Archive for December, 2008

I’d heard Madrid was a really late-night city but I hadn’t had too much personal experience with the late hours here until last night. The restaurant across the street is gonna seriously suck come summer, if I’m still here. Various groups of people left its interior and hung around its environs, talking very loudly, from 2:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. when I finally managed to pass out. My sleeplessness couldn’t be completely put down to them, though, The boyfriend gets here today and I’m super excited to see him. I think that was the main problem last night. At least I had bought a book the other day so I could while away the time with that. I’d needed something to read and books are expensive here, so I went for the biggest one I could find, regardless of whether I’ve read it before or not. I haven’t read it in years, so the details are all new to me.

I finally woke up around 10:45 a.m. and turned on the computer to see that the boyfriend’s flight has been delayed, then delayed again and he won’t even leave London until 12:30 p.m. Thank god it’s a super short flight, only about 2 1/2 hours. At least I have time to further neaten the apartment now. On that note, I had another stick of butter but I can’t seem to find it. Where does butter go when your roommate barely eats at home? Oh, there it is, in the butter/cheese drawer. Silly American, putting the butter where it’s supposed to go.

The problem with the boyfriend getting here so late, aside from the poor guy having to figure out how to fritter away 3 hours in the airport, is that we were to go pick up a much smaller desk from a guy. We need this because the room I’m in is so small that fitting two twin sized beds in it is going to be a bit like playing Tetris with the giant desk that’s currently taking up about 1/3 of the space. Back to the drawing board? Maybe I can move it myself. Ha, that’s a joke. Unless I can take it apart without materially weakening it. Whatever happens, we’ll figure it out. Problem solving is a specialty of mine.

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Turrón, eres mi corazon.

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1) Sometime after 1:45 a.m. I am awakened by someone yelling at their child that when they call them they should listen. Other voices ensue.

2) Sometime after that I am awakened by people talking loudly, possibly singing. I go out onto the balcony to complain at them.

3) At 7:45 a.m. the beer delivery guy for the restaurant across the street starts slamming doors and dragging crates of beer across the steel floor of his steel delivery truck. Steely noises ensue. I am incensed beyond insensate.

This is the second time this week my sleep has been disturbed by jerks and their loud-ass Castellano voices. My Spanish roommate has urged me to throw buckets of wash water on any idiot rude enough to speak at full volume during the wee hours of the night. We are on the fourth floor. It sounds as if we are on the first. I cannot imagine living on the first. I am gleeful at the thought of the next jerk who interrupts my sleep at an unreasonable hour (occasionally I take 6 hour walks and drop dead asleep by 9 p.m. I cannot in good conscience complain if it is before midnight on a weekend when I don’t have work).

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There has been a lot of stop-and-start in my time here in Madrid. I move forward a step with finding things but two steps back when I get there because Madrileños speak so quickly, even when it’s apparent that I’m not fluent, that I’m having a hard time understand anything people say. Last week I was walking around again, as that’s about all I can do here right now, and decided that I was cold and wanted to stop into one of the millions of cervecerías in town for a beer. Cañas are teeny little beers for around €2, depending on the bar, and are the most common form of beer you’ll get here. After writing for a little bit in a tiny, smoke-filled room, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. He offered to show me another bar, serving proper pints of English beer. As I wanted to practice my Spanish more than the most common transactions allow, I agreed to accompany him. It was pretty funny, I’d be rolling along, understanding 90% of what he said, then came a fog where not a single word he said made it through. After about an hour of this, I’d had enough, and when he began to sound a little amorous, I’d really had enough so I took my leave and went back to the apartment.

Sunday I went to the Museo Bellas Artes and had a lovely immersion into Spanish art from Zurbarán through modern artists like José María Labrador. Two of his paintings in particular caught my eye, small portraits of his wife and his most regular model, done in a sublime style influenced by Renaissance art. Spain seems to have a tradition of extremely young, extremely talented artists. It was here that I was reminded of the exhibition from a few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet/Velázquez, tracing the French appreciation of Spanish art via artists like Zurbarán, Velázquez and Ribera through the Impressionist movement in France and how it affected artists like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas and their American expatriot contemporary, John Singer Sargent. One painting in particular, at Bellas Artes, by Juan Baptista Martínez del Mayo very clearly owes a debt to Velázquez and influenced Singer Sargent. Unfortunately, just as I got to the Goyas, I was asked to leave for the day. Next time, at only €3 it is one of the cheaper museums in Madrid.

One of my very best discoveries has been at the local grocery store, €.59 40s of beer. Steinberg Clásica, tastes just fine.

