Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't Get Your Knickers in a Twist

While Jerry was still working but not long before we left Irvine, we went clothing shopping.  Among our purchases, were several new pairs of a variety of brands of underwear for Jerry.  He prefers Lycra-blend boxer briefs — his favorite brand being Under Armour, while I like the fit of low-rise cotton briefs by Kenneth Cole, DKNY, and Calvin Klein.  Probably more information than I should be sharing, but it helps the story.

In Jerry's new assortment were two pairs of Nautica boxer briefs.  One day, when he came home from work, I was sitting and visiting with Jerry while he changed out of his work clothes and into jeans and a T-shirt.  He took off his pants and as he walked across the room I noticed something odd.

"Jerry," I commented, "your underwear is on backwards."

He immediately looked down at the front, then twisted to look at the back and replied, "What?  No, they're not.  The label is in the back."

I said, "Well, so are the Y-front and the pouch."  I was stunned as I stared at the obviously awkwardly fitting boxer briefs.  "Don't they seem to be shaped kind of funny to you?"

He took them off, inspected them, and realized I was right, although he couldn't comprehend why the designer would move the label to the front of the waistband when everyone else puts it on the back.  "Ludicrous," he said.

I agreed it was an odd thing to do, but couldn't stop laughing and told him I couldn't imagine going an entire day without realizing something was wrong. I teased him about not even knowing how to dress himself.

The next day, Jerry was getting dressed for work and I walked into the room just as he was pulling up his pants. 

"Jerry," I said, as I stared at his waistband.

"What?" he responded distractedly as he continued to pull up his pants.

"Jerry," I said, more pointedly nodding my head and rolling my eyes in the direction of his waistband.

"What?" he demanded.

I responded slowly, enunciating carefully, "Your underwear is on backwards."

Over several weeks, I shared the story often and Jerry was a very good sport about it.   Even when it happened again.  Yes, three times!  And some days after that, he came home from work and dropped his pants to display boxer briefs with the brand name "Levis" stitched repeatedly around the waist band.  Backwards.  He had those on inside out.  What a dolt!  It's a good thing he's cute (well, among other fine qualities).

WHAT GOES AROUND
Wednesday morning in Málaga, we got up early.  We both set aside our clothes for the day (underwear, socks, jeans, shirts, belts) and then packed the rest for the trip back to Sevilla.  After I showered and shaved, I began to get dressed.  But I couldn't find the underwear I had set aside.  It was not with my other clothes for the day.

Jerry was already dressed and sitting at his computer checking email.  I muttered that I must have repacked the underwear I had set out for myself and I pulled another pair of underwear from my bag and slipped them on.  When they were up around my knees, I looked down and noticed something peculiar.  I was already wearing the missing pair of underwear.

Jerry and I were meant for each other.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Afternoon in Torrox


After a much too short visit to the Mediterranean coast, Jerry, Jorunn, and I arrived back in Sevilla Wednesday afternoon.  It is much easier obtaining a seat facing forward on the train when you travel in a party of three.  We had a set of facing seats with a table between us.  Jerry was looking in the right direction from the start and didn't have to spend the trip standing in the hall by the vending machine.  The table provided lots of room for our books, for Jerry's laptop, and for our "treats."  Jorunn rolled out a box of Norwegian chocolates for the ride home.  Total bliss!

 THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA AS WE APPROACHED THE TOWN OF NERJA,
WHICH WAS RIGHT AFTER WE MISSED OUR TURN NORTH TO TORROX.

As planned, we rented a car Tuesday morning and drove east along the coast from Málaga and then inland a few kilometers to the town of Torrox.  There are three versions of Torrox — the original town a little away from the water, Punta de Torrox (the point that dips into the Mediterranean Sea), and Torrox-Costa (unsurprisingly, the town on the coast).

THE MAIN PLAZA AFTER LUNCH.  TIME FOR SIESTA.

The "towns" on the coast are contemporary and have no charm whatsoever, just an enviable location on the water.  The original town — our destination — is situated high above.  It is historic, picturesque, and has beautiful views.  It is the first "pueblo blanco" (white village) Jerry and I have had an opportunity to visit in Southern Spain.  You'll see from the photos why these villages are known by the name.

VAARIN, JERRY, AND JORUNN JUST BEGINNING THE CLIMB FROM THE PLAZA.
WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE IN FOR.

Torrox was settled in the time of the Phoenecians and Greeks who traded in olives, figs, and wine.  The Romans increased the town's stature by producing a type of anchovy paste (no thank you).  The Moors arrived in the 7th century and brought new agriculture, terracing, and irrigation that is still in existence.

NEVER LOOK BACK.

We parked the car and began a brief, steep climb to the main plaza, where we had a very pleasant lunch with Jerry's first cousin once removed, Vaarin.  We heard no Spanish being spoken in the plaza.  Vaarin spoke Norwegian with the staff and with Jorunn, and some English with us.  The tables surrounding us were filled with Brits.  The waitress was a young blond who spoke English with a Norwegian accent.  Jerry and Vaarin shared stories and family photos.

