Posts Tagged ‘books’

Beach yesterday. Went early and left before noon, the better to protect my delicate cutaneous membrane, and discovered that apparently I don’t have to worry about skin cancer quite as much as I thought I did after realizing I was tanning quite nicely, quite quickly. I’ve never tanned very well, so this was a pleasant shock. As I am not the biggest fan of the beach, I did not go in the water (hey, I couldn’t wash off afterward!), just laid about on the sheet that I brought, reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I gratefully found in the airport used book store (eh?!) in Wisconsin, on my way back to Florida. Obviously I have a death/zombie theme going lately, thinking over the books that I have read or wanted to read in the last two weeks (the other, that I didn’t get to, is World War Z; I’ll have to make sure I grab a copy of it before I go to California).

Today, water again: my mom’s boyfriend is taking us out on the sailboat. Whee! Hope I don’t get seasick. I didn’t on the powerboat but I am dreadfully prone to motion sickness and had problems the last time I was on a sailboat. Maybe my inner ear has matured since then.

Fear not – I will again work on my tan.


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Chicago is off the itinerary since I had no clue how exhausting children are. I have not slept very well, and have been enjoying doing stuff around the house, riding the bike around occasionally and going to the park, and mostly doing stuff around the house. Since time both drags and seems to suddenly run out when you least expect it, it is now Thursday and I fly back Saturday mid-day.

So today I will be riding 10 miles to Mitchell Park Conservatory, locally known as The Domes. I’ll be heading past Ben’s Cycles again because it turns out I will actually need a chain breaker in my near future and they sell the one I suspect the bike shop in Florida was going to sell me, but $7 cheaper. That works.

Then, I have directions to go to the Milwaukee Museum as well, but don’t know if I’ll get there. Actually, after looking at the site, maybe I will. There are some cool exhibits on. G is going to pick me up after the kids’ nap time, and we will go to the knitting shop she likes. I guess I’m going to learn how to knit! Because I want a few more cowls, and because no one I know, except G (who is overburdened with projects) knows how to knit, a new hobby sounds like a plan. However, I bet I’ll have to check my luggage this time as I doubt they allow knitting needles on the plane, though I could check easily enough. Turns out I can. Sweet. So I’m borrowing G’s 10.5’s and buying a skein of alpaca (super soft and keeps its shape), awesome! Will give me something to do instead of trolling the internet and reading.

Speaking of reading, I’m so happy to be reading again. We went to the library last week and I took out Charlaine Harris’s third in the Harper Connely series, An Ice Cold Grave. Banged that out in two days, then moved on to the Dexter books. Book 1 down in three days, now I’m working on Book 2, which I will take with me to the conservatory. It’ll be nice to read among the flowers.

Otra vez, ustedes trajo un video musical:

Me encanta Shakira, cuando tiene razon o no, no me importa! Pero, en serio, que pasa con eso video!?

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– Yes, we know that they drive on the left-hand side of the road. But did you know that foot traffic on escalators, in hallways, and often even on sidewalks moves on the left-hand side, too? Look right, look left, look right again, not vice versa, is what children are taught to do before crossing the street. Keep Left, not Keep Right in the Underground (not called the subway, ever). Londoners I’ve queried on this don’t seem to notice it, but I guess that’s because they’re used to it. I kept feeling like a salmon going upstream and finally realized it was because I was trying to Keep Right. Then when I got back to Madrid I almost entered an up escalator to go down because it was on the left.

– Ridiculously, they buy gas (petrol) in liters but use miles, obviously measuring speed in mph.

– British beer is way better than Spanish beer. Hands down. And cheaper.

– Books are cheap. Or I should say cheap in comparison to in Spain. They are at American prices and big chain companies often have huge deals on multiple purchases, on the order of 4 for 3. I assumed that meant 4 for £3. Often 2 for £20 or 3 for £18.

– British teenagers can be frightening in a way I’ve never been frightened of New York City teenagers. There is a palpable feeling that they will cheerfully beat you to pieces as soon as tell you off in a confrontational-yet-not-inherently-dangerous manner.

– The food there is really quite a lot better than I expected. Meat pies at pubs can be unbelievably delicious, even though probably frozen pies reheated on the premises. That really surprised me. Oh, and mushy peas are fantastic, not a sentiment I would have immediately expected from the description.

