Like a Virgin

It seems like I haven’t seen a Virgin in months. That’s “Virgin” with a capital “V.” Or in Sevilla, La Virgen. There were I know processions regularly throughout the summer but, unlike last year (our first year in Sevilla), I didn’t run around taking pictures of them all. I was very grateful to not have to go very far this morning when at 10:15, San Geraldo said, “There’s a small procession heading this way.”

HEADING OUR WAY. VIEWED FROM THE DINING ROOM AT 10:15.

I grabbed my camera and went from balcony to balcony looking for the best angles and finally decided that downstairs was a better option. So, I threw on some clothes (yes, I was still in bed at 10:15) and popped downstairs. At noon, when we returned from breakfast and the procession had just returned to the streets, I took some more photos.

AT NOON, AFTER LEAVING THE CONVENT OF THE SISTERS OF SANTA ROSALÍA.
JUST AS SHE REACHED OUR BUILDING.

This particular Virgin was the first one we had seen process on our street after we moved in last year. So today was my second time! I wonder if that means I’m no longer a virgin. No need to respond. First of all, I was no longer a virgin a long (a very long) time ago. Besides, in answer to some questions I had of a sexual nature at the age of 12, my father told me a little (a very little) about the birds and the bees. I didn’t buy a word of it. Actually, he was so embarrassed and nervous, some of what he told me turned out to not even be true! Lesson learned. After that, I just asked my friends.

TURNING THE CORNER ON HER WAY HOME.

But back to La Virgen. The Brotherhood of the Holy Cross annually carries “Our Lady of Sorrows” from a couple of streets away at the Capilla del Dulce Nombre de Jesús (Chapel of the Sweet Name of Jesus) for a brief visit to the nearby convent of the Sisters of Santa Rosalía. Around noon, she makes her return trip.

THE ENTOURAGE TAKING HER HOME.

There was no music, just a man with a battery-powered megaphone droning on in Latin the entire time. He offered an odd juxtaposition to the grandeur, elegance, and antiquity of the procession.

LATIN IS A DEAD LANGUAGE.  IT’S PLAIN ENOUGH TO SEE.
IT KILLED OFF ALL THE ROMANS.  AND NOW IT’S KILLING ME.

I’ve had a rough week (and two days). As if the jet lag and fitful sleep weren’t bad enough, Tuesday evening I came down with a “bug” of some sort, felt awful, and didn’t sleep one minute the entire night. The bug passed quickly, but then I felt as if the jet lag had started all over again. That of course brought on some depression. But, last night I slept (and didn’t wake up until 10:15 as you’ll recall).

It “made me feel… shiny and new.”

Ha Ha and Wamahtchekaowe

Given that my Spanish can be a bit limited and even sometimes quite embarrassing, I was surprised on my arrival in New York to discover that Spanish (well, Broken Spanish) has become my default language. I would automatically say “gracias” instead of “thanks,” “hola” instead of “hi,” “perdone” instead of “excuse me,” “si” and “no” instead of “yes” and… well, you get the point.

BEFORE LEAVING SEVILLA. THEY UNDERSTOOD.

My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess even found herself translating for me in restaurants when I didn’t understand the New York accents. “Can I get you more water?” sounded to me like “Kannagetchamowadah?” Although I’ve only lived in Spain a little over a year, I haven’t lived in New York for a very long time. Some years back, that question might have made perfect sense. The Dowager Duchess, fortunately, is usually easy to understand. The Kid Brother, on the other hand, speaks pure Brooklynese/New Yorkese/Queensese… whadevuh. I usually don’t have trouble understanding what he says because I’ve spent so many years imitating him. His accent and comments can be very entertaining. I just don’t understand why my understanding doesn’t carry over to the New York population in general. At Iberia check-in at Kennedy Airport, the woman at the counter asked me about the re-entry document folded within my passport. She had no need for it and didn’t understand why I gave it to her. She asked me the question in New York City English. I apologized (unwittingly, in Spanish) for not understanding the question, so she repeated it in Spanish, which I understood perfectly. She then looked at my birthplace on my passport. I’m surprised I wasn’t pulled aside for special screening. We then had a great conversation (in English) about my decision to live in Spain and about the magical city of Sevilla. But now I’m back in Sevilla and I say “breathe” (“respirar”) instead of “wait” (esperar). The basic truth is I have never in my life felt like I fully belonged anywhere. But that’s another story.

