far too much writing, far too many photos

My neighbors, the Godzillas, have not been around much in recent weeks. Which I am taking as something akin to a personal favor from them to me, since when they’re home — as they were this morning — Mrs. G. tends to stomp around the flat like, well, Godzilla on amphetamines. (Hence the nickname.) This morning’s stompfest gradually accelerated, morphing into a stomping frenzy, which finally carried them right out the door into the hallway, where I heard them set their burglar alarm and disappear into the elevator. Away for the weekend, I assume, their usual M.O. Leaving me with peace and quiet that I appreciate like you would not believe.

Meanwhile, local streets have been invaded by accordionists. Which had its charm when they weren’t so ubiquitous. It’s begun reaching the point at certain local plazas and intersections where pedestrians find themselves wandering from one field of vaguely Parisian sound directly into another. Can be a teeny bit unnerving. Thankfully, most of them have avoided flogging the most dog-eared street musician standards –’Those Were The Days’ and ‘My Way’ — a bit of consideration that I appreciate like you would not believe.

However. Entering the Metro yesterday, I heard the faint strains of ‘My Way’ echoing down a hallway, growing louder as I followed the signs for my train. Until I came across the perp, an earnest panflute tooter, playing into a microphone, backed by a lushly orchestrated music + 1 version of the tune that rattled smoothly away on a boombox. All I could do was hurry past and throw myself into the first train that came along, mass transit white-noise wiping away panflute horror, a bit of relief that I appreciated like you would not believe.

Small blessings. They add up.


Poster legroom — Madrid, Spain:

España, te amo

November. Many mornings dawning gray, rainy — overcast and moisture slowly thinning as the a.m. hours creep by. By midday, wan sunlight seeps through, cloud cover mostly dissipating soon after. Long afternoon shadows slant across sidewalks littered with fallen leaves.

Have lately been exploring barrios mostly unknown to me, hunting photos. Have spent the last few days making my way through the area known as Ciudad Lineal, methodically moving through its streets. Walked through a park, the surrounding area greener than most parts of that zone — suddenly found myself a few feet away from the first birdsong I’ve heard since summertime, its source hidden in nearby foliage, singing sweetly, with a mournful edge, as if aware that harder weather would be coming soon. Five 20-something humans provided counterpoint from a street corner, laughing among themselves like hyenas.

A few blocks from there, along a block with little if any greenery around, I heard more birdsong, this time a happier, higher-energy kind. Realized it came from inside a car repair joint — a caged canary, singing its heart out. Well-fed, not exposed to the elements, clearly content. The first time I’ve come across that Spanish tradition — caged songbirds providing warm weather music during the colder months — since living in Chueca, right in the city center. A long time ago now, feeling almost like another lifetime.

Sitting in a café this afternoon, wading through today’s El País. Found an article on the rapid changes happening here re: cellphones and wired life. According to the article, 81% of the population in the U.S. has cellphones – here the figure is 113%, meaning there are more cellphones than residents, over 53 million móviles compared with 47 million people. And, if this article is accurate, there are currently substantially more cellphones with high-speed internet than there are Spanish households that have high-speed internet connections — 32% compared with 21%. Interesting, thought I.

This evening: riding a bus home, passing Atocha station. Across the boulevard, a moon that looked suspiciously full hung in the sky, hanging low above white high-rise buildings. Passing them, one after another, heading east with the bus as darkness fell and evening gradually gave way to night.


Detail of a seriously abused window along a Madrid backstreet:

España, te amo

Since getting back to Madrid, however long ago it was now — 2 weeks? 3? — my sleep patterns have so far not seemed completely able to re-establish themselves. Which sometimes means not feeling drowsy until 3 or 4 in the a.m. 5 o’clock, once or twice. And when one’s night of shuteye only gets going at that hour and you can’t really afford the luxury of sleeping in, the resulting bleariness takes a teeny bit of the oomph out of the following day. Makes the idea of crawling back into bed a near-constant temptation (that one occasionally succumbs too, resulting in a different class of bleariness afterward). You know all this, I’m sure. And I am not actually complaining — this kind of crimp in one’s existence is small potatoes, really, when one considers all the items crowded together into that existence’s ‘plus’ column (shelter, food, clothing, friends, the luxury of being able to do work you actually want to do, being in city you love being in, blah-de, blah-de). So, seriously, I’m not bitching. More like making a fast sketch of one aspect of my current sitch, such as it is.

