Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oops... I Did It Again

As you know, I have learned my lesson. No more literal translations from English to Spanish of American expressions. After calling our friend Teré a slut when what I meant to say — sort of — was she was sexy, I most definitely learned my lesson. And Jerry is trying to be careful with his pronunciation of Spanish vowels to ensure he doesn't inadvertently say something he doesn't mean to say — like polla, which is cock (and not of the poultry variety), instead of pollo, which is chicken. So, you'd think I wouldn't be getting myself into any more trouble. Or, really, you'd think I wouldn't be giving my Spanish friends anything more to laugh — or blush — about.

But then yesterday, while having a conversation about smoking, I decided to tell Teré and Miguel a story about my sister that took place in my parents' apartment some years back.

THE STORY
One day, when my sister, Dale, was not quite 15 and I was not quite 13, we were in the apartment alone. I found her sitting on the couch smoking a cigarette. Except that she wasn't so much smoking the cigarette, as she was blowing into it. Sparks were flying across the room. I was taken aback. "What are you doing?" I demanded to know.

She sniped back at me, "What does it look like? I'm smoking."

I said in my pre-teen wisdom, "Well, you're not supposed to blow into it. You're supposed to suck the smoke into your mouth."

She had a very logical response. "I tried, but I don't like it. It makes me cough."

"Then, you shouldn't smoke," I announced. "You don't look cool."

STILL YEARS TO GO UNTIL THE SMOKING INCIDENT. NOT TOO WORRIED ABOUT "COOL."

WHERE I ERRED
Now, you might have guessed that my Spanish faux pas had something to do with the translation of "blow" or perhaps "suck." But, you'd be wrong. My problem was in naming the room in which I found my sister. My parents' apartment has a formal entry, what is known as a "foyer." My family has always used it as a den of sorts, with bookshelves, sofa and TV. My sister was sitting in that room on that sofa when we had our exchange.

The Spanish equivalent for "foyer" (of French origin) would be entrada. But that didn't occur to me as I told the story. I mentioned the "foyer," pronouncing it the un-classy American way (foy-ur). Miguel and Teré didn't know what I meant. So I then pronounced it the French and/or pretentious-American way (foy-yay). Miguel tittered and Teré blushed and laughed. With further explanation, it was determined that I meant "entrada." But, Teré said in Spanish, "You do realize that follé is the past tense of follar, don't you?" I shrugged. No I did not. Nor did I know what follar was.

I took out my phone and looked it up on Google Translate. Oops. I had dropped the "f bomb"; the "f word"; the word described by an extended middle finger. Don't make me spell it out. You know the one I'm talking about.

I will not be any more specific — in English at least. The Dowager Duchess will read this post. She will see me swear in Spanish. She won't be surprised, but she won't be happy about it.

Anyway, The Duchess will probably be more shocked that her daughter smoked a cigarette...Well tried to smoke a cigarette.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

La Pepa — The First Spanish Constitution

I dragged Jerry on a very long walk today. He doesn't know it yet, but we walked more than 3 km (around 2 miles) to reach our destination. (I can just imagine the groan I'll hear when he reads this post.) I walked roundtrip. He took a bus home. Jerry needs new gym/walking shoes; his current shoes are worn out and not very comfortable. Finding size 14 (Spanish size 49) is not easy. People in Spain don't have big feet like Americans.

SHOOTING INTO THE SUN.

Miguel told us last night that a replica of a Spanish galeon was here in Sevilla until Sunday, and I really wanted to see it. The galeon was built in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's so-called "voyage of discovery."

LOOKING SOUTH FROM ABOARD LA PEPA.

The ship was originally called the Galeon de Andalucía, but has been renamed to commemorate the 200th anniversary, 19 May 2012, of the first Spanish constitution. The Constitution of 1812 was one of the most liberal of its time, establishing universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy, and freedom of the press. It also supported land reform and free enterprise. It lasted all of two years. Ferdinand VII returned to Spain in 1814 and abolished it. But it was reestablished a couple of times in the 1820s and the 1830s.

LOOKING NORTH, BACK TOWARD OUR HOUSE.
YOU CAN JUST BARELY SEE THE ANCIENT TOWER OF GOLD IN THE CENTER DISTANCE.

The Constitution was written on the Dia de San José (Saint Joseph's Day). The nickname for José is Pepe. In Spanish, the word for constitution is feminine. So, the Constitution was nicknamed La Pepa. Ships are female. So the galeon is also called La Pepa. It all makes perfect sense.

