Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Feliz Halloween and Happy Día de Todos Los Santos

I still haven't spoken with the Dowager Duchess. It's the pits. I'm so grateful to Linda for phoning her (and getting through) yesterday. I've tried again and again today and I go right to voice mail. This could mean, I suppose: a) There's just too much communication traffic between here and there; b) The Duchess is on the phone; c) The Duchess forgot to turn the phone back on; or d) The Duchess didn't charge the phone before the storm. I did speak again with my brother last night to let him know Linda had gotten through to the Duchess and she was fine. Sure hope the power gets turned back on soon! There'll be no trick-or-treating in those buildings tonight. Twenty-four floors of darkness.

OSCAR IS OUR HALF-SPANISH/HALF-U.S.AMERICAN NEIGHBOR WHO LIVES A FEW BLOCKS AWAY.
AT BREAKFAST THIS MORNING, HE WAS DRESSED AS A PENGUIN.
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LOOK AT OSCAR AND HE SMILES.  I TRIED TO GET HIM
TO CAST ONE IN MY DIRECTION, BUT HE WOULDN'T TAKE HIS EYES OFF VANESSA.
UNDERSTANDABLE.

Halloween is not huge business here in Sevilla. But they're trying. There are parties around town. Some kids are in costume. I'm sure there'll be a collection of costumed, drunk college students (non-Spaniards), just like last year. One good thing is that El Sanedrín is hosting a concert again starting around midnight and Teré is the featured performer. Last year was the first time I had ever heard her sing. We were just becoming friends at the time. She's amazing (in every way). Her voice is as sweet (and powerful) as her personality. So, San Geraldo has promised to take either one very long siesta this afternoon or two short ones. Anything to ensure he's wide awake to take in the show. I can't wait (which I learned shouldn't be translated literally into Spanish). When I once said to Teré "I can't wait" ("No puedo esperar"), she asked me to explain the expression because in Spanish it means exactly that: I couldn't wait and I therefore wasn't going to.

SAN GERALDO MADE PLUM COBBLER YESTERDAY.
NOT TOO SWEET, SLIGHTLY TART, AND TOTALLY DELICIOUS. JUST LIKE HIM.

The temperature this morning while we had breakfast outside was 13C/55F. Today has only gotten up to 20C/68F. Downright nippy! It's a good thing a beautiful lap blanket arrived from my blogging friend YONKS. I won it one day because I visited her fascinating blog and commented during the giveaway. The blanket is beautiful. Dudo loves it. So I think I might have a battle on my hands. I've got to protect it from cat hair — and claws! Oh yeah, and then there's San Geraldo to contend with. I probably should just give it up now. I can already picture San Geraldo sitting in his comfy chair in the living room, covered in the new blanket, with Dudo on his lap.

"HMMM.  SOFT."

Tomorrow is Dia de Todos Los Santos (All Saint's Day), a national holiday, which means all the stores will again be closed. San Geraldo did his grocery shopping. I'm going to go out and see if I can find some traditional delicacies of Dia de Todos Los Santos. Roasted chestnuts are common and I know exactly where to find them. But I'm not a fan. There are other wonderful-sounding sweets that I hope to be able to share with you (maybe another scratch-n-sniff blog post). I'm very curious to try Huesos de Santo (Saint's Bones). Sounds delicious, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

I still haven't had any success from here reaching The Dowager Duchess. However, Jerry's sister Linda — or perhaps I should start calling her Santa Linda — was able to get through from South Dakota and then phoned here to let us know everything was fine.

According to Linda, the co-op doesn't yet have the power back on. But it was turned off to meet safety regulations only. Also, The Duchess said she has plenty of food and a water. And then she told Linda something extremely peculiar. She said she has a gas stove, so she can cook. I don't really understand that line of reasoning. If all it took were a particular kind of stove, I'd be cooking, too. I'm sure there's more to the cooking thing than just that.

I was able to reach my brother by phone earlier today. He's much further from the beach and had no flooding in his neighborhood. And his neighborhood didn't lose power. He also has a gas stove, which must mean he can cook, too.