I may have mentioned before that the Spanish version of the English “ha ha” is pronounced the same but spelled “ja ja” (the “J’s” are pronounced like “H’s”). I think it’s kind of funny. Perhaps not ja ja funny, but funny.

While in New York with The Dowager Duchess, I had the misfortune to watch a cooking show on TV. Any time the kid brother arrives he turns on the TV and watches cooking shows. The Dowager Duchess grudgingly (so she says) watches with him. I don’t think it’s so grudgingly because she usually insists on telling me what they cooked — in some detail. Me! Well, one morning, although the Kid Brother wasn’t even there, The Dowager Duchess had the TV tuned to a cooking show. Ja! The host was Jamie Deen, one of two TV cooking sons of the TV cooking host Paula Deen. They’re from Georgia.

AFTER SURVIVING A DRIVE THROUGH GEORGIA IN 1973.
WE FOUND OURSELVES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAYTONA BEACH MOTORCYCLE RALLY.

The traditional Georgian (Southern) accent is one I have always had some difficulty understanding. It all began with a university spring-break road-trip from New York to Daytona Beach, Florida. We were passing through rural Georgia in the middle of the night when our car broke down. It was creepy sitting on a pitch-dark rural road surrounded by huge trees draped heavily in Spanish moss. A state trooper arrived in uniform with a raw gash on his neck. There was fresh blood and it looked quite large for a shaving “nick.” He asked if we wanted him to call a wrecker. “Wahmahtacohlarecka?” is what it sounded like. When we four New Yorkers finally understood what the obvious serial killer was asking, we went into panic. In New York, we called “wreckers” “tow trucks.” We thought he was planning on taking the car somewhere and crushing it, probably with us in it. We didn’t understand why he was giving us a choice. We finally did understand (when a tow truck arrived and he said “theyah’s tha recka”). They towed us to a darkened gas station about 10 miles closer to the middle of nowhere. We slept in the car (with the doors locked) having no idea what was going to happen to us. In the morning, it was carefully explained (so we Northern idiots could understand) that all we needed was a new fan belt. After the repair was done, the creepy mechanic — filthy, gigantic, hairless, ash-colored, and dead around the eyes asked: “Wamahtchekaowe?” By the time he had repeated the question the fourth time, his fleshy ashen face was a purple gray and his eyes, although still dead, were bulging. “Oh!” we all repeated excitedly, “Want me to check the oil! Want me to check the oil!” “Yayah,” he harumphed. “No thanks,” we said. The car broke down in Georgia on the way home, too. I can’t believe we survived that trip. Not to disparage Georgia, I’ve been told the city of Savannah is especially charming.

CHEF BROTHER BOBBIE DEEN (RIGHT) HELPING OUT UNTIL THE OTHER CHEF ARRIVED.

photo from a TV website

But, back to Jamie Deen and his cooking show. I have no idea what he was cooking. I just remember that there was a kid’s birthday party going on in the backyard and they had a piñata. While the chef stood over the barbecue grill, he controlled the string to constantly readjust the height of the piñata so his son could practice on it. The goal was to let the kid have some fun without destroying the piñata before the guests arrived. The chef’s wife warned him that the boy was getting too close. The chef smiled and then, I thought, laughed, “Ha ha.” He then raised the piñata a bit and was told to raise it more. “Ha ha,” he very clearly repeated. His wife gave him some instructions.

Then it hit me. He was not saying “ha ha.” He was asking, “How high?”

Ja ja! (I wonder how you say “LOL” in Spanish. In “Georgian,” I think there are two extra syllables.)

How to Say “Jet Lag” in Spanish

Sometimes, translating phrases from English to Spanish is difficult and sometimes the exercise is pointless. The phrase has no meaning once translated. I tried to look up how to say “jet lag” in Spanish and I wasn’t successful.

I asked one of our neighbors how it was said. “Jet lag,” she responded.

I said, “Si. ¿Cómo se dice? (Yes. How do you say it?) 

“Jet lag,” she repeated with a smile.

I was about to ask again but, despite my jet lag, I caught on. Jet lag in Spanish is “jet lag.” And that’s what I’ve got. But it’s getting better. I slept fitfully through the night and was up at 10. (OK, I took a nap after breakfast, but still it’s getting better.) I even met Albert for coffee Monday morning at 9. I walked there in my sleep, but it was still very pleasant conversation… I think. And, although Lola had a lot to do that morning, she walked over just to give me a “welcome home” kiss before running off. Nice.

THE PERFECT CURE FOR JET LAG?  GECKO CARAMEL VODKA.

