For the visually oriented, mash here.
I’m now in Madrid staying at a hostel voted number one in the world… a converted 18th century Spanish Villa with a marble fountain in the center covered by a stunning stained glass ceiling. The basement cave has free internet access and live music on Fridays, and the massive speakers scattered around the common area blast the Rolling Stones, Kanye, Sublime….
The writings that follow are some scraps and pieces that I quickly wrote in Rome, and corrected here in Madrid. They are just a few pieces of my travels but an honest compilation of some things I felt worth writing down.
There are big things to come: I was pick pocketed of 20 euros in Barcelona by a sly scar faced hooligan, and later that evening fooled into trusting the kindness of a professional 50 year old homosexual molester named Rafael. Don’t worry, I avoided the sly hand of Rafael and there was no molesting. But that’s just part of the exciting story to come.
It was very nice to start my trip in countries that speak English, and I had a fun time hearing snippets of conversations as I walked from the bus stop to the apartment I stayed at on a street called Cowgate. I stayed in University of Edinburgh apartment housing at the end of a hall on my own mattress, lent from some girls upstairs.
A regrettable truth of my travels is the number of non-locals I spend my time with. For each city I’ve visited I’ve always lived and hostelled among Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Swedes–the big four Western European Explorers. The upside is I get to learn about their lives and what they’re interested in when they play the tourist, but I feel I could be getting a more immersing plunge into Europe without them. I’m not at all complaining. Seeing a new country or city in any company is an incredible experience.
The Scots have a quick way with words: staccatos and half-syllables that compress simple things into a quarter-breath and a grunt. “I have to take a piss” becomes “Aye hata tahk a pech”
After a few days in the city, it quickly became my favorite. It may have been the kebabs, or the ghouley feeling when I walked to the top of Arthur’s seat.
One of the first things I tell people when they ask about Sweden is the solemn individuality of its people. It may have just been a Stockholm phenomenon, but people seemed very silent. As I walked one day through the largest department store on a busy Saturday, I could barely squeeze by the people in the aisles of the basement’s food section–but I remember hearing the sound of people crinkling packages and putting them in their baskets. The place was silent. They’ve got their goals at the store, and it doesn’t involve any sort of inefficient chit chat it seems. On a packed train from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Denmark, I could almost hear the reindeer outside thinking.
Of course the Swedish aren’t always quiet… among friends they are very talkative and friendly. In public, however, they see no need to remove their blinders.
What follows is a bit of a penned evening I wrote down in Sweden:
The only dancing I’ve seen here was at a jazz club in the basement of an Irish pub. I went with a couple girls who I had met in Dublin. It was here where I met two musicians, one an outspoken black man from Detroit who has lived in Sweden for 14 years, and the other a shy Swede pianist who studies ‘way up North’ in a place that Detroit calls ‘the equivalent of the American boondocks.’ Both play in a Jazz band, and Detroit teaches music on the side. Detroit wears a NY Yankees hat and talks with a slow purposeful clarity like he’s been speaking to people learning English his whole life. The Swede wore a black beanie, jean jacket, and had a snuse packet (a small paper-wrapped packet of tobacco) creeped out of his upper lip whenever he smiled.
Continue reading “Splurge. Madrid now, but I have catching up to do”