My existence lies between two worlds, the city and the woods.
A city girl true and true, a country girl in spirit.
A flash trip to Madrid for under 72 hours in the belly of a city junction, the Royal Opera hub. Plaza Mayor and Sol to the South, medical specialist and the American Embassy in Barrio de Salamanca to the north. I was caught in a tug of war this time around of what I travelled down to do and what I wanted to do but somehow managed both.
The Great Wall
As with any of my last minute trips sometimes some things just have to happen because it is out of my control with little or poor planning from me, but truly, out of control. Like confusing days, not taking traffic into consideration when I overlook one of many three to five day holiday stretches in any given month or sudden dangerous weather patterns that most travel companies dub as an act of god to not have refunds available.
I organized my girls supervision for when away and ventured off.
This time I did not think of a dark moonless morning where the surroundings suddenly become unfamiliar. The roads appear like dead ends, curbs take shape out of nowhere and in late April, all kinds of beasts emerge from wooded areas.
It is that eerie darkness where I feel I do not know where I am going. Small signs half covered with greenery appearing just a few meters of exits when headlights beamed upon them and turns that would suddenly take form slowed my velocity on the road. My usual hour and ten minute drive down to the big city surpassed an hour forty-five.
Then there is something about, what I have labeled, The Great Wall of Lugo. The sight of it makes me cringe when trying to leave these Galician lands when pressed for time. An imposing Roman structure interferes with any attempts made when trying to catch a bus out of the province. It hinders my ability of getting to the bus station on time. I have to circulate around it, all 85 towers, three kilometres in the round, enclosing 85 acres. Not to mention all the traffic lights and zebra crosswalks that people jump onto right when trying to drive through, to then look for and be fortunate enough to find the unmarked narrow street that leads me to the bus station.
I missed my bus.
Damn you Lucus Agusti!
Lugo capital, 8:15 am and the next bus was not until 1pm, UGH!
Whassap messages start beeping; my girl´s "morning mum", message from my BFF here in Spain, "have a good trip don't worry about anything" and my crew wishing me well all whilst trying to make alternative arrangements and not have to wait five hours for a bus. I was to be in Madrid within five hours, that was the original plan.
Trains booked solid. A six hundred euro cab ride out of the question. I had to think.
I suddenly remembered the infamous carpool service available here in Spain and looked through profiles and trips available on my travelling laptop. This carpool service is like playing Russian Roulette some profile photos seem like mugshots, others appear shady but in turn are nice people. Some vehicles are really clean, modern and comfortable. Others are just one ride away from the junkyard but what truly matters are the ratings given by passengers and their safety records. Two trips were offered, I chose the one with one passenger seat available, in total 4 of us.
I like talking to strangers, four strangers embarked on the great escape from the Great Wall of Lugo was alright by me. One catch, meeting point was three kilometres away and I had no idea where it was. After GPS location I arrived at the meeting point, a one bar and gas station strip. A girl is sitting at a table sipping coffee, an overnight bag on the floor next to her. I introduce myself, she was one of the passengers with a story similar to mine. Sadly, Galicia isn't the best connected province to the rest of the Iberian Peninsula and we confirmed the fact once exchanging similarities of our morning adventures.
A series IV BMW pulls up, the third passenger accompanying the driver. Polite introductions, bags in the trunk, let's hit the road is what the driver said with a smile.
Music playing, luxury ride and easy flowing conversations and before we knew it we were in Madrid, near one hour ahead the scheduled arrival of the bus I missed.
What are the chances of four strangers, a semi retired Admiral of the Spanish Armada who shared his adventures and details of his living conditions when stationed in a submarine off the Spanish coast. A Spanish journalist currently living in Jerusalem covering topics on foreign affairs and a young bright eyed girl about to embark on her journey with Doctors Without Boarders getting on and making dinner plans before fate leads us far away to different corners of the world. All four of us from somewhere else, not native to Galicia but The Great Wall of Lugo made sure we cross paths.
My stay, an art deco building with its decorative steel encased elevator, spiral marble staircase leading up to my temporary home. A stained-glass dome at top floor echoing the same stain glass motifs guiding me along a curved wall as I swish up on the cold marble stairs in gold and green tones.
Stepping into the building I time travelled. Stepping out from behind heavy wrought iron doors the Royal Opera House, in full view, helped me ignore the modern day corporate chains and tourist traps set for those who are visiting for the first time in group tours.
With excitement, I rode the lift up and down several times despite my flat being on the first curved landing. It can be blamed on my inner child.
My stay with views I miss since swapping the city for the woods. Ornate buildings, glass encased galleries and a busy street below. The humming and buzzing of inaudible conversations. Sounds moving with the air was the overture to my arrival. The occasional emergency sirens whooshing through the streets to rescue someone, mostly false alarms. The people, all with their unknown stories rushing to and from places they need to be or want to be. An electric force ignited me. I am home, for now.
