Oh, How I Wish That It Would Rain

Last week, I titled a post “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Today reinforced that statement. It has been hot in Sevilla. This is not unusual. We know that it is always hot in Sevilla in July and August.  But, we haven’t seen a drop of rain since our arrival 14 July.  So, I had been thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little rain to freshen the air and wash the pavement.”

Yesterday was 41 degrees (106F).  Today dropped below 31 (88F).  I thought it would feel cool after all this heat, so I suggested we take a walk to the plaza in front of the Museum of Fine Arts.  There’s an art show every Sunday morning with local artists displaying and selling their work.  We could then find a tapas bar nearby for lunch and we could then go to the movies.  There’s a movie theater a couple of streets away from there that shows movies in their original languages.  There’s always at least one in English.

PLAZA MUSEO (MUSEUM PLAZA) WITH THE MUSEUM IN THE BACKGROUND.

We had breakfast at the hotel, I hustled Jerry out of the room early (well, 11:00), and we walked the 20 minutes or so to the museum.  Before we left the room, I read online that there was a 20 percent chance of rain.  This made it a bit more muggy than we had anticipated, but it was definitely significantly cooler.  We loved the sound of thunder in the distance as we walked by the Metropol Parasol.  But, the chance of rain was only 20 percent so, no big deal.  We arrived at the plaza under dark and cloudy skies.  That helped to cool the air, so we were grateful.

WILL HAVE TO GET BACK ANOTHER DAY TO CHECK OUT THIS GUY’S ETCHINGS.

We immediately came upon an artist named Mercedes Paz.  She had beautiful paintings and drawings, many with a flamenco theme.  The subjects were interesting and edgy: dancers caught in repose and looking less exotic, groups and individuals caught behind the scenes when no one was supposed to be looking, flamenco dancers past their prime.  We fell in love with one very large watercolor crayon drawing of a proud, aging, and less-than-svelte dancer.  As we talked to the artist — and learned that she lived in Los Angeles 30 years ago and has a friend who owns an antique store in Santa Barbara — it began to rain.

GREAT ATTITUDE.

Fortunately, Mercedes had shrink-wrapped all her drawings and water colors.  Although it didn’t rain heavily, it came down steadily enough that all the artists packed up their things for the short-term. We sheltered under the huge fig trees in the plaza to protect our precious purchase (it was surprisingly inexpensive, by the way).

IT’S A SUNDAY IN LATE AUGUST.  EVERYTHING IS CLOSED AS I HEAD TO THE APARTMENT.

Jerry and I, wet and a little uncomfortable, decided to head over to our apartment a few minutes away to drop off our first Sevillano original.  The rain lessened as we walked and the sun came out.  The sun caused the streets and buildings to steam and this 31-degree day was suddenly much less tolerable than the recent 41-degree days.  I headed upstairs and dropped off the drawing.  Our moods and shirts had  dampened along with the day.  We took a cab back to our little air-conditioned room.  I sure hope this is our last Sunday in the hotel.

POSTSCRIPT:
I went back out to the plaza and our apartment this afternoon to take some pictures.  Nobody, but nobody, is gonna rain on my parade! (And I have now renewed my gay card for another year. I wish getting a residency card were that easy.)

Home Away from Home… Away from Home… Away from Home

SANTA MARIA LA BLANCA THIS QUIET SATURDAY NIGHT.

Jerry and I have been to Restaurante Carmela in the plaza of Santa Maria La Blanca between five and six nights per week during the past five weeks.  It’s not that we enjoy eating out three meals a day (although we have been known to do so at times even back in California); it’s just that we don’t have a home yet in which to eat.  I have fantasies of enjoying my first breakfast at home Tuesday morning.  We’ll see if that actually happens.  At least dinner at Carmela is consistently good. We usually get tapas portions and enjoy a little feast.  Oh, and have I mentioned the mojitos? Yes, I suppose I have.

ALBONDIGAS CON LANGOSTINOS Y CHOCOS.
PRAWN AND SMALL SQUID MEATBALLS.

The plaza is large and airy, and the breezes are usually refreshing even on the hottest of nights.  Yesterday and today were both over 41 degrees (that’s 106F).  Last night, when we had dinner at 10:00, it was still 38 (over 101F).  Whatever breeze existed, and there wasn’t much, was in the plaza of Santa Maria La Blanca.  We were grateful for it.  Sunday through Wednesday is supposed to be 29–33 degrees (84–93F); we might need our sweaters.

ARROZ CON CURRY, GAMBAS, Y SETAS.
RICE WITH CURRY, KING PRAWNS, AND MUSHROOMS.