I THINK THE WHOLE THING WAS "RIGGED." (GROAN)

The galeon is making its way around the country. It's already traveled to Spanish cities on the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean, such as Bilbao, Santander, La Coruña, Huelva, and Cádiz.  It still has to travel up the east coast of the country on the Mediterranean Sea to Valencia, Barcelona, and other places along the way. It will return to the Atlantic to be back in Cádiz (where the constitution was produced) for the commemorative festivities mid-March. As we approached the greeter at La Pepa's gang plank, I thought, "OK. Let's see how much THIS is going to cost." Well, it was free! And there were docents (the crew) onboard available to answer questions. And a little brochure, also free, along with free postcards (so I can write to my brother).

ONE LAST LOOK BEFORE WE WENT FOR A SNACK.

It was another glorious day, very warm in the sunshine. And there was an abundance of sunshine. After our long walk and (free) tour of the ship, we stopped at one of the two restaurants on the port. I assumed it would be absurdly expensive, being a tourist restaurant. I had a beer. Jerry had a soda. And we each had a delicious, large, and fresh pastry. All for 7 Euros (around $9)! And, as is the norm in Spain, my beer was 60 centimos (around 80 cents) less than Jerry's Coke. I drink beer and wine to be fiscally responsible.

ONE OF TWO RESTAURANTS PORTSIDE. IN BACKGROUND IS SEVILLA'S DANCE CONSERVATORY.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Bridge (Not) Too Far

I was a bit mopey this afternoon. After doing an hour of Rosetta Stone, I couldn't motivate myself to do anything else (cleaning has been at the top of my list for some time). Jerry suggested I go for a walk. It had turned out to be another glorious day with temps around 63F (17C). Sevilla's temps are very similar in their variance to temps in the desert Southwest of the United States. There is usually at least a 20- to 25-degree (F) difference in nighttime and daytime readings.

This morning at 9, I sat and shivered while having coffee with Lola and Albert outside Casa Santos — it was 39F (4C). When I got back home to the sunshine in our plaza and my second cup of coffee (this time with Jerry at El Sanedrín), I held the hot cup to my face to thaw my frozen nose. It took me several hours to get the chill out of my bones.

Although, I was in that mopey mood that made me want to just get in bed and read, I took Jerry's suggestion and quickly changed into gym clothes and headed out for my walk. I'm so glad I did. The sun was shining. Flowers are always in bloom here, and there were lots of people out walking, running, strolling, rowing, and simply enjoying the day. I didn't have my camera with me and didn't want to slow my pace, but the few shots I took with my phone at least give you a sense of the beauty.


I walked through the city and then along the river beyond the northernmost bridge.  More than 3 km (about 2 miles). Four miles roundtrip in one hour and five minutes. It was invigorating. I came home and stretched. Made myself a protein shake... And then I started to mope again.

But I've perked up sharing my day with you.  And now it's time for our evening snack of apples, crackers, and cheese. Dinner will be in less than three hours. And we'll have a quiet night of TV. Among our 100+ channels, there's bound to be something to watch. It will be alright.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When You're Hot, You're Hot

I managed another "open mouth, speak Spanish, insert foot" moment when we were in the cab with Teré and Miguel coming home from the casino Monday night. It was a little chilly outside (probably around 10C/50F... OK, everything is relative). Our four bodies, in addition to the driver's, in the small taxi caused all the windows to fog up. I said to Teré, in Spanish, that the windows were steaming up because she was hot. Well, I thought that's what I said.

MUCH YOUNGER, NOT HOT.

It turns out a literal translation of the English, "You are hot," into the Spanish "Tú eres caliente," doesn't have quite the same meaning. The cab driver burst out laughing. Teré looked perplexed and suggested that perhaps I didn't really mean what I said. She went on to explain that telling someone they are caliente is like saying they are easy; it's more closely related to our expression "hot to trot." I think it's time to create a little Spanish booklet of things Jerry and I should never say again.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Taking a Gamble on Dancing Tuna

Monday night, we went to our first Spanish casino, Gran Casino Aljarefe, which is in the municipality of Aljarefe about 15 minutes outside the city of Sevilla. The casino has a very nice room for table games —such as roulette, blackjack, and poker — and another small room with some video slot machines. We had a great time, but Jerry was disappointed with the number of machines, which means he's in no great hurry to go back — for which I am eternally grateful.

PROMOTIONAL PHOTO.

