far too much writing, far too many photos

Autumn returned to Madrid overnight, edging aside yesterday’s return to summer. Bright November sunshine, high swirls of cirrus clouds drifting across a blue, blue sky. In fact, weird as it sounds, something about the look of the day reminds me of the light in Vermont during the month of February. Same angle of the sun (equinox seven weeks away); the walls of this flat are white stucco, the way the sunlight strikes them creates something like the intense light of sun on snow.

Last night’s cool air brought down sumac leaves in the vacant lot across the way, the trees beginning to appear appropriately skeletal after a chilly Halloween evening. A short time ago a crew of three street cleaners went slowly by, sweeping up fallen leaves, dumping them into wheeled barrels.

I’m in the living room of my piso. No music on, no TV going — just the ambient sounds of the flat and the world outside. From time to time the windows produce a creaking sound as the sun heats up the building. An occasional murmur of voices from down in the street comes and goes, mingled with the occasional sound of a car’s passing. From the kitchen, down the hallway, I can hear the humming of the refrigerator and the water heater.

And there’s an item made differently from its counterpart in the States: the water heater. Here they don’t use storage tanks, or at least the heater in this piso doesn’t. My landlord mentioned that the Spaniards as a whole tend not to use units that hold water and heat it periodically to maintain temperature. Instead, they use units like the one in my kitchen — when the tap is turned on, water passes through the unit, gas burners heat the liquid as it passes. When the tap gets turned off, the burners shut down. During warm weather, one flips a switch so that the machine will only produce hot running water. During the cold weather, flipping that switch in the opposite direction initiates heat. A primitive thermostat on the unit gets fiddled with until you find the level of comfort you want in the living space. From that point on, it pumps hot water into the radiators when needed.

For some reason, when the switch is turned to cold weather function, the unit produces a humming sound, whether actively heating or not. As if humming to itself while it waits for the piso to cool down.

I can hear that sound drifting down the hallway. Once in a while I hear the sound of water flowing or a toilet flushing from another flat in the building.

Now and then my laptop makes a short, soft chattering sound to itself. My fingers tap on its keys as I write.

And that’s it. The sounds come and go, solo or in combination. Writing them down like this, it sounds like a fair amount of noise. In reality, it’s quiet, tranquil.


Has anyone else noticed the uncanny resemblance between Penelope Cruz and Joe Perry of Aerosmith? Should something about that make us nervous?

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