far too much writing, far too many photos

I find myself feeling dangerously, er, something today. Mellow, maybe, though the word ‘mellow’ doesn’t really do the job. The morning and afternoon have been gray, relatively quiet, folks here in the barrio going about the Saturday shopping routine. Some carry bags or pull little two-wheeled carts containing groceries, others drift in and out of cafés, conversation trailing behind them in the cool air.

After yesterday evening’s class, a classmate and I drifted through the city center — streets busy with people doing the Friday-night-out thing — finding our way to over to Princesa, a zone just north of la Plaza de España that’s a concentration point of four different multi-screen theaters that all go in for international fare and adventurous Spanish films. Not the destination for a person seeking your standard Hollywood pump-’em-out product, and yet a place that packs the audiences in, there being a thriving market in Madrid for non-Hollywood type films.

We stuck to speaking Spanish, both of us being at more or less the same level with the language, high-intermediate. Both lapsing into English from time to time, both discovering similar limitations when it comes to understanding rapid-fire Spanish-speakers, or speakers who tend toward blurring their words together. But not doing badly overall, able to carry on life here without retreating to an English-speaking community. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of retreat — I’m just looking for something different.)

We took in a Spanish film called ‘In The City’ (’En La Ciudad‘), which turned out to be so good in a quiet, bittersweet way, so beautifully acted and shot, that I found myself swept up in much of it, completely absorbed. After which we wandered back out into late-night Madrid, the post-midnight streets and Metro still busy, the evening nowhere near being over for the locals.

After a night of not nearly enough sleep, got myself up, blew off going to the gym, sought out a pre-errands cup of espresso at one of my two usual local a.m. neighborhood joints, read a newspaper. Where I came across two articles that caught my attention:

First, all the poop about the flap at yesterday’s Davis Cup matches in Melbourne, Australia, where the anthem for the Second Spanish Republic (the pre-Franco epoch) was played instead of the current national anthem. Certain Spanish politicians affiliated with the right-of-center ruling party, el Partido Popular, have been spewing outrage ever since, while the Spanish tennis players apparently viewed it all with more like bemused amusement, accepting the seemingly heartfelt Australian apologies and letting it go. (Headline from the Australian newspaper The Age: Australia 1, Spain 1, Diplomacy 0.)

Second, an article from the back page of the hard-copy version of El Mundo concerning a 76-year-old Indian hermit/holy man who is claimed to have lived on nothing but air since he was eight years of age and who recently underwent an intensive 10-day examination by 100 medical personnel which produced no reason to call that claim into question. From the article: “[Prajlad] Jani was interned this past November 12th in Sterling Hospital, in the city of Ahmadabad, in the east of India, and observed 24 hours a day via television cameras and security guards. They gave the patient neither food nor water for ten days, then checked his state of health. This messenger of the gods, who underwent piercing long before Occidental adolescents made holes in their navels, underwent the testing with legs crossed and without using the bathroom, whose door in any case had been completely blocked off. ‘This man seems to have some strange ability to challenge hunger and thirst,’ asserted Urman Dhruv, Secretary of the Association of Doctors of Ahmadabad and one of the specialists that have studied the case.”

As I sat and read, slowly returning to something resembling functional consciousness, the café/cafetería remained quiet, only two or three customers besides myself sitting at the counter sipping espresso, maybe eating a croissant or sweet roll. The television played quietly in the background. The owner came in at one point, we exchanged a wave and a greeting. (”Muy buenos,” he said, a local version of ‘buenos días.’)

As I stood and paid up, one of two men who had just entered asked me a question in rapid, slurred Spanish, pointing at the stool I’d vacated. “Sí,” I responded, assuming he’d asked if the stool were free. He glanced at the counterman, expression a bit disconcerted, I realized the question had been more like Still using that?, meaning I’d just told him, Yeah, I am. (D’oh!) The counterman cleared it up, explaining that I’d finished. The guy commandeered the stool, I headed out the door, digesting one more instance of my limitations when it comes to understanding Spanish spoken by regular folks.

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