far too much writing, far too many photos

Written Friday, 12/15:

On this, the last day I have to co-exist with the construction happening in this building, the work crews showed up at the crack of dawn ready to incite chaos and got down to the business of inciting it with focused intent, and then some. Mama. There really is nothing like waking up to a symphony of hammering, shouting, cement being made, chainsaws in mid-roar. Workers streaming in and out of the door across the hall carrying sacks of building materials, clouds of dust billowing out into the hallway.

When it seemed like the parade of slave labor had stopped, I went over and asked about closing the door. The foreman didn’t want to hear about it, I remained politely persistent, he finally slammed the door shut. I returned to my hidey-hole, a few minutes later the door was open again, the noise level reaching hair-raising levels, I went over and closed it myself. And a few minutes later? Open again. I surrendered, went out to mail a package. Sat down in a cafĂ© for an infusion of caffeine. Sipped, stared out the window, breathed. Gave myself the gift of relative tranquility.

Out on the street, self-talkers seemed to be everywhere, so many of them, their everywhereness so gracefully choreographed that it felt like I’d stepped into an indie film about neurotics in business suits taking over the barrio. Until I realized most of them were talking into cellphones, wearing headsets consisting of almost nothing, virtually invisible until they were scrutinized closely.

Poster-pasters had been hard at work around the neighborhood, ads for Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve) bashes were showing up on mailboxes, lampposts, buildings — the first crop of the season. I tend not to care a whole lot about the New Year’s Eve thing, it feeling like an arbitrary, meaningless demarcation, mainly an excuse for big bunches of people to carry on in strange fashion. Which here means eating twelve grapes in the old year’s last twelve seconds to assure good luck in the coming year. I may not especially be into the change of year routine, but it’s fun to watch the rest of the local world do their version of it.

I won’t be here for that this year. I won’t be here to watch the city slowly, gracefully close down on Christmas Eve. I won’t be here for the quiet of Christmas Day and the outflow of people of on Christmas evening, families and couples out walking, restaurants and neighborhood joints alive with sound and energy. I won’t be here for the goofy euphoria of New Year’s Eve. I’ve been doing my best not to think about all that, and as Monday draws near it’s gotten easier and easier to avoid thinking about — there are things to do and last minute connecting with friends. Good distractions, all of that. And there are times when distraction is a fine, wholesome thing to do for oneself. This is one of them.


As the trip stateside has loomed closer, time has begun accelerating in a truly impressive way. Whipping by, in a way that would leave me with a major crick in my neck if I tried to keep track of it flashing past.

We’re into the year’s shortest calendar entries, and the light here has been amazing these last couple of days, mist hanging in the morning air in the way it did the first time I came to Madrid. Endowing everything with a kind of look that makes everything lovely, gets me taking far too many photos.

La Calle de Fuencarral, in front of Tribunal:

Given that I have no idea what the hell I’m going to be doing with myself from here on in, this packing up is the genuine article, not just throwing a bunch of stuff into a couple of bags and running to the airport. Everything’s getting packed up. (Thank god my existence here is fairly austere.) A friend who just bought himself a flat — no mean feat, given the supersonic speed at which prices have been inflating here — took custody of the TV, DVD player, hypercomfy Ikea bentwood armchairs, and other assorted flotsam. Food went to my upstairs neighbor. Everything else is going into boxes and into the closet in my bedroom where it will wait until I either return and unpack or return to gather up the last of what will come with me to wherever the hell it is I’m going to wind up.

It’s a weird existence, this life of mine.

I’ll be in Vermont soon — tomorrow night soon — where a white Christmas seems to be on deck. From there, I can’t say. Time will tell.

I head to the airport early in the morning. Back online sometime Tuesday.


In the barrio of Chueca, Madrid:

Madrid, te quiero.

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