Il primo profumo che mi accoglie è quello dei fiori: tante bancarelle coloratissime con donnine vivaci che si sbracciano urlando e ridendo.
Poi l’inconfondibile odore acre di abiti vintage: mucchi di giacche in pelle e jeans sgualciti e accatastati. La pazienza che è necessario avere mentre si rovista tra le montagne di tessuto è a volte snervante. Sotto il solleone le gocce di sudore si attaccano agli occhiali da sole. Mi si rivolge un volto sorridente a cui sembra non importare se non capisco la lingua. Mi parla mettendomi tra le mani robaccia improbabile che mai comprerò. Ricambio ridendo di gusto.
Le vie brulicano di vita come un formicaio. L’odore degli abiti usati si mescola col legno dei mobili di antiquariato e del fritto che esce dai chioschi ai lati della via. Vengo avvolta dalla calca di persone – famiglie con bambini e anziani – che mangiano pollo fritto con le mani. Visi unti, parlano e ridono a bocca piena.
Ai lati del mercato un gruppo di artisti di strada con capelli lunghi e sandali di cuoio snocciola musiche popolari spagnole. Una donna balla con espressione soddisfatta: pare che faccia fatica, concentrata solo sul piacere che sta vivendo. Tra il pubblico c’è chi ha le mani occupate perché le batte tenendo il ritmo e chi invece è alle prese con la videocamera del proprio telefono. Allungo la testa come una tartaruga e mi avvicino agli artisti strisciando sotto le ascelle del pubblico. L’odore che prevale potrebbe essere quello del sudore o del tabacco, ma io sento profumo di sole: hai presente quello che ti si imprime sulla pelle dopo una giornata d’estate all’aria aperta?
Proseguo tra le vie e mi perdo nel gusto dell’incenso, nei saponi, nell’erba. Altre musiche e altre danze, questa volta africane, mi vengono incontro al ritmo di energici tamburi.
Lentamente mi avvio verso casa. Sento spensieratezza intorno a me e mi ci lascio avvolgere.
I have been to Madrid over five times now. I first came for a couple of short student vacations sometime between 2009 and 2013. Then Madrid became one of the places that I focused on as part of my Ph.D. dissertation. My friends and local hosts here were Pedro and Andrea. Here comes a list of familiar places, familiar establishments, and places/establishments I am keeping for the future.
Familiar places: La Calle del Doctor Piga en Lavapies; Anton Martìn (mercado, cinema y todo); El Retiro (its small bookshops, lakes, and buildings); El Templo de Debod (sunset and night); Campo del Moro; Calle de la Cava Baja en La Latina; Chueca; Calle Ponzano (Chamberi).
Familiar establishments: La Venencia (sherri and dust); Barrutia y el Nueve (pescado y carne); Mercado de San Fernando (Lavapies, remember that time with dancers inside?); La Azotea de El Círculo de Bellas Artes (quite a view); Vincci The Mint (Gran Via over night); La Burbuja que ríe (Asturian food); El Mercado de San Miguel (market next to Plaza Mayor: pick some salmorejo); Reina Sofía (some extraordinary Pablo Picasso, Salador Dalì, Joan Miro, Carlos Sáenz de Tejada, Pablo Gargallo and great temporary exhibitions: this time around on The Poetics of Democracy Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition with this short, asphyxiating movie, La Cabina, as the main take-away); NuBel; Arzábal Restaurant; Libreria de Montaña Desnivel.
For the future: El Prado; Thyssen; Museo Sorolla, El Matadero, CaixaForum, La Casa Encendida, El Círculo de Bellas Artes, Ocho y Medio Libreria (Plaza de Espana); Libreria el olor de la lluvia (in Lavapies); Libros para un mundo mejor (Chueca); El Lamiak; Bodega de la Ardosa (Malasaña); Librería de Mujeres.
I have received a few messages from readers complaining for the abrupt interruption of publications on this blog. To be honest, it is mainly relatives worried about my health – a reasonable concern in light of recent events and previously expounded theories. Unlike my blog and Aston Villa, I am still doing fine. In the last few weeks I have been traveling. Let me sum up so I myself can keep track.