STILL CLIMBING.

After lunch, we hiked up the surprisingly charming and exceedingly steep streets of Torrox to see where Vaarin is spending her annual 5-week escape from Norway (which is already cold and, as usual, rainy).  The climb was daunting, but the views were stunning.

THE VIEW NORTH FROM THE ROOF TERRACE.  SO WORTH THE CLIMB.

Once we arrived at Vaarin's house, we then climbed three flights of stairs to the roof terrace.  Breathtaking (both the views and the climb... especially the climb).  We sat and visited for a while and, once Jerry's sweat-soaked shirt had dried a bit, we began our descent to the car.

THE VIEW EAST FROM THE ROOF TERRACE.

Vaarin insisted on taking us the scenic way down, showing us her favorite streets and views.  It is like walking the hills of San Francisco, only smaller, quainter, steeper, sunnier, and hotter.  Vaarin's stamina is awe-inspiring.  It must be that Viking stock (Jerry's stock was watered down by his father's side of the family).

ON THE WAY BACK DOWN.  VAARIN'S FAVORITE VIEW SOUTH TO THE MEDITERRANEAN.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The First Few Hours in Málaga

The train ride down to Málaga was a pleasure.  Sevilla's train station has a sweets shop.  Jerry ate a bag of chocolate-covered raisins.  We shared a package (of two) chocolate-dipped Oreo cookies.  When those were very quickly gone, we shared a package (of six) traditional Oreo cookies.  Maybe we should stop at a market and pick up some healthy snacks for the ride home on Wednesday.

THE VIEW NORTH

Our assigned seats did not face forward (remember the January train rides?) but we didn't even bother asking. Once onboard, we simply changed our seats to ones that faced the right direction.  Jorunn arrived at the hotel just a few minutes before us.  Jerry charmed his way into the hearts of the front desk staff, and we ended up with a deluxe room with a beautiful view.  Jorunn is just a few doors down (well, she's at least got a really nice big bathroom).

THE VIEW EAST.

We all unpacked, called Jerry's cousin in Torrox to make plans for tomorrow, and then headed up to the sixth floor roof terrace for mojitos and peanuts.  I was too lazy to head back down one flight of stairs to retrieve my camera, so smart phone photos will have to do (yet again).  A rental car will be delivered to the hotel in the morning and we'll drive the 46km to Torrox.  Dinner in an hour — more or less.  SO relaxing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Need A Vacation Like Nobody's Business

It's hard work not working.  Well, it's hard work moving to another country, finding a new home, trying to get utilities connected, learning one's way around, assembling furniture, learning where to shop, trying to get utilities connected, buying and repotting house plants, missing family and friends, trying to get utilities connected, hanging pictures, trying to get utilities connected, and doing it all in another language.

A LITTLE BIT OF GREEN INSIDE TO GO WITH THE GREEN OUTSIDE.

Did I mention trying to get utilities connected?

It's also a complete joy to do all of the above (except trying to get utilities connected, although that was a complete joy when finally accomplished).  And I am grateful for every minute (well, ALMOST every minute, since sometimes I am an ingrate) of this great adventure we have created for ourselves.


MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY

In any case, we are now a bit run down.  We also haven't transitioned from attempting to create a new life here to actually living one.  So, we are very excited to have the opportunity to get out of town for a few days and to then actually come home.

SOME MORE GREEN.  WE STILL NEED MORE... AND LAMPS.

We have a dear friend, Jorunn, from Oslo, Norway (met through our wonderful cousin Inger) who will be in Málaga. Coincidentally, Jerry's first cousin once removed (his mother's cousin, his grandfather's niece...) — from the other side of the Norwegian family — is on holiday in Torrox, which is about a half hour further along the coast from Málaga.

Jerry only discovered this first cousin once removed (and other extended family from his grandfather's line) about 10 years ago and they've been in email correspondence ever since.  We had great plans in 2001 to go up above the Arctic Circle to meet this branch of the family, but hard times hit at the hotel and we couldn't get away.  We hope to be able to make that trip in the near future.

THE TWO OF US.  NOW SURROUNDED BY FAMILY.  (HAD WE KNOWN HOW MANY WALLS
WE'D HAVE, WE WOULD HAVE SHIPPED MORE OF THE FAMILY PHOTOS.)

So, we're taking the train down to Málaga Monday to meet up with Jorunn.  We'll spend Monday night in Málaga and then we three will head up the coast (either in a rental car or by bus) to Torrox to have lunch with First Cousin Once Removed and her nephew (Jerry's second cousin). We'll then head back to Málaga for another night and we three will then train back up to Sevilla.  Can't wait to be relaxed tourists in Málaga.  Can't wait to see Torrox.  But, I especially can't wait to see Jorunn again and to meet more of Jerry's Norwegian family.