We have been getting to know the servers at Carmela.  We know so far that two are studying at the University of Sevilla.  One is avidly pursuing the English language; another is studying law after puttering around in liberal arts for two years.  Another server is clearly in love; you can see it on her face when “he” stops by for a visit.  And then there’s the one who worked double shifts leading up to her vacation at the beach this week with her husband; it’s their first wedding anniversary.

BOMBITAS DE QUESO CAMEMBERT Y MERMELADA DE TOMATE.
CRUSTED CAMEMBERT CHEESE WITH TOMATO MARMALADE.

It’s nice to have someplace familiar, comfortable, and welcoming to visit every night. They make us feel like we’re home, even though we are still not home.  They joke with us about our “luz.” They all gave us warm anniversary wishes.  And they teach us a new Spanish word here and there, and laugh at some of the things we say.

“Balls!” said the queen.
“If I had two, I’d be king.”

Before arriving in Spain, I knew that “cajones” meant “drawers”; “cajas” meant “boxes”; and “cojones” were “balls” (the ones usually found on the male anatomy, not the kind you play with… well, never mind). Last week, while I was telling one of the servers our IKEA saga — that the apartment was filled with furniture, but it was all in boxes — I got my words mixed up.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what I told her we had all over the house.  There was quite a bit of laughter around the service bar for the remainder of the night.

SOLOMILLO SOLO TUYO.
SIRLOIN WITH POTATOES, SWEETENED ONIONS, AND MOJO SAUCE.
(FOR THE FIRST THREE WEEKS, WE THOUGHT THE ONIONS WERE ORANGE MARMALADE. SO GOOD!)

JUST DESSERTS
After dinner, we always stop just outside the plaza on a little street called Puerta de la Carne (“Meat Gate”) for freshly made ice cream.  There are multiple ice cream shops, but Heladería Villar is our favorite.  They serve a huge variety of flavors, freshly made. And the owners and the one staff person are as friendly and charming as they can be.  Jerry has Belgian chocolate — every night.  He broke with tradition once, accidentally, and will not do so again.  I try to vary.  The last two nights, I’ve had half Belgian chocolate and half mango.

BELGIAN CHOCOLATE.

They have the best pistachio and there’s a date ice cream that is so natural it tastes like you’re eating fresh dates, which in my opinion is not a very refreshing ice cream flavor.  Amazingly, we have both lost weight since being here.  Although we’re indulging, we’re not eating large portions.  And I suppose it’s also partly because we (well, I, mostly) walk miles every day.  The heat certainly encourages the burning of excess calories.

MANGO AND BELGIAN CHOCOLATE.

ANYTHING FOR A BUCK… OR A EURO
I probably should also mention the various and sundry “annoyers” and street entertainers we see every night.  There’s the extremely pushy and unpleasant shoeshine guy.  He looks like a pervert, just about crawling under tables to blatantly ogle everyone’s feet.  Jerry’s sneakers and my sandals are, thankfully, always a huge disappointment and he quickly moves on. When Carmela was in town (I assume she’s at the beach now), she would make him leave.  He never did so quietly.

As for music, there’s the very shrill flutaphone player who has not added to her dismal repertoire in five weeks; but, come to think of it, that’s probably a good thing.  Another, a recorder player, performs while on roller blades and is training his very devoted dog to not bark incessantly while he plays.  He’s actually good and plays some Simon & Garfunkel, which makes me happy — as long as the dog behaves.  Then there’s the very well-dressed but not very talented accordion player who performs “Cielito Lindo” — every night.  It was bad enough when the long-suffering mariachis in Old Town San Diego and Tijuana received incessant requests for that song from the tourists. How many times can a performer take requests for “Cielito Lindo” without going bonkers? But no one is asking this guy for “Cielito Lindo.”  Should I pay him (and the flutaphone player) to stop?

We don’t tip them all and we don’t tip every night.  And, even though some are talented, hearing the same musicians perform the same tunes every night for five weeks does get old.  So, I was really happy to see a new duo arrive Friday night.  These two young women — one androgynous, who made a statement with a huge pompadour of flaming red hair — and the other, barefoot and in a chic little dress, were a really pleasant surprise.  The redhead strummed simply on the guitar while the chic one sang in French.  The singer does Edith Piaf and does her well.  Her voice was powerful, pure, and beautiful to hear.  They performed one number and received applause (which doesn’t happen) and then, appearing embarrassed, passed the hat (well, walked around with a tiny cardboard box) before moving on to the next restaurant in the plaza; unlike the accordion and the wandering flutes, their sound can’t carry over as much area at one time.  The song they performed next door was even more beautiful.  They were back tonight and even better.  They received even more applause everywhere they went.  And they were much more comfortable, and very successful, passing the hat.

THE REINCARNATION OF EDITH PIAF.

