Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Six Strikes, You're Out

We have been sleeping in our apartment since Sunday night.  It's bliss.  Our "stuff" is supposed to arrive from California via England via Madrid Thursday.  We can't wait for that to happen. 

We now have wireless connectivity for one of our laptops.  Via Vodafone.  I finally gave up on Movistar after phoning Monday morning and being told that someone would call me Monday, and then going into the store Monday afternoon to be told that if someone didn't call me Monday night, they would probably call me Tuesday. 

Since this had been going on since Thursday; and since this was my sixth visit to Movistar and I still had no contract; and since I had stopped off at Vodafone in the morning and learned that if we signed up with them for internet, we would have immediate wireless connectivity even though the hardwire installation might take more than three weeks; and since I found a cable company that could give us more channels (also immediately); and since when I told the sales rep at Movistar all this, she just shrugged her shoulders... I said thanks but we wouldn't be signing a contract with them and I moved on.  Movistar struck out.  But, in case you don't know, it's really only three strikes and you're out in American baseball.

LOVED THE UNIFORM BUT, AT THE AGE OF 5, I COULDN'T HAVE TOLD YOU THE RULES OF THE GAME.

Vodafone was true to their word.  The only problem is we can't seem to get the modem to work for us both.  So, Jerry has connectivity.  I share his computer as needed.  And I go over to Starbucks for a Frapuccino and 45 minutes of free WiFi.  That's where I am right now.

On Friday, I bought a new permanent smart phone to replace the cheap, temporary, basic phone I've had for the past few weeks.  But, because I kept my number and changed service providers (from Yoigo to Vodafone), my smart phone and my internet connection that comes with it will not be live until Friday at two. Government regulations.  I didn't realize that and couldn't understand why I had no service on my new phone.  Miguel at Vodafone explained it to me.  I'm sure the sales rep who sold me the phone last week would have explained that to me, as well, and it was simply lost in translation.

WHICH BRINGS ME BACK TO BASEBALL
Several years ago, our Norwegian cousin Jon Olaf asked Jerry to explain the game of baseball.  It's not an extremely complex game, we thought.  It would be fun and simple to explain, we thought. 

EXPLAINING BASEBALL, IN NORWEGIAN,
TO BONNIE THE DOG.
Jerry began by telling Jan Olaf that there are two teams with nine players each.  There are nine innings in a game, with three outs per inning. 

"What's an inning?" asked Jon Olaf. 

Jerry attempted to explain an inning.  That wasn't too difficult. 

But then, "What's an out?" 

Jerry tried to explain that one way of getting "out" was to get three strikes.

"What's a strike?" 

Jerry discussed the very basics of strikes — the swing-and-miss kind and the strike-zone kind — and that if you got four balls before you got three strikes you would walk. 

First, Jan Olaf laughed at the idea of anyone having to walk anywhere with four balls. 

But then he wondered where one would be walking... And... "They use more than one ball?" 

Explaining Spanish phones, internet, and TV to me is kind of like explaining American baseball to Jan Olaf.   

Except that Jan Olaf was fluent in English.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene and the Dowager Duchess Face Off

JERRY AND I WITH THE DOWAGER DUCHESS ON HER 80TH BIRTHDAY IN 2007.

Jerry and I just watched a live broadcast via MSNBC.  The reporter was standing on the Coney Island Boardwalk just down the street from my mother's apartment.  The view was from the exact location of a photo in my 5 July post.

MY VIEW IN JULY.  THE FIBERGLASS GUY WITH HIS FIBERGLASS BURGER
HAS A WHOLE LOT OF SHAKIN' GOIN' ON TODAY.

My mother's neighborhood has had a mandatory evacuation in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.  My mother and many of her neighbors, however, stayed put.  They usually feel invincible from the weather, living in their high-rise apartments.  My mother could go further into Brooklyn to stay with her sister who has had home care for a few years, living with the advanced stages of dementia.  My mother loves her sister but didn't think she could cope with staying with her.  Her other option was to go to one of three shelters designated for people in her neighborhood.  That was even less appealing to my mother, the "Dowager Duchess."

SIMILAR VIEW THIS MORNING.

Many of my mother's friends are staying home as well.  Her next-door neighboor is 89 and is in poor health.  She refuses to go to her niece's home away from the ocean.  Too many impossible stairs to climb.  My 84-year-old mother is going to take care of her, if she should need any help.  They live on the 17th floor and the winds are supposed to be worse up high.  The central hall is completely interior with no windows.  My mother says they'll just drag chairs out there if they need to. But, my mother is not at all concerned.  She worries my brother doesn't eat enough.  She worries Jerry and I spend too much money.  She worries she won't get the self-defense class she plans to take this semester at Kingsborough Community College.  But she doesn't worry about earthquakes, hurricanes, or any other natural disasters. She's a New Yorker.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points... Does Not Exist in Sevilla

There really are very few straight lines in Sevilla.  Well, that's not entirely true.  There are many straight lines in Sevilla.  Each one, however, is brief and connects with another straight line going in an entirely different direction.

