far too much writing, far too many photos

So the Spanish holiday season officially came to an end last Thursday. Which meant the commencement on Friday morning of the January sales season — a several-week period that reminds me of a more relaxed, less frenzied version of the stateside Christmas shopping season, beginning as it does with people lining up outside stores Friday a.m. to get the entertainment underway. (At the normal opening hour, as far as I know, not at bizarre, ungodly times.) When I stepped out into the cold midmorning on Friday, couples were already about, strolling arm in arm, carrying bags of purchases. Friday evening’s news programs featured footage of low-key shopping mania, the newscasters smiling as they commented on it all.

The atmosphere here in the barrio has remained relaxed, the nighttime revels having quieted since New Year’s Eve. Daytime activity has remained low-key, even today, despite the recommencement of normal life, almost as if the long string of beautiful days the city’s been enjoying has produced a mellowing in the energy level. At times, a look at a European weather map reminds me of the generally benign character of Madrid’s climate, compared with, say, London, a spot I otherwise appreciate the bejesus out of. It’s a world-class place, a concentration point of many good things, but the raw, damp cold my little bod found itself walking around in a few weeks back is not my current idea of optimum conditions.

Seen in raw, damp, cold London, a few weeks back:
(in descending order: Mayfair, National Portrait Gallery, Covent Garden)

In keeping with the general atmosphere hereabouts, my day-to-day existence has remained low-key, me in an ongoing state of reflection about this life of mine, where it is and the directions I’d like it to take. My activities and wanderings have remained minimal (though I will confess to eating well, something I’m happy to say has not affected my normal fetching svelteness in any visible way), likewise contact with other folks, apart from some email and the occasional telephone hilarity.

A downside to all that has been my radar for interesting happenings going more or less inactive, resulting in missing at least one event I’d like to have checked out, the local appearance by Els Joglars, a Catalán theater company of some renown, with a 40+ year history of high-level, provocative work — work that put them in the middle of the Spain’s free-speech movement during the years of the transition (post-Franco, from 1976 to 1981) when the Spanish military decided it didn’t care for their social commentary and tossed first one of the group’s founding members, then the rest of the company into the jug. (Yes, I enjoy the occasional run-on sentence. What’s it to you?)

A friend called me last week to mention that this weekend was the wind-up of Els Joglars’ current Madrid stay. When I made the trip to the box office on Saturday, the only remaining seats had obstructed views, not my general idea of a great theatrical experience. I passed on the show, my friend and his sweetie went, we hooked up post-performance. When I realized all over again that I need to be speaking loads more Spanish if I want to some day speak anything approximating truly decent Spanish. He’s American, and like most I’ve run into here, he defaults immediately to English as soon as we start talking. I spend most days in front of my ‘puter, thinking/writing almost entirely in English — what I look for when I’m done with that is Spanish and lots of it. I stay away from books or magazines in English, I tend not to listen to music with English lyrics, unless Radio 3 is playing something too good to shut off. I mentioned this to him during our last phone call, he immediately switched to Castellano. What a mensch.

With this morning’s return to alleged normalcy, I found myself seized by the impulse to get some errands done, an impulse that took me a couple of blocks from here, to a tailor shop where I inquired about the possibility of finally getting the zipper fixed on my old leather jacket, a beloved piece of apparel that’s been zipless since the beginning of November (see entry for November 5). The shop turned out to be a high-end affair, so high end that the idea of doing the kind of menial work I was looking to have done nearly had them chortling out loud. In a show of kindness to me, a furriner, they managed to contain the hilarity, telling me in the nicest possible way to get lost.

A short walk took me by a dry-cleaning shop that appeared to offer repair work, and on stepping inside I found I’d struck gold. Information of all kinds got exchanged, money changed hands, everything went smoothly until it came to giving them my last name, a long, hyphenated bugger that seems to confound just about everyone outside the U.K. In this case, my attempt to put it across and their attempt to absorb it/enter it into their computer produced several minutes of comedy, which had us falling about, leaving everyone smiling. (And why shouldn’t they smile? I paid in advance for the new zipper.)

The móvil I’ve had is nearly prehistoric by current standards, donated to me close to three years ago by a fellow Spanish student, a guy from Texas returning to the States. Way behind current technology, but reliable, putting in good service. Until I returned to Madrid in November, that is, and found it had gone downhill during my months away. Gotten sad, lonely, given up the will to live, its battery reluctant to hold a charge. Don’t ask me why, but I had a feeling a trip might do it good, and brought it along during my December jaunt to the U.K. — where it revived, acting like a young, happy phone during the entire trip.

However. Once returned to Madrid, it sank back into ennui, finally giving up the ghost for real, leaving me mulling over the question of whether I really need another one or not. Apparently I do, ’cause I found myself walking into a store on Barquillo, blabbing with the 20-something guy behind the counter. He wanted to sell me a high-end number, packed with bells and whistles. I went for a low-end model, needing nothing more than the ability to make calls, send textmessages. A teeny-tiny thing, fitting easily into the palm of my hand — miniature compared with the móvil I’ve had until now. I handed over a deposit, the guy made out an order form. When my new phone arrives they’ll ring me (on my fixed phone, a disappearing breed here in Spain), I’ll go fork over more €€€€ and re-join Spanish society again. (Unwritten law: one must have a móvil to be a real person.)

Me: soon to be a real person. And about time.

Madrid, te quiero.

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