far too much writing, far too many photos

Well. After two and a half long months back in the States, spent almost entirely up in northern Vermont, I hopped a plane out of Boston yesterday and returned to Madrid, pulling in today around midday.

The following was written this morning, far too early, during a layover in Heathrow Airport:

“There is nothing quite like staggering off an overnight flight into the dawn of Heathrow. Feels like a small miracle that I can put one pointed boot in front of the other in those circumstances, like an accomplishment that I manage to remain upright, at least vaguely functional.

“I’m sitting at the end seat of a four-seat module in a long, busy shopping/restaurant concourse in Terminal 1. The person two seats to my left — a 40-something Asian male with a slight paunch and tired, drooping jeans — leaned over to dig into his carry-on bag a few minutes ago, apparently to find a container of cologne, which he used to pollute the environs with a single hyper-potent burst. I’m located beneath an air-circulation vent of near gale force intensity — it so far hasn’t made a dent in the mustard gas.

“After they herded us off the plane, making us walk through a kilometer or two of featureless hallways to the security checkpoint, I stood in line surrounded by the odors of bodies that had spent the night packed together in a large metal projectile, mingled with the bouquet of some less than subtle floral soap someone had recently spread on themselves. You’d think all that stimulus would clear away my wee-hours fog -– no dice so far.

“Meanwhile, the cavalcade of people flows by as I sit here, an impressive, tireless display of both diversity and similarity. The spectrum of physical types is unbelievably broad, not so much in skin color as in height, weight, bone structure, posture and carriage. The display of clothing, on the other hand, seems interestingly limited, maybe because everyone’s in travel mode and that mode has become more and more popular and homogenized. At least here in this little corner of western civ. The only real splash of color seems to come from Indian families, specifically from the combo sari/pajama-style outfits worn by the mamajis.

“Something I’ve been realizing is how good it feels to hear accents other than the American variety. French, Swedish, Indian, German, Japanese, and of course British accents have swirled around me since I planted my adorable butt in this seat, each with their own music. And I find myself hearing the music in the British accents with fresh ears. I don’t seem to pick that up as much when I hear them in films or television programs, but here on their island, with each speaker’s life and intelligence imbuing the spoken words with extra dimensions of depth and complexity, they grab my attention in a striking, seductive way.”

That’s as far as I got with that. (Probably a good thing.)

There is something about traveling that seems to stimulate me like nothing else. Not that that’s an earthshaking revelation or that I’m unique in that way. On the contrary -– this could be why travel writing has become so popular over the last 20 years. That flood of new input provides important nourishment, I think, enables us to shrug off the muted colors and sounds of routine life to see with fresh eyes. I think some of the most vivid memories I have from this lifetime have to do with things experienced during bouts of traveling, and again, I’m probably not unique re: that.

One thing about my return to Madrid actually has been feeling like a small revelation. Pre-return, I had no idea what to expect, how it was going to feel. And what I have mostly felt is relief at being back, as if a deep thirst of some kind were being satisfied after a long dry spell. I don’t know yet if that has any big meaning or what it may lead to, but it’s been strong, clear, impossible to ignore.


It’s beautiful here, BTW. Sunny, temperature in the 70s, streets busy with people going about the summer version of life in Madrid.

Hope life’s feeling fine wherever you are.

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