So, all is well in Brooklyn. Thanks, everyone, for your kind messages and your concern.

THE DUCHESS IS APPARENTLY TOO BUSY HAVING A GOOD TIME TO BOTHER TO CALL.

The Duchess And The Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy has made its way through New York City. My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess lives in Evacuation Zone A. Right near the water (well, I suppose everywhere is right near the water now). Evacuation Zone A is low-lying. Mandatory evacuation; the mayor of New York said residents of Zone A were required to go to shelters. But The Duchess and most of her high-rise neighbors stayed put. I haven't heard from her since yesterday morning. I'm sure all is well. Her co-op has its own power plant. So, even if they're without power, it could be only as a precaution and it shouldn't be for too long. The Duchess had stocked up before the storm.

SAND BERM FRONTING THE BOARDWALK IN ANTICIPATION OF HURRICANE SANDY.
(THAT'S NOT THE ORIGINAL NATHAN'S. THAT'S THE BOARDWALK STORE.)

(PHOTO FROM THE WEB.)

I've read that streets in The Duchess's neighborhood are flooded. The photos and stories I've found are very disturbing. There was a car on fire at the hospital three blocks away last night and it took emergency vehicles an hour to get there through three to four feet of water. No injuries. Initially, it was reported that the main building of the hospital was on fire. I'm glad that wasn't the case.

A VIEW OF CONEY ISLAND PIER YESTERDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE SANDY (AND HIGH TIDE) HIT.
(PHOTO FROM THE WEB.)

I'm about to try and reach The Duchess by phone (first home phone, then mobile). I waited just on the odd chance she actually slept late this morning. I don't know if I'll get through. I'll also try calling Kid Brother. He lives above 5 miles from the beach and he's smart enough to know when to come in from the rain (and falling trees). Besides, the organization that watches out for him, AHRC, does a great job.

CONEY ISLAND STREETS UNDER WATER (PHOTO TAKEN DURING THE NIGHT).
("A" IS WHERE CHUCK AND I PLAYED SKEEBALL.)
(PHOTO FROM THE WEB.)

When the Duchess emailed yesterday morning, she didn't seem much concerned. More than anything else, I think she was disappointed she couldn't go to school for her square dance/folk dance class. I sure hope things are cleared up by tomorrow, but that's a lot to hope for. The Duchess sure won't be pleased when she has to also miss her painting class this week.

BUILDING "A." THE VIEW IN SEPTEMBER OUT TO THE STREET,  NOW A RIVER.

I hope those of you in the path of the storm remain safe... and careful.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It Ain't Gonna Rain No More, No More

We had some really good rain here and I was lucky enough to be out walking in it. Albert and I met for a quick drink Thursday afternoon. The conversation and company was enough to make Thursday a very good day. We then headed in different directions. I stepped into El Corte Inglés near the Church of La Magdalena to pick up some candles. The rain had started to come down heavily, but I had my trench coat, my ankle boots, and my umbrella. Not a problem. When I left the store 10 minutes later, almost every pedestrian had taken shelter either beneath the broad overhang outside El Corte Inglés or in the nearest doorway.

JUST BEFORE THE WINDS PICKED UP AND IT BEGAN TO RAIN SIDEWAYS.

That didn't stop me. I've been dying to take a walk in the rain. If I hadn't had my camera, phone, and wallet with me, I would have kept the umbrella folded and simply immersed myself completely. I headed gleefully into the storm with a smile so broad my face hurt. The rain increased and the wind started to blow. It seemed to be raining sideways. Within two minutes, my jeans were completely soaked to above my knees. My shoes had developed puddles in their soles. Even my water-resistant trench coat was showing signs of failure. I reached the next store overhang and waited with others more rational than I. It eased up a bit and I headed (happily) back out. I reached home and, although I wanted to keep walking, there was a pavement-shaking crack of thunder and then the entire plaza glowed in the flash of lightning. San Geraldo's great-grandmother was struck and killed by lightning. I knew he'd be worried. Time to get myself safely inside.