First off to Spain. It is a shame I do not have a good camera, because there are so many vivid imagies I should have captured. Instead I only took a picture of a book which I found in a museum of photography. I thought it was funny that it appeared randomly open on a picture of South Tyrollean valleys. Anyways. I was in Madrid for work and I stayed in a room in Lavapies, arguably one of the city’s most vibrant, alternative, and popular neighbourhoods. My stay was courtesy of Pedro, whom I hope to meet soon. Then down to Sevilla, also for work: I could barely appreciate La Giralda, el Alcazar, la Torre del Oro, el Guadalquivir, which I had already seen in 2009 in a torrid day at around 45° when I was living in Granada with Anna. This time my mind was closed, much more closed than it used to be, so I only had a remote glimpse of the exotism, the monuments, the women, the fiestas. As a sentence written in a lost book, todos hellos parecian confabulates para arrastrar a los centavos mas alla de lo que los limited que podian proportioner una domesticate imagination.
Then back to Florence. Unfortunately I had to cancel my participation to the Florence Gran Fondo which took place today (sic), because I am away. However, I still managed to go on a couple of long rides with Giallu and Bjorn. It is probably safe to assume that I have ridden more kilometres in 2016 than in the previous three years combined. And it has become somehow addictive.
Cycling is really becoming a thing for me. I am spending too much money buying fancy outfits, too much time watching highlights of professional races, too much energy studying stories of old champions.
The video above is about the story of a Swiss rider, Hugo Koblet. And it is probably fitting, since I just moved to Neuchâtel to work on my PhD dissertation – hint: that’s why I had to miss today’s Gran Fondo in Florence. Here, again, I have to thank Jean-Thomas, who made my stay possible and provided such gorgeous looks on the lake.
Those of you who know me are aware I am not religious (“Yes I am Hindu. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew“). To the surprise of many, though, I believe there is a lot to be learnt from religions in general. Today I wanted to share a text from the gospel. My mum sent it to me about a week ago. It is Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14, and it goes like this: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost”. I am sharing this because I spent a good part of the last twenty days working with a group of about thirty kids in a summer house on the oceanic coastline of Asturias.
These last few days I have thought hard about ways to capture my memory of this experience. In a book I am reading, Jorge Luis Borges writes: “Cuando se acerca el fin, ya no quedan imágenes del recuerdo; sólo quedan palabras”. I will appropriate this reflection for the sake of my post. In fact I would rather share some imagines of the kids and our activities, but I cannot: due to Spanish law, I am not allowed to take pictures of/with the kids. It is a shame, because they are so animated, funny, and cool. Just try to imagine a group of thirty people between 5 and 17 year old and they are all screaming, throwing a ball around, jumping in the ocean and asking me to keep them above the waves, riding down the river on a kayak, surfing – pretty well, too – and digging into a cave, climbing up on the trees like crazy goats, cooking pasta with a respectable degree of discipline, fighting over a glass of coke, asking a few questions in English, poking me in Spanish, cheering in Italian, pouring water all over the place, and much more. They are Edgar, Ainoa, Christie, Yaiza, Joni, Angela, Jose, Kevin, JoseLu, Aitor, Fabiany, Elena, Blanca, Dani, Christian, Christian, Angel, Carla, Alejandra, Monica, Sara, Keila, Israel, Adrian, Dioni, Tonio, Zaira, Liberated and they kept my spirit up this month.
To compensate for the lack of pictures with such a youthful group, I took a few photos with elderly people. I shot them in the different parts of Spain where I was before and after going to Asturias. The first pictures in this gallery were taken in San Sebastian/Donostia; the last in Oviedo, Puebla de Sanabria, Zamora, Madrid; and in between there might be a bit of Gijon and Ribadesella.
The problem with these pictures is that they are anonymous to me. When I look at them, I smile – especially those with the people eating, thinking, looking around – but I do not find trace of the little journey I lived through. Rather than looking at the photos, thus, this time I can better recall by reading my scattered notes on a notebook, or going through the random signs I left on the map, or even smelling the bracelets the kids made for me. I have some reminiscences by looking again at the books I was reading these days – Hemingway and Kerouac – and listening to the kind of songs I was listening to – Daft Punk, Bear’s Den, The Rural Alberta Advantage, The White Buffalo: a pretty scattered selection, eh? If I think about all these things now, I can safely conclude I have experienced occasional loneliness, sunny days, rainy days, intense sickness, optimism, tenderness, relaxation, idleness, adrenalin, satisfaction, hanger, and everything in between.
Traditional addendum: I am now off to Paris for two days. I am then flying to Montreal in a pretty hazardous journey that involves a stop-and-go through a couple of airports in New York. If everything goes well, I will be in Quebec until mid-September.