Our plan was to have dinner at the casino, which has five restaurants. But since it was Monday night, the only place open for dinner was the casino's Japanese restaurant, Kaori. It was very different from the Japanese food we'd get in California (which I'm sure is very different from what we'd get in Japan). The variety of chocolate desserts, at least, were delicious — if very un-Japanese.

MEXICAN TORTILLAS (LEFT) AND SPANISH TORTILLA.

The food looked very nice but was unexceptional in taste. The most interesting part of the meal was Miguel's "tortilla." This was unlike a Mexican tortilla and it was also unlike a Spanish tortilla. It was a pancake of sorts with a mixture of ingredients and, as it was being served, it was topped with dried tuna shavings. The tuna is called katsuobushi (or bonito) and is dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna, which is then shaved. Due to the heat of the tortilla, the tuna shavings pulsed and moved. I thought the tortilla was covered with live moths. As it passed in front of Jerry, he asked, "Is that alive?" We all found it a bit creepy. Jerry and I had no interest in trying it and Miguel and Teré both ate it and said it tasted "weird," with or without the dancing tuna flakes.

MIGUEL'S JAPANESE TORTILLA (AND DANCING TUNA).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Magic Wishing Apples and an Enchanted Cane

This morning, Jerry suggested we go for a brisk half-hour walk before breakfast. I was surprised and pleased that it was his idea and not mine. I wondered what magic had come over him. The pleasant walk in the chilly morning air was followed by breakfast in the sunshine at El Sanedrín. I hope we're going to make a habit of this — the walk, that is; the breakfast is already a habit. Later, after lunch, I went for another walk on my own. This time, I walked for nearly two hours, exploring a bit more of the neighborhood of El Arenal, which ends near the river. On my walk, I came upon what for me are the most elegant door knockers I've so far seen. Two highly polished, life-size, bronze hands holding apples. The door is on a busy street and the apples seem to have been permanently — and understandably — affixed to the strike plates to keep passersby from constantly trying them out (I know; I tried). The hands make me think of the Evil Queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and the poisoned apple that was said to be a magic wishing apple ("one bite and all your dreams will come true").

I LOVE THE WAY THE WRISTS APPEAR FROM WITHIN CUFFED SLEEVES.

After meandering around the city for more than an hour and a half, I decided to take a more direct route home by heading back up Avenida de la Constitución. At the top of the avenue on the edge of Plaza Nueva, which is where so many street performers can be found, I came upon a man who was made up to look like a bronze statue (or maybe he really was made of bronze). His feet were off the ground and he appeared to be supported solely by his cane. Had Jerry been with me, he would have immediately asked, "How does he do that?" The answer is obvious. It's magic.

I'M SURE IT'S AN ENCHANTED CANE.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Making Improvements

As I continue to make repairs to my mental and physical well-being, I've noticed the city of Sevilla is making improvements as well. Given the state of the European Union and Spain's economy, it will be interesting to see if these improvements slow over the course of the next year but, for now at least, Sevilla (and I) keep working at it.

PLAZA REPAIRS OUTSIDE CAFÉ SANTA MARTA.

We went to Café Santa Marta Friday for lunch. We don't go there as often as before — perhaps once a week now. Given that the food is always good and also cheap, we ignore the fact that the staff is usually cold and unfriendly. So, we were pleasantly surprised yesterday to receive warm smiles from two of the staffers. Maybe they're working on their attitudes, too.

LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED.
Saturday afternoon, I met a couple of friends at a new (to me) café/tapas bar in the neighborhood of El Arenal. The bar (Flor de Toranzo) was just one block off Plaza Nueva, but I had never been in this little enclave, nor have I explored much of El Arenal. This cluster of streets was charming and I look forward to doing some wandering. The orange trees that line most of the city's streets and plazas are in fruitful abundance. Last year at this time (while here for three weeks) we saw harvesters here and there around the city filling crates. I like watching the faces of the tourists who pick them off the trees thinking they're about to enjoy a sweet orange only to discover a bitter fruit (intended for marmalade). Miguel told me the other day that in late March the entire city is filled with the fragrance of orange blossoms. I'll have to post a scratch-n-sniff video.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF EL ARENAL.

IMPROVEMENTS IN PROGRESS IN EL ARENAL, NEXT DOOR TO THE CAFÉ.

On the way home, as I started back up the little street (called Barcelona) toward Plaza Nueva, I snapped a picture, not noticing until I downloaded it that there was a café on the right named Porta Gayola. I found that funny. But it seems that Porta Gayola is simply a bullfighting term referring to when the matador kneels at the door of the bullpen awaiting the entrance of the bull. I still like the name.


