Las salinas: where the flamingos live. It smells sulphuric and, in some parts, looks like snow. I felt at peace here. I also wished for an ancient man to saunter out of the abandoned saltworks — to no avail.
El Mar Menor: “Large pond.” “Small sea.” “Lagoon.” At its deepest, it doesn’t surpass seven meters. It’s warm, concerningly so, like bath water, and determined to remain beautiful despite the buckets of sunscreen floating through her.
Playa Paraíso: Equal parts Spaniard & Brit and so humid that you will be wet whether you are in or outside of the water.
In few words: it is the city I never knew I needed.
In more: This month is hands down Spain’s best kept secret and these are the reasons why:
There are actually seats on the metro. That means that you can easily escape both unsavory body odors and screaming infants.
Grocery shopping is no longer a fight against stressed-out parents, guiris, and self-righteous abuelos*. It is a luxurious experience, in which one can ponder lemons and compare pastas without being pushed. *I love my elders, but they cut in line all the time.
Temperatures are way more comfortable than they were in July. Think: going from suffocating in Satan’s armpit, to dancing nude on the tippy-top of Jesus’ index finger.
Lavapies and La Latina have street parties. That means that you may see any combination of the following: full-on suckling pigs roasting next to the post-office, men dressed like lady chulapas and dancing chotis, a gypsy selling melons from a wheelbarrow with the following invitation: “wow, I have huge melons here,” and more.
The sunsets are sexy as fuck. Sunrises, though? No idea. Never seen one.
People seem calmer and more open. As in city-wide blackouts or massive snowstorms, there is a sense of implicit community between those who have stayed behind. –> 6.5. On the flipside, though, some people have just gone completely mad. Yesterday the supermarket security guy was frisking a man and, upon pulling a bottle of rosé out of his pants, began a very intense interrogation which consisted of just one question: “you’re hungry for wine, are you? hungry for WINE?” I dont’ know if this is a positive thing, but you won’t want for people-watching at any time in Madrid.
I was sent to the outskirts on an errand on Friday, where I was gawked at by a large man in a straw hat (twice), witnessed one fight, observed three oldies gossiping in front of neighborhood graffiti, and then reluctantly returned to posh-ville.
Suspicion re-affirmed: I’m not made for the office life, and you probably aren’t either.
Last week I woke up to old news that the arctic is ON FIRE. Since my most recent birthday, I’ve fallen deep into existential anxiety, so that tidbit really got me worried: about myself, my family, my friends, my friends’ children, and the children that my friends or family might someday have.
To avoid exploring that (for now), here’s a brief weather report from Madrid:
In July, the words most commonly used to describe the city were “hellish”, “insufferable”, “miserable”, “disgusting”, “dangerous”, and “unbearable.” Common folklore says that hell is located below our feet; one must descend into its depths. Hell for many, however, is higher up: a fifth floor apartment atop a hill in a mid-July heatwave, summer-camp classrooms and convenience stores that “smell like humanity.” Siberia turning to ash.
August is just a day away, and things are finally cooling down here-but who knows for how long? I am looking forward to the month, hoping the mass vacation exodus isn’t just a myth, and that I’ll get to enjoy empty buses and quiet terrazas.
I’m also dedicating this month to treating my body with some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I want to be physically prepared for the September uncertainty that awaits me (more on that l8r), and also a middle-aged muscle-man recently told me that it’s now or never. I also want to think about things other than myself, such as the earth.
This is what I’ve come up with so far:
Stop using plastic straws. Quit your Starbucks habit.
Set up an organized & sustainable recyling system at home. Trulymake a space for it in both your home and your heart.
Buy local (I am failing so hard at this one).
Share bath-water… and your own tips, if you have any!
I started taking things for granted, spending more time away, forgetting to open my eyes.
I should have written you nine months ago.
Out West, I worked with an Uruguayan. He was mostly silent during work hours, though sometimes he would recommend a film or crack a joke. When he’d had enough, he would remove his gloves, stash his scissors, put on a jacket, and walk out to the deck to watch the fog roll in. Usually, we followed. When he did speak, it was captivating. His rants against the Parisians (there is such a thing as “too polite”) and speeches on the benefits of ginger (it’s an aphrodisiac) could have filled novelas. When we spent a night at his one-bedroom city sanctuary, he gestured towards a loft bed: “That’s where Di and I used to sleep- in the beginning, of course, when love meant we didn’t need space.”
This year, the bed no longer fit the both of us.
I needed silence and to catch my breath. Your energy, the one I had dreamt about, began to exhaust me and I started to worry that you and I were terribly mismatched. You shouted and murmured all day long; I sought balance but conformed, always with one foot in and one foot out the door. My tall chiquiño suffered the same way: he couldn’t recall which potted plant it was that had almost killed the doorman, nor when. He was chatting away about it, but I was late.
For the past nineteen-some months, I have run through and away from you. I can hardly recall the fall or the winter. It seems just yesterday that we were beginning again, the living-room empty, two bright orange folding chairs holding a place for the even uglier second-hand sofa I was about to buy. Now, we know each other well and not at all. Familiarity breeds discontent, if one is not careful. I stopped going underground until last week. Unsurprisingly, you were full of the same characters–they were just sweatier. The crazy woman who looks posh was still crazy, still looking posh, and still making animated faces at her Instagram feed from La Latina to who-knows-where. The modern-day-Goya-portrait-in-a-suit was still rotating his dress-pants from blue, to black, to purple, and back again. All of us, every morning, were still stupidly racing to be the first on the escalator, eager to ease back into our office chairs, or at least avoid a dressing-down.
My claim is that I no longer have the time to love or enjoy you. As I dig moats into the sand on a Northwestern Nudist Beach, however, the thought of returning to you still feels inmany ways like going home. We’ll change some stuff. I’ll work less, or not at all. You’ll be as open as ever. The train will feel like it’s going somewhere again.
I know we can work on this, Madrid. Happy belated anniversary ♥