far too much writing, far too many photos

I have no idea how it got to be the last day of June. Seriously — no freakin’ idea.

So, yes. It’s June 30. And the weather is acting properly summerlike. Sunny. Warm. (The kind of warm some might call hot.) In fact, the last three days have been real damn warm, the mercury floating up to 32C/90+F. So of course this is when the trolls who work in the Metro decide to go on strike.

The Spanish govenment has been taking painful measures to deal with the county’s financial difficulties — one of those those measures being the scaling back of government workers’ salaries. The previously-mentioned trolls who toil away down in Madrid’s Metro are not happy about it, in part because the financial cuts were imposed, not reached by negotiation. The result: a strike. Well, they call it a strike, but a slowdown would be more accurate. Trains are still running — just half as many as normal. That’s meant packed trains during hours when the ride is usually relaxed, and when I say packed I mean people crammed up against each other in far, far too intimate a way. Not a groovy time.

A Spanish friend pointed that the slowdown is making life miserable for everyone but the people in power. If the object is to make them feel pain, it would make more sense to just open the Metro up to anyone, free of charge. Bet that would strike panic into the hearts of some politicians. Won’t happen though.

Bet there’s no transit torture happening back in Montpelier. Just the sweet summer version of the town.

The strike/slowdown started Monday, was scheduled to last for three days, though there were menacing statements from union leaders about how easily it could be extended. (Bastards.) After making a trip into the city center on Monday, experiencing the undiluted joy firsthand, I decided to hole up here until it blows over. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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The first evening of summer, Madrid:

España, te amo.

Sitting in a café in Madrid’s city center late Thursday afternoon with a friend, a World Cup game between Italy and Slovakia playing on a big screen. Four 20-something Italians sat front and center, going wild any time they thought the Italian squad were taking a step toward erasing a 2-point deficit and winning the game. The rest of the place watched with rapt attention, waiters staff included, everyone quietly rooting against the Italian squad. Slovakia went up 2-0, my friend opined that the Italian team was all but on a plane heading back to their corner of the world. I warned her not to leap to any conclusions — the Italian team, though not the power it was four years back when they took the Cup, is too accomplished, too dangerous. And within minutes, they scored a goal, put on a hair-raising display of bizarre drama — creating an impressive amount of chaos — then scored a second goal. My friend watched with wide-eyed astonishment. Slovakia scored a third goal, the game went right down to the wire — tense, chaotic, hard-fought. And at the end, when the Italians were unable to put the ball in the net a third time, a feeling of quiet relief seemed to sweep through the café. Except for the four 20-somethings, who got to their feet and quickly cleared out. On the big screen, Slovaks celebrated, Italians grieved in a way that was painful to watch.

Have been back in Madrid for a week and a half. The last few days in Vermont became a blur of non-stop work and stress, me racing toward one deadline (moving truck arriving Monday morning to remove the remaining big articles and take them to storage) then another (me clearing out Tuesday morning, bringing all remaining stuff to storage, Comcast coming to cut off phone/internet/cable, cleaning the flat, catching a noon bus). Spent Monday night on the floor in the living room, was up at 4:45 for the final sprint. As with selling and clearing out the house a year ago, I did the entire process solo (though this time around two friends made brief trips up to help with straightening/organizing the storage compartment — a few hours of assistance from each that had a big impact). And the amazing thing: I pulled it off. Both times the final hours of the process became a hellish blur, and then the it was all past, that long stream of moments shifting from enveloping reality to mere memories moving steadily further and further into the past, time carrying me forward into a very different stream of present moments.

Life moves on. Which is massively fine with me.

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Last light, on the last evening in Vermont:

España, te amo.

Playing videoclips from Stop Making Sense over and over after waking up with one of the songs reeling through my thoughts on an irresistible endless loop.

Continuing to pack up the flat, the walls now almost entirely bare and white.

Waking up early, birds making a sweet racket outside, as thoughts about things needing to be done roil around through my head. (An orderly, methodical roiling, but still.)

Workiing at clearing out the freezer, leading to lunches featuring plates o’ pasta (w/ onions, garlic, olive oil), leading to snacks of toasted bagels.

The days slip by at strangely surreal speed as the warm-season version of Vermont settles into place – lush, green, lovely.

España, te echo de menos

Had a dream last night. An erotic dream, featuring an older woman I know. Substantially older. I woke up unsure how I felt about the whole thing. (Well, I know how my adorable bod felt about it, but that doesn’t count.) I suspect it might be a good idea to not mention this to the individual in question. Not that she wouldn’t be interested to hear about it — she might be. Which could lead to conversation that might meander into delicate territory. Territory I’m not sure I want to tip-toe through. The last thing I need at this moment in my life: drama. So for now, a prudent silence. (Er, I mean apart from this semi-discrete blathering here.)