We had lunch Sunday in Triana with Teré, Miguel, and Teré’s charming mother who was passing through town. After lunch, the manager of the restaurant brought us free drinks. San Geraldo never does these after-dinner shots. He always finds them too medicinal. But he took a whiff and realized it was caramel (the print on the shot glasses might have given it away). He took a sip and loved it. The manager brought another round, but one was San Geraldo’s limit. It wasn’t mine, however. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of our shots of caramel vodka before they were drained (or the second shots either). I was busy.

THE AFTER-SHOTS DESSERT SAMPLER.

Oddly, although we had no interest in dessert before the shots, we were all for dessert after the shots. Miguel ordered the sampler. We made fast work of it.

MY STYLE. BASIC BLACK.

Before I left for New York, I needed new traveling shoes. I bought a pair of Izod trainers for our first trip here in 2010, but they had to be retired. So, I went to El Corte Inglés and found an even better replacement. Pumas. My favorites. In black with a velcro strap for easy off and on at the airport. While in the shoe department, I saw they were having a sale on even easier off and on shoes. But one look told me it wasn’t a difficult choice. Yellow, purple, red, orange, and green suede “moccasins” are not my style. I suppose I’ll never look completely Sevillano.

A BIT TOO COLORFUL FOR ME (ESPECIALLY WHEN I HAVE JET LAG).

So, San Geraldo and I are back to our normal routine of breakfast downstairs at El Sanedrín. What a wonderful way to start the day. Once my jet lag passes, we might even again finish breakfast before noon.

THIS MORNING’S BREAKFAST TOSTADA WITH AROMATIC OLIVE OIL.

Monday night was a nice quiet dinner at home in front of the TV. San Geraldo made his slightly Sevillano version of hamburgers. I always have mine without a bun and San Geraldo has his with bun, open-faced, and drowning in ketchup. The contrast in styles is shocking. San Geraldo said I could post this photo as I long as I made it clear he wouldn’t do this in a restaurant. (On a blog seen by thousands? Yes. In a restaurant? No.)

THAT’S MY DISH ON THE LEFT AND SAN GERALDO’S ON THE RIGHT.
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT OUR PERSONALITIES?

Native New Yorkers and the Night of the Iguana

Two dear friends that I knew when I worked at my last (and worst) corporate job — one was in essence my business partner at work and the other was someone we both met at a trade show — came to Brooklyn Wednesday just to have dinner with me. PG, my workmate, flew several hours and Vince drove several hours. They are both people I am so grateful to know and to have in my life and I can’t believe their generosity in coming all that way just for dinner with me — and the Dowager Duchess. We went out in Sheepshead Bay at a great Greek restaurant. My mother and I have been there before, and Vince coincidentally knows the owners’ son. I of course had my camera. Did I think to take any pictures of us or our meal? No! But I did take a picture of a local resident.

ONE OF THE DUCHESS’ NEIGHBORS OUT FOR AN EVENING STROLL.
(HER PERSONAL ASSISTANT CARRIED HER KIDS IN A CLOTH SACK.)

Our table was near broad French doors that opened onto a dining patio, the street, and the fishing port across the way. At one point, Vince gasped (I think he actually said, “Holy crap!” and then apologized to The Duchess for his language. I turned around to see a guy with a very large iguana on his shoulder. My mother turned and said, as if iguanas were a very common sight in Brooklyn, “Oh, I see them all the time. He walks her on a leash.” Vince and I went outside for pictures. The restaurant owner and some staff went outside to pet the iguana. The owner of the iguana had several baby iguanas in a sack. He was selling them for $150 a piece. I offered to buy one for The Duchess. She turned me down… without even a “thank you very much.”

THE IGUANA’S OWNER (IN THE YANKEES CAP) AND THE RESTAURANT MAÎTRE D.

When The Duchess shopped at Trader Joe’s Tuesday morning, she returned with a Spanish Cheese Tapas Sampler to make me feel more at home. I didn’t have any. She had some on a bagel with breakfast Thursday morning. Just the way they serve tapas in Sevilla?

THE PERFECT CHEESE FOR A NEW YORK BAGEL.

Given all the packages of Pepperidge Farms Double-Chocolate Milanos my mother bought for me (I even brought two home to Sevilla), and the 5 pounds of baked goods from Aunt Matilda, I didn’t have any room for my childhood favorite from the bakery, a New York Black & White cookie. My sister and I used to love these major treats — very large cake-like cookies topped half with dark and half with white icing. I was tempted at a diner one day, but merely took a picture.