I wonder if I should start practicing my Norwegian again.  No I don't wonder.  That's just too much for my already addled brain to contemplate.  Uff dah!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Progress at Home and in My Head

I guess I'll survive the week.  Sleep has been elusive, but the daylight hours have been OK.  "Vale," as they say in Spain.  (OK, Cool, Fine, Great.)

Monday night — Dale's birthday — Jerry and I went to Carmela for dinner.  The service was, as always, warm and friendly.  The mojitos were not, as they usually are, delicious.  Remember "Carmela" who walked around like she owned the place?  Well, her name's not Carmela.  It's Mai.  Her son manages things, and he is extremely nice.  He asked how things were and I told him the mojitos were kind of odd and not as good as usual.  He had them made again, but they still were disappointing.  Apparently, they had different brown sugar and it completely changed the consistency.  Oh well.  I drank mine anyway and Jerry and I toasted to Dale's memory.

THE ANTIQUES MARKET TODAY AT CALLE FERIA.

On the walk over, I noticed that Jerry appeared to be a bit down.  He told me during dinner that his mood had crashed.  I told him simply and directly that it wasn't his turn.  We have an unwritten rule that we can't both be totally out of sorts at the same time.  It was my turn.  He laughed, said I was right, and saved it for another day.  What a trooper.

JESUS AND MANY VIRGINS STANDING GUARD OUTSIDE A GRAND OLD BAR.

Tuesday afternoon, I met Albert and Co. for a quick beer.  Always a pleasure.  Jerry and I then had a delightful dinner out with Margarita, who saw our apartment for the first time and gave it a rave review and her Sevillana Seal of Approval.

A LITTLE BIT OF THIS.  A LITTLE BIT OF THAT.

Tuesday evening, Jerry said he would give the English-language customer service line at Vodafone one more try to see if we could make any progress with our home phone.  Our assumption was that he would again be unsuccessful and I would then walk over to the Vodafone store and put up a bit of a stink.  He phoned.  He got a wonderful rep, who had him explain everything and then repeated it back to him to make sure he clearly understood.  He then got the technical department on the line and worked with them while translating to Jerry.  He would instruct Jerry to do something and ask for the results.  He'd then relay the info to the techies for more input.  He finally asked how the phone was plugged into the router — in line 1 or line 2.  The Telefonica installer had it plugged into line 2.  The rep told Jerry to change it to line 1.  Jerry did so and the problem was solved.  We had service.  Jerry, in his exuberance, offered the rep 28 gold stars.  The rep was very excited to have them.  So, we are grateful to an individual at Vodafone who was smart, helpful, diligent, and successful.  We are not grateful to the other six phone reps at Vodafone who lied to us for three weeks.  The rep gets 28 gold stars.  Vodafone gets a thumbs down.

THERE ACTUALLY WERE SOME TREASURES AMONG THE RUINS.

This morning we met Albert for breakfast at Casa Santos.  We hope he appreciates how special he is to see us cleaned up and out of the house for a 9:20 breakfast.  Lola joined us.  She and I are going to start getting together twice a week for an hour at Santos.  Tuesdays we'll speak only English and Thursdays we'll speak only Spanish.  Margarita happened to drop by while we were there and we all had a great time together.  Jerry and I then joined Margarita for a walk over to Calle Feria.  Every Thursday morning, there is an antiques and second-hand market in the neighborhood.  Lots of people.  Lots of wonderful finds.  Lots of junk.  Margarita found some great old books.  Jerry and I, the former conspicuous consumers, saw loads of things our old selves would have snapped up.  We resisted.  We were seriously tempted by a spectacular ceramic pot in an elegant wrought iron stand. It would be great in the living room for a large plant.  I asked the price and was told it was from Triana (well, no surprise that ceramic work in Sevilla would come from across the river in Triana where most of the ceramics were made) and it was 400 euros ($600).  We passed.  Instead we bought three beautiful, intricate, antique brass handles that we needed for our dining room cabinet and a cabinet in my bedroom.  Total cost: 12 euros.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

HIS MARKETING STRATEGY DIDN'T APPEAR TO DO HIM ANY GOOD.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Remembering a Big Sister

My sister Dale would be 60 years old today.  It's hard to imagine.  She died of cancer at the age of 29 after a 3-1/2-year battle, which means she's been gone more years than she lived. She died five months before I met Jerry.  Her death eased my way out of the closet.  Something that had been causing me so much grief didn't seem to be such a big deal anymore.  So, in addition to everything else I owe her, maybe I owe her that, too.


She is always in my thoughts and I just want you to know her a little bit on her birthday.  She was 2 years and 9 months my senior and she was my idol.  I doubt she ever realized that.  I was the one who was good in school and made no effort.  I may not have lived up to expectations for my father who wanted a macho, star-athlete for a son, but I was a good kid who didn't get into trouble. I went to college and made my father proud on at least that level.  He wanted me to continue to grad school, but I really wanted to be an artist and didn't see the point.  He was obviously pleased I had gone that far.