It is interesting how we, in general, have been trained to bitch. And how much positive reinforcement so much of the world is willing to bestow when one does bitch in creative fashion. That’s part of the reason I stay away from television news outlets — man, talk about bitching and painting a distorted picture of the world. But they get to do that, it’s not really any of my business. And I get to ignore them (Stewart and Colbert being the notable exceptions, ’cause I have no problem with high-quality silliness).

That is also a part of why I tend not to talk about difficulties and/or physical maladies I may be sailing through. Having problems, talking about problems was an acceptable way of getting attention in my family of origin. The trouble is it tends to type us, tends to form an indelible part of the image of who we and others identify as us. And I have no interest in that. I’m far more interested in creating my ‘image’ in a deliberate, conscious way, reasonably free of sympathy-worthy or scorn-worthy tics and problems. (In part ’cause I really don’t have much to complain about.) And I tend not to take part in it when someone tries to project something onto me that I’m not interested in having as part of that image of who I am, no matter how well-intended those someones may be. I get to choose, and I mostly don’t care a huge amount what anyone else might think about that.

So what I started out with here, sleep patterns not yet re-established and all? Small potatoes. Ignore me. ‘Cause I mostly go about my day perfectly content, and if my bod insists on a nap and I’m at home with a little time to burn, I’m all for falling into bed and checking out for an hour.

Meanwhile, the days continue sailing past. It’s now mid-November, a fact that boggles my teeny brain. (It was just June! No, wait — it was just Christmas!! And yet another bigass holiday season is now preparing to heave itself into view!) Nights are cold enough that the building’s heat has been cranked up (the heat melts away quickly once the radiators go cool, what with my squat’s old, single-pane, non-heat-retaining windows — so the covers can go from next to nothing to two heavy blankies in the course of a given night), the days are mostly crisp and sunny, dry leaves swirling around streets and sidewalks (until local street-cleaning crews sweep them up). Life moves along, for the most part — and this is the simple truth — sweet. Benign.

But you don’t want to hear about the simple sweetness of my days. That can wait for another entry.



Light/shadows, mid-November — Madrid:

España, te amo

Walking along the six-lane avenue that extends itself past this building, dusk falling, dry leaves flying before cold autumn breezes. Returning home from the first trip to a movie theater in two or three months. The film seen: ‘The Social Network’ — real damn good and strangely depressing. Didn’t expect that second bit, I have to confess. Kinda took me by surprise. And I’m now sitting in front of the ‘puter to blow away feelings of sadness with fingers clicking away on keyboard, with words, thoughts, the feel of my body breathing as I write.

That movie is a prime example of how a good story told well can be fascinating, compelling, engrossing, and also not a very good time, in the way that watching a car crash in slow motion is not really my idea of a hugely entertaining fun.

The film: so sharply focused. So well written, directed and edited. So well acted. And, well, depressing. In part, I think, ’cause it’s done so vividly. And in part ’cause I think it got my teeny brain reflecting on some of the relationships-as-emotional-car-wrecks that have happened in what passes for my life.

Since returning from that last rapid swing through Massachusetts/Vermont (see this journal’s last 3-4 entries), I’ve been reflecting on the fact that I don’t really have a huge number of people in my life at this time. People — lots of them — have come and gone, and at this point the reduced number that remain are spread thinly out all over the map. Spread a bit thin, but loved, valued. And not seen anywhere near enough, so when I do get to spend a bit of time with one or more of them it’s not a small thing. The fact that a few actually share their homes with me when I pass through their parts of the world, provide a place to sleep, relax, be part of their lives for a bit — it means a lot.

Far more people have appeared and disappeared than have stayed. Far, far more. Those who remain are valued.

Er… that’s the kind of neighborhood my thoughts have been roaming around in since emerging from the theater into cool, windy air and deepening evening darkness. A sober, meditative neighborhood, one it’s okay to spend time in every now and then.