LOOKING TOWARD PLAZA NUEVA. PORTA GAYOLA ON THE RIGHT.

ALMOST HOME. FLOWERS ENCHANCING PLAZA DE LA CONCORDIA.
OUR PLAZA IS IN THE CENTER BACKGROUND.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Better Days and Going Dis Way

I should start by telling you, very kind readers, that I am doing much better since my last post and actually woke up this morning in a pleasant frame of mind. No pep talk needed! Thank you all for the understanding and empathy, the kind notes, and the moral support.

MY TALENTED BROTHER
I've shared a little bit on these pages about my special brother Chuck (or Chucky or Charles or Charlie or CB, depending on how you know him and when you met him). I've told you about Chuck's bowling skills, but I haven't told you that he possesses many other special qualities and talents.  One such talent: He is brilliant with maps and knows the NYC transit system like the back of his hand — as long as you don't ask him if it's his right or left hand. He's never really mastered that.

Once, while Jerry and I lived in Connecticut, Alice visited from South Dakota and we drove down to New York to see The Dowager Duchess. We then decided we would take the subway to — I can't remember which — either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History. The Dowager Duchess and I both knew where the museum was located, but we had no idea how to get there by public transportation. I asked Chuck. He provided detailed directions, telling me where to change trains, what stairs to take to get to the next train, even which car to use on each train so we would be nearest the stairs at each station. At the end of his instructions, he said in his very strong New York accent, "When you get off the train, don't go dis way [pointing right]. Don't go dis way [pointing left]. Go dis way [using both hands together to point somewhere between left and right]."

For the last leg of the journey, we got on the train car he told us to use. We stood by the doors he told us to stand by. And we all laughed as we reached our final stop, hopping off the train and repeating his instructions aloud. As we finished the mantra, "Go dis way," we looked up and saw a turnstyle exit with a sign above it directing us to the museum entrance. He is amazing.

DO I GOTTA PAINT YOU A PICTURE?
Chuck is very good with watercolor. He had given us a painting when he visited us in Connecticut in 1990. Ten years later, when we were about to open our hotel, he said he wanted to give us something "for good luck" and asked what would be good. "Anything you want," he added. I responded, "Why don't you do a new painting for us?" He loved the idea and asked what the painting should be. I told him the hotel was in Palm Springs, in the desert, with cacti and sunshine, and mountains and a pool; it was on two floors, had 16 rooms, and its name was Viola's Resort. Any of those things would be fun, I told him. Early the next year, we flew Chuck out for his annual visit and he brought with him three watercolors, which we framed and proudly displayed in the guest rooms.

PAINTED FOR US BY MY BROTHER WHEN WE LIVED IN CONNECTICUT.

PALM SPRINGS. DESERT, MOUNTAINS, CACTUS, AND SUN.

THE FLOORS AND ROOMS OF VIOLA'S RESORT (VR).

THE FLOORPLAN.

Jerry's home office here in Sevilla is all in white and he said he'd like to use Chuck's watercolors in their colorful frames to make the room more interesting. I knew Chuck would be pleased, and told him the plan. When we visited New York in December, Chuck arrived at my mother's apartment with a new painting done especially for Jerry. "For his office," he said as he handed it to me. It hasn't always been easy for us, but my brother has a very big heart.

OUR MOST RECENT ACQUISITION.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

THREE MONTHS OLD AND ALREADY LOOKING WORRIED.

Twenty-five years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I've shared some of my struggles here, so I don't know that this is any major revelation. It wasn't that I was suddenly clinically depressed 25 years ago. It was simply that, after a lifetime of depression, I finally just couldn't manage it anymore. There are so many things I can point to as root causes for my depression: Genetics is a possibility. Growing up gay, and ashamed and hating myself for it (I'm over that; it really does get better). Being expected — and expecting myself — to be perfect, although I believed every waking minute that I was seriously flawed. Inconsistent and hurtful messages in my life... It's easy to find reasons for it. What was not easy was accepting that I needed help and that I couldn't just make it better myself.

SMILE? BUT, DAD, DON'T YOU SEE THAT SHADOW LOOMING.

