Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cream, Chocolate Syrup... and Nothing Else

I met Lola and Albert this afternoon for a quick beer (a little one). I ending up having two quick little ones. Lola told an embarrassing story about herself and when I jokingly said I would share the story on my blog, she told me I could. That surprised me. But then Lola explained that she had simply been embarrassed, not ashamed.

Lola is carrying on a long-distance casual romance. I'll just call him "The Flame." Anyway, while sitting at home the other evening, Lola and The Flame were exchanging text messages. He got a little frisky. At one point, he told her what he was wearing (unfortunately, she didn't share that info with us) and asked her what she had on. The conversation took place in Spanish, but I've saved you the trouble of translating.

Lola told The Flame she was wearing, "a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up."

"Anything else?" he asked.

"Tight black leggings," she responded.

Then she added, "And I'm covered in cream and chocolate syrup." She again hit SEND.

Somehow that last message didn't go back to The Flame. Somehow it went instead to Lola's 16-year-old son's 29-year-old private tutor.

ALBERT WITH THE ALLURING AND UNAPOLOGETIC LOLA.

Lola's heart rose to her throat. She immediately texted the tutor and simply said, "Sorry. Obviously that wasn't intended for you. My apologies."

The 29-year-old private tutor immediately texted back, "No problem."

The next night was the tutor's night to come to the house. Lola was in the main salon when he arrived. She didn't look up from her seat and simply mumbled that her son was upstairs. The tutor headed up without an embarrassing scene. Lola was greatly relieved, but couldn't wait until he left the house.

About an hour later, he came back downstairs. Lola busied herself in the salon hoping he would simply let himself out. But he entered the room and said, "I have a gift for you."

"Oh God," she thought, "What could this be?"

He handed her a small bag. She took it timidly and peered inside. It was a container of cream. "Have a good night," he laughed as he saw himself out.

 I TOLD THE STORY TO DUDO WHEN I GOT HOME.
UNLIKE LOLA, HE WAS MORTIFIED.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Delightful Day and the Dentist

A while back, San Geraldo and I met another American in Sevilla who gave us the name of a dentist who speaks English. When we finally came around to making our appointments, however, we discovered he didn't participate in our insurance plan, so I instead phoned the dental center run by our insurance company and asked if they had any dentists who speak English. "Oh, yes," was the response. I made two appointments with that dentist and we taxied over there today.

CROSSING THE SAN TELMO BRIDGE INTO TRIANA AND LOS REMEDIOS.

Like the medical center run by Sanitas, the dental center is beautiful, modern, high-end, and very pleasant. We checked in and filled out our patient information forms. They were in Spanish. San Geraldo began to try to translate but finally gave up. I started to just feed him the answers. When he got to question 14, "Women: Are you pregnant?" I forgot he was no longer reading along and I told him the answer to that one was "no." He marked "no." Oops. San Geraldo hates going to the dentist, but he behaved himself fairly well in the waiting room.

LOOKING BACK ACROSS THE RIVER GUADALQUIVIR.
(TOWER OF GOLD, CENTER.)

When the dentist was ready, San Geraldo went first (because if I had gone first, there was a good possibility he would have run out the door). Unfortunately, this dentist did not in fact speak English. (Maybe the other one was out today.) San Geraldo had no idea, most of the time, what he was being asked. He told me he had answered some of the questions anyway with what he thought would be good answers. When it was my turn, the dentist congratulated me on the new baby. (Not really, but he did ask me for clarification on what he had asked San Geraldo.) We were both told our mouths were perfect (ha! I've been told sometimes I have a "smart mouth" or a "dirty mouth," but never a perfect mouth) and we go back next week to have our teeth cleaned.

TEX-MEX NACHOS AT PHOENIX PUB. OUR REWARD FOR A GOOD VISIT WITH THE DENTIST.

QUESADILLA, SPANISH STYLE.

The office is in the neighborhoods of Triana/Los Remedios and Albert had recently told me about a great restaurant on Plaza de Cuba. It's an Irish pub with Spanish, Irish, American and Tex-Mex on the menu. Since Albert has never steered us wrong, we thought we'd give it a try. Great nachos. My quesadilla (my first quesadilla in Spain) was also very good. I got one with Iberian ham and cheese, to give my Tex-Mex experience a Spanish twist. The cheese inside was delicious. The cheese on top looked like Velveeta (which we recently tried to describe to Teré), but it had a stronger cheddar taste. We sat outside in the beautiful sunshine and relaxed before our walk home.

