far too much writing, far too many photos

Sometimes I find myself experiencing a state of mind that’s difficult to describe — a kind of happiness which may actually be illegal in certain localities within the contiguous United States.

Take this evening, for example. I’d had a pretty good day, all things considered: up before 7:30 to get ready for class, a bit bleary after another late night. Class from 9 to 1. Came home, dumped off my stuff, went back out, had a satisfying lunch. (This being the warm season, gazpacho is available as the first course in most restaurants that offer a ‘menú del día’ midday meal. Meaning gazpacho-lovers like myself currently have many opportunities for gastronomic joy.) Did the gym thing. Came home, decided to take a walk, maybe get some tapas, before getting some work done. The summer evenings here are mighty seductive -– long, langorous hours of daylight, warm temperatures, narrow streets busy with people out enjoying the waning day or shopping before heading home for the night.

Evening sunlight filled the east-west streets — orange and gold, soft, expansive. I left my building, taking a moment to enjoy the current display of posters on the wall across the street, then turned the corner on la Calle de Pelayo and walked an easy block to a local tapas joint. A space at the bar awaited, I slipped into it, ordering a few items -– a caña (a small glass of beer), a perrito (a variation on a hot dog, made with salchichón, a spicy Spanish sausage, wrapped and baked in pastry dough), a crepe vegetal, a couple more items, including a delicate sweet that seemed to have been both fried and baked. I ate, the place began to fill up, people-watching opportunities abounded, especially female people-watching. The food came to 3.40 euros, I happily tossed money at the folks behind the bar and wandered out to find an ATM machine, which magically handed me more euros.

From there, I took a route that would bring me through la Plaza de Chueca, the neighborhood focal point for entertainment and evening activity. The light, the air, the temperature all remained ideal, there were people to observe and shop windows to check out along the way (this being the summer sale season, shop windows are currently a major point of attention for just about everyone). By the time I turned into the wide cobblestone walkway that leads into the plaza, I’d slipped into a state I’d be hard-pressed to do justice to with the clumsy clusters of letters we call words. It was pretty fine, though, not filtered through worries or concerns or distracted thoughts.

The thought that I might run into someone I knew drifted idly through my mind right about then, a few seconds later I heard my name being called, by a person who turned out to be the woman who ran a TEFL certification course I began then bailed on in September of 2000 not far from here. A nice woman with nice eyes. We talked a couple of minutes, she introduced me to the fellow sitting with her, in the course of the conversation I found myself saying that I thought I was happier here than I’ve ever been anywhere. I’m not sure why that makes me pause and think, but it does. Maybe ’cause it’s quite a statement and I found myself inflicting it on two people I hardly know.

That happened shortly before 9 o’clock. It’s now 10:15, a bit of daylight lingers in the western sky. The sound of people out enjoying the evening swells and ebbs like the sound of surf.

Class this morning turned out to be a genuine scene. To begin with, another person got tossed into the mix, a slightly heavyset Venezuelan –- one who’s apparently been in Canada instead of Venezuela and needs to work on his Spanish grammar. That brought the group up to six of us. And then there’s the fact that Alicia, our instructor for the morning session, seems to be getting far too much enjoyment out of inflicting an endless array of subjective verb forms, uses and exceptions on us. Far, far too much enjoyment. To the point that I’ve begun to suspect that the whole subjunctive verb hooha may be an elaborate scam, that the subjunctive verb form may not exist, that the Spaniards use normal, user-friendly verbs when they talk to each other and only trot out this murderous, brain-busting grammatical concept for foreign students who don’t know any better and will pay for classes in which they study a fictional, ever-expanding verb form, forking out bales of cash and so keeping the ever-growing number of Spanish teachers — a predatory bunch if I’ve ever seen one — employed and, it must be said, hugely entertained at our expense.

The daily subjunctive verb form torture got underway. Between our suffering and the endless laughing blabber of the group’s two Italians, the morning session grew more and more free-form, more chaotically expressive, and in the middle of it all sat Marco, the Venezuelan -– stolid, expressionless, barely moving except for his eyes -– like an impassive, olive-skinned Buddha, drinking cherry Coke and wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into.

Education. One big laugh riot.

It’s late. I must point myself toward the bedroom.

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