Dale barely squeaked her way out of high school.  And trouble tended to find her.  She was never in any major, serious trouble, but she was always aggravating and worrying our parents.  Whenever they would have to deal with another situation with Dale, my mother would turn to me and say, "You'll never do anything like this to me."

Honestly, I did a lot more seriously bad things than Dale did.  A lot more!  I just never got caught.  Dale knew and never once gave me away.  And it never ever crossed my mind that she might.  She was loyal.

Dale loved and needed to be needed.  If there was anyone in need, she was the first one there.  I was a sickly kid until I had my tonsils out at the age of 12.  I would regularly run high fevers and become delirious.  In my night terrors, if Dale hadn't already come into my room to soothe me, I would go into hers.  Never to my parents.  When I was 8 and a neighbor kid, Vinnie Mancuso, hit me in the eye with a baseball bat (accidentally), another neighbor rushed my mother and me to the hospital.  Dale, who had been playing ball with us at the time, went back outside and punched Vinnie.  Poor Vinnie.  I knew from my experience as her bossed-around little brother that Dale's punch packed quite a wallop.

Dale and I fought plenty when we were kids. But, we never held a grudge.  And we were very quickly out shopping, going to the beach, or doing something else together.  She had expensive taste, loved to shop, and helped me develop some bad (but fun) spending habits.  I was still pretty tight with my money, though, and managed to save quite a bit.  I never spent like Dale.  She got married and moved to England when she was 21, having worked for  three years after high school as a clerk for the New York Police Department.  While she worked, she continued to live with my parents, so had plenty of money for trips to Europe and for clothing.  I worked summers for very little money and I worked Saturdays the rest of the year for even less (I had a friend who called them "rich kid's jobs"; I wasn't a rich kid, but I liked to pretend I was). My parents gave me a little bit of spending money.  Dale got paid every Thursday.  On her way home from work, she would go shopping in the city. Bloomingdale's was her favorite.  Every Friday, Dale would "borrow" money from me to make it to her next paycheck.  I never saw any of that money again.

Dale also taught me to dance.  Days before every formal affair, she would drag me into her room to teach me some new steps so I wouldn't "embarrass her." What she taught me were the moves of the Dave Clark 5, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and every other group she liked.  To this day, I dance like I'm a back-up singer.

My sister was a beauty.  She was statuesque and athletic — standing over 5'10" (180cm), with almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, thick and wavy chestnut hair.  When I was in my teens and we would be out together, I would imagine that strangers thought we were a couple. "Look at him with that beauty," I figured they were thinking.  Idiotic, since although I was no beauty, it was very obvious we were sister and brother.

These all seem like such unimportant things.  But these are the things on my mind today.

By the time Dale died, she spoke with an English accent and inflections.  A far cry from the way she spoke when she left Brooklyn less than nine years earlier. When she was 16, she began corresponding with a pen pal in Japan.  Fumiko was 17.  They became the best of friends and remained so until Dale died 13 years later.  Fumiko got married and moved to the United States for a time, right before Dale got married and moved to England.  They never had a chance to meet in person.

About a year after Dale died, Fumiko sent my mother a cassette tape of a phone conversation they had during their first year of friendship.  At that time, Fumiko's English was poor and Dale's Japanese was non-existent.  My mother and I decided to listen to the tape even though we knew we would probably cry the entire time.  My father said he couldn't do it and stayed away.  Jerry stood outside the closed bedroom door.  We held our breath and turned on the tape.  First we heard Fumiko's voice.  Then, we heard a squeaky, little-girl voice with a powerful New York City accent.  We had forgotten what Dale could sound like.  It was her polite, telephone voice.  We looked at each other and started to laugh.  And, by the end of the tape, we were laughing so hard tears were streaming down our cheeks.  Jerry came in, the picture of concern.  Through my laughter, I said, "You have to hear this." And I rewound the tape.

Fumiko was telling Dale that she had just won a beauty contest and, as a result, had received a scholarship to college.  She was trying to explain to Dale in very fractured English that it was a music scholarship sponsored by a company that specialized in that. Dale was not "getting it" and was responding in what is best described as Brooklynese.

"In-stru-ments," Fumi carefully said.

"IN-stru-MENTS?" Dale sang back.

"Moo-zee-kull in-stru-ments," explained Fumi.

"MEW-zi-CUL instruments?" questioned Dale.

"Yamaha," said Fumi.

"Yamaha?" Dale repeated.  "Well, we got a Yamaha here.  But they make motorcycles."


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not a Revolution. Just a Revuelto.

Just a quick post to share this picture of today's beautiful home-cooked Spanish lunch.   Jerry made a revuelto and it was delicioso!

