far too much writing, far too many photos

Two weeks ago: woke up real damn early, as sometimes happens on days that will involve big traveling (my bod keyed up in anticipation). The first leg of the trip involved a ten-minute hike through dark, early-a.m. local streets to the Metro, dragging baggage. Before leaving, stepped out onto my teeny-tiny balcony to see what the weather was doing, receiving the day’s first surprise: snow, wind, genuine cold. Not your standard-issue conditions for this city.

Pulled self together, made the hike. (Accumulated a fair amount of snow en route.) Did the ride to the airport (three train changes), checked in, discovered that Aer Lingus would only provide the boarding pass for the trip’s first leg. Stumbled from there to the line for the security area, took my place, watched the show put on by fellow travelers — the person in front of me: a 40ish male with a sizeable mole right on the very tip of his nose — marveling at how few actually seemed to know what would be required of them by the hard-working security folks, meaning one surprise after another when those ahead of me in line reached their turn to go through (jackets/scarves/sweaters hurriedly pulled off, panicked hands emptying pockets, shoes dragged off, water bottles jettisoned, etc.)

Some time later, found myself on an Aer Lingus plane heading to Dublin. Had a window spot, leaving me content. As we made the descent to the landing strip, cloud cover over the city opened up, sunlight streamed through, the land below shone soft and green.

I’d forgotten how small and friendly that airport is, had forgotten how sweet the local accents are — characteristics that made the not-very-tidy process of getting a boarding pass for the next leg of the trip easier to take. Once I had that in hand, we were channeled through a security checkpoint, which turned out to be the customs check for our entry into the U.S. — the first time I’ve experienced that actually happening outside the states. (It meant when we landed in Boston, they channeled us through the passport control area behind the booths, our passports already checked and stamped — the immense hall on the other side of the booths stood empty and quiet, agents hung around the booths chatting, watching us file through to baggage reclaim. Strange.) The Irish personnel were friendly and relaxed, to the point that the security check had an entirely different feel from what I’ve grown used to — kinder, less intense, though no less thorough. Had me thinking about spending some time in the city. Still has me thinking about it.

Turned out I’d been given a seat in the middle of the plane, I tried not to grumble too audibly about it. Once we’d reached cruising altitude, I found an unclaimed window seat in the back, moved there, felt much happier. Then discovered that each seat not only had its very own video screen, Aer Lingus had the best selection of films and television I’d ever come across in a translatlantic flight. Spent the rest of the afternoon wading through District 13 and episodes of The Wire as the north Atlantic slid by below, extreme northeast Canada white with snow. We landed in Boston — breezy, milder than Madrid — 30 minutes early, meaning there was a good chance I’d be out of the terminal, in my rental car and with friends in Cambridge before rush hour. (The rental car: not my usual routine, but a much better option than suffering through the long, not wildly comfortable Greyhound ride north and back, and only a teeny bit more expensive, given that it was only for 96 hours. A bottom line for me these days: if spending a few more shekels means more convenience and less discomfort, I am all over that. I’ve put in my time in this mortal go-round when it comes to suffering — to the best of my ability now, I make different choices.)

In the big baggage claim hall, a long line of blue-uniformed males stood ranged along the exit side of the space — customs personnel waiting to grab travelers for searches and Q & A. One crooked a finger at me when I’d aimed myself toward the exit, I followed him to his post, he started with questions. Had me open my big wheeled duffel (the body bag), we both stared down into it, marveling at neatly it was packed (easy to do when one is traveling light). He asked more questions, then wandered over to a computer terminal with my passport and customs statement, typed away for a while, me not enjoying the idea that the government was prying into my fairly innocuous existence and building a file about me and what I’m doing with what passes for my life. But the guy I was dealing with seemed okay, he did his job without being a dick, and in a few minutes it was over, I was out into the Boston version of fresh air, figuring out what had to be done to get to the rental place.

[to be continued. soon. (no, really.)]

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La Calle de Narvaez, Madrid:

EspaƱa, te amo.

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