Saturday, October 1, 2011
Walking along the densely packed, verbal, social and sensual streets of Madrid in the early evening tonight, trying to take in every image, scent and sound I turned to Belén, my graceful, careful and thorough guide this past week of dozens of encounters in three exceptional cities and said, simply "this is an easy country to fall in love with."
In this past year perhaps only Rome has had the impact on my spirit that these three cities - Madrid, Barcelona and the most subtle jewel of them all, Valencia have. There is a grace at work, combined with a restlessness, that leaves you a bit breathless. Elegance meets a sense of a country in deep distress as the unemployment rate pushes above 20%. Barcelona by night was a wonder, and yet at every turn people told me to "be careful." My camera, the ubiquitous Nikon D3 and 80/200 2.8 is always an attraction. But there, in the old city, in the empty yet utterly alive streets it garnered warning after warning -- "he shouldn't bring that in here" was the common refrain.
Yet despite all the warnings, and despite the hair standing ever so slightly up on the back of my neck, an internal warning that time in strange places have told me to attend to, the images were just too urgent to turn away from. Sometimes the camera has the control far more than you. It knows more than you do and wants more than you do. It knows, for lack of a better way to put it, that a picture is waiting. However crazy that may sound, its the truth.
As the sun set tonight I found myself in a working-class neighborhood in Madrid, in a town square filled with immigrants, babies, soccer balls and the scent of more than a little illicit smoke. It was Saturday night and the weather, utterly perfect, emptied the houses and enjoined the streets to celebration, wine and beer and laughter and romance. Its was enchanting.
The reason for being there was not a simple tourist visit. It was "Don Quixote," (I found out a few hours later that the site where the house of the Master stood, where he was born and where he died, was literally around the corner from my hotel), and it was to talk, and to think, and to begin, and in the beginning seek a collaborator from Spain.
Last Sunday I went to a performance by Maite Larranetta, a show I wrote about earlier this week. It was to her neighborhood I went and to a meeting with her (and her nine month old Son). A simple chat in a park pub and a sense that I was on the right track, and that, just maybe, Don Q has the beginnings of a team....