far too much writing, far too many photos

When I dragged myself out of bed and opened some windows this morning, I was met by a classically beautiful summer morning. Blue, cloudless sky filled with swifts performing their usual virtuoso-level flight acrobatics. Morning sunlight, clear and soft. Air just warm enough to indicate a hot day in store.

And quiet, one of the things I enjoy the most about weekend mornings here. Quiet, gentle, starting up in slow, gradual fashion.

My first morning in this flat [see entry of 9 September, 2001] looked and felt nearly identical to this one, apart from the angle of the September sun, moving toward equinox as opposed to solstice. The bell of the neighborhood church rang at 9:15 and 11:15, the city cleaning crews picked up after the previous night’s revelry, folks slowly, gradually appeared in the street, heading toward the kiosk in the plaza to buy a Sunday paper, or to one of the few tiendas open on Sunday morning to cop a baguette or two. Now and then the sound of a dog barking from the plaza resonated between the buildings on this narrow street. Same as today.

Yesterday was a day of some festivities in this barrio and a neighboring one, Malasaña, to celebrate ‘Barrios Abiertos’ (Open Neighborhoods). When I walked through the plaza this morning to pick up a newspaper, there were garlands strung up around the space from which hung little teeny flags, representing countries from all over the world. Now, it may be nothing more than coincidence that all the teeny flags appeared in conjunction with the Barrios Abiertos thing. It may be nothing more than the neighborhood tarting itself up for the high tourist season, the barrio’s way of saying Isn’t this just the cutest, quaintest plaza you’ve ever seen, all you tourist-type furriners laden with money you’re dying to spend? Please, spend it right there. Drink yourself yourselves silly. Have something to eat. In return, we’ll relieve you of some of that cash that’s taking up so much room in your pocket/handbag/wallet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I hasten to add. It is, in fact, a nice plaza, a good place to hang out for a while, get a taste of the local scene and then range around the neighborhood from there.

When I passed through the plaza, older neighborhood denizens sat on the several concrete benches that run along the plaza’s east side, talking, reading papers, watching the local edition of the world. A couple of coed groups of 20-something folks sat out in the middle of space, talking and drinking beer. Not the usual sight on a Sunday a.m. Maybe finishing up a long night out.

The neighborhood remained quiet well into the afternoon (apart from occasional hammering from some overmotivated maniac doing renovation work somewhere close by). I, good boy that I am, persuaded myself to go to the gym, hopping onto the Metro where I stepped into a car and found a place at one end, leaning up against the bulkhead, working my way through a few pages of a Spanish translation of The Thin Red Line. The car was crowded, every seat taken, a handful of people standing. As the train got underway, I realized that one of the standing passengers, a white-haired 50-something a couple of doors down had begun talking loudly in a strange, slow, sing-song way, holding up a few crumpled pages on which words were written, too far away for me to make out. The noise of the train prevented me from making out more than a few words here and there, what little I heard didn’t seem to make too much sense. He turned slowly back and forth as he spoke, angling the papers so that they faced whichever direction he faced. This went on until shortly before the second stop. At that time, he folded the papers up, slowly made his way along the car to stand by the door near me, mouth partially open, until the train stopped, when he got out.


On the way to the gym, a family sat outside a fancy restaurant in the barrio of Salamanca, four of them sitting together on a comfortable-looking wooden bench deployed there beneath lovely, overarching shade trees by the city. A late-30ish male stood in front of those four, a camera in hand, taking snapshots of them. Off to one side, a teenager with a videocamera filmed the whole process.

As I walked into the gym, ‘Stir It Up,’ a Bob Marley and the Wailers tune from the early 70s, played loudly on the in-house sound system. A good tune, one that felt fine to hear. Excellent step-right-in music.

It’s now Sunday evening, coming up on 9:30, plenty of light still in the sky. Early, really.

Time to go out and enjoy the evening.

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