PUERTA DE CARMONA.  ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM OUR HOTEL.

STATUE OF THE ARTIST FRANCISCO DE ZURBARAN.  PLAZA DE LOS PILATOS.
IT TOOK US 25 MINUTES TO FIND IT IN JANUARY.  WE WERE ALWAYS 5 MINUTES AWAY.


Adding to the confusion of the crooked streets is the fact that streets change their names constantly.  It's no wonder we keep ending up at the Metropol Parasol when we think we're heading to the river

PASSING THE HOSTAL ATENAS.  CARS AND PEDESTRIANS TAKE TURNS.

AFTER DODGING THE CARS, FOLLOWING THAT ALLEY ON THE RIGHT.


I finally, four days ago, figured out a shortcut when walking between our hotel and our apartment.  It's only taken me the better part of a month.  It's a much more pleasant walk and cuts out quite a bit of ground.

AT THE ENTRY TO THE ALLEY.  IGLESIA SAN ILDEFONSO.  BEGUN IN 1794.

ONLY PEDESTRIANS DOWN THIS ALLEY.   CHURCH OF SAN PEDRO BECKONS. 
BUILT BY THE MOORS AND MODERNIZED IN THE LATE 1300s.


I thought I had it all figured out a few times in recent weeks by studying the map before leaving  the hotel. But those shortcuts always doubled my travel time. The photos taken on my walk today clearly illustrate why it takes so long to get somewhere.

I WAS HOPING THAT THIS STREET MIGHT TAKE ME SOMEWHERE.

Four days ago I decided to head down the tiny pedestrian alley that I always knew for certain would not take me where I needed to go.  And there I was!

SO NARROW AT ONE POINT, MY SHOULDERS NEARLY TOUCH BOTH WALLS.
AT THE END OF THIS SHORT "STREET" IS THE METROPOL PARASOL.
AFTER THAT, IT ALL MAKES SENSE... TO ME AT LEAST.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Coming Out of the Dark

My friend Carole thinks this should be designated a holiday.  So I've decided that from this day hence, 26 August will be known as the "Dia de la Luz" (Day of the Light).  Jerry and I will have to get ourselves a paso so we can be processed through the streets of Sevilla every year on the backs of eight (at least) burly young men.

In case you've missed my point, we have electricity in our apartment!

ONE OF THE BANDS WE SAW ACCOMPANYING ONE OF THE VIRGINS IN JULY.
I MIGHT HAVE THEM AUDITION FOR THE FIRST ANNUAL "DIA DE LA LUZ" IN 2012.


Now, I'm waiting — for two days — for Movistar installation to phone.  I'm learning what "very quickly" means in Movistar-speak.  No landline.  No internet.  No TV.  But we have luz!!!  And there's a Starbucks a few streets away with free WiFi.  We'll manage.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Less Strange, Still in the Dark

THE KEEPER OF
THE PAPERWORK.
We were back at the Foreigners' Office again this afternoon.  Our bag-on-wheels was filled with our passports; our visas; and every single piece of paper (in duplicate, triplicate, or quadruplicate) we have filled out, signed, had translated, notarized or apostiled, and then stamped by the Los Angeles Consulate, Customs, or one or two places in Sevilla.  We were told last time that we would only need four items for this visit, but we weren't taking any chances.

We also brought the form (one of those aforementioned four items) we were given two weeks ago by the Foreigners' Office.  We went to a nearby bank the other day, paid our 15 euros, and watched as the form was stamped, scanned, and registered.  It was a tremendous relief when the woman at the bank went online to look us up using our NIEs (Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros, our Foreign Identity Numbers) and easily found us in the NIE database.  We thought that was a good sign.  We figured we were ready to face La Rubia, Thing 1 or Thing 2 — or even Thing 3 again if we were allowed direct access this time!

DONE!
Our appointment was during a range of time, from 3:30 to 6:00 this afternoon.  So, we taxied over and got in line at 3:21 and waited for the doors to reopen after siesta, this time fully understanding the check-in process.

We were given our numbers.  They began distributing with ticket #10.  We were 18 and 19.  We sat in the waiting room for less than 10 minutes until our numbers were called.  We then waited in the next room (where Things 2, 3, and 4 worked) for about 3 minutes.  And then we met Thing 2.  He didn't look up.  He didn't smile when I said, "buenas tardes," but he did at least return the greeting.  I gave him our forms that indicated we had appointments and we were there to continue the residency card process.  He didn't look at me and muttered in Spanish.  Well, what are you here for?  I told him we had appointments to continue the process of obtaining our residency cards.  Without another word, he began taking documents from me.  He only needed four documents (we had been correctly informed and we were overly prepared).  He took two of our new photos and trimmed them to the correct size in a nifty little contraption.  I commented on how much I liked the contraption and we then became friends.  Before I knew it, he was done with my paperwork, handed me a receipt and began to work on Jerry's.  I joked again about the contraption (telling him how much I love contraptions) and he was then truly my friend.  He showed me Thing 3's contraption, which was much more contemporary and he complained that his was an antique.  I told him I was an antique, so I liked his better.  He laughed out loud.  He told us we would receive notification (an official appointment letter) within about 25 days when it was time to come pick up our cards. He then bid us both a very warm good-bye.  We were done in about 35 minutes and went to Starbucks to celebrate with Frapucinnos and large pieces of expensive and stale chocolate cake. But we ate it anyway.  Because we were happy.