I wonder if we should start considering names for the baby. Nacho comes to mind.

JUST PAST THE JEREZ GATE HEADING TOWARD AVENIDA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN.

ON THE AVENUE, WITH THE CATHEDRAL IN THE BACKGROUND.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Head Bone's Connected to the Stomach Bone

HUESOS DE SANTO (SAINT'S BONES).
MARZIPAN, SWEET EGG YOLK FILLING, GROUND ALMONDS, SUGAR, LEMON, CINAMMON...

I know. I know. The head bone is not really connected to the stomach bone. I think the head bone is actually connected to the neck bone, but I majored in Art. I did take plenty of art students' anatomy classes and I did work in Medical Illustration for a while, but I don't remember all the parts and their order.

SAINT'S BONES UNDER GLASS (IN THE TOWN OF ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA).
(THAT'S A STATUE. I THINK MAYBE JUST A "FINGER BONE" IS REAL — AND NOT VERY TASTY.)

I mentioned earlier in the month that 1 November was the Dia de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) and that I hoped to sample Huesos de Santo (Saint's Bones). The pastries, not the relics. I didn't get around to looking for the sweets before the holiday, but the other day I happened to find some in a wonderful bakery not far from home. I bought four. Saint's Bones are delicious and they are now directly connected to the stomach bone.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby

One of the wonderful volunteers at Defensa Felina (the shelter from which we adopted Dudo and Moose in May of this year) found a couple of photos of our boys when they were kittens and still with their mother (and three sisters) and emailed them to me. I took one look and fell in love all over again.

MOOSE (MUSY). HE'S STILL SWEET AND CUDDLY, BUT DOESN'T LIKE TO BE PICKED UP.

THE BIRTH FAMILY, WITH DUDO FRONT AND CENTER AND MOOSE IN BACK.


A Musical Mother and a Beautiful Baby
When I was a kid, My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess was always singing. She said her voice put her in the category of listener, but that never stopped her from breaking into song. I actually liked her voice. Truth is, I passed a sixth-grade history test thanks to The Duchess. "Istanbul was Constantinople. Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople... Why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks." Even Old New York, which was once New Amsterdam, was on that test. Music is very instructive.

But, yet again, I digress. One of The Dowager Duchess's favorite songs for us was "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby." Only problem: I'm convinced she sang it as, "Oh, you must have been a beautiful baby. But baby look at you now" and not "'Cause baby look at you now." If so, I'm sure she meant it is a joke... At least I think I'm sure. (More therapy?)



ANOTHER THING THE DUCHESS LOVED TO SAY:
"YOU'VE GOT A FACE ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Crowd Control and a New Level of OCD

Yesterday morning during our breakfast, there were a lot of school groups out on the streets. I don't know where they were going, but clearly some place historic had an open house. Keeping the kids under control is I'm sure no easy task. The solution with the small fry (since leashes aren't permitted) is to have them create their own version of a chain gang. The kids all wear matching smocks and they were instructed to grab the tail of the smock in front of them. Group after group crossed the plaza. It was adorable. (And, as some people say, "They're all really smart. They're so young and they already speak Spanish." Yes, really, some people do say.)

FIELD TRIP. GRAB THE SMOCK IN FRONT OF YOU AND KEEP MOVING.

Sevilla has another version of crowd control. Around 1:30 or 2:00, everyone converges on their favorite plaza bar for their siesta drink before heading off for lunch and then back to work around 5. No smocks, which would be a really nice touch. But most people grab a small beer (known as a "caña" or "cervezita") and stay put for a half hour, an hour, sometimes more. I met Albert for a quick drink. Lola had been in Córdoba overnight and joined us on her way home. She and Albert (a walking and talking guide book) shared so much about the beauty, charm, and history of the city (which is only 20 minutes away on the high-speed AVE train), that I told San Geraldo we really have to get up one morning and go (we've been talking about doing so for weeks).

SIESTA AT PLAZA DEL SALVADOR. GRAB THE BEER IN FRONT OF YOU AND STAY A WHILE.

Many bars close at the end of siesta (and re-open at night) and most people are long gone before then. A few die-hards stick around until closing. I haven't closed a bar in a long time. Lola, Albert, and I did so yesterday. It's so much easier when closing time is 5 p.m. Some people move on to cocktail bars to continue their own personal parties with more grown-up drinks, like "gin tonic." I went home. Three and a half hours and two cañas were more than I could handle.