WHILE I WAITED WITH THE MUCH WISER PEDESTRIANS.
(SOME MAJOR PHOTOSHOPPING TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE I PICKED UP MY COLOR PENCILS.)

It had already been raining much of Tuesday and Wednesday, and it continued to come down Thursday night. Although I was in heaven, San Geraldo (no fan of storms and especially not of lightning) was not a happy camper. Rather than incur the wrath of San Geraldo, the goddess decided to bring back the sunshine today. I went out for lunch with a new expat friend I just met via my blog. So, I had two beautiful walks and two great afternoons. Rain and shine.

LUNCH TODAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF EL ARENAL.
WARMTH, SUNSHINE, AND GOOD COMPANY.


OUTSIDE THE RESTAURANT AFTER LUNCH. THESE KIDS WERE ADORABLE, UNTIL THE ONE
IN THE BLINDFOLD THOUGHT SHE "FOUND" HER FRIEND AND SLAPPED A PASSER-BY IN THE CROTCH.



ANOTHER CLASSIC THE DOWAGER DUCHESS USED TO SING TO US.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

San Geraldo and the Flower Children

THE FLOWER CHILD GIVEN TO ME BY MY SISTER IN 1971 JUST BEFORE I LEFT FOR UNIVERSITY.
(THE TAMBOURINE IS A SPANISH ACQUISITION.)

Speaking Spanish appears to be the least of San Geraldo's problems when it comes to living in Spain. Let me be clear. San Geraldo is exceptionally intelligent. During his professional years, he could comfortably and successfully speak before audiences large and small on a variety of subjects — organizational management; professional style; the past, present, and future of technology. He was interesting, inspiring, and entertaining — a natural. It's amazing that someone who gets his mords wixed words mixed so often can in actuality be such a good speaker and charming conversationalist.

The other day, San Geraldo said he was tired of making salads and needed a day off. As, we tried to decide where to go for lunch, San Geraldo suggested either "Casa Marta for frapchinni" or "Flower Power for chicken and steak." Other than "chicken and steak," not much was correct in his suggestions.

Casa Marta is the little restaurant known to everyone else as Café Santa Marta. Frapchinni's real name is "Flamenquín." But, no matter what you call Café Santa Marta, we have found it to be an unfriendly place. We can get flamenquín all over town and San Geraldo has successfully prepared it at home. (Although, as far as we know, Café Santa Marta serves the only flamenquín that looks like an enormous — deep-fried — penis.)

LAST YEAR'S FLAMENQUÍN AT CAFÉ SANTA MARTA.
GOOD FOOD, BUT NOT A VERY FRIENDLY PLACE. WE'VE SCRATCHED IT FROM OUR LIST.

Flower Power is known to everyone else as the restaurant Los Niños de Flor (which translates to The Flower Children). But, as I mentioned, "chicken and steak" were correct. Those are the two dishes (steak in whiskey sauce, chicken in green sauce) we order every time we go to Los Niños de Flor because San Geraldo is a creature of habit. Good and bad habit. He has referred to the restaurant as Flower Power, Flower Kids, Sons of Flor, Flor's Kids, Niños Power. Everything but Los Niños de Flor, which, by the way, is one of the friendliest places in town.

WALKING BY LOS NIÑOS DE FLOR ON THIS VERY RAINY AFTERNOON.
(I WOULDN'T HAVE PAIRED THE RED UMBRELLA WITH MAUVE PINK PANTS.
THEN AGAIN, I WOULDN'T WEAR MAUVE PINK PANTS.)

Last night when I was cleaning up after dinner, San Geraldo referred to twist-ties (from food-storage bags) as "those clicker things."

Before we decided to move to Spain, when we were still living in Irvine and San Geraldo wanted desperately out of his career once and for all, he suggested he could perhaps turn his daily coffee habit at the local chain cafés Peet's and Starbuck's into a career.

"I know," he announced, "I could be a barrister!"*

_________________
*For my Spanish friends, a barrister is a lawyer. A barista is a person who makes coffee (mostly).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Has Anyone Seen My Talent?

