far too much writing, far too many photos

Seen this morning along one of the barrio’s quiet, nearly empty sidewalks: a neatly-dressed 30-something making his way along in slow, deliberate fashion, stopping at each grate or metal utility cover to plant both feet solidly in the center, pause, then move in a direct line toward the next grate or utility cover up the sidewalk.

Seen this afternoon in the gym locker room: a slight individual of medium height changing clothes, the whole time moving with eye-catching, overdone, slightly unsure movements, the kind a happy drunk might make. A bit grandiose, a touch exaggerated — impossible not to note. The product, I suspect, of something physiological, not alcohol-related.

Another moment in the gym: as I entered and made my way across the main exercise room, ready to get the suffering underway, I walked through a cloud of someone’s morning breath that just about stopped me in my tracks. It could have, in the words of the immortal George Carlin, knocked a buzzard off a shitwagon.

Man.

One of the aspects of the holidays here that I enjoy: the sense of quiet that descends over the city. Not that there’s no activity, just that it’s at a different level — people are away, most businesses are closed.

One of the aspects of the holidays here that I enjoy a bit less: the tossing of cherry bombs/ashcans (or the local equivalents) at any time of the day or night.

New Year’s Eve hoo-ha in the city center drew most activity-seekers off in that direction, leaving the barrio surprisingly sedate. Until about 11:45, that is, when the explosives began — major concussive devices, not cute, inoffensive firecrackers. For an hour or two, they punctuated the quiet, after which groups of partyers drifted through the neighborhood until sunrise. When I pulled myself out of bed late in the morning and stumbled to the single a.m. watering hole open for New Year’s morning business, the place was packed and noisy, some doing the traditional hot chocolate and churros finish to the all-night New Year’s Eve revels, others eating breakfast, others drinking cafĂ© or something alcoholic. I was one of the few people not looking like I’d dragged my adorable butt around the city streets throughout the wee hours.

After that, occasional window-rattling explosives went off during the rest of the day. And last night, picking up as midnight approached.

There’s a lot that I love and appreciate about this neighborhood — the energy, the activity, the number of places to go, the quantity and variety of stores, the wonderful mix of people. I may be tiring of the nighttime noise, though, something I remember feeling last spring when the temperature rose enough to justify leaving windows open at night. The time may be coming to move on — something I find myself feeling recently on a macro level. Changes may be on the way.

Madrid, te quiero.

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