far too much writing, far too many photos

The sudden reappearance of people (and resulting reanimation of my social life) continues. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were coming out of the woodwork in celebration of me leaving. Though in their defense, I notice they all seem to be assuming I’ll be back and assume expressions of polite skepticism when I tell them I have no freakin’ idea what the hell I’ll be doing with myself come January or February.

Saturday morning: my cellphone rang, the person on the other end turned out to be Jorge, suggesting a walk through the city center. Of course, said I, and rendezvoused with Himself shortly thereafter, following him through crowded streets awash with strong December sunlight. He was in motoring mode, striding along at a brisk enough pace that I had concentrate to stay with him while holding up my end of the conversation (in Castellano) and moving through groups of slower-moving pedestrians without shouldering them off the narrow sidewalks into oncoming traffic.

We zipped through Chueca, through Sol, through la Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets beyond, finally stopping at a bookstore I’d never been into, Desnivel, a great little shop with an extensive collection of books oriented around travel and outdoor activities.

Jorge did research for a possible trip to the Alps in January, I snooped around, entertaining myself until we stepped back outside into a spectacular afternoon, warm enough that jackets could be left open. Warm enough that Jorge suggested a motorcycle ride out of the city center, an idea I was all over like a cheap suit.

A fast walk back through the city center, through the crowds out enjoying the long weekend, to the flat belonging to Jorge’s parents (where Himself is currently in residence) to pick up riding gear — fleece, insulated gloves, helmets. Then back out to a local parking garage to retrieve J.’s ride. After which I found myself sitting behind Jorge, zipping through local streets, the bike heading north and out of the center.

It had been years since I’d been on a motorcycle. And I’d never, up until Saturday, ridden as a passenger. Felt pretty weird to have someone right in front of me, someone else’s helmet blocking the view. Kind of like being seated right behind a pillar at a concert or sporting event, having to peer around it any time I wanted to see what was going on.

Jorge bought the bike — a Harley, the sound of its exhaust loud and snotty, like a machine-gun with a nasty, insistent flatulence problem — secondhand, the seats had apparently been modified. Whoever did the work left the passenger seat at a slight downward incline, so that every time Jorge hit the brake I found myself jerked forward, my adorable butt sliding alarmingly along the leather, our helmets clacking together. On top of that, the two sidebags were mounted close enough to the passenger footpegs that my feet couldn’t get the kind of purchase that would hold me firmly in place.

By the time I’d figured out how to maintain my spot behind the driver without every bump in the road turning my perch into an ejection seat, we’d left local streets for a six-lane highway, Jorge hitting the accelerator, passing other traffic with ease, scenery flying by in a blur of greenery and sunlight. The road eventually narrowed, traffic diminished, the area transitioning from urban to suburban to something between ‘burbs and country, the Sierra rearing up to the north, peaks covered with snow.

We’d entered the area of El Pardo by then, Jorge steered the bike off the two-lane into a service road that ran along the front of a housing development — the one-story dwellings joined town-house style — and into a parking space. We hopped off, he headed to a nearby front door to ring the bell, I stood unsuccessfully trying to convince the clasp for my helmet’s neck-strap to come apart.

No one answered the doorbell. An elderly woman a couple of houses down stood at her door watching us, Jorge asked her if the person he was looking for still lived there. She nodded, quickly retiring from view. Jorge rang the bell again, me still struggling with my helmet, feeling sillier with every passing second.

The door suddenly opened, a guy with a long, narrow face appeared — Jorge’s friend, Julian, looking like a cross between John Kerry and Jim Nabors. They began blabbing, me still working away at the helmet clasp, finally interrupting them to ask Jorge for help, feeling like his incompetent, comic-relief sidekick. He got it easily apart, I ripped the helmet off, shook hands with Julian, then began doing and undoing the helmet clasp, practicing so that the next time I put the bugger on I wouldn’t become Gabby Hayes to Jorge’s Roy Rogers.

They chatted, Jorge trying to convince Julian to join us for something to eat at a joint down the road, Julian seemed reluctant, slowly gave way, finally promised to put in an appearance a little later. Maybe. If he could. Jorge and I mounted up, headed down the service road to the restaurant. Parked, sat ourselves down at an outside table — awash in sunlight, with a view of fields across the road stretching off toward hills. Ordered food, talked, soaked up a beautiful afternoon. With nothing on the agenda but soaking up a beautiful afternoon.

The waiter brought two platters of excellent fare, and I realized all over again how well Spanish food suits me. A large, robust salad, a tortilla de patatas, decent bread, something to drink. Basic, satisfying, leaving me happier, more content than I could describe without boring you to desperate tears. In many ways, the trappings of life here fit me like a glove, it’s as simple as that. I feel at home.

[continued in entry of December 14]


This evening, along Gran Vía (with ghostly passerby):

Madrid, te quiero.

One Response to “Field trip, part I”

  1. giuli

    nicely done. Love the details.

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