I've got a lot of grievances against Spain. Look, let's be fair here, this is a wonderful country. The bread is delightful, the wine isn't half bad, the people are certainly friendlier then the French (though for the love of God who ISN'T), and the people tend to dress so oddly that should you go out in a less then cute ensemble, well, you fit right on in. But in the long and uncomfortable history of Espana which includes but in no way is limited to introducing syphilis to native peoples of all sorts of lands, killing or deporting anyone with an interest in Elohim or, for that matter, Allah, and, of course, the fact that no one in the country can speak any other language other then Spanish because despite the fact that Franco has been dead for 30 years apparently we can still blame him, for, um, everything. Sure. Let's go with that.
And I wish I could be noble and say that my complaints against this place have anything at all to do with the history and persecution of the Spanish empire, but, alas, I am far to shallow. No, in fact, as I'm really all about the petty, my unhappinesses here tend to be of a far more strugglesome origin. You know, it's all the little things, the way the internet only works on oddly numbered days or how there is no good Asian food anywhere or how strangers just straight up stare at you in the subway. A cornicopia of little moments, really, each one more painful then the next. As the Christmas season, or, as they say here, La Navidad, draws closer, well, let's just say the thought I tend to have in my mind when viewing the city is along the lines of "What fresh hell is this". So when my friend Andrew, (hi Andrew!), arrived to visit me this past Friday, well, let's just say I was feeling less then enchanted with Spain's capital. The hundreds of people unironicilly wearing reindeer horn hats didn't really help.
However, if there is one thing that will renovate your enthusiasm in a place is seeing it through someone else's eyes. While I am at the point here where all I can see is struggle abounding like it's going out of style, well, Andrew sees jamon ibirico dripping gloriously off pieces of bread, rivers of Ribera and Rioja wine gushing through the streets and amazingpieces of art at every turn. Trotting around the cobbled streets and crowded avenues of Madrid I was struck again by the complicated and uncomfortable beauty of this city. I wouldn't say it's tranquil, or even charming, but it has it's moments of excitement and beauty, even when you are being harassed by strange beggars who implore you to buy a sprig of Rosemary from them for good luck. Yeah. Because there's a lot of logic going on there.
As I waved goodbye to Andrew this afternoon in the frantic and garishly lit Puerta del Sol, I couldn't help but consider just how lovely Madrid can be, or would be, if there weren't all these other people wandering about. I have to say, sometimes they sort of ruin it for me.
I currently have less then two weeks left in Madrid. That's probably a good thing. In a perversion of what Oscar Wilde once said, either I go, or this city does. Given how disorganized Spain has been since the fall of it's empire in South America, well, I don't really see it having much of a fighting chance.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.