far too much writing, far too many photos

Well. Cambridge, Massachusetts. A beautiful, blustery November afternoon, wind blowing, bringing down leaves. And there are still leaves, there’s still color to be seen. When the plane made its final approach to Boston on Monday afternoon, after a long mother of a flight across the Atlantic, it came straight up the South Shore, the land below showing reds, oranges, yellows — some of it past peak, becoming November’s normal browns and faded greens, but a fair amount still bright and alive. The last exuberant display before winter.

Being back’s been interesting, for the most part in good ways. I’m pretty much ignoring the political side of things — a small part of life, really — leaving piles of other stuff to absorb time and attention. Good stuff, by and large. Friends, autumn, daily life in Cambridge, the process of packing up an apartment and all the reflection that comes with that. TV, way better here than in Madrid. (Is there dreck? And how. But the decent programming is generally leagues ahead of Spanish programming.) Plus I get to plug back into the Simpsons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in English. A drastic improvement over the dubbed Spanish versions, in my humble, ignorant opinion.

The flight: long, surprisingly smooth. The only hiccup: the little Hitler working for American Airlines who grilled me before I checked in. I’m living a fairly unconventional life right now, and looking a bit shaggy on top of that. (Every haircut I’ve gotten in Madrid has been less than wonderful, the most recent an out-and-out disaster. That was a few months back, I’ve simply put off dealing with the increasing topside abundance till getting back here.) He didn’t know what to make of me or some of my answers to his questions. And that was fine — he’s simply doing his job, he didn’t seem hostile in a personal way. At least until he took a good look at my passport. My original had disappeared about five weeks ago — I literally have no idea when or how it vanished. Theft? Loss? Don’t know. I went to the American Embassy where they confounded all stereotypes about U.S. government bureaucracy with kindness, sympathy and extreme efficiency, replacing the passport in two hours. But the new passport was blank, all the accumulated international stamps gone — something Torquemada apparently couldn’t deal with. From there, the grilling intensified, stretching on and on. And, maybe because the Q&A went on so long, I was immediately grabbed for a random luggage search. That agent pulled on latex gloves in a way that made me wonder just how thorough a search I was in for. He turned out to be polite, well-mannered, fast, for which I gave thanks.

Post-gauntlet, everything went smoothly. The flight was maybe 40% full, the onboard crew in great spirits. The customs process in Boston proved to be more rigorous than in the past, but the agents — all of them — did their damndest to be considerate and courteous while getting the job done.

And I abruptly found myself in Boston, then Cambridge. Cold, cloudy, a bit misty, leaves on the ground. Very familiar, surprisingly pleasing

If you’ve read many of this journal’s overabundant posts, you know I’ve missed fall. Autumn in Madrid is fine, but the northeastern U.S. version is more intense, more dramatic. Deeper, more extreme, packed with color. Part of it is simply being further north than the Spanish capital, part of it is the difference in the terrain/vegetation. New England is autumn country in the way I think of autumn.

Out back of my apartment here, off the small porch that juts out from the building, stands a line of old maples. Old and big. Five, maybe six stories in height. Come autumn, they turn a shade of yellow that is practically luminescent, and they waited for me before they started letting go. In the afternoon, sunlight slanting through them produces a brilliant, unearthly kind of brightness and color. The light and shadows are in constant movement, the cold breeze gets the leaves sounding strangely like surf at the beach. Other maples around here turn brilliant reds, when the breeze gets going leaves of all these colors fill the air.

With all that going on outside, I’ve been inside, working away at packing. My question: how the hell do we accumulate so much shit? Is it innate or is it the trained behavior of a consumer society? Or is it part of nature’s aspect, something that develops over time, slow and insidious, the way hangers breed and multipy in closets? (And if so, do socks disappear during the washing process as part of nature’s attempt at balance?)

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