HOW I SAW MYSELF IN '76 AND '93.
(ON TWO BAD DAYS.)
I seem to have misplaced my artistic talent. I'm sure I haven't lost it completely but it seems to be well-hidden. At least my skill when touching a felt-tip pen to a fine piece of sketch paper. Maybe I should try doodling on a napkin instead. I'm serious. Some of my best work used to be doodled on napkins.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my high-quality sketch pad (given to me in September along with a bunch of great art supplies by the very artistic — and generous — Dowager Duchess). I thought I'd start simply. I took one of my felt-tip razor point pens and began to sketch from a photograph I had taken last week. I very rarely drew from photos or existing art in the past. (I had a high-school art teacher who insisted it was cheating; I learned later that she was wrong, but never really got over it.) Last week, I saw a woman on the street during one of the processions and snapped her picture. She was interesting. I thought it would make a great drawing (despite what Mrs. Aranow had said). It sucked... or I should say, I sucked. But it's been a long time since I've sat and sketched. I knew I needed to relax and get into it.

So, I sat down on my bed and decided I would do what I used to do to relax — all the way through my school years and university. If I really wanted to sketch just for the sake of sketching, I would sprawl out somewhere (usually in bed) and draw my feet. Or my left hand holding the sketch pad. Or whatever was in view. I was always good at feet and hands. So, I decided to sketch my hand. It sucked.

DOODLED ON AN ETCHING PLATE IN 1973 AND PRINTED ON A PAPER TOWEL.
ALL THAT MATTERED WAS I HAD A GOOD TIME.

In disgust — after my 10 minutes of effort — I put down the pad and pen. I began to tell myself I never had any talent anyway. But I quickly reminded myself I was simply rusty and I was placing way too much importance on picking up that sketchpad. So, next time (today), I'm going to use pencil instead of pen. And I'm only going to doodle (no hands, no feet just whatever is in my head).

It's not a competition. I don't need to get a good grade. I'm not building a portfolio for a job interview. I'm not trying to please a client. No one is going to pay me. And one day soon, I will actually share something new that I enjoyed doing.

A VERY OLD DOODLE (CLICK FOR THE BIG PICTURE).
IT WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER IF I STILL GOT HIGH (OOPS! SORRY, MOM!)

Meanwhile, I'm not feeling completely inept. Another unusual gift Chocolate-Bearing-Peter brought from Amsterdam was a do-it-yourself "Foldable Delft Blue Vase Flower Brick" (better known as Vouwbare Delftsblauwe Vaas Bloemenblok). It's a modern version (in polypropylene) of a 17th-century Delftware flower container. The inner lining is watertight, so you can even fill it with fresh flowers. I handily managed to do that myself. It's a start.

HANDMADE (WELL, HAND-FOLDED) GENUINE POLYPROPYLENE DELFTWARE.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fine Art of Self-Flagellation

I really need to find myself a sculpture class or studio. I love to sculpt and haven't done much since high school (a couple of pieces here and there). I gave away everything I ever created. Some of it, I'm sure, was not as good as I remember.

THE SACRIFICES WE MAKE FOR OUR ART?

My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess has two nude figures I made and never fired. I coated them in a fiberglass resin, but I don't think it was intended to preserve them through the centuries. They're not awful, but they're nothing to write home about (so I guess it's good I don't need to do so), and they've been glued back together too many times to count; the Dowager Duchess will never throw them away. I tried my hand at Sculpy, which is a modeling compound that bakes in a kitchen oven. I made one figure I absolutely loved. He wasn't really of the proportions recommended for something you'd bake in a home oven. I baked him anyway. He got a little burned around the finger tips and toes but, still, I loved him. And then I gave him to a friend as a birthday gift.


When Adela and I spent an afternoon last week at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), I found myself again drawn (as I was recently in Maria Luisa Park) to the sculpture — in wood, marble, and plaster. My preference is for drawing and sculpting people and, although the subjects at this particular (exceptional) museum are primarily religious figures and I don't find them spiritually inspiring in that sense, I am still inspired. So, here from the museum collection are some of the saints and virgins we saw last week. Also included is a beautiful, detailed bas relief of the not-at-all-saintly Christopher Columbus with Isabella I and Ferdinand.