Heard on the Street


It's another beautiful Sunday in Sevilla.  This morning, Jerry and I puttered around the house with all the doors and windows open, enjoying the cool  (72F, 22C) before the temperatures began to rise again (to 90F, 30C).


Right around noon, I was sitting here at my computer when I became aware of the very strong fragrance of incense.  I heard voices and what sounded like chanting on the street, but didn't register anything until Jerry called out to me that there was a procession coming down Calle Baños, heading our way.


Jerry was standing on one of the living room balconies, looking west onto Calle Baños.  I joined him to see — and hear the singing of — a beautiful small procession carrying a statue of the virgin.  (I've mentioned before that Sevilla has a lot of virgins.) We then watched from balcony-to-balcony as the procession turned north onto Calle Cardenal Spinola alongside our building, finally making its way to the small Convent of Santa Rosalía (rebuilt in 1762 after it was destroyed by a fire) just two doors up.


SANTA ROSALIA.  BATHED IN HEAVENLY LIGHT?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entertainment Tonight

We have television service!  Digital+ was here Thursday afternoon and within 10 minutes our television service was up and running.  I don't know what the first installer was playing at last week, but we did not in fact need an antenna or satellite dish.  Everything was already here on the roof.  Yesterday's installer arrived, inserted a tester into the outlet on the wall behind the TV, and gave me the thumbs up.  He then plugged in and set up the box, and then dialed in to set up our premium service.  And he was done.  We can watch BBC News, every sports network in existence (maybe an exaggeration), movies and shows from all over the world, and Jennifer Love Hewitt in "Ghost Whisperer" — in English — until we're blue in the face (which means we can't make it through a single episode; she makes us both a little crazy).


FLAMENCA ABOVE A WORKING TELEVISION.


THIS OLD HOUSE
I picked up the framed "Flamenca" yesterday.  She wasn't matted as we'd expected and instead was mounted atop the board.  Chalk it up to another lesson in communication.  We still love her anyway and she has now taken her position of prominence in the living room.


WE REALLY NEED SOME PLANTS.  SOME BIG PLANTS.


PHONE SERVICE IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Jerry called Vodafone this morning at 10:20.  We still don't have that land line, which Jerry was told would be live last Friday.  The rep said he couldn't reach his colleague and would call Jerry back in a half hour to hour.  After four and a half hours — I wonder if Vodafone considers that within the promised range — I called Vodafone again.  

NOT ALL SETTLED, BUT NO MORE MESS. I AM HAPPIER.


This time, I spoke with someone I can only describe as a "dim bulb."  He didn't understand what I was unhappy about. (Other than the fact that we have not been given a phone number, can't use our land line, were told we would receive a text message a week ago that would initiate our service, and that someone would call us back this morning?)  He finally said he would have to contact the technical department.  I asked if he was going to ensure that someone would call me back this time, since we were told the same thing at 10:20.  I asked twice and he never gave me a direct answer.  So, in a couple of hours, I'm going to stroll over to the Vodafone store yet again to visit with my friends there.  What is absolutely reassuring is that this, and our initial problems with our Digital+ television service, have nothing to do with my language skills.  Also, I have absolutely no doubt that we will NOT have land line phone service again this weekend.  Jerry is kindly concerned, especially after my meltdown last night, that maybe I shouldn't bother with Vodafone anymore today.  We'll see.


To make ourselves feel better, we did a bit more decorating of the walls.  In addition to "Flamenca," we put up some brass sconces we've had for more than 20 years — purchased when we lived in Connecticut and one of our friends owned a Baldwin Brass shop in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  We had already put up a couple of antique sconces purchased in Georgetown in the '80s from our friend Carol, who owned an antique store there.  (That's where the pub table came from.)


THE FRENCH CHEF 
 Also, we have a set of framed needlepoint dish towels made for Jerry by his Norwegian grandmother when Jerry turned 21.  Rather than use them, we had them framed not long after we met.  They have been displayed in every one of our kitchens and are now at home in Sevilla.  The towels are in the tradition of a different activity for each day of the week (i.e., a day for washing, ironing, darning socks, shopping, cooking, serving dinner, and resting).  We had two sets. The other was of a red rooster performing each daily task.  The thing we really love about the set we kept — other than the fact that they were made with love for Jerry by his grandmother — is that they are of a chef (obviously French; you can tell by the mustaches) wearing what look like fishnet stockings! 


NOT MUCH COUNTER SPACE, BUT PLENTY OF ROOM FOR A FRENCH CHEF.


YOU WON'T SEE TURKEY DINNERS — OR FISHNET STOCKINGS — IN OUR SPANISH KITCHEN.

Never Good Enough

It's fascinating — well, maybe disappointing would be more precise — that a person (I) can live to a significant age (longer than my grandmother, nearly as long as my father, twice as long as my sister, 20 years longer than a best friend, and on and on) and still be hit in the face some days with the same feelings I had when I was 12 or 8 or 17 or 26.