Last night around 8 p.m. I went out for a walk, I’d only left the apartment once all day, and that was to get groceries. I ambled north to the Paseo de la Castellana, which becomes the Paseo del Prado further south. This wide, tree-lined avenue was pretty, but a little boring and I remembered that calle Orense was somewhere nearby and decided to turn in its direction to suss out the location of a restaurant I’d been led towards as a possible source of employment.

Not being dressed in my finest, nor in anything even resembling stylish, I decided to pass it by instead of investigating the situation any closer, even at this early hour. Having found it, on I went toward c/ Bravo Murillo and known amounts of cervecerías, the better to attend to my bladder, lately begun to request attention. The area I found myself in seemed populated mostly by high rises and hotels, somewhat desolate, slightly residential.

A few winding turns later, through residential blocks a strange mixture of older and newer architecture (and by newer I mean at least 40 years old), I found myself where Avenida General Perón becomes c/Avila, conflicting impulses of shyness and the need to pee forcing me first to walk past the pub on the corner and then to retrace my steps and to go inside. Passing through the low doorway, I found myself in a small pub lined with leather and hammered nail banquettes, many people belly up to the long bar. It housed two gaming machines and the ubiquitous to Spain cigarette machine that Americans likely no longer encounter. I placed myself in front of the bartender and asked for the “carta de vinos”, what I had been led to believe was the correct request for the wine list and was met with confusion on the part of the bartender and mild derision from the “lady of a certain age” to my right. When asked if I wanted tinto, blanco o rosa, I concurred tinto and when he brought back one glass and a single bottle of red, I understood. I guess asking for jerez (sherry) might have gone over better there. My chilled red cost only €2.70.

Due to the early hour, I could barely smell the smoke in the air and retired to one of the banquettes with my glass. This is not an avant garde clientele like at the cafe I had hoped to visit tonight. But living so far north of the center, and not being able to figure out what’s going on with the Metro, when each particular station closes and when service stops completely for the night, I stuck around my apartment – I did not relish the thought of a 2 1/2 hour walk home at night.

I finished my wine, wended my way back to c/Bravo Murillo, and found myself absolutely ravenous. The combination of not knowing what the hell anything means on menus, not wanting to order yet another sandwich and lots of walking has taken its toll on my weight and my stomach fought back. I needed dessert. Lots of it, preferably something with vanilla creme and sponge cake. I found exactly what I wanted, as the subject line will attest, and happily gorged while walking home.

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I had begun composing a thoughtful, well-written post in my head as I tried to go to sleep again after being awakened by revelers at 4 a.m. but I seem to have lost the gist of it.

So instead I’ll tell you GAAHHH!! Yellow mustard has too much vinegar in it here!!

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We have water!

I took a shower! But it turns out that I did somehow break the hair dryer and I need to go buy another one. Except that my hair is wet. Still, I have a free Spanish class to be at in less than two hours. Grar. I was thinking about trying to find the owner of a restaurant within walking distance whose owner is known to an acquaintance of mine. It’s the best reference I have for now, so I’ll try it.

Turns out I will most likely have to leave the country for a short period of time, assuming I can even find a company that will sponsor me. Hope has not been extinguished, I have options. First and foremost the boyfriend needs to get here and we need to go all around this city and enjoy it and see if I want to stay here. If I don’t end up falling in love it’s pretty much a moot point anyway.

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words words words words

Obviously, by now, I’m re-posting older stuff now, catching everyone back up on what’s been happening since the start of this adventure. The only thing you’ve missed so far is when we didn’t have water for three days.

Word of the Day
December 12



: lethargy, dullness

Example Sentence
The hebetude and ennui displayed by such bright students was just one sign that they were not being sufficiently challenged in their classes.

Did you know?
“Hebetude” usually suggests mental dullness, often marked by laziness or torpor. As such, it was a good word for one Queenslander correspondent, who wrote in a letter to the editor of the Weekend Australian of “an epidemic of hebetude among young people who … are placing too great a reliance on electronic devices to do their thinking and remembering.” “Hebetude” comes from Late Latin “hebetudo,” which means pretty much the same thing as our word. It is also closely related to the Latin word for “dull” — “hebes,” which has extended meanings such as “obtuse,” “doltish,” and “stupid.” Other “hebe-” words in English include “hebetudinous” (“marked by hebetude”) and “hebetate” (“to make dull”).

Boy do I have intimate knowledge of this word! Between bouts of mania in which I worry that I’ll get kicked out of the country the second I extend one little tendril looking for information on working here, I laze about and can’t think very well, either in English or in Spanish. Spanish might be coming along, I’m feeling a bit better and have mapped out where I can go three times next week for free Spanish classes at two libraries. I ought to look into the different tallers in town to see which one I’d prefer to take classes at come January. I’ll go to them and ask to do their entry questionnaire and speak to their director and see what they think. Never again do I want to be placed in a higher class than I am ready for, that was a waste of an entire weeks’ tuition.-

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