La Cronica AburridaCapitulo Uno:
Reflecciones de Madrid y Espana
Danger! Highway Closed Ahead
I was thinking that I had adapted immediately to the time change from Albany to Madrid, here being 6 hours ahead of there. However, at the moment, it is 1:45 AM here and 8:45 PM there, and I am wide awake, trapped in a time-frame that is neither here nor there.
Travelling south on the Thruway, just a few miles outside of Albany, we pass the first rest-stop, which is a major truck rest-area, and I see at least 15 state-trooper-cars surrounding two semi-trailer trucks. I wonder what they are carrying in their trailers to warrant such a show of force. Then I notice that for many miles the trucks travelling south with us are all carefully minding the speed limit and staying in their lane. As we speed by Poukeepsie, I get a quick glimpse of a traffic bottle-neck on the north-bound side of the highway. Half-a-dozen trooper cars, a few tow-trucks, and road-construction equipment have completely blocked off the traffic headed north. I start measuring the distance south that the stoppage extends. It continues for over four miles. Figuring that they are moving at one-mile-per-hour, it looks like they'll be there long after we arrive in NYC. An hour later, near Peekskill I see another state-trooper car parked across all three north-bound lanes, totally blocking the traffic, again. I had noticed construction equipment and a huge cloud of dust, but that didn't seem to warrant stopping traffic completely. I have twice calculated that if either of these blockades were on our side of the highway, the plane to Spain would be in the air without us.
Around Poukeepsie, Lillian has fallen asleep, exhausted from working and the previous night's celebration of our departure. I turn on the radio and tune to a station in NYC that mixes maximum rock and roll with a mid-day shock-jock patter. The host has his partner doing a remote broadcast from a doctor's office in Westchester. The radio station has sponsored a contest and the winner is now in the doctor's office and about to under-go laser-hair-removal-therapy for beard-like-facial-hair. The winner is a woman who has chosen "for obvious career reasons" to remain anonymous, so they are calling her Pepe. Between commercials, rock-hits, road-reports and obnoxious patter, the remote-reporter fills us in on the progress of Pepe's operation. He takes us up-close-and-personal, describing the shaving of her face, application of carbon-black to her face to absorb the laser beams, "Pepe, now it really looks like you've got a beard! Heh-heh!", and finally, as we approach the Frog's Neck bridge headed into east Brooklyn, stuck in traffic for the first time, waiting to get into the proper lane to pay our toll for the bridge, laser beams are applied to Pepe's face, and we hear in intimate detail, the snap and pop of the laser, as the beams penetrate deep into her pores, killing the hairs at the root, destroying the follicles, and presumably any future chance for hair to sprout from her face.
"Pepe, how does that feel!"
"Um, ok, but, yes, it does make me a little nervous.", she replies.
A couple of the traffic reports mentioned traffic tied up south of Poukeepsie and another snarl outside Peekskill; both congestions due to traffic accidents. Both reports warn of major delays to northbound motorists, making me glad that we are travelling south.
The schlock-jocks finish bantering about Pepe's face-hair and pump the doctor with questions about using laser technology to remove "breast-hair" and to "improve bikini-lines" and do jokes about "one slip of the laser beam" and other ha-ha stuff. As the remote-reporter signs off, we pull into JFK and begin circling to find the Delta, Terminal Three. Having refined our techniques during previous trip to Paris and San Juan, I drop Lillian and our bags at the departure check-in and drive the car to the peripheral long- term parking lot. I leave the car, write down the bus-stop number on the parking ticket, and catch the shuttle-bus back to Terminal Three where Lillian tells me that I have to check in with the Delta agent and show him my passport. I answer all his questions about strange bags and unknown persons, in the negative, and we're off to Gate Three for our Madrid flight leaving in one hour. We get magazines, a margarita which tastes like sugared lemonade and cold Corona beer and eavesdrop on the Germans next to us as we await our departure.
Lillian turns to me and says that we need to make arrangements for the
possiblity that we die and Lydia is orphaned. I'm suprised that she
is thinking in such mortal terms as always go through my mind prior to
leaving the ground. We decide that the best evidence of our intentions
would be written instructions. Phone messages, and e-mail seem too ephemeral.
On the plane, we order cocktails and read magazines while the in-cabin TVs show a computer display of our progress in the air. A little airplane slowly makes its way east above a green and blue graphic of the eastern U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean. Dinner, which is not worth writing about, is accompanied by complimentary champagne. We each have a couple, and then, because the plane is only about half occupied, Lillian stretchs out across three seats in the middle of our aisle and go to sleep. I have to make do with the seats we're assigned to, but shortly I too am awakened by the announcement that we will soon be landing in Madrid, and will now be served our continental breakfast: coffee, a hard croissant, yogurt and fresh fruit. I check my watch and see that it is 2:30 AM in Albany, and am told that it will be 8:45 AM when we land in Madrid.
We plan to call Jose Maria on his mobile phone, reaching him at the laboratory, a short drive from the airport. He will take us to his house, where we can rest and refresh ourselves. Getting him on the phone, turns out to be an ordeal. In his e-mail, he has given us his home, work and mobile phone numbers, but each is prefaced with country and regional codes, so we've got too many numbers to deal with. I try various combinations and get a busy signal forall of them. Finally I get a voice for the mobile, but it turns out to be a recording saying the number is invalid. Lillian gets an operator who tells her that all the numbers we have are incorrect. I try again, using what look like seven local digits and I get Jose Maria's home answering machine and leave a message that we are at the airport trying to reach him. Next I call his office and after six busy signals, get through to his secretary who puts him on the phone, and soon we are standing in the rain outside the airport in a cold 40 degree wind. Thankfully, he shows up quickly and drives us to his house in Urbanization de Rosa Luxembourgo, just off Calle Rosa Luxembourgo.
Jose Maria explains that the trade unions here were very strong after the end of Franco's reign and that they made many projects including a large number of new housing constructions. Houses for the workers, houses for the poor, and houses for the middle class. This neighbor- hood of two hundred homes was built in the mid-eighties and is a very handsome collection of brick two and three story connected houses. We are in a suburb of Madrid which is a quick electric train ride into the center of the city. If we stay on the train for three stops, it takes us to the main train station across the plaza next to the Prado museum. This station, Atocha, has been recently remodeled, retaining its old glass and wire frame-work. The interior has been outfitted with a tropical forest filling the entire central arcade of the station. As we walk into the station, shower-heads near the top of the forest spray a fine mist into the air, and it strikes me that this is the perfect answer to the question of how to design the walk-way which is being planned to arch over the highway that currently divides downtown Albany from the Hudson river-side. Maybe they can even work in a small cafe, a bar, and a video-arcade?
We hear from Jose Maria, and I see on TV, that the rain-storms of the past two days have blanketed Spain and have been a unprecedented deluge across the country. It is reportedly the heaviest rainfall in thirty years and has caused over twenty deaths. Many of those were people who had recently built houses near to, or on top of, dried up riverbeds, which had not seen water in those thirty years. The rains were so intense and came so quickly that the waters refilled the rivers and washed away the houses and the people in them. The rains are moving slowly north, so this could effect our plans to go to Bilbao. We'll have to keep an eye on the weather-map. According to the news reports, many highways across the country are closed because bridges have washed out, and mud-slides have covered the roadways.
"Peligro! Carretera Cerrado Adelante!"
Chapter Two: Zap-a-teria y Rejuvenitunitidades