Like Santo Domingo (the last sculpture pictured), I think I'll be flagellating myself if I don't start creating again soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Miraculous Rescue or Attempted Drowning?

San Geraldo and I took a walk Saturday afternoon to Los Remedios to do some shopping. We passed through the Plaza de la Concordia, with it's reflecting pool containing multiple arching fountains along its length. As we approached, we saw something very disturbing. A furry white animal appeared to have drowned and was floating on its side.

A TRAGIC END.

We were relieved to see it was only a stuffed animal. Maybe some little brat adorable child had thrown it over the low fence during a temper tantrum demonstration of independence. However it had gotten there, I certainly wasn't going to reach into the green water to fish it out. If I didn't know better, I might think Dudo had had something to do with it. (Remember his rat?) When we passed back through Plaza de la Concordia on our way home a few hours later, we saw that someone had rescued the animal from the fountain. But no one had claimed it. It will probably end up for sale at the next local flea market.

RETRIEVED, BUT LIFELESS.

When we got home, I immediately went looking for Dudo to find out if the attempted drowning was another bit of his handiwork. The look he gave me was not reassuring.

"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

ON SECOND THOUGHT, MAYBE I SHOULD BE TALKING TO THE NEIGHBORS.
(BUT, THEY HAVE A VIEW OF A WHITE RAT HANGING BY ITS TAIL.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

People Posing in the Park

Maria Luísa Park sprawls with paths for pedestrians, bicyclists, and horse-drawn carriages. Once you get off those main paths, it's easy to forget you're in the middle of a big city. Some days, I share the park with lots of other people — although it never feels crowded. Other days, especially in summer when the temperatures climb, I don't have much company.

The park formerly made up the larger part of the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo (now the Presidential Palace). The grounds soon became an important part of the 1920 Ibero-American Exposition. The Infanta Luísa Fernanda (aka, Maria Luisa, 1832–1897) donated the park to the city of Sevilla in 1893. Maria Luisa was the heir-apparent to the Spanish throne until her sister, Queen Isabella II (obviously not the Isabella who sent Christopher Columbus to America to find Ray Charles), had a daughter in 1848.

MEMORIAL TO MARIA LUISA (1832–1897), THE PARK'S NAMESAKE.

In the past, I've shared photos of some of the gardens, pavilions, museums, ponds, and fountains. This time, I thought I'd introduce you to some of the people — of sorts. The park is filled with memorials (glorietas) and ornamental statues. I've included some of my favorites. Unfortunately, it's between seasonal plantings right now, so the gardens around the monuments were dug up and the gardens were being watered. I've therefore also included some mud along with the marble and bronze. I was tempted to do some cleaning before I took my photos. But then I reminded myself of the adage: "Clean your own house first." I've been doodling in the dust on my desk. So, although I don't think the advice was meant to be taken literally, I restrained myself.

MONUMENT TO THE POET GUSTAVO ADOLFO BÉCQUER WRAPS AROUND A TREE.
INSPIRED BY HIS BOOK, "RIMAS" ("RHYMES") — WITH NEXT THREE PHOTOS.
THE ADULT CUPID LYING STABBED AND DYING.
ANOTHER VIEW OF THE DYING CUPID.
SOMEONE LEFT FLOWERS (FOR BECQUER, NOT FOR POOR CUPID).
THREE YOUNG WOMEN WITH CUPID, AS A CHILD, HURLING ARROWS AT THEM.

The glorietas are dedicated to great and/or famous Spaniards (and an Italian and German or two). I've only shared a small sampling here. Improvements and restorations are always in progress and I hope that continues despite the economic crisis. Not all statues have signage. So, I don't know who a number of these "people" are. But, I figure they must be important. They got solos.

MONUMENT TO LUIS MONTOTO (1851–1929), OFFICIAL CHRONICLER OF THE CITY OF SEVILLA.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THEY GAVE HIM A NAKED LADY.