The real-life neighborhood, on the other hand, has been looking and feeling increasingly autumn-like this last week. Trees actually showing color, the angle of the sun bending lower and lower, leaves collecting in corners, along curbs, swirling or racing along streets/sidewalks with gusts of wind. Today dawned cold, sky mostly gray, and remained that way. Looking like Madrid’s version of winter might not be too far off.

It all passes by so quickly.

Anyway. Later.

España, te amo

[continued from preceding post]

Which left me — on the last morning of this recap, Wednesday a.m. — where I want to be, here in Madrid. Though there is one aspect of those overnight flights that always seems supremely weird to me: the loss of a night that by rights we should move through, the way we move through every other night. Resting, dreaming, feeling the smooth passage of time with no alterations.

You file into a bigass metal tube parked somewhere on the west side of the Atlantic (and by ‘you’ I mean me), you strap yourself in. You spend several hours in a completely artificial environment — lights turned off for a couple of hours at some point to simulate night/sleepy time. The big metal tube finally touches down, eventually rolls to a stop, you stumble blearily off. And it’s morning. A morning already in place, already moving ahead through time, streaming blithely ahead without having blossomed gradually from a preceding nighttime.

Always leaves me feeling weird, that night that simply winks out of existence. And yeah, I know there’s an accelerated night happening outside that big flying metal tube — doesn’t matter. The canned artificial light/dark thing that happens during the flight completely completely wipes it out for me.

Of course, lack of sleep doesn’t help anything. Which is why — after arriving back to my current squat, unpacking, showering, throwing clothes into the washer, getting a shot of restorative caffeine — I spent a lot of the day napping. Then enjoyed a long, sweet night of shut-eye. Lovely.

My sleep patterns have been all over the map since then, like my bod has not really been able to establish itself in this timezone. In fact, today is the very first day since before hopping a flight back to Massachusetts/Vermont that this bod of mine has been feeling clear, grounded, happy. Which I am appreciating the bejeezus out of.

Clear, grounded, happy. (Pause for contented sigh.)


November morning, Madrid:

España, te amo

[continued from previous entry]

Tuesday morning: same as the previous mornings cited here. Clothed, on top of bedcovers, light on, yada yada.

G. was out the door early, I dragged S. down Mass. Ave. for caffeine. Dragged her down the Avenue again later for a final lunch of Mexican chow. Dragged my stuff out the door, leaving her to work (possibly savoring the now certain peace and quiet, me gone definitively).

Made it to Logan a full three hours ahead of flight time, which, after all, is what they tell us to do for international flights. And for the first time in many years, found myself facing… next to no
crowds. No line to get through security. Everything moving quickly and easily, leaving me with far too much time to sit and wait. (Being obnoxiously bombarded by cable news being piped in via ceiling mounted TV’s and in-house PA. Man, I loathe cable news shows.)

Boarded on time, found myself next to a woman headed back home to Israel. Six to six and a half hours later, we were stumbling out of plane into the alternate universe they call Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport.

Working on no sleep. Or, well, maybe an hour’s worth. Made it through customs, made it through the customary long wait at baggage claim. Got out to a taxi, found myself flying at pretty decent velocity along busy highways. Until we hit a traffic tie-up, four km’s from the end of the ride. Four km’s that went in super slo-mo from that point on, adding 10-15 euros to the price of the trip, my driver deciding to stay in the right-hand lane, behind trailer trucks. (‘Why?’ I asked. ‘We have to get off ahead,’ he answered, waving vaguely ahead of us. Yes, we did — 4 KM’S AHEAD, you half-wit.) The entire time, the car radio played a morning clone-pop station, the kind with a group of morning ‘radio personalities’ that blather nonsense and laugh at every single boring-ass utterance as if they were sucking on the hose from a tank of nitrous oxide.

Made him pull over as soon as possible once we were off the highway, not far from home. Paid up, walked through morning crowds to a bus stop, rode the rest of the way with local folk.

And that last bit, in the middle of fatigued morning rush-hour goofiness, supplied the first bit of genuine pleasure in the entire journey. Feeling at home in a corner of this city, feeling part of what passes for normalcy. (Normalcy, in this case, includes stumbling across images like the following:)

Got home, unpacked first thing — a deceptively huge achievement. (Emptying out luggage post-trip: a process that sometimes goes on for days.)

[continued in following entry]

España, te amo

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