far too much writing, far too many photos

Seen on the way into Montpelier today: expanses of pumpkins at farm stands, swaths of orange standing out against the grass and the browns of nearby buildings. Also, on a roadside mailbox, perfectly located at a slight swell of land next to a busy Route 14: the season’s first Halloween decoration –- a smiling jack-o-lantern’s face, trailing ribbons of different shades of orange that rippled in the breeze. Cheerful, sunny stuff, on a cheerful, sunny September day.

Found myself thinking about Madrid quite a bit today, starting with the realization that a year ago I’d moved into my second Madrid piso, had begun exploring my new barrio, made two excursions to Ikea out in one of the ‘burbs to the northwest of the city. Right after that, the mail brought a cassette tape of news and information from Spain, a quarterly audio magazine put together by an outfit called Puerta del Sol, I assume named after the plaza/crossroads in the heart of Madrid -– Madrid’s Times Square, a combination of beautiful old architecture, centuries of history, modern commerce and touristy sleaze. A vortex of people and energy, and the place where I first realized I was smitten with the city.

I drove into Montpelier listening to the tape, the first story about “el botellón,” the amazing display of public drinking by Madrid’s teens and 20-somethings that took place every Friday and Saturday night in certain areas around the city until recently. Madrid has a reputation as party central anyway -– between that and the fact that the parents raising children in the post-Franco years (the first period of genuine freedom and well-established, relative affluence in decades) didn’t want to deny their kids anything, it led to a wide-open, anything-goes atmosphere, a time in which the kids were given free reign. They’re good kids, the Spanish kids -– smart, attractive, well-educated, well-intentioned, fun to be around, fun to watch. It was strange to observe the explosion of outdoors partying they created every weekend. So extravagant, so in-your-face. Never ill-behaved, really, that I saw, apart from the massive night-long public consumption of cheap booze and the piles of garbage left in its wake — but so wildly excessive that it was just a matter of time before the rest of the citizenry reached the limit of their tolerance. A few deaths from the taking of ecstasy at two or three large raves in the south of Spain early this year added fuel to the fire, and just before I returned to the States in April, the government decided the time had arrived to try and eliminate el botellón.

When I reached Montpelier, I parked my car and sat listening to the tape, wondering what the one or two passersby thought about the stream of loud Spanish coming out the windows. Then went to the gym, forgot about all that. Stopped in at the local supermarket afterward, walked in the door, found two women speaking loud, animated Spanish. Montpelier is way the hell up north — there’s not much around in the way of things Latino apart from a pseudo Mexican restaurant on State Street, a block or two away from the state house. I’ve never heard it spoken around town before. All of a sudden it’s making multiple appearance in my day.

On the ride back from town, a number of roadsters passed going in the opposite direction. Beautiful vehicles, vintage coupes from the 30s, perfectly cared for, painted eye-catching colors. Front ends low to the ground, looking like they’d be fun to drive. Seven or eight of them in all, randomly placed in traffic, not riding together. Must be an event of some sort going on in the area.

And more pumpkins, especially at the farm stand just a couple of miles from here. Nicely arranged in formations that spread out across the grass, extending out from the building in the warm sunlight. Looking festive, not like a harbinger of bare trees, cold weather, short days. Like autumn eye candy.


Something I’ve mentioned before that bears repeating: the posts here are almost always first draft. My first drafts tend to be a bit sloppy. (Sometimes more than a bit.) I usually get back sometime the next day to clean ‘em up, maybe refine ‘em a bit. So it’s not a bad idea to give these spewings a day or two to ferment.

Unless you’re impatient, in which case you should do whatever you want.

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