IRONY. THERE IS "LUZ" IN THE REST OF THE BUILDING.
BUT THE BULB OUTSIDE OUR DOOR NEEDS REPLACING!

ABOUT THE LUZ
I had a funny conversation with the lawyer at 11:00 this morning.  It made me appreciate that, although he may not work with our same sense of urgency, the "luz" company (Endesa) is not entirely innocent.  The lawyer said he phoned Endesa yesterday and was told he couldn't call again until Friday.  This was because on Monday they informed him it could take up to four days for them to get back to the apartment to turn on the lights, and Friday will be four days.  They had committed to turning on the lights no later than Friday, and therefore (he laughed as he said this) they allowed him the right to phone Friday and not before.

But, the truly exciting news is that the lawyer phoned me again at noon while I prepared a draft of this post (before heading over to the Foreigners' Office).  The man from Endesa will be there for the "luz" Friday afternoon at 4.  Is it possible we will be home this weekend?!?  Let's hope this light at the end of the tunnel is not just the headlight of an oncoming train!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Poplars of Hercules

HERCULES AND JULIUS CAESAR WELCOME VISITORS TO LA ALAMEDA.
THE FIRST OF SEVERAL COOLING FOUNTAINS IN WHICH TO PLAY CAN BE SEEN AT CENTER.

The Quadalquivir River (Sevilla's river) used to run right through the city center in what is now La Alameda de Hercules, an enormous plaza in the center of the city.

THE RED AWNING IS CAFE ALAMEDA, WHERE WE HAD AN EXCEPTIONAL DINNER LAST NIGHT.

The river through that area was cut off by a damn in 1383 and then, in 1574, the Count of Barajas drained the remaining water, built irrigation channels and fountains, and planted trees.  The alameda trees (poplars in English) give the plaza — and the neighborhood — its name.

ANOTHER FOUNTAIN.  ONE OF A FEW PLAYGROUNDS AND MANY CAFES IN BACKGROUND.

Last night, after IKEA made their fourth delivery to our apartment (the apartment without the "luz"... maybe tomorrow?), I assembled the slats for Jerry's main bed (my third set of slats; I'm now a pro), we picked up our new sheets and towels from the laundry, and we then went to dinner.

THE LIONS AND SHIELDS OVERSEEING ANOTHER REFRESHING FOUNTAIN.

At Jerry's inspired suggestion, we broke from tradition and did not walk over to Carmela in Santa Maria La Blanca.  Instead, we walked over to La Alameda, which is only about 5 minutes away from our apartment.

THE REMAINING ROMAN RUINS TODAY.
CALLE MARMOLES (MARBLE STREET) IN THE BARRIO SANTA CRUZ.

There are four columns that mark off a promenade through the trees of La Alameda.  Two columns were retrieved from a nearby Roman temple.  Two are "contemporary" reproductions made in 1574 (after one of the original Roman columns was broken during moving).

CASA DE LAS SIRENAS (MERMAID HOUSE) ON THE ALAMEDA.
ONCE A PRIVATE PALACE, NOW A GOVERNMENT EXPOSITION CENTER.


ONE OF TWO MERMAIDS.
So, the two columns at the southern end of the square are the original Roman columns topped by Hercules (according to myth, the founder of Sevilla) and Julius Caesar (referred to as the restorer of Sevilla during Roman rule).  Those "contemporary reproductions" at the north end of the square were topped in the 18th century by lions with shields, representing Sevilla and Spain.

Through much of the 20th century, La Alameda was one of the poorest neighborhoods in Sevilla. Plagued with drugs and prostitution, in 1989, there were around 35 brothels. Until the later part of the 20th century, it was one of the most often flooded areas of the city.  But improvements have been made and flooding is now a significantly low risk.  In recent years, it has become a very nice neighborhood with some of the best nightlife in Sevilla.  It's now a thriving, diverse, and kind-of-bohemian neighborhood (which of course means there's a large gay population).

THE ECLECTIC EAST SIDE OF THE PLAZA. RESTAURANTS, CLUBS, A GARDEN SHOP, AND
DOBLEZERO, A SHOP THAT PROVIDES EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GROW CANNABIS AT HOME.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

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.

Friday, August 19, 2011

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

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.