far too much writing, far too many photos

The day after the events in New York City.

A rough night, though not as rough as some other folks had it. This morning I attempted to carry on as I would on a more or less normal day. Went to El Corte Inglés (the major department store chain here) down in La Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, did the first major grocery shop for the new flat.

A grocery purchase worth 15 mil pesetas or more (15 thousand pesetas, about $85 American) gets free delivery — if the total from your purchases reaches the magic number as you’re being checked out, they take care of everything from there. Literally — nothing gets bagged, they ask for your address, let you know about when the groceries will show up, tell you nicely to go away.

Went to a nearby internet joint before returning home. Somewhere along the way, I managed to shake off the cloud from last night’s events.

I will not get into my spiritual beliefs here, but I will say two things that became clearer to me this morning:

(a) I do no one any good if I’m not feeling clear and connected to what I will call my Source. Trust me on this one — I spent many years in my own personal darkness and I contribute far more to the world if I’m happy, with a clear heart.

(b) Among their other goals, the perpetrators of terrorist acts want to intimidate through fear and disruption. If I let them do that to me, then they’ve succeeded. Fuck that.

A day in which one can smile easily at others, find things to appreciate about one’s existence, and savor the sheer pleasure of being alive is a day in which life and the spirit have prevailed.

That’s all I’ll say about that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been thinking about the Spaniards lately.

They’re an interesting bunch. I’ve been told many times that they don’t care for rules very much, that among their character traits is a strong streak of independence and contrariness. When I first arrived, I read a book entitled Spain Is Different (by Helen Wattley-Ames, Intercultural Press) in which the author went on about this aspect of the Spanish personality, mentioning a phrase ‘Vivo yo!’ Literally, ‘I live.’ I am. I’m here.

The sentiment implied by those two words appeared to me to be something along the lines of ‘me first’ or maybe, more bluntly, ’screw you.’ I’m not sure what to make of that. Yes, I’ve seen behavior that could be considered examples of it — the way they drive and park leaps to mind (think New York/Boston/Los Angeles, with no guns and slightly more abandon). On the other hand, I’ve also read and been told that, at least in the business environment, they don’t like to stand out. When ideas are solicited, for example, they’re reluctant to speak up. Too dangerous, too exposed. Too risky. Could be both these things co-exist very nicely within the Spanish character, I can’t say — it’s not up to me to make any serious character analysis. I will only describe some things I’ve observed.

Directly across the narrow street from my new flat is a small vacant lot delineated by a wall. A wall usually covered with posters. Periodically, city crews show up, the posters get stripped off, the wall is given a new coat of gray paint. Several small signs are then pasted on the newly-pristine wall which read “Prohibido fijar carteles” — literally, “It is prohibited to affix posters.” Post no bills. Within 24 hours, the wall is once again completely covered with a whole other crop of posters. I noticed that two or three times in my travels through the neighborhood prior to living here.

Another thing: Spaniards walking on a sidewalk or across a street or up or down stairs in the metro seem to have way of taking up as much lateral space as possible, making it difficult or nearly impossible to pass. It could be that’s the intent, to keep people from passing, to claim temporary domain over the space they’re occupying. Or maybe it’s not a conscious thing at all. Maybe it’s just a cultural tic, not reflecting their more generous character. (In general, my experience has been when I ask them to let me by, they usually bleat an apparently sincere, “Ay, perdón!” and move immediately out of the way.)

I’ve mentioned their driving and parking — with parking at as much of a premium as it is here, they cope by inserting their vehicles virtually anywhere. Literally. On corners, across or even up wheelchair ramps, angled into a tight space with the front end sticking out into traffic. It’s not actually a complete free-for-all, it just sometimes has the feel of one.

I have only been in a car driven by a Spaniard once. Well, twice — to a restaurant and then back. The driver was Jaime, Jr., the son of my friend Leslie’s husband, Jaime, Sr., who was in the back seat for the ride. Jaime, Jr. had a BMW, which he drove at high velocity through red lights, tailgating other cars, ending the trip with an illegal sprint down a one-way street. During that last bit, as we barrelled the wrong way down the narrow thoroughfare, Jaime, Sr., sitting behind me, said (in Spanish), “My friend, this is an example I don’t want you to follow.” A joke, and there was a part of me — the part that wasn’t praying I’d survive, trying desperately to get my seatbelt on a little tighter — that appreciated the humor.

They’re a wacky bunch.

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May we as a planet find the way to appreciate the beauty in our great variety and allow others to live as they want without threat. May we realize that we have far more similarities than differences, and that every minute of this life is precious.

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