My brother's developmental problems were discovered when he started school. I was 11. I was already feeling kind of damaged myself, but my brother's problems definitely had a major impact on my own emotional growth. I spent a good part of my life convinced that if only I were a better person, he would be OK, that somehow I was responsible for his problems. Every year when my birthday came around and there were candles to be blown out and a wish to be made, my wish would be that my brother would wake up in the morning "better." It never happened.

I'M SURE THE CLOTHES DIDN'T HELP MY EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
(SEE THE SHADOW STILL LOOMING EIGHT YEARS LATER?)

Then, when I was 23, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Until she died 3-1/2 years later, my birthday wish was that my brother AND sister would wake up "better." It never happened. And I continued to figure it was because I just wasn't good enough. On my 27th birthday, three months after my sister died and two months before I met Jerry, I made my own birthday wish. I wished I would know what to wish for — for myself — next year. That didn't happen either (but, in the meantime, I had gotten Jerry anyway).

NO ONE NOTICED THIS?

My moods can be, if not manic, at least changeable. I smile a lot. People think I'm happy when I'm not. I also brood a lot (I used to brood a lot more than I now do). People would think I was angry when I was just ... thoughtful (as in thought-filled).

WAS IT THE HARSH PUNISHMENT? (I DON'T LOOK LIKE I'M SUFFERING.)

I can't live without change in my life. I like to move. I like to shake everything up. Often. And that has its consequences. So, although, I am elated to be living this new life in Sevilla, I also appreciate that making this choice has brought lots more stress along with it and that stress, for me, usually translates into depression. So, I have to work a little harder right now to not allow it to overwhelm me. And sometimes I need outside help.

MAYBE IT WAS JUST THE CHOICE OF FAMILY VACATION DESTINATIONS.

I know how to deal with things now, which doesn't mean I don't still have my moments (as you have witnessed — recently "dropping a sock" among others). It also doesn't mean there's an easy fix. If I just count my blessings every day — or meditate, or exercise, or keep myself busy, or drink herbal tea, or volunteer, or talk to a friend, or go to a chiropractor, or make lemonade, or let a smile be my umbrella — it doesn't get all better. The sadness lurks in corners or sometimes takes up every inch of space. I don't let it control my life anymore, but I have learned to accept that it's a big part of who I am. And despite the title of this post, I will not torture you with a video of Annie singing that the sun'll come out tomorrow. Because it might not. I simply hope the sun'll come out eventually. Clouds every now and again aren't so bad.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Idiot's Guide to the Supermercado

Jerry hadn't been feeling well for a few days. Thankfully, he's much better today.  There's a stomach bug going around and he appears to have had it. Among Jerry's many strengths and assets, the ability to cope with illness and/or injury (however minor) is not one. And he sees no point in suffering if he has to do it silently. Some years ago, Jerry had a very clever doctor who told him he had a catastrophic imagination. But, like everything else to do with Jerry, he can laugh at himself.  Maybe not when he's suffering the permanently debilitating effects of a stubbed toe ("It's severely broken! I know it!"), but eventually — once the toe has miraculously healed — he will laugh at himself.

Before Jerry and I met, when he was still in his 20s and living in Seattle, Washington, he "very seriously" (his words) sliced his finger "nearly off" (again, his words) while preparing dinner. He quickly rinsed the wound and then bound it tightly in a dish towel, maintaining constant pressure. He then called a friend and told him he needed to be rushed to the emergency room. When he arrived at the hospital he told the intake nurse what had happened and she carefully unwrapped the towel. They couldn't find a wound. They couldn't even find a tightly sealed seam.

"Well, let me see," Jerry said as he perused his digits, "I'm pretty sure it was this finger."

The nurse smiled and said, "I think you'll live." She then asked if he would like her to put a Band-Aid on it. Of course, he said, "yes."

But, as usual, I digress. The point of this post was to share with you my trip to the supermarket. As you by now probably already know, I do not like to cook. As you also probably already know, in my world, putting a teabag in a cup of microwaved water qualifies as cooking. So, when Jerry is feeling under the weather, if he wants a nice bowl of chicken soup, he's probably going to be making it himself. Unless he's got some in the freezer. I can rise to the occasion and reheat if absolutely necessary.

JERRY'S CHICKEN SOUP ON THE STOVE.
HE USED TO MAKE MY GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE. NOW HE JUST WINGS IT.

So, as I mentioned, Jerry hadn't been feeling well.  He knew some home-made chicken soup would help. But, he gave our last container of chicken soup to Teré the other day when she wasn't feeling well. He told me last night he would make some fresh chicken soup if I wouldn't mind going to the supermarket. Of course I was only too glad to go. It was the least I could do — well, sadly, it was the most I could do, truth be told.