I continue with the process of packing up the flat, a deal that seems to be slowing down in a serious way, as in me seizing up a bit. From emotional fatigue, possibly. ‘Cause this is, after all, a huge passage: me packing up what’s remained of my life stateside, dumping it into storage, then heading back over the broad Atlantic without the safety net of a living space here and with no real, concrete idea of what will become of me over there. Kinda scary. But it’s a choice. My choice. We’ll see where it brings me.

The weather, meanwhile, has been all over the map, veering from lovely to stormy at the drop of a metaphoric hat. Hail. Sunshine. Thunder. Blue skies. Downpours. Has me appreciating the interludes of user-friendly conditions in a massive way. If I thought that groveling for the weather deities might have some effect, I would be doing it without a second thought. Fortunately for what remains of my dignity, I know they’d just snicker in response, then dump some sleet on us. Or a blizzard. So why bother.

Right. Back to what passes for my existence.

(By the way, a fast reminder (not that you asked): this page’s offshoot — dealing strictly with photography, one image a day — can be found here.)

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Abandoned barn — East Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Wednesday evening of last week: spent an hour and a half sitting on a small patio at the home of a friend of a friend, a green, quiet place atop one of the hills that overlook downtown Montpelier. A spot with panoramic vistas of green mountains, ridges stretching south and west in rolling waves. Quiet, placid, spectacular.

It was the third and final day of glorious summery conditions, local greenery responding as if given a combination of ecstasy and steroids. (Trees that had been putting forth leaves at a slow, lazy pace suddenly went foliage wild, filling completely in, in no time at all.)

The wet blankets in the local weather biz had warned that this preview of summer was about to expire, that the evening would turn damp, cooler, fast-moving storms moving through the area. Thunderheads had been filing by off to the northeast since late aftternoon, and as we sat up on that green hilltop, a mass of slow-moving darker clouds slipped slowly into view in the northern sky, spreading as they approached, gradually dimming then the evening sun, the blotting it out. Black clouds, in fact, promising fireworks. By the time daylight had begun to bleed away and the blackflies were about looking for blood, the cloud cover had extended across most of the sky, faint bursts of lightning ripping through it.

We got the hint, called it a night. Minutes after I got home, the sound of a downpour drifted in the open windows from the darkness outside. A downpour, punctuated by rapping, clunking, percussive sounds. Hail — fair-sized from the sound of it. Continuing noisily for a few minutes before changing over to rain.

Balls of ice falling from the sky, making lots of noise. Don’t think I’ve ever seen hail in Madrid. Ever.

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Telltale signs of high pollen count — Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Two weeks remain in this process I’m wading through. Two short weeks. I stumble through the days, packing up, getting rid of some things, carting other things off to not one but two storage compartments (one your garden variety space to shove stuff into, the other climate controlled for things that can’t deal with summer heat, winter cold, paper curling humidity.

Often waking up earlier than I’d prefer, my bod remaining on European time. Meaning leaner nights of sleep than I’d prefer. Some mornings — many mornings — an oversized glass of iced caffeine coffee is required to cut through the resulting internal fog. Re-establishing the desperate illusion of high-functioning adulthood.

An overriding pleasure of being here, doing this: the sheer, undiluted beauty of Vermont’s warm season. A kind of beauty that, as I’ve said in the past, induces a form of amnesia related to the long, pitiless winter. The bliss of forgetfulness. Such a dirty trick.

My one and only brother (the one and only remaining member of my biological clan) made the five-hour drive north to spend the afternoon, take home a couple of items. Ours has been a troubled relationship these last years, barely even qualifying as a relationship. And today? Fine. Relaxed and easy in a way that I haven’t experienced in visits with him hasn’t felt since… not sure. Centuries.

During much of this time, I find myself walking a thin line as far as moods — serene sometimes, appreciative of this sweet town, this beautiful corner of the world, sliding quickly into much darker humors when, say, material things don’t behave exactly the way I want them to. (Damn you, keys that I drop! Damn you, pants that get me hopping goofily around the bedroom on one foot when I try to pull them on!

I’m counting blessings right now. And there is no shortage of them.

By the way, a reminder (not that you asked): this page’s offshoot — dealing strictly with photography, one image a day — can be found here.

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Detail, abandoned boxcar — Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

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