far too much writing, far too many photos

And after a long, protracted, even grueling trip: Madrid.

‘Long?’ you might ask. ‘Protracted?’ Well, yeah — first the bus ride from Montpelier down to Boston (hitting traffic in Boston, getting me to Logan Airport 45 minutes later than scheduled). Then the flight to Paris. (I’ll say one thing about Air France: good food.) Then a seven-hour(!!) wait for a flight here. Quite a bit longer than the planned layover, but this is sometimes how it works out.

‘Fine,’ you concede. ‘But grueling?’ ‘Mama,’ I answer, ‘and how.’ Thankfully, blessedly, it’s over. I can now write about it as an experience that’s come and gone, mercifully brief in the overall flow of time.

Some high points:

Monday morning, Chaz DeGaulle Airport. Every check-in window in sight is open at the crack of dawn if not earlier, tending to hordes of travelers. Except the two counter spots for Iberia, the major Spanish airline. They don’t open until a leisurely 9:30 or so, forcing many dismayed luggage-lugging people to orbit the area in confused fashion, not understanding Iberia’s vacant, lifeless counters given that working hours were well underway for the rest of the airline world. (So Spanish, this.)

Iberia check-in finally opens, I sidle up to the window where it is discovered that my travel agent back in Montpelier, Vermont booked both my flights — from Boston to Paris on Sunday the 16th; from Paris to Madrid on Monday the 17th — for the 16th. I am sent to a neaby on-site ticketing office, where a lovely, good-natured Frenchwoman takes charge, making sure I’m on the flight I’d thought I was on to begin with.

That seat turns out to be on a flight that is maybe half full. I get the window spot (over the wing, no view — D’OH!) in the only fully occupied three-seat row — something I didn’t cotton to until it was I was well ensconsed and the plane was about to take off. My row-mates: a maxi-sized 60-something Spanish woman and her alarmingly decrepit 92-year-old mother, mom belted into the aisle seat. The mother unable to walk, barely able to hold her head up. They’re already seated when I get there, the mother having been brought in by wheelchair earlier, so that me getting to my seat necessitates a major deal, the mother needing to be lifted up, moved around, teetering about on barely functional legs, grabbing at the seat in front of her, then not letting go, eveyone nervous/stressed, other passengers trying to get to their seats, unhappy and making noise about having to wait for our little scene to clear itself up.

During the flight, the daughter — one of the most nervous passengers I have ever found myself planted next to (sighing loudly, putting her food tray down apparently just so she can tap all the fingers of both hands on it (loudly, in long, distracted displays of edginess), craning her neck to peer around me out the window, dropping things to the floor that she was then unable to reach due to physical heft preventing her from bending over sufficiently, jumping to support her mother and push her gently back against the seat (the mother having been slowly falling forward as far as the seat belt would allow), turning at one point to put the fingers of a hand against her mother’s forehead and gently push her head back against the seat).

Though 92, the mother has decent vision and demonstrates it, aloud, reading first from the big what-to-do-in-an-emergency instruction card (’NEVER INFLATE YOUR LIFE VEST *IN* THE PLANE!’), then from the airline’s information magazine (’DESTINATIONS IN EUROPE….’). Speaking slowly, clearly, loudly, for far too long.

As the plane touched down in Madrid, it swayed back and forth a bit from side to side, prompting loud, alarmed cries of “AY!” from mom. “AY! AY AY AY!”

This life of ours: just a never-ending cavalcade of sheer entertainment.

A t-shirt seen on a zoftig, college-aged female traveler during the post-flight wait at the baggage-claim carousel: FUCK FASHION! (The second letter in ‘FASHION’ being the symbol for anarchy, a slashing A in a circle.)

And I eventually stepped out of the terminal into mid-afternoon Madrid, autumn sun coming down in abundance, temperature nicely user-friendly (57, 58 degrees, like that). A bus carted me into the city center, streets busy with traffic, sidewalks active with people. City life going on all around.

A lot of the hours since then have been spent getting my existence here back on its feet after five months away. The only major fly in the ointment so far: the dock for my digital camera has not yet wanted to work, despite me picking up a power transformer and plug adapter. Meaning no photos have been taken/downloaded to this point. Until I can supply my own pix, I will resort to ones taken by a Spanish friend now attending Stanford University in northern Cal (┬íHola Marta!). The image at the top of the page — an amazing merry-go-found (’tiovivo’ en espanol) — was taken during an outing to Segovia, northwest of Madrid. [Note: that photo has now been replaced -- 11/20.]

More another time.


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