far too much writing, far too many photos

These last few days have slipped by in a long sustained flash of beautiful weather punctuated by lots of activity and occasional brief intrusions of clouds and rain. High summer conditions elbowed their way in near the end of last week during the course of one particularly warm afternoon. Walking through the crowds in Sol that evening a little after 9, I heard someone say, “¡Mira! ¡Más de 30 grados!” (Look! More than 30 degrees!) A glance at the time/temperature clock confirmed a readout of 31º — 87 or so dry, light Fahrenheit degrees. A summer twilight. Fair weather clouds overhead showing bright highlights from the setting sun, the sky alive with the motion of countless swifts putting on a spectacular display of evening flight.

That was Thursday, I think. It’s hard to remember for sure with the days skidding past the way they have been.

Recent moments:

– An ad for Gino’s restaurants, seen in the course of a 10-minute pre-film bludgeon-the-customers-senseless-with-adverts extravaganza: an attractive 30ish couple sits at a table in an Italian restaurant, eyeing each other with lascivious ardor as they eat pasta, slowly, teasingly. A lovely, stylishly-dressed woman enters the restaurant, sees the couple. Her expression darkens, she moves in their direction, her vibe suggesting someone who’s just discovered she’s being two-timed. When the second woman arrives at the table, she picks up a glass half-filled with wine. The seated man and woman, caught mid-food-bacchanalia, sit back in surprise, faces registering shock, guilt. Close-up of him, eyes widening apprehensively. The second woman tosses the wine into the face of the seated woman, the audience suddenly getting that the seated woman is the cheating lover, not the man. The second woman sets the glass on the table, the seated woman sits, stunned, face and chest soaked with wine. The second woman pulls out a set of keys, brandishes them high before dropping them to land in front of the seated woman, then strides away with righteous intensity; the seated couple sit paralyzed, staring at each other, the restaurant around them suddenly silent. We see the keys, partially submerged in the seated woman’s pasta and cream sauce. The tag line: “¿Qué sería la pasta sin pasión?” (What would the pasta be without passion?)

– Here in the neighborhood, Saturday a.m. Walking back to my building, post-errands, carrying bags of groceries. It’s a bit before 11, few people are about. A handful of shops are open, more are in the process of opening. A shaven-headed mid-30s male, about my height, approaches, walking in the opposite direction. Wearing sunglasses and black, well-worn jeans/t-shirt. Abundantly pierced, arms completely engulfed in dense swirls of tattoos. He carries a bulky, shiny metal briefcase, as we pass each other I see that it’s locked and handcuffed to his wrist.

Late Saturday a.m., I get a phone call from V., one of my intercambios, someone in the process of becoming a friend. He wonders if I’d have any interest in a jaunt out to Toledo, a beautiful, small medieval city built on a hilltop, 40-45 minutes southwest of Madrid. Having had no real plans for the day, apart from avoiding schoolwork and writing, I immediately say yes. Forty minutes later, we rendezvous down the street from here in the plaza, get in his car and take off.

I love being ferried around. It’s nearly always okay with me if someone else wants to drive. With someone else behind the wheel, I get to talk, watch the world go by, check out any tapes or CDs that might be within reach. Much better than dealing with traffic. And with me having no car here, any time someone drives me somewhere becomes an occasion. I get to see Madrid from a whole different perspective from the usual pedestrian/Metro rider deal. Which makes me happy like you wouldn’t believe. Plus, with the local female population in summer togs, I get to take that in with carefree piggish joy, whereas if I were behind the wheel I’d be an easily-distracted danger to myself and everyone around. Which, now that I think about it, would mean that I would fit right in, no more dangerous than any of the other maniacs piloting their cars through the ongoing pinball game of Madrid traffic.

It’s a beautiful city, Madrid, as I’ve written here far, far too many times, and seeing it from the perspective of a car shooting through one neighborhood after another is a lot of fun. V. eventually finds his way to the highway that extends out from the city’s southwestern sectors toward Toledo, plugging into high-velocity Saturday highway traffic with pedal-jamming ease. Vicente Calderón stadium looms to the left as our speed picks up and residential areas give way to more industrial landscapes, then to the brown, hilly Spanish countryside.

Since we’ve got this intercambio thing going, the afternoon’s first hour is spent speaking Spanish. English takes over for the second hour. After that, it’s kind of a free-for-all, conversation sliding back and forth between the two languages, both of us making plenty of errors but doing fine. I get a serious charge out of this two-language thing and am wildly grateful to any Spaniards willing to indulge in it with me. We blab about this and that, V. swinging back and forth between lanes, traffic getting lighter and lighter. Spaniards tend to drive real damn fast, but V. tends to drive real damn faster than most of the rest of them. Might be unnerving if I were paying close attention, but we’re talking about movies, books, language and whatever else comes to mind, so it’s easy to ignore what’s going on driving-wise, and I mostly do. Not that anything overtly dangerous happens. We’re moving along at high enough velocity that I might not be able to see any moments of danger until we were well past them, and then they would only register as passing moments of possibility/probability in a continuous supersonic stream of like moments.

[Continued in entry of June 5.]

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