THE DIVINE DANTE ALIGHIERI.
HE WROTE A S0-CALLED COMEDY, BUT I DIDN'T FIND IT VERY FUNNY.

THE ONE ATOP THE HEAD ON THE LEFT IS A MOURNING DOVE (LIVE). THE OTHERS?

CHIEF ARCHITECT OF IBERO-AMERICAN EXPOSITION,
ANÍBAL CONZÁLEZ ALVAREZ-OSSORIO (1876–1929).
HE WOULD HAVE TO HAVE A GRAND NAME TO GO WITH THAT GRAND PROFILE.

A Name to Remember
Following that last photo of the architect, whose grand name so impressed me, I thought I'd end with Maria Luísa's official name (after her marriage to Antoine, Duke of Montpensier). Apparently, she went by Su Alteza Real la Serenísima y Egregia Señora Infanta Doña Luisa Fernanda de Borbón y Borbón, Duquesa de Montepensier (or more simply, Her Royal Highness the Most Serene and Egregious Lady Infanta Doña Luisa Fernanda de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier). No wonder they called her Maria Luísa.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Does Anal-Retentive Have a Hyphen?

OK. I know the answer to the title question. It mostly depends on the editorial style guide you use. But, if the words are used as a compound adjective before a noun, most editors will agree they should be hyphenated. If they're used as a predicate noun, the hyphen apparently isn't required. I prefer the hyphen.

I suppose you'd have to actually be anal retentive (or anal-retentive) to even care.

I Care.
I tend to straighten bar stools and chairs in restaurants as I walk by. It takes all my self control (self-control? ... whatever) to not do so. When I worked for a gym in Santa Barbara, I would unconsciously straighten the café stools every time I walked through the lobby. After several months, I learned that other staff would mess them up when they saw me coming just to watch me align them again. One day, I caught them all grinning wickedly as I 'fixed' the stools.

CAFÉ CON LECHE. WRONG (LEFT) AND RIGHT ... (RIGHT).

When I have my morning coffee downstairs at El Sanedrín, I like the cup and saucer to match. The restaurant has Candelas* (the coffee company) cups and saucers. Some display the company logo in brown and white with an orange band, and others are in brown and white only. (In case you're wondering, I prefer the design without the orange.) The staff all know what I'm like; it's a running joke. The cup and saucer should match, and they should be aligned. I don't complain. My anal-retentiveness (hyphen or no) is my own issue and I do my best to not get carried away. However, if the cup and saucer aren't aligned when delivered, I align them myself before I start drinking. If they don't match, I cope. Oddly, if they weren't intended to match, I wouldn't care. I love mix-and-match. Go figure.

VANESSA HANGING HER HEAD IN SHAME.

Vanessa always proudly points out the beautifully aligned and matched cup and saucer as she serves me. She did so again yesterday. So I pulled out my camera and showed her a photo of what she had served the day before. I had aligned the cup and saucer before taking the photo. They didn't match. Vanessa was stunned. She has been very pleased to be learning a new English word or phrase every day. So, I taught her a very important expression. With perfect diction, she can now say, "I hang my head in shame."

Can Cats Be Obsessive-Compulsive?
That's just a nicer way of saying anal-retentive. Dudo is a creature of habit. If something is done once, it's a routine. Dudo insists on placing his toy mouse in the center of his food dish. He leaves it there for a while and then moves it to his water bowl. If San Geraldo or I remove the mouse, Dudo tracks it down and puts it right back. Moose doesn't like to eat from the dish or drink from the bowl containing the mouse. (Maybe that's why Dudo does it. Moose is kind of a big eater and Dudo is slim.) 


MOOSE AVOIDING MOUSE.

When San Geraldo finds the mouse soaking in the water bowl, he wraps it in his own hand towel (!!!) and leaves it on the bathroom counter. Dudo sniffs it out and retrieves it. When I find the mouse soaking in the water bowl, I wash it in the kitchen sink and hang it on the clothesline to dry. (Note: If I find out San Geraldo has used his hand towel to dry the mouse, I throw the towel in the laundry basket and put out a new one.)


MOUSE HANGING ON THE LINE LAST NIGHT.
I WONDER WHAT THE NEIGHBORS THINK.

*It also really bugs me that the coffee company's official name is Candelas, but the cups with my preferred logo read Candela (singular)...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The World's Best Chocolate Cake?

Saint Days here, I've been told, are bigger events than birthdays. You might get a small gift on your birthday and be showered with gifts and attention on your saint day. Even most non-practicing Catholics don't let their saint days pass without a celebration. Yesterday was the Dia de San Terésa (Saint Theresa's Day), Teré's patron saint and another excuse for us to go out and celebrate. We met in the Plaza de Cuba just across San Telmo Bridge in Triana. We thought we were meeting both Teré and Miguel in the plaza, but Teré arrived solo and said Miguel had been playing fútbol and would meet us at the restaurant.

TERÉ COMING IN FROM THE LEFT: "IT'S OPEN!"

There are two running issues when we plan dinner out with Teré and Miguel. The first is a result of our usually choosing Monday night to go out. When we arrive at whatever restaurant they've chosen we find it's closed Mondays. We then walk and walk until we find someplace (their second and third choices are usually closed, as well). The other issue: Teré always gets lost. So, when she told us we would meet Miguel at the restaurant, San Geraldo and I figured we were in trouble. We began to walk and Teré said in Spanish, "I think it's this way." Uh oh! San Geraldo asked, "Should she call Miguel? Is it even open?" I knew Miguel had made a reservation, so chances were good it was open. As for calling Miguel, I didn't think that was a bad idea. We walked one block. Teré hesitated again and phoned Miguel. But, while they spoke, she took two steps forward and saw the restaurant around the next corner. She had done it. She quickly ran toward the restaurant saying to Jerry excitedly, "¡Y está abierto!" (And it's open!)

ENTRANCE TO THE TOILETS. WHAT A WAY TO GO.

The name of the restaurant is Taberna Macuro and it was wonderful — the welcome, the service, the food, and the atmosphere. The owner is also an artist and his work adorned the entire space.

MORE ART.

Miguel arrived just a moment after we did. We had our amazing meal with these two friends who remind us how lucky we are. And we learned at the end of the meal that Miguel wasn't late because of fútbol. He was late because he had stopped at a place called "La Mejor Tarta de Chocolate en el Mundo," (The Best Chocolate Cake in the World) to pick up a special dessert that the restaurant, even though they served their own desserts, very generously allowed Miguel to bring in. We four have been trying to get a chocolate cake at this place near the bullring for months. The first time we went was a Monday. Closed. The next time, a holiday. Closed. The next time, we got there too early and no cakes were ready yet. We didn't realize it wasn't a café. It's primarily an antique shop and a take-out (chocolate cakes only) bakery. We could have waited an hour. They were even willing to make us some coffee (from their office pot) and invited us to sit and eat our cake (eventually) in a corner of the room. We didn't wait and we haven't been back. But, finally, the tarta was OD-chocolate good. We all agreed it wasn't really the best chocolate cake in the world, but we ate more than half and I finally had to move it out of the reach of San Geraldo and Teré or there would have been none left. (And Miguel and I would have been listening all night to those two complaining about how much they ate.) Miguel gave the left-over tarta to the restaurant staff as a thank-you for letting us bring it in.

LA MEJOR TARTA CHOCOLATE EN EL MUNDO. AND THE BEST FRIENDS, TOO!
SAN GERALDO WAS TELLING A VERY EMBARRASSING (AND TASTELESS) STORY. TERÉ WAS SOON IN TEARS.

After the cake and the high of the evening, I was grateful San Geraldo and I had a leisurely 20-minute walk home through this amazing city. We spent that walk talking happily about the evening, about Teré and Miguel, and about our past, present, and future in Spain.

THE WALK HOME FROM TRIANA. CROSSING SAN TELMO BRIDGE.

I forgot to mention: When Teré told us it was her Saint's Day. San Geraldo, not knowing, what the correct greeting was in honor of that occasion, said, "¡¡¡Feliz Navidad!!!" Merry Christmas wasn't quite right, but Teré got the message.