far too much writing, far too many photos

A beautiful September Monday in Madrid — morning starting off cool, air soft, mist hanging in the sunlight, the streets damp from a nighttime shower. I began four weeks of intensive Spanish classes, it felt just right to be reintroducing that kind of stimulation and practice to my existence here.

The group: an intelligent, pretty Russian woman, a 20-something Indian guy named Ravi, two Asian women — one Japanese, one Chinese — and a 20-something American guy. Seemed like a nice group. The American guy returned from the class break talking English, mentioned that he thought it was pretentious to speak Spanish outside of class. (Huh? Then why, I asked myself, are we in Madrid studying Spanish?) To each their own.

The day remained cool, clouds and sun producing dramatic light. Days like remind me all over again why September through December is my favorite time of the year. (’Cause it’s beautiful. With great sleeping weather. ‘Cause it leads up to the holidays. ‘Cause the air feels crisp, fresh. The light changes, the skies get more dramatic. The leaves turn. Halloween rolls back around. And after the months of summer it feels like the year is starting all over again.)

It’s the kind of day, though, that’s reminded me a little of certain days in March — mild, with a blustery edge, same kind of equinox-time light. In particular, it’s reminded me of a day this past March, when I took a walk down in this direction from my old neighborhood. Heading this way along la Calle de Hortaleza.

Out on Hortaleza, right around the corner from this street, is an old, old church. The kind of edifice that appears ancient and decrepit because it is ancient and decrepit. La Iglesia Real de Las Escuelas Pías de San Antón (The Royal Church of the Pious/Devout Schools of Saint Anthony). The church had set aside that day last March for a blessing of the animals, open to anyone who wanted to bring, well, an animal. For a blessing. A line two or three people (and animals) wide extended from the building’s front entrance, around the corner and off down the side street, most of the humans in attendance there with dogs. Except for one old man standing off to the other side of the front entrance. A diminutive, skinny, stooped old man in rumpled old black clothes, holding a cord that ended in a loop around the neck of the single largest pig I have ever seen. Bigger than the man — wider, nearly as tall, probably several times heavier. An enormous, monstrous pig. The two of them there together. Not appearing patient or sanguine, exactly. Reconciled, more like, to being there for a while, in each other’s company.

Not the kind of image you get to see every day.

I’ve been adjusting to the cycle of nighttime noise here in my new barrio, a surprisingly easy process to this point. Being several floors up probably helps.

Last night (Sunday) at 11:45, just as I was going to sleep, the security alarm of a street-level tienda next door to this building went off. And continued on and on, with no sign of stopping its ear-bursting keen. kept going. After 10 minutes, I pulled out earplugs and stuffed them into the appropriate orifices, where they did their job. Sometime during the next hour the racket finally let up.

Yesterday morning, around 6:45, someone down in the street began playing a rap song at high volume. After a few minutes I got up to take a look-see, found people still hanging about after a night of carousing. Across the street from the tienda whose security alarm went off stands a funky peluquería (hair cutter/hair dresser). As I watched, the shop’s door opened, three people stumbled out. A fourth remained in the shop, closing and locking the door after them. The three escapees shambled down the street, heading God knows where.

Things quieted down, I returned to bed.


A quick note:

A couple of weeks back I saw an American independent film called You Can Count On Me. Good film, a production that struck gold at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The story ends, the credits start rolling. The first name in the credits — the very first name, pretty much appearing by itself immediately after the story — was Jill Footlick. Jill FOOTLICK. I don’t know — could be Jill’s a fine person and an excellent producer, but talk about breaking a mood.

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