BLACK & WHITE COOKIES.  I RESISTED TEMPTATION.
I’ve written quite a bit about New York diners, and realized that many of my readers have no idea what that even means. So, I snapped a shot of The Duchess and The Kid Brother outside the Parkview Diner in Brooklyn (where the Kid Brother and I had Monte Cristo “sandwiches” — huge slabs of French toast topped with a ton of ham, turkey, melted cheese, and maple syrup; and enough French fries to feed a family of 6… or San Geraldo). The Parkview Diner is the one near Coney Island (you can see some of the rides from their windows) that has the menu with photos of the Parachute Jump and “The Dowager Duchess’s Sailors.”

WHAT A NEW YORK DINER LOOKS LIKE.

THE BETTER-LOOKING SON AND THE DOWAGER DUCHESS.
INSIDE PARKVIEW DINER. (WE COULDN’T BELIEVE HE LET HER REST HER HEAD ON HIS SHOULDER.)
Before I left Sevilla, San Geraldo looked at me and asked, “Who’s going to cook for you two?” When The Duchess and I were not going out for lunch and dinner, I did the cooking! Every day, I would boil water for tea and actually steep the tea bag in each of our cups. I was the one who would slice the bagels. I even toasted my own frozen waffles one day. The Duchess commented that she did all the washing up all week and I responded, “That’s the way it works.” What a team.

Sisterhoods and Baked Goods

My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess grew up in a family of nine, which included her parents along with six girls and one boy. Time passes, sometimes sadly, and the brother and two of the sisters are now gone. But the remaining sisterhood is still strong.

THE SISTERHOOD (AND THEIR MOTHER) IN THE 1940s.

Monday, I drove my mother to visit her sister Matilda who now lives in New Jersey. Usually, Matilda insists on serving lunch, but this time the plan was that we would go out. Matilda tripped and broke her arm about six months ago. She’s tough and determined and, although I’m sure it was difficult, she managed well. She finally got the cast off and was soon in an accident and broke the other arm. The right arm still needs time to fully heel; the left arm is in a splint. One would think that would slow her down, but it hasn’t. When we arrived at Aunt Matilda’s apartment Monday afternoon, she had a beautiful blueberry cake and a huge bag of chocolate chip mondel brodt (Jewish biscotti) packed up on the dining room table for us to take home. She had baked the day before just for us.

AUNT MATILDA’S MONDEL BRODT.  I FINISHED IT ALL BEFORE I LEFT NEW YORK.

AUNT MATILDA’S BLUEBERRY CAKE.  PERFECTION!
I TRIED TO FINISH IT BEFORE I LEFT NEW YORK.

I asked Matilda how she managed and she said she had a plastic glove that fits perfectly over the splinted left arm. She said she used the side of her arm, encased in the glove, to pound the dough. Unbelievable. (And I don’t think that’s why she was given that glove.)

AUNT MATILDA AND THE DOWAGER DUCHESS LAST WEEK… 
AND A FEW YEARS BACK.

The oldest living sister, my Aunt Sylvie (89), has had dementia for a number of years. She has an amazing care-giver who lives with her and takes such good care of her that her physical health remains exceptional, so exceptional in fact that her doctor has told the care-giver she needs to tend to him when the time comes. We’re grateful she is so lovingly and expertly watched over. She used to travel to California with my mother every year to spend a couple of weeks with us. We miss those times. Now, my mother visits her with their “kid sister.” Tuesday, after my mother returned from Trader Joe’s, I took her to visit Aunt Sylvie. We arrived later than hoped, but were fortunate to bump into the “kid sister” just as she was leaving.

AUNT SYLVIE.  LOVED AND WELL TAKEN CARE OF.

When Aunt Sylvie was still pretty sharp and she and The Duchess visited us in Santa Barbara, she was admiring all the family photos we had hanging on our walls. She came upon a photo of The Kid Brother and me (from 1961) and said, “Who’s that?” The Duchess responded, “That’s Mitchell and Chucky.” Sylvie said, pointing at my face in the photo, “I know that’s Chucky, but who’s the other one?” The Duchess said, “No. That’s Mitchell. Chucky is in front of him.” Sylvie looked at me, looked at the photo, looked again at me, and said, “I don’t remember you being so cute.” She paused, appearing to consider what she had just said. Then she clarified, “Chucky was always better looking than you… Still is.”

I’M THE FUNNY LOOKING ONE IN BACK.