What you may not appreciate is that, for me, going to the supermarket is just barely one tiny step away from cooking. I did become proficient at grocery shopping in Irvine (always with a very specific list from Jerry), but I have done very little of it here. Jerry knows his way around the supermarket at El Corte Inglés. I do not. He has also learned many more of the Spanish names for the products than I have, such as "nabo" for turnip. I told Jerry to make a list and I would get whatever he needed. He ended up writing a grocery list ... and drawing a letter-coded map of the store.

All I needed was a tag pinned to my snow suit (right next to my mittens), "My name is Mitchell. If lost, please return me to..." Anyway, there's no way I ever would have found the chicken broth... or the turnips.

I WON'T READ A RECIPE, BUT I'M REALLY GOOD WITH A MAP.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dropping a Sock and Working on an Attitude

These last few days have been emotionally challenging — for no apparent reason except that sometimes the world just becomes too much for me. I can be very unkind to myself. This morning, as I was taking in some laundry — five pairs of socks and some underwear — from the clothesline outside the kitchen window, I tried to grab too much in my hands at once and one sock slipped through my fingers down to the courtyard below. The only access to the courtyard is through the apartment on the first floor and I hate to bother them since I know the other two neighbors are constantly losing clothing and clothespins that way (I've lost two clothespins). It must get really annoying. So, upon losing the sock, I lost "it" — fiercely gritting my teeth, biting my lower lip hard, and cursing myself out loud for my carelessness and stupidity. I didn't lose one of Jerry's socks (as if he would even care). I lost one of my own.



What I'm saying is I had a melt-down this morning. Over a sock. What I lost was an individual, casual, black GoldToe sock. I have perhaps two dozen (well now perhaps 23) casual, black, GoldToe socks remaining. Surely, it's the end of the world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whatever Lola Wants

MAKING HER ENTRANCE. LATER, A BREAK FOR A CALL FROM #1 SON (THERE'S ALSO A #1 DAUGHTER).

Lola and I try to get together two mornings a week for coffee and conversation. Tuesdays for English and Thursdays for Spanish. We meet, usually outside, at Casa Santos, a little café about two blocks away from Lola's house (six or seven blocks for me). The café has three tables inside and, at this time of year, four outside. The number of outside tables more than doubles in warmer weather. The owners, Santo and his wife, do it all themselves... with warmth and charm. I love going there, even though the little plaza doesn't get a lot of sun. Our own plaza is very sunny and warm and we love it. It just doesn't have Santo.

SANTO AND CASA SANTOS. A VERY FRIENDLY PLACE.

Whether the focus that day is on English or Spanish, we both learn in both languages. I really enjoy my mornings spent with Lola. The always-generous Albert introduced us to Lola when we were here in January. He usually meets us for coffee and conversation Thursday mornings. Albert, who speaks several languages, leaves us to ourselves Tuesdays so Lola doesn't feel inhibited in her attempts at English.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD. A VIEW DOWN THE SIDESTREET.

Lola is a combination of the Lola of "Damn Yankees," Lola of the Barry Manilow song "Copacabana," a character from "Sex and the City" (or as it's called here "Sex in New York"), and Earth Mother. As I said last week (totally inappropriately in Spanish), "the total package." Whenever I see her, I want to burst into song.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicken Soup and Other Body Parts

We had Breakfast #2 downstairs at El Sanedrín this morning. Teré wasn't feeling well.  Jerry made chicken soup a few days ago and had a small container in the freezer. He asked Teré if she would like it since she could simply heat it up in the restaurant kitchen for lunch. Jerry is a bit casual with his Spanish vowels. I've told him he needs to be more precise in his pronunciation since a word can completely change in meaning with a different vowel ending. Chicken is pollo. But, Jerry didn't ask Teré if she liked sopa de pollo (chicken soup), he asked if she liked sopa de polla. Teré, yet again, burst out laughing. (We have that effect.) It was clear that Jerry's pronunciation meant something entirely different but I didn't know what. I told him he should have said pollo and not polla.


I then, in Spanish, asked Teré what polla was. She blushed (she blushes easily) and said it was something she did not have but I did (Jerry, also).

Teré told Jerry that she would love some sopa de pollo but not the other, going on to say that she thought perhaps that's what "preservativos" were for.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cavalcade, Cake, Candy, and Kings

OUR FIRST ROSCÓN DE REYES, COMPLEMENTS OF LOLA.