This is a brief "true confessions" post, one I write to clear my head and then, I hope, get a good night's sleep.  It's 3:22 in the morning.  I had a bad day. To be honest, although I haven't told you, it hasn't been an easy month.  Much of it is, I know, wrapped up in the fact that my sister's birthday is coming up in a few days.  And she's not here (on this earth) to celebrate it. She hasn't been here for a long time. 

September can sometimes be a difficult month for me to get through.  This one, although exciting, finds me a bit up in the air. So, this one has been a bit more emotionally charged.

Yes, at the bottom of it all, I am happy.  I love this new life we're creating in Spain.  I love the challenges, the excitement, the change.  I especially love, more than anything else, the fact that I'm here — doing anything — with Jerry.  I know how fortunate I am.  And, right now, I'm very grateful to Jerry for helping me get through a rough afternoon.

The thing is, although I am grateful, excited, loved, in love, challenged, and in the middle of an unbelievably amazing new adventure with someone who never for a moment bores me, I have moments where I'm reminded that I still don't really like myself much.

I have spent much of my life not feeling quite good enough.  Well, now THAT'S an understatement.  The truth is, I have a challenge some days liking myself at all.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Like I said, I'm very grateful to Jerry for helping me get through.

I'm feeling better, as I hoped I would, just writing this little bit.  I'm not, as my mother would probably suggest, "fishing for compliments." I'm just getting the feelings of self-loathing out of my head.  I come from an extended family of — for the most part, — talented, successful, attractive, over-achievers.  Much of my childhood was spent being reminded of that.  I learned in recent years that many in my extended family have suffered some of the same feelings.  I have not always wanted to be one of them and, at the same time, I have ALWAYS wanted to be one of them.  Sometimes, it just addles my brain.  So, when emotions are running high, as they do in September and as they have especially this September, I am hit in the face with the fact that I still don't like myself much, that I'm just not good enough.  There it is.

So, now I'll go back to sleep having cleared my head.  Maybe this public admission will help long-term.  I wonder if I'll ever be old enough to be good enough.  But, obviously, age has nothing to do with it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Street Where We Live

ELEGANTLY LAYERED.
We ate lunch at home today.  Leftover pasta with chicken and pesto.  We had breakfast at home but then had a second one downstairs at El Sanedrín. (So, we didn't earn any points for that meal!)

And... we went back to La Alameda to have pizza for dinner, which included another order of caprese salad.  This one, however, did not look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (nor did it look like The Cat in the Hat's hat).  But it was equally delicious.

Jerry assembled the new piece of furniture for my bedroom today.  He then assembled a tall bookcase for the hall.  They both look great and I was able to get more organized.  I'll be able to take more photos tomorrow, once Jerry gets the last two boxes out of the living room (after he assembles his two new file cabinets).

HEADING HOME DOWN OUR STREET TONIGHT.

While Jerry assembled furniture mid-day, I had the pleasure of enjoying a beer with Albert and a few of his friends at a little bar near the Church of the Magdalena.  I've had great plans to do a post about the beautiful and historic baroque Church of the Magdalena, but it's always closed when I get there.  I always go there during their posted hours.  I think they must see me coming and quickly close and lock the doors.  One of these days I'll catch them off guard.

LOOKING BACK UP OUR STREET AT THE STEEPLE OF THE CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO.

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Albert has a big heart and has been unbelievably generous with his time and insights... and now his friends.  He made sure I spoke mostly Spanish today, which is a lot more fun to do in a social setting.  Lola is a joy. We had the pleasure of meeting her when we were here in January/February.  And I got to meet a few other very warm and welcoming Sevillanos.  Javier speaks English about how I speak Spanish.  Albert — who speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Swedish, and I can't remember what else — suggested Javier and I get some practice time by speaking only English together one day and only Spanish together the next. Great idea.

OUR BUILDING COMING UP ON THE LEFT (WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE).

Albert represents a number of very nice vacation rentals in the city.  He is kind, honest, generous, helpful, and so knowledgeable.  If you're ever looking for a nice place to stay, he is the man to help you.  The city should hire him as their official representative, the head of the "welcome wagon."  He is a fount of information on local history and can tell you all the best places to dine, walk, visit, shop, see, tour, and live in Sevilla, as well as much of Spain and Portugal.  He's got big plans for get-togethers at our apartment, which apparently is right at the heart of much of the Semana Santa festivities in April. My understanding is that processions start down the street at the Plaza de San Lorenzo before heading over to our plaza. The first thing Albert mentioned was hot chocolate at our place at 7 in the morning and then watching it all from our balconies.  We can't wait.

