October 31, 2017. Madrid, Spain.
WoOoOoOo lads! What kind of spooky things are you doing this Halloween? I’m trying to survive in Madrid.
First, let me say of the 8 hour train ride that got me here: Beautiful, but never again. The Spanish countryside is incredible for the first three hours or so. Then it’s a bunch of gorgeous bullshit Don Quixote hills. Here are other things I have learned they don’t have on the Spanish supertrains: Potable water, electrical outlets, Wi-Fi. My laptop died, then my phone almost died, so I looked at a hell of a lot of landscape. Bring a friend and a bottle if you’re doing that for more than 3 hours. And maybe some Windex, either for the window or for the chaser after hour 6.
We started to slow for our final stop and it was… just… slums. Not the classy, romantic kind out in the country with the drying lines hung out the orange-tan windows and the children jugando el futbol out on the rolling hills. The kind where you’re like, “Oh! I can buy crack here!”
The train slowed to a stop for upwards of 20 minutes, somehow. It’s on a track, fam. Not a huge margin for error here. When we finally pulled into the station, it turned out to be 4 miles outside of center city, which was an especially sharp twist of the knife because typical proximity to center city of large metropolitan areas is the reason I went by fucking train.
Wi-Fi in Spain is like water in the desert, and it was in the Madrid train station that I learned Barcelona wasn’t just the country’s economic oasis. I tried to download a map to my phone and it took a half hour. I ate a bocadillo that cost around $1.50 more than any of the better ones Catalonia-side, then hopped a bus to the heart of Madrid.
It looked less like the setting of an inspirational movie where a free-spirited teacher helps a bunch of at-risk youth learn to enjoy school and find themselves through the power of dance, but not much. Since Wi-Fi is impossible, I walked to a hostel that was full up, so I had to crouch outside a Starbucks and steal their internet in order to book one called Motion Hostel, outside of a classy restaurant where an old dude was playing My Heart Will Go On violin-style and killin’ it.
The place was a 9-story disaster with an elevator that only ran up to the 6th floor, broken doorknobs, weird pleather mattresses, and no hot water. The guy at the desk was kind of a dick. The Wi-Fi login seemed to be a Ponzi scheme; you give it your e-mail and they give you 15 minutes free browsing time to go confirm it, then they’ll send you a username and password to log into the Wi-Fi. Instead, they gave me 15 minutes, sent me nothing, then sent me 3 different confirmations, none of which logged me in. Then the entire internet disappeared. Poof.
So, I was destined to spend Mischief Night like the pioneers. All righty. I did that the first ten years of my life, no big deal. I went out into the streets to find soap, which was easy, and food, which was hard. Everyone was selling food but they had priced it at twice its actual value because the Spanish economy is sunk. The beggars are aggressive, flailing and pointing at you as you pass like proselytizers.
In the center of one of the largest plazas, a stout, punkish-looking girl flagged me down. We made Spanish smalltalk until my Spanish failed, and then she asked, “English?” in what sounded like a Russian accent.
“God, yes,” I said.
“Sex?” she asked.
Select any three-second close up of Martin Freeman from any of the hobbit movies, and that was the iteration of faces I made.
“Disculpe?” I said, because I say that a real lot out here.
“I have a place not far from here. It is 35 euros for 20 minutes. You come?”
I told her I appreciated the offer, but I was all right. As I walked away she asked, “We go?”, but no, we do not. Later, on a much darker and more abandoned corner, a slight man in a collared shirt offered me business cards with mostly naked women and comparable price tags printed on them.
I guess not all of Spain’s economy is in shambles.
Truth told, I was kind of offended. I’m a strapping young man! I’m in the prime of my life, give or take a decade. Yeah, the glue factory’s definitely on the horizon, but I’m not there yet. This isn’t a damn pay-to-play situation! POEMS have been WRITTEN-
No, forget it. Listen, I don’t know how regularly I’ll get to post from this Wi-Fi wasteland. Maybe I’ll have better luck at the next hostel. If so, I’ll update you then.
Del yermo con amor,