We have nearly made it through our first Christmas in Sevilla.  Today is Dia de Los Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day). This morning, Jerry and I enjoyed our first-ever slices of Roscón de Reyes (a ring-shaped bread-like cake decorated with fruits symbolizing the precious gems that were supposed to have adorned the clothing of the three kings).  Lola gave us a beautiful boxed roscón when we met last night at La Perlita to watch the massive parade (cabalgata). Many roscón are unfilled and intended for dunking. Our roscón is filled with whipped cream. We have enough for 10 people, which should get the two of us through the next day or so. Good calcium. Jerry bought the ingredients and would like to make his own roscón. He loves to dunk, so maybe he'll leave out the whipped cream.

THE FIRST CLUSTER OF THE HUNDREDS OF "THREE" WISE MEN.
HANDS ARE NOT RAISED IN PRAISE BUT IN THE HOPES OF CATCHING SOME CANDIES.

The Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos (The Parade of the Royal Magi), held here in Sevilla yesterday, was unbelievable. The parade started near the University at 4:15 in the afternoon and ended near the same location well past 10:00 at night, more than six hours later. My estimate is that they march, walk, and ride 10 km (6 miles) in that time.

INTEGRACIÓN A LAS CULTURAS (INTEGRATION OF CULTURES).  FLOAT #14.
CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

The parade makes its way around much of the old city, passing within a block of our house about an hour or so before it reaches the neighborhood by La Perlita (which is less than a 10-minute walk from here). The floats (33 of them) were ornate, fun, funny, creative, and ranged in themes from the 1812 Constitution to Cultural Exchange to Ancient Greece to Spongebob Squarepants.

NACIMIENTO (BIRTH). FLOAT #2.
MORE CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

The parade was unbelievably impressive. Filling the gaps between floats were marching bands as well as marchers and riders on horseback dressed as the Magi. The only thing that was extremely unsettling for us was the fact that all those walking and riding "Magi" had blackened their faces. I make a point of leaving behind my American sensibilities (and insensibilities) as I experience my new and much-loved home here in Spain, but I couldn't get beyond my discomfort on this one. I'll have to learn more about this and people's attitudes by talking to locals ... of all colors.

EL GRAN VISIR (THE GRAND VIZIER). FLOAT #5.
AND STILL MORE CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

Clearly, the most important part of the parade to many of the spectators is the tossing, lobbing, fast-pitching, and hard-pelting of caramelos (candies) from the people on the floats and horses to the people on the streets. I was initially in the thick of things to get my photos, but after getting struck painfully in the head a few times by hard candies, I moved out of harm's way. Next year, I'll wear a hat (and rubber-soled shoes that can be easily cleaned).

HEARTWARMING. CARAMELOS DISCOVERED ON OUR DOORSTEP THIS MORNING.
COULD THEY HAVE BEEN LEFT BY THE THREE KINGS?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chocolate, Street Music, Crotches, and Invisible Friends

CHOCOLATE CUSTARDS WITH A CITRUS CLOUD
(NATILLAS DE CHOCOLATE CON NATA Y CITRICOS)

I am again well fed. Jerry served another delicious dinner New Year's Day and finished it off with Chocolate Custards (with a Citrus Cloud) from page 417 of "The New Spanish Table." Teré and Miguel were here and we all agreed (from the sounds we made) that this dessert was amazing.  I finally rolled into bed around 3 a.m. Two nights in a row! Last night, I went to bed at midnight.  I didn't get out of bed this morning until 10:45.

TELL BALTHASAR (OR ONE OF THE OTHER KINGS)
WHAT YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS.
NO SANTA (PAPA NOEL) HERE.
Despite our chocolate bliss, yesterday (2 January), Jerry and I both had a bit of the bah-humbug about us. We usually tire of "the holidays" by the first day of the year at which time, in the States, we were always relieved to finally take down the tree and pack up the decorations. However, the holiday is only just past half-way done in Spain on the first. We still have the Day of the Kings or Día de los Reyes (Epiphany) to get through on 6 January. The streets are even crazier this week with holiday shoppers since the Day of the Kings (and the evening before) is traditionally the time to exchange gifts in Spain, which makes sense since that's the day the Three Kings, bearing gifts, were said to have visited. So, we adjusted our attitudes last night and are back in the holiday spirit. We will get through this. However long it takes!

