden vacuum.  And really, being able to publish like this (so that unsuspecting souls stumble upon this virtual house of horrors) is one huge, freakin’ miracle, so the part of me that wants to bitch and grumble about this abrupt, not so optimal change will just have to calm down and get a grip.  Tweaks and adjustments will happen during the coming weeks and life will go on.  You know?

In the meantime, profuse thanks to Kristen Fox for all her time and know-how.  Seriously — without her, this page would not be here.

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This morning, Madrid — after a day and a night of rain:

image

España, te amo.

The morning routine had me so absorbed this a.m. that I didn’t really glance out a window before leaving the flat. So when I stepped out of the building, the sight of snow falling took me completely by surprise. Snow — lots of it, really coming down. None of your gentle, lyrical flurries. The air thick with big, flat flakes dropping as if they meant business. Not that there was any accumulation -– it all melted on contact with street/sidewalks. But it had the look of the kind of weather that could turn genuinely serious at any moment.

But beautiful. Lovely. Quieting urban hubbub the teeniest bit in the way that snow does.

Some folks walked with umbrellas opened, others with collars turned up, shoulders hunched. (I fell into that second group.) And snow continued coming down, the tires of passing cars making a sssshhh-ing noise on wet pavement.

Temperatures eased overnight, bringing rain. Lots of rain. Not as pretty, but it has its upsides — apart from watering earth that does not normally get much rain through much of the year, it washes away lots of salt and dog poop. (Salt: tossed everywhere in feverishly excessive amounts at the first sight of falling snow. Dog poop: an unfortunate aspect of daily life in this barrio.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been riding busses around the city center a whole lot lately. Forgot how much of an adventure squeezing one of those vehicles through old, narrow streets can be — up and down hills, with only inches to spare on either side. Considering all that, it is amazing (in a hair-raising way) how certain bus drivers hurtle along, as if the speed of light was the goal, and a miracle that they don’t leave a trail of flattened pedestrians in their wake. Makes for good, harrowing entertainment.

Approaching warp-speed:

I challenge anyone to sit through one of those rides and ponder the problems and miseries of their life. With the continuous stopping, starting and heaving about, it’s impossible. One has to slip into a state of urban zen, existing in the present, high-intensity moment, hands gripping whatever will keep you anchored in one place, body jerking this way and that with the movement of the vehicle.

Good therapy, though not necessarily of the variety that might promote inner peace. It will, however, promote a huge sigh of relief when feet hit pavement at the end of the ride.

España, te amo.

Recent moments:

– Making the return trip home on the Metro from the city center two nights ago, the train blessedly less crammed with tired travelers/commuters than usual. Next to me stood a 30ish male, normal looking at first glance, neither unpleasant nor memorable. The kind of individual who would blend into a crowd easily. If, that is, he hadn’t been so restless, so anxious, with something clearly eating at him. Fidgeting and biting his nails in a way that became hard to ignore (being right next to me and all). And that’s how the entire trip went — fidgeting and nail-biting. Except for the moments when fingers began probing nostrils in an open, not wildly attractive show of behavior one really should limit to (a) home or (b) the office of one’s therapist. A person apparently so deeply submerged in whatever state of mind he had going that he was 100% unaware of the strange display he was putting on.

– Waking up pre-dawn, as the sky began getting light, to the sound of birds producing music that could only come from joyful hearts. Dawn comes late here, given Spain’s strange time-zone configuration, so the burst of song doesn’t happen at an hour that could get cranky individuals feeling the impulse to open a window and toss footwear at the noisemakers. Instead, I can feel a sleepy smile take form on my face as happy music registers. Then I burrow deeper into the sheets and drift off.

– And speaking of drifting off, the topic of the language spoken in one’s dreams continues coming up in conversation, and after devoting far too much mental hooha to pondering my nighttime adventures it feels like it’s been a long while since I’ve had dreams with dialogue — talkies, if you will. Or at very least I have no memory of verbal communication in my dreams — not for a years. Most of what returns with me to waking life in is more like impressions than real memories — images, feelings. I have to stop, quiet down and think about it before I experience anything more. And it’s all stories sans talking.

Until recent conversations got me to turn my attention to dream activity, I had no idea this might be the case. But there it is. My dreams: silent movies. At least looking at them from a superficial perspective (and I can be as superficial as the next person). I get the feeling that there’s no lack of communication happening — just like there’s no lack of dream activity, no matter how little of it returns to waking life with me — it’s just happening in a different mode from the five-senses model. I think.

My question: if my dreams are dialogue free, what is up with the recent tendency to wake up with music streaming through my teeny brain? More often than not in recent days, coming to consciousness happens with a soundtrack — not an extensive one. One tune, on a repeating loop. And as often as not, not a tune I would consciously choose to start the day off with.

Getting out of bed and stumbling off into the day’s first activity mostly seems to flush it out of my system, so we’re not talking about any kind of real inconvenience. Just a quirky, transitory minor mystery.

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In the barrio of Chueca, Madrid:

España, te amo.

Woke up early this morning, somewhere around 5 a.m., with music from Dr. Horrible streaming perkily through my sleepy brain. From that point on, I drifted between sleep and barely-awakeness, dreaming about being in a Dr. Horrible sequel. (And how bitchen would that be?) The dreams about the sequel actually featured original music, featuring some pretty respectable tunes.. Sometimes my subconscious kicks ass.

I made no effort to remember original music on waking, so it’s all gone. The tunes from the original musical continue cycling through my teeny brain though, a soundtrack that has given this Tuesday a whole different feel from the garden variety weekday.

I have been astonished at the extremely high percentage of people I see lately wearing headsets in the street, in the Metro, on buses — most listening to music, some blathering away in phone conversations. The latter make it much more difficult to tell who is a genuine self-talker (another contingent well-represented in recent days) and who is conversing with unseen individuals. Now that phone reception is possible in the Metro — underground, between stations — more and more people seem to be inflicting their private chats on the rest of us. Often not my idea of a great time. Ah, well. Provides motivation for bringing reading materials to lose oneself in.

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Today, looking up at the Ministerio de la Presidencia — Madrid:

España, te amo.

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