The Tortured Artist
Met with a brilliant artist with an afflicted soul, something was just not quite right or maybe I was too tired. His stare- at times intense, then lost, turning into playfulness to end militant all in a blink of an eye.
His last name reminiscent of a character from the Sound Of Music and I silently start humming one of the songs from the musical in my head. A coping mechanism when feeling out of my comfort zone with someone.
He sat stoically, waiting for me at an establishment that was yet to open. His right hand clasped a long rosary like chain bearing the eyes of Lucia, the Nazar amulet. Warding off evil spirits?
Five minutes into a conversation he called me a witch, well I have been called worst, and it is kind of my fault when sharing the Tower card of an oracle deck I fidget with at times.
But there must be some “cosmic connection” as he stated, that lead us to each other. We are at two degrees of separation, those who lead to our encounter are now M.I.A.
The Old Jewish Quarter in Madrid, a hub for all transients, immigrants and eccentrics who come to this city. Young and old mingle. In a matter of minutes several languages were spoken- all residents in this wormhole. Lots of buzz, sidewalks crowded with restaurant terraces and cars caught in a cluster fuck as residents jaywalked to mark their terrane interrupting any fluidity in car motion that could exists on narrow curved streets of a centuries old neighborhood. Glaring light from shops opened for business later than usual, people emerging in search for a spot to cool off from the unseasonably high temperatures in late April.
A private viewing at an art gallery, just me, the owner/artist and the paintings… I was fortunate despite having the feeling of being tortured all day. Awake at 4.30 am, 600km treck and trying to find my footing after adjusting to the backdraft of Madrid´s heat.
My arrival earlier in the day- I felt Madrid´s August scorch in April but embraced the opportunity for a private viewing although I was almost ready to plank from exhaustion, heat and a never ending lupus flare of kidney pain and discomfort.
The cooling temperature once entering the gallery was welcoming, the diaphanous space… I can breathe! The light- bright, to see details, the artist, hovering near as if I were about to give him a devastating critique, would fuss with the front window or would pace around until he went into the private area in the foreground to fetch a piece I wanted to purchase for my collection and he so generously gave me as a gift.
I still cannot put my finger on what was off about him. As a city girl, I would say he is eccentric, as a country girl I would go as far as saying he is unbalanced.
An eleventh descendant of European Aristocracy. His piercing and stern blue eyes that at first greeted me is his genetic marking. His accent is off… a self proclaimed German-American or as he would say in his guttural mother tongue “Deutsch-Amerikanisch”, a graduate from an elite University in Georgia, U.S.A. and several other degrees. His most recent from the province of my namesake. Our connection was by chance. He is now very present in my day to day, the other two that led us to one another are just mere spirits in the world wide web.
One moment talking against the system of monetary power, the next boasting about his two hundred square meter penthouse with five balconies overlooking the neighbourhood in its entirety.
His personal art collection grace the walls, covering almost every cubic centimeter of his palace in the sky. From classic to contemporary, being very proud to the point of arrogance of owning four surrealist paintings by a famous artist. Who owns four is my question and hides them high over the artistic hub of Madrid for their exclusive viewing pleasure?
He gave me the impression of a twenty first century overlord, keeping an eye on his peasants.
Walking down the street, he is approached with a greeting reminiscent of period television series where the path is cleared for him. I was anticipating someone to bend the knee.
People will stop him and talk about an art project, he in turn will approach others and ask how they were with genuine concern but a homeless person asking for loose change, he would dismiss. He introduced me to none, no one asked who I was… The silent code of European social castes? Or has he bewitched everyone with this larger than life existence for those who barely scrape one thousand euros a month income. When in his presence does nothing or no one else exists to be in his good graces?
Is he what the neighborhood needed? Someone to look to for guidance or is he someone who is vulnerable and can be easily taken advantage of? My thoughts on it are divided because I have been transfixed with the soul of a very lonely person whilst conversing over a drink.
He has an obsession with skulls and death.
He holds up a shadow box with a skull drawing of his, his rendition of Yorick´s skull perhaps. Detailed and dark.
Life and death?
The vanity of life?
His personal crisis?
During our video calls and whassap exchanges he mentioned a death of someone, well two very important people in his life, I suppose. One who he was not to outlive if laws of nature would only be just and the other whom he has praised for teaching him everything he knows about painting and his love for the arts.
The skull instalations are in the private area. Sculptures of skulls using real euro notes as papier-mâché, others haphazardly leafed with aluminium foil and a few with undecipherable sigils scrawled onto them. Some with protruding eyes of what appeared to be a hardened resin. There is very little correlations to the ever so iconic day of the dead skulls, fanicifully scrolled and beautiful for a celebration and memory of the lives once lived. I saw no celebration in his, they appeared to be his talismans calling for death.
We parted ways at the street corner under his penthouse after his request for a hug that I genuinely gave him- A lovers embrace.
I walked back to my flat mentally disjointed, I really needed my bed and sleep but I wanted more time with him to understand who he really is.
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