In the United States, it is not unusual to play "Secret Santa," whereby you draw a name and then anonymously buy a gift for the person whose name you've drawn. In Spain, it's called "Amigo Invisible" (Invisible Friend). Jerry and I are participating with our group of friends from the bar, La Perlita. We are looking forward to the exchange Thursday night when we meet at La Perlita to watch the Day of the Kings street festivities. It was suggested Friday of last week when we were gathered at La Perlita that we do the "Amigo Invisible." However, I had never heard of "Amigo Invisible" and thought Manuela, who suggested it, had said "Amigo Imbecile." Everyone found that entertaining. I also told Lola, who looked especially beautiful that day, that she was "the total package."  I said it in Spanish, which was a mistake. There is no such expression in Spanish, so what I basically said was she was the "total male crotch." THAT took some explaining. Lola played up her indignance, laughing at me the entire time. I'm sure I'll be hearing about it for years to come.

After breakfast at El Sanedrín this morning, I braved the crowds and went shopping for my Amigo Invisible. I enjoy shopping, but not during the holidays.  However, I endured and found exactly what I was looking for. And, on the way, I had the joy of being entertained by the great street musicians. It was enough to chase away any residual bah-humbug.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Lemon Bread — Just Like Mother Used to Make

Jerry's mother, Alice, had a great lemon bread recipe that we (Jerry) are, so far, unable to reproduce here in Spain because it requires pre-packaged ingredients that we (Jerry) haven't been able to find. However, when I mentioned the recipe in a recent post, I received a lot of requests for it. So, here it is in Alice's own hand. If you have any questions, let me know. (And I'll ask Jerry for the answers.)


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Feliz Año Nuevo — Welcome 2012

THIRTY NEW YEAR'S EVES TOGETHER,
LIVED IN THIRTEEN DIFFERENT CITIES. 
We are not big partiers, especially when it comes to New Year's Eve. Our usual way to celebrate New Year's Eve (when we celebrate it) has been to have two friends over for dinner, which would begin after 10. This ensured that we were just finishing dessert at the stroke of midnight. Which ensured we would be awake to ring in the New Year. We were usually in bed by 12:10.

This year, we had a quiet dinner at home, just the two of us. It being our first year in Sevilla, we debated walking over to Plaza Nueva before midnight to be there with the crowds to welcome 2012. I had no expectation that we would actually follow through. Jerry does not like crowds... or drunks.  But, Jerry surprised me (he tends to do that) and asked if I still wanted to go. I, of course, said "Yes, but only if you really want to go. If you'd rather not, I'm happy to just stay here with you." We went.

PREPACKAGED "UVASDOCE – NOCHEVIEJA" (12 GRAPES – NEW YEAR'S EVE)

The Spanish tradition, once the clock begins to chime the hour of midnight, is to eat one grape for every chime until you consume the twelfth grape on the twelfth chime. If you succeed, you will have a year of good fortune. The stores actually sell grapes in 12-packs just for the occasion. I didn't realize it but Jerry had picked up two 12-packs when he was grocery shopping today, which he popped into his pocket as we headed out the door.

JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT.

I assumed Plaza Nueva on New Year's Eve would be simply a smaller version of Times Square — mobbed, unruly, and drunk. When I was in college, I spent one New Year's Eve in Times Square. Once was enough. But, surprisingly, when we arrived in Plaza Nueva at 11:45 it was very easy to get around.  It did get crowded as the hour drew near, but never uncomfortably so. Also, the plaza was filled with people of every age, from children in strollers to the elderly. This was nothing like Times Square.

AT THE TOP OF AVENIDA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN.
YES. THE GUY AT THE RIGHT IN THE COWBOY HAT WAS AMERICAN.

There were street vendors selling sparkly hats and huge plastic sunglasses framed in lights.  But mostly there were vendors selling bags of grapes. And everywhere we looked we saw people holding their own little containers of New Year's Eve grapes. Many had unopened bottles of champagne, as well.

NEXT YEAR, I'M GETTING MYSELF ONE OF THOSE TINSEL WIGS.

The clock began to chime and we began to pop grapes into our mouths... along with everyone around us. Once the grapes were consumed, people set off individual fireworks — a bit too close for comfort.  Everyone hugged and kissed. It was very civilized. We walked home to the rat-a-tat-tat of fireworks echoing all over the city. It's now 1:45 a.m. The fireworks are still going off. Jerry just went to bed, but before doing so he told me I should go outside and tell them all to stop. New Year's Eve is over.

Feliz Año Nuevo from Sevilla!