COMING AROUND THE CORNER OF DOS DE MAYO.  AND THEN HOME.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dinner at Home

Jerry cooked dinner tonight.  (And I cleaned up.)  We had pasta and chicken in pesto sauce.  I was about to take a picture of our meal as we sat down for dinner when IKEA showed up with a delivery.  It only took a few minutes, but I sat back down, inhaled my food, and then remembered that I had wanted to take a picture.

If you need a food fix, I've included a slightly blurry shot of last night's Leaning Tower of Caprese salad.  It was even better than it looked.  Plump, sweet tomato that tasted like it had been grown in South Dakota (where I've had the best tomatoes).  Mozarella unlike any I've ever had before.  And luscious mint that Jerry accidently swallowed whole, causing him to cough and sputter and requiring me to run inside and explain in surprisingly good hurried Spanish what he had done and that I needed some bread.  I'm so glad we had hierbabuena (mint) ice cream at Carmela in July.  That's when I finally learned to remember the word "hierbabuena"; otherwise, who knows how things might have turned out last night.  Anyway, it was a pleasure to sit in our own dining room and eat a real meal tonight. (CORRECTION AFTER POST-TIME:  That's, of course, basil.  The mint came from Jerry's mojito!)

Oddly, we chose to have dinner at 7:30.  Like Americans.  We will definitely be sure to not make a habit of that.  (The IKEA delivery guys thought we were a bit odd; I think the early dining was the reason, but I could be wrong.) We're going to head out later for a coffee or something just to stay on Spanish time.  But, breakfast and dinner at home today.  I'm proud of us.

THE ALCOVE AND THE FOYER.  ALL I SEE IS MESS.  A BIT ANAL-RETENTIVE, PERHAPS?

We had gone back to IKEA this morning to buy what we hope will be the last pieces of furniture we'll need.  Another bookcase, more storage and work surface for me, file cabinets, and some other items.  My mood then crashed and I spent a good part of the afternoon napping, reading sad world and US news on the Web, reading beautifully written and very moving blog posts by others that brought tears to my eyes.  Just feeling a little deficient today and wallowing in it.  Jerry's allergies have been active and his ear has been clogged and bothering him for more than a week.  Nothing serious, but annoying and unpleasant for him and that saps his energy and enthusiasm.

LOTS MORE TO BE DONE.  BUT AT LEAST WE CAN SIT DOWN.

I need to assemble furniture tomorrow and get organized.  That always helps.  It's making me a little crazy that there are framed things sitting on the floor, leaning against walls, and without homes.  They've been here since Wednesday.  Why aren't they all in their places?

WELL, MAYBE NOT AS MUCH OF A MESS AS I'M FEELING.

Next comes joining the local gym.  That helps, too.  And then finding someplace to volunteer (but probably not working a telephone helpline).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Casa Olivia de Lopez and Dining Out

OLIVIA DE LOPEZ, EN SEVILLA
Olivia de Lopez arrived safely in Sevilla and has been placed on the wall in our entry foyer.  A plaque will be produced (we hope by a local tile artisan in Triana)  to officially dedicate our home to Olivia de Lopez but it is already known (to us at least) as "Casa Olivia de Lopez."  If you don't know about Olivia, be sure to click on her name anywhere in this paragraph to connect with the earlier post that tells of Olivia's fascinating origins.

EATING OUT
We complained for nearly two months that we were FORCED to eat out every meal because we were living in a hotel.  We've now been in our apartment two weeks.  We eat partial breakfasts at home and then go downstairs to El Sanedrin for coffee and tostadas.  We have not yet had even a portion of a lunch or dinner at home.  So, Jerry suggested that, starting Monday, we eat at home more than we eat out — especially since every dinner out is topped off with ice cream for the walk home.  I agreed but, in response, I suggested we put away all the crap that is covering the kitchen counters.  I will take that task back from Jerry (which I enjoy anyway... organizing!) but it means that, since I do none of the cooking, Jerry will spend the next year asking me where everything is... And I will not remember.  I have a tendency to put things away in safe places.  They remain safe even from me.

REVUELTO CON BACALAO (COD SCRAMBLE) 
Today, true to tradition, we headed downstairs to El Sanedrín. But we only had café con leche, having had breakfast in the house.  One meal down.  Two to go.  After working around the apartment for several hours, we went back downstairs and across the street to Amarillo Albero, another very good tapas bar.  We had excellent paella and another exceptional "revuelto" (basically a "scramble").  This one had among other things, eggs, onions, and bacalao (cod).  Delicious.  I still haven't cleared off the kitchen counters.  In my defense, I emptied 15 book boxes and Jerry and I together hung lots more stuff on the walls.  More photos are soon to come.

