Slices of Life

Bar Segovia, Calle Guzmán el Bueno, September 1. (Or Spanish Edward Hopperesque)

Madrid is back.

It was a long summer, meteorologically speaking: the searing, life-changing heat of August, which gives teeth to the saying only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun — well, we felt it first in … was it June? Or May? There might even have been a couple of days of it in April!

There was no ice for sale at Carrefour. (There’s still no ice for sale at Carrefour.) My favorite fruterías closed sooner for the annual vacation and reopened later. What produce I was able to scrounge up looked as wilted and past-its-prime as I felt.

When we left the city in mid-August, the main thoroughfare near our apartment was so lacking in traffic that we could jaywalk across it without taking our lives in our hands — at morning rush hour. A couple of times I was the only person in the grocery store besides the people who worked there.

But cities, like more scenic natural environments, have rhythms and seasons. As if the world read calendars, the temperatures have dropped enough that there’s a faint faint whiff of fall to the air.

When we disembarked from the high-speed train from Barcelona and got on the Madrid Metro two days before the end of August, you could feel energy where only two weeks before there had only been torpor. The trains were packed. (Yesterday, they became even more packed, because of an inflation-busting, gas-saving initiative that makes monthly Metro cards half-price until December). A busker slipped into our car seconds before the doors closed and started setting up his portable amp. As he queued up his song, I hoped for Hallelujah, the busker’s money-making friend, but it was some Spanish ballad I didn’t know. (I know two.) I gave him a euro all the same.

The two cafés on the corner, so alike it’s hard to tell where the tables for one end and the ones for the other begin, are crowded with students from the nearby university that P informs me are called cayetanos (in other words, pijos, aka preppies).

The flower seller has replanted herself down the street, even though it’s still too hot for her to have anything to sell besides carnations.

This morning, when M took his morning constitutional walk at 6 a.m., he spotted a slightly-inebriated chap toting a larger-than-child-sized white teddy bear in his arms. When he passed through Plaza de Dos de Mayo, the beer-drinkers who’d gathered there were singing.

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled King composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen