far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from entry of December 12]

That last bit about feeling at home here? It’s true, I do. Blah blah blah.

So. Spectacular weather, feeling like the end of April in Vermont rather than mid-December, me with my jacket off, pleased to be where I was. Jorge called a motorcycle buddy, left a message, got a call back, the friend saying he’d be along soon. Julian appeared, he and Jorge talked, me mostly listening. Little traffic passed, apart from buses, the road apparently ending a mile or two on. Locals strolled by, lots of elderly folks out enjoying the day, the relative quiet.

Across from us, a lane — beginning with cobblestones, devolving quickly to dirt — extended away from the road toward the hills, people wandered its length, their voices coming and going in the warm air.

Conversation at our table flowed on, Jorge and Julian dipping into politics from time to time. Jorge has strong opinions when it comes to that realm and seems to think his views are not only incontestible when it comes to Spain, but also to the States, having spent a few weeks stateside a while back. I tend not to share his opinions and simply listen, saying little, letting it all go by. Not a bad way to do the political thing — promotes more peace of mind on the personal level. (At least for me.) Feels much better than pulling on kneeboots and wading into the fray.

The sun slipped down toward the hills, shadows stretched across the ground. Alberto — Jorge’s motorcycle buddy — arrived, Julian took off. Alberto began agitating for a long, scenic ride. The air had begun losing its warm edge, I had the distinct feeling that a long ride would get real uncomfortable in no time flat, but stayed quiet, waiting to see how things went. The idea wound up going nowhere, I gave silent thanks then suggested a walk along the lane across from us instead. We paid up and headed off.

A river ran through bottomland off to the left side of the path, el Rio Manzanares, the same waterway that runs through Madrid’s west side, often appearing small and sad. Looking less sad here, and less like a river. More like a large creek, or a sizeable stand of marshland, with waterfowl hanging about. Turned out to be a nice walk, a fair number of people scattered around. (Also, a fair amount of trash. It does seem to be the case that without the drastically undervalued city cleaning crews, Madrid would quickly disappear beneath mountains of litter and rubbish.) The sun slid down behind the hills, the temperature immediately dropped, December reimposing itself.

Jorge and Alberto conferred, decided we’d take a short ride to La Quinta, a place unknown to me. We returned to the bikes, mounted up, it immediately became clear that winter had returned. Jorge had talked quite a bit during the course of the day about the desireability of living in this area. When we passed through the village of El Pardo, he spotted a FOR RENT (SE ALQUILA) sign on the window of a flat above the main drag, made a circle through the village center, stopped to copy down the phone number on the sign. The one time he came up to my flat, he checked it out with the same kind of eye, as a potential squat. If I were living out of a small bedroom in my parents’ place, I’d probably do the same thing.

There is, or was, a military presence in El Pardo, I saw the words TODO POR LA PATRIA (ALL FOR THE FATHERLAND) inscribed in large letters on more than one martial-looking building and entranceway. A holdover from decades of dictatorship. And though Franco is buried at El Valle de los CaĆ­dos (The Valley of the Fallen) — a grandiose memorial built by the forced labor of many thousands of prisoners belonging to the losing side of the civil war — his family, according to Alberto, is buried at El Pardo, not far from where we ate lunch, enjoyed peace and sunlight.

[To be continued]

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Storefront, Madrid (or, well, maybe not):

Madrid, te quiero.

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