So now I don’t just look forward to going back to Carmela and Heladería Villar, I also look forward to the possibility of some new and good music.  Oh, yeah, and the mojitos.

Still in the Dark and Making Faces

UNREADABLE EXPRESSIONS?

It looks like we might possibly have “luz” Monday.  Maybe.  More or less.  Yesterday, the lawyer didn’t know if it might possibly be today.  Maybe.  More or less.  The inspection was done last Friday.  That I know for certain.  I was there.  As a result, the “bulletin” was produced Tuesday of this week (Monday was a holiday).  Something supposedly happened Wednesday, but I have no idea what.  Thursday, the lawyer received the “certificate,” which was produced as a result of the “bulletin,” which was produced as a result of the inspection. 

For some reason, the lawyer needed our passport numbers today. I happened to bump into him on the street around noon or I probably would not have known.  I also happened to bump into him on the street yesterday, which is how I found out the certificate had been received, but he didn’t tell me he needed our passport numbers yesterday.  And now, apparently, the electric company can’t finalize anything without our passport numbers.

To be honest, I don’t know if the certificate was received Thursday or Wednesday.  It seems obvious that the lawyer could have turned in our passport numbers yesterday and had the “luz” turned on today. There only seems to be action or progress when I bump into him.  And it seems that only one progression is allowed per day.

We believe our electricity would have been turned on two weeks earlier had we taken care of this ourselves and not let the lawyer do us “a favor” and use his power and influence.  But there’s nothing to be done about it now except to smile, comment politely on how much it is costing us to remain in the hotel, and then say in Spanish “thank you for all your help.”  I plan to see if I can negotiate a little money back for our time lost.  But I don’t expect much

MY FATHER.
MAKING A FACE, 1948.

I have a very expressive face. My father actually wasn’t so kind when he described it.  He would grouse, “Why are you always making faces!?!”  My father, too, was always making faces, by the way.  Surly teenager that I was, I would every so often respond to his grouse by telling him that maybe I learned it from him.  It never went over very well.

ME. MAKING A FACE
WEDDING DAY, 2010.

It takes great effort for me to not allow one of my “faces” to appear when I bump into the lawyer and am unable to get a clear answer as to where we are in the process or why he didn’t tell me yesterday what he is telling me today.

When I walk by the cathedral, I love looking at the stony expressions on the faces of the saints around the doors.  Perhaps something to strive for.  Not sainthood.  Just a stony expression.

MOVISTAR SMILES

We have no idea how long it will take to get the internet up and running once we have light.  We’ve been working with the company, Movistar, on that — landline, TV, and mobile phones.  It hasn’t gone easily, but that has been compounded by the fact that we have no electricity so can’t finalize the installations even if Telefónica (the company that owns Movistar) were doing everything efficiently.  Anyway, Esther at Movistar is a lot of fun.  She insists they can get someone to our house very quickly once we have “luz.”  But I’m beginning to realize that I have no idea what “very quickly” means.  Anyway, Esther and I have been having a wonderful time together (today was my fifth visit — no wonder I feel so worn down)

I do my business in Spanish but, while we work, Esther and I give each other little lessons in our respective languages and that is extremely entertaining.  Yesterday she asked me what “night everyone” meant.  After a moment, I realized it was simply short for “good-night everyone” and then explained it was like people here saying “buenos” instead of “buenos dias” for “good morning,” something we hear all the time.  When Jerry and I took the train to Yale University and would then part company to head to our offices at opposite ends of campus, we would always say, “Have a good one.”  We commuted with a woman who was originally from Croatia.  She would always indignantly demand, “Have a good WHAT?”

Today, Esther’s question was, what does “because of you” mean?  She picks things up from song lyrics.  I enjoy these conversations and I don’t worry about what faces I make.  Besides, I usually finish with a smile.

Thirty Years of Bliss

Today is my 30th anniversary.  Fortunately, it’s Jerry’s 30th anniversary, as well, or I wouldn’t be celebrating.  Thirty years of joy, moving, laughter, worry, moving, love, family, panic attacks, moving, tragedy, celebration, stress, anxiety, moving, luxury, money worries, gardens, moving, ailments, celebrations, pouts, moving, blizzards, depression, glee, moving, more moving, and more of everything else that comes up in just about everyone’s lives.

We celebrated our first anniversary with a large catered party in the elegant back garden of our Beacon Hill row house (we had that little one-bedroom apartment on the second floor).  I think we were both so surprised at the time to have maintained a relationship for an entire year that we thought we’d better mark the occasion.  Jerry said he had no doubts from the start that it would be forever.  I was convinced for a long time that, one of these days, he would realize what a huge mistake he had made.