– Gravity is somehow stronger on the second level of a London Double Decker. It is necessary to hold on TIGHTLY when walking down the stairs, I’ve been nearly thrown down them by an unexpected stop or curve in the road.

– Riding in London is scarier than any riding I’ve ever encountered in NYC, and not just because of the left-hand driving, must look to the right first thing, but because many London drivers just don’t seem to give a crap about anyone in the road but themselves.

– I like London better than I thought I would have.

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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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How shall I start this book? While stuck in the apartment, my day delayed by the wizened old Spanish plumber and his Polish assistants who speak more Spanish than I, or should I wait and read it in the sunshine of Madrid?

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I’m in Spain! Wow! I wasn’t able to write during the first week, in London, as I am generally unable to when on vacation. That’s basically what being in London was like, going on vacation and now that I’m in Spain I’m supposed to be trying to start a life – however short or long a time I’ll be here. But what a life to try and start! Nothing is even remotely the same as any hispanic neighborhood I’ve lived in and I don’t know how easily I can fall back on English should things get hairy. I know I don’t want that, I need to keep speaking Spanish as often as possible, but it’s a scary prospect at first.

Just before the plane touched down in Madrid, I was offered refreshments and chose a coffee. In the two seconds between the man setting down a covered cup and asking me a question, I realized, “Uh oh”. You betcha, “Will that be euroes or Stirling?” Shit. I have neither, only dollars. I grudgingly handed the man a $20 and was returned 10 euros!!! They used rather draconian conversion rates of $2/£ then converted £ to euros. Basically, I paid $8 for a cup of airline coffee. Awesome, eh? At least this was the last in a long line of charges, hassles and difficulties spanning Friday to Sunday. All of it was travel-related, most of it London’s obscenely expensive Tube service. It’s NOT the NYC MTA, my friends, and we need to stop complaining about the “high price” of service. Imagine spending up to $3.50 on one leg of your day’s journey if you live anywhere but central Manhattan. Oh, and you can’t use it past 11 p.m. Oh, and you’ll pay double for bus tickets if you don’t use their little card that you have to pay a $3 deposit to use.

Back to the hassles and charges, I didn’t realize that I was bringing “too much” to Spain and was levied a £61 fee for my excess weight at the ticket counter. Yikes! This was the penultimate in the series, the night before when I’d gone to email my roommate I found out that I’d been somehow misreading the time of departure from London the whole time and I was to leave from a distant airport at 9:30 in the morning. Tube service doesn’t start until 6 a.m. thus I was obliged to take a £45 cab ride, but I made it on time! To anyone traveling in London – never take the first quote a cab service offers you, they would have charged me £60 if I hadn’t decided to try and look elsewhere.

When I arrived on Sunday, around 1:30 p.m., my roommate was visiting her parents for the weekend, she had Monday off as it was a Spanish national holiday. The guy whom I was supposed to call spoke in extremely rapid Spanish (dang, all those emails in Spanish to my roommate gave her a vaulted opinion of my abilities) that I basically misunderstood. Turns out he wasn’t in her apartment but close by and would be there shortly. It was raining, I had everything I brought with me hanging off my person, and I had to make two trips to nearby public telephones to try to sort everything out. It was, indeed, sorted, I was explained the intricacies of the apt. that he could remember (in English), then he blessedly left me to myself. I took a shower and regrettably slept the rest of the daylight hours away. With no internet (improper converter, no adapter for my computer), no books [I’d just finished the one Ollie gave me (The Back Passage, a hilarious gay porn “traditional English country manor murder mystery”)], and no television (it requires two buttons pushed, one on the set itself and one I wouldn’t have expected to push on the remote), I decided I’d go ahead and take a walk in the rain.

Being unsure what would be open for business, I decided to stick close to the apartment. Not much nearby was open but for gaming parlors and a few fried snacks/beer joints. This is not the swanky neighborhood. My new roommate didn’t come home until quite late from visiting her parents in the north, near the border with France. The bolt lock to my apartment door must be turned four times to open or lock it from the outside, that was quite a strange thing to find out. The rest of the apartment is small and definitely different than American tastes expect. Half kitchen, two electric burners, no oven. Whoops, there go my dreams of learning to bake better. But it will be fine for the two months I am here right now and until I decide whether I want to stay in Madrid or go home or to Barcelona. I need to get a job, first! I’ll go bonkers if I’m here for two months without some way to fill my time.

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