Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Places That Begin With M

MADRID, SPAIN—This just in: one year goes by really, really fast.

On this date last year I had just moved into a small and shabby apartment on the dark end of Rue Boucher, a half block off St. Denis, near that weird pizza place, and eons away from Los Angeles. I spent that first day shopping for a cell phone, new sneakers and enough ethernet cable to connect myself to my landlord's computer, unspooling it out the front window and up to their second floor apartment. You might have read that entry already. Um, a year ago, right. The memory seems vivid to me at the moment, because my subconscious has been knocking on my window a lot lately, reminding of the date.

First it was Montana, then Montreal, then Madrid. All these places that suddenly and dramatically changed my life, either physically, spiritually, or in how I viewed my own everyday. Three summers ago, I was a city dude extolling the virtues of the Cowboy Life. I didn't really want to run away and join the rodeo, but in one week at a camp high in the Gallatin Mountain Range, my LA existence was stirred up just enough to suddenly appreciate the value of fresh horses and sturdy boots.

Montreal was the first simple test of a new language and a new culture—not exactly foreign, but different enough that simple tasks were a new challenge. Ride the Metro, order lunch, shop in a store, and head back home, in French. A tiny challenge, but enough to make me play bad French pop music all day on the radio, in case any phrases might seep into my subconscious. (Sadly, few French-Canadian pop songs used the refrain, 'What is the Loonie exchange rate today?" in the chorus.)

I was lucky enough to make two trips to Montreal with you, dearest reader; once in the dwindling warmth of late September and then in the frozen snowdrifts of March. Before that there was the non-White Christmas of 2006, and then the spectacular July of 2007, when there was no city in the world as beautiful as Montreal, and no street as perfect as Laurier above St. Denis.

My first two months in Montreal were equal parts magical and mysterious. My second trip was lonely and frozen. But never regretted.

Enter Madrid. This was every adventure at once. It was the first trip to Europe, a language I understood, and one I thought I did, but one that sounded as if it was "thpoken" by cartoon characters. Theriously. But Madrid is another one of those great, eye-opening cities. I've not seen Rome or London yet, and only saw the Paris airport. Those cities are on the list for this dilletante explorer, but Spain, like America, could take a really, really, really long time to fully explore.

Loyal readers in Los Angeles and far beyond already know way more than necessary about VaughanTown, this past summer's little adventure. This time, I'm creating the Podcast thing, and may not be back at Vaughantown until next summer.

Meanwhile, I've lost ALL the video from my last Madrid trip— including the groovy little iMovie video I made, and almost every important newspaper file—in a catastrophic hard drive failure over the weekend. It will take a long time to rebuild everything.
Until then, I'm beginning to learn that not only are material things not as important as we think, but digital files, too. Everything comes and goes. Attach yourself to little, OK, astronauts?

This is Day One in Madrid, Phase Two. Don't go far. There's more to read tomorrow, depending on which side of the International Date Line you get your mail.

"MadridMadrid" is also available at: and It's the same fine quality product.

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