We celebrated our 10th anniversary with a much larger catered party at our house in Guilford, Connecticut.  Ten years seemed liked forever at the time. We had a lot to celebrate.

So, here we are in Sevilla marking the beginning of our 31st year together.  I had thought we’d be in our apartment and hosting a party for our new friends to commemorate this latest milestone.  But that won’t happen without “luz” and it’s too hot to do much of anything anyway.  So, we have no big plans to mark this day except to spend it together.  And, for me, that’s more than enough.

Carmen, Margarita, Paco, and Jerry

JOSÉ & CARMEN.  SHE WAS AMAZING.

We broke with routine last night and decided to take in some live opera.  Margarita phoned to say she and her friend Paco were going to the Palacio de la Buhaira to see a performance of “Carmen” in an outdoor theater in the gardens there and she invited us to join them.  Now, I am definitely not a huge opera fan, but I do like “Carmen” and I figured, as did Margarita, the language would not be an issue since I knew the story and the music so well.  The first opera Jerry had ever seen was “Carmen,” so he also felt very comfortable.  Besides, the story of “Carmen” takes place in Sevilla at a very large tobacco factory.  We are in Sevilla and we regularly walk by the very large tobacco factory, which is now part of the University of Sevilla.  What could be more perfect?

THE PERFORMANCE WAS IN THE INTERIOR COURTYARD UNDER THAT GLOWING MOON.

We met Margarita and Paco at a bar in the middle of the Gardens of the Buhaira (just a few minutes by taxi from our hotel; a 15-minute walk if it weren’t 36 degrees — 97F — outside) at 9:45 for the 10:00 performance.  When we arrived, Margarita said she was embarrassed to tell us that she suspected this may not be an opera, but rather a modern theatrical production of “Carmen.” She was concerned that we would have to sit through an entire play in Spanish.  But, we didn’t care.  It was our first live theater in Sevilla.  And the setting was stunning.  Besides, it was reassuring to know that even a native Sevillana can get things confused sometimes.

JERRY, MARGARITA, AND PACO AFTER THE SHOW.  CARMEN WAS TWICE DEAD.

The Palace of La Buhaira was built outside the city of Sevilla in 1171 and the gardens were irrigated via an old Roman aqueduct.  As Sevilla grew over the centuries the area became absorbed into the city, although it is not part of the ancient city center.  I took a walk over this afternoon to explore the gardens and to get daylight pictures.

THE PALACIO/THEATER THIS AFTERNOON.

The play was, as my Aunt Rozzie would say, “interesting” (which sometimes means, “I’m not sure I understand but I’m not going to be closed-minded”). The production quality was excellent.  The cast was very good.  And we all agreed that the woman who played Carmen was phenomenal.  She was so expressive that it wouldn’t matter what language she performed in.  We still would have “gotten it.”  I was able to understand entire sentences, but was not able to really follow the flow of dialog, which was obvious when I didn’t always laugh in sync with the rest of the audience.

A COOLING VIEW OF THE GARDENS TODAY.  ANOTHER VERY HOT DAY IN SEVILLA.

And there was one actor with an accent I could not fathom.  It sounded to me like he was from Brooklyn (sorry my Brooklyn friends)… only in Spanish.  Margarita explained to me afterward that he was from Córdoba.  I guess it’s the same thing.  My college Italian teacher said people from New York, and especially Brooklyn, speak without using any of the muscles around their mouths. I think she might have said the same thing about people from Córdoba.

THE ANCIENT AQUEDUCT.

Unfortunately, the director did something I’ve seen before and could not appreciate (the first time was at a production of a Molière play at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego).  The setting in history changed as the play progressed.  The story began where it was supposed to begin, in mid-19th century Sevilla.  But as each scene progressed, the era changed.  I thought it was odd at first when the costumes were inconsistent.  But, I finally caught on when one of the characters, now wearing a contemporary business suit, used a cell phone prop.

THE UNIVERSITY OF SEVILLA.  THE TOBACCO FACTORY OF CARMEN FAME.

In this production, Carmen and José begin the play with José stabbing and killing Carmen at the tobacco factory.  They end the play with José stabbing and killing Carmen in a bullring.  When José stabs and kills Carmen for the second time, there are actors in the background waving Sevilla flags while pre-recorded football game cheers play.  We think this was to hearken back to when Sevilla beat Real Madrid in the 2007 Spanish Super Cup.  Like I said, “interesting.”

ATOP THE MAIN ENTRANCE OF THE TOBACCO FACTORY/UNIVERSITY OF SEVILLA.

Paco loved the performance.  Jerry and I were happy to be out on the town and in such charming company.  Margarita didn’t much care for the lack of respect for the original “Carmen” (she, like I, just doesn’t get that period-change concept).  But it was a wonderful night out.