BROCHETTA DE POLLO (SKEWERED CHICKEN)
Saturday night, at around 9:45, we headed over to La Alameda de Hercules for dinner, intending to have more of that amazing pizza.  But when we got there, we discovered the city was hosting a concert in the square.  The action was directly opposite La Laconda, our little Italian restaurant and pizza place.  I'm sorry to report that headbanger music is not conducive to a quiet dinner and conversation.  Jerry and I surprisingly still like talking to each other.  So we headed back to the south end of the square, where we could hear ourselves think and we enjoyed another delicious dinner at Cafe La Alameda.  I didn't have my camera with me, but my new phone (an HTC Wildfire – Android) does a surprisingly decent job (used for all three food photos in this post).

GRATINATAS DE PATATAS CON JAMON
We had chicken skewers, salmon and white asparagus, and an excellent potato/cheese/Iberian ham dish.  We were looking forward to their ensaladilla rusa and our favorite tuna dish, but they were out of both.  The server, who recognizes us and greets us like neighbors, commented that the square and restaurant were mobbed this evening and they ran out of many items much earlier than usual.  She went on to say (all in Spanish) that the foreigners eat so early!  She said it very kindly, more perplexed than critical.

We were enormously flattered that she didn't lump us in with "the foreigners."  I guess this means we're really home.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Well Hung... For Starters

Our grandfather clock has been re-assembled and is running beautifully.  (Like clockwork?)  Our antique cabinet has been bolted to the wall and filled with glassware — antique and contemporary.  We've begun decorating the walls.  Two large, antique mirrors are up.  And Jerry's great-great-grandfather, John Fairfield Lowell, has pride of place.  We'll now start lightening the mood with some (well-hung) art and sconces.  I can't wait to start buying plants.  Jerry hasn't relinquished his control of the power drill (no hammering nails into the concrete walls).  I think he's afraid I'll get drill-happy and leave seven holes behind each item I hang.  He's probably right.  I like to "eyeball" — something else I inherited from my father.  The major difference: I eyeball, hang, eyeball, move, eyeball, move... until I'm satisfied.  My father would eyeball, hang, and that was that.  (But, I do sometimes measure.)


VIOLA'S HUSBAND, JOHN FAIRFIELD LOWELL.
THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK.  THE FIRST PIECE WE BOUGHT TOGETHER.
PAINE FURNITURE CO., BOSTON, 1981.




It makes me so happy to be getting settled and to be enjoying all the memories these personal items revive.  We have easily less than 5 percent of what we used to have.  I know we could live without these remaining things, but not without the memories.

NOT FINISHED, BUT AT LEAST MORE SETTLED.
WE FOUND THE ANTIQUE CABINET IN ESSEX, MASSACHUSETTS, 1982.


No land line yet.  No television (although we can at least use the DVD player).  But, we've got a lightning-quick internet connection (much faster than what we had in Irvine), large computer monitors instead of our puny laptop screens, and we got to eat breakfast with real silverware this morning (no more plastic spoons).  So mature.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jerry is a Genius and I Love Him

MY CAFÉ CON LECHE.
The kitchen is still a mess; the counters are covered with things that haven't yet found their new places.  So, this morning, I had a quick bowl of yogurt and fruit, Jerry had a quick bowl of cereal, and we headed downstairs to El Sanedrín for a more relaxed breakfast. (El Sanedrín is the cafe/bar to the right of our front door; Dos de Mayo is the tapas bar to the left.)  I had a half serving of tostada, Iberian ham, their exceptional local olive oil, and tomato puree.  Jerry had an entire serving ("of course," he says) of tostada with marmalade and butter, and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.  After breakfast,  Jerry went grocery shopping and I came back upstairs to continue to organize, do laundry, and just get settled.
MY TOSTADA.

When Jerry got back from Mercadona, he unpacked the groceries and we went to Dos de Mayo for lunch, which was delicious — beautiful battered and fried (OK, not the healthiest choice) langostinos and a beans and fish tapa that I ordered because Jerry thought it looked good.  (I knew I would hate it, but I wanted him to be happy.)  Well, it was delicious and I was happier than he was.

We then came back upstairs and Jerry sat down to see if he could figure out our connectivity problems before having to call Vodafone again.  I headed back out to run a few errands.  I returned home less than an hour later and Jerry opened the door before I could turn my key in the lock.  He was beaming.

CREPE MYRTLE ACROSS THE PLAZA.  ALICE IS HERE!

"It's working!  Sit down at your computer and see."  The router currently sits in the alcove between the foyer and the living room.  My bedroom is almost as far away as you can get in the apartment and there are several thick concrete walls between.  We walked down the long hall.  I sat down at my desk.  I clicked on Firefox.  And, in a heartbeat, I was connected.  I clicked on my desktop email and all my new messages appeared.  Jerry had figured it out without even phoning Vodafone a second time.  I already knew he was a genius.  I already knew I loved him.  But, well, he is and I do.

OUR COAT RACK— PURCHASED IN WASHINGTON, D.C. IN 1984 — WAS MADE FOR THIS SPACE.
ONCE AGAIN, A PLACE TO HANG OUR HATS.  (NOW WE HAVE TO BUY HATS.)