THE PLAZA AND BAR AFTER SIESTA. STORES RE-OPENED, BARS CLOSED.
ALBERT DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE. (HE'S AVAILABLE FOR PARTIES... ALWAYS.)

IS THAT THE MOON?!?  TIME FOR ME TO GO HOME.
I'M JUST NOT AS MUCH FUN AS ALBERT AND LOLA.

Happily Obsessive-Compulsive
I can't believe I'm sharing the following. I especially can't believe I'm including a photo. Or that I even took the photo in the first place. Well, for that matter, I can't believe I noticed there might even be something to take a photo of. But, when I went inside the bar to use the men's room, I was pleased (OK, oddly pleased) to notice that my clothing colors perfectly coordinated with the bathroom's decor. Now I'm going to want to check in advance so I can always plan the outfit accordingly.

GLEEFUL TO COLOR-COORDINATE... WITH A BATHROOM.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

When Is An Enchilada Not An Enchilada?

NACHOS AND BEER AT FRIJOLITO.
I don't have a punchline to the title of this post. Well, maybe I do. But it's not funny. An enchilada is not an enchilada, apparently, when it is served at the "Mexican" restaurant Frijolitos in Sevilla. San Geraldo, Teré, and I went to Frijolitos las night for dinner. San Geraldo loves Mexican food, and he loves nachos.

I'd been told the food at Frijolitos is good... and authentic. It was good. But, it wasn't really what we know as Mexican. We ordered a plate of nachos with just guacamole and "salsa." Although the guacamole came from a jar, it had good flavor. San Geraldo ordered another nachos plate for his main course, this time with chicken and beans and all the other fixings. I ordered a beef enchilada. My dish arrived and I thought I had received the wrong thing. But Teré said it was the enchilada. It was a small casserole smothered in melted cheese. Beneath the thick layer of delicious cheese, the bowl was filled with a ground beef mixture that was also delicious. No tortilla in sight. It was definitely not a Mexican enchilada. I still enjoyed it, but we won't be heading over there again any time soon anyway (definitely not the friendliest place in town... not by a long-shot). However, we had a great evening. The food, although not what we expected, was good. Besides, we were with Teré. We couldn't have a bad time.

 I NEVER DID FIND THE REAL ENCHILADA, BUT IT TASTED GOOD.

In Sevilla over this past year, I've learned that just about every word can be made more endearing by adding "ito" or "ita" to the end. I've for years called The Dowager Duchess "Mamasita" which turns "Mama" into "Little Mama." And I knew I could do the same with just about any name. I often call Teré Teresita. But I had no idea how commonly it's done in Southern Spain for just about everything. Our first week at El Sanedrín, we noticed café (coffee) being referred to as cafelito; zumo (juice) is quite often zumito; tostadas, tostaditos. Even a cuchilla (knife) is often called a cuchillita. A very popular beer from Mexico is Corona. So, when Teré said last night she'd love a Coronita, I thought it was just more local talk. I myself ordered a Corona. Then I saw the label. It turns out the brand sells in Spain as Coronita. Although it was served with a little slice of lemon as opposed to a little wedge of lime, it tasted pretty much the same.

If we do feel the need for a more authentic-tasting Mexican meal, we'll stick with Iguanas Ranas. It's a high-quality chain restaurant. We went to one near IKEA a while back and more recently went to the newer one closer to home, across the street from the Archives, which are across the street from the Cathedral. Iguanas Ranas serve a delicious and recognizable seafood enchilada. I'm sure they've got Coronitas. And they even have baby Margaritas for San Geraldo. I wonder if they should be called Margaritatitas.

SAN GERALDO'S BABY MARGARITA AT IGUANAS RANAS.
BETTER NACHOS AT IGUANAS RANAS WITH FRESH GUACAMOLE.
THE IGUANAS RANAS MENU WITH ONE OF ITS ODDLY WORDED DESCRIPTIONS.
THE DOWAGER DUCHESS WOULD NOT APPROVE.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No Chocolate For A Year, More Or Less

San Geraldo made a commitment Monday morning after our chocolate overdose Sunday afternoon. "No chocolate for a year," he announced. It might have been more realistic to say "no chocolate until next year." That's less than six weeks away. But, it doesn't really matter. The point is now moot.

HAND-DIPPED GINGER SNAP.

After dinner, San Geraldo remembered that we had leftover chocolate frosting in a bowl in the refrigerator. It would have been a shame to let it go to waste. He suggested we get out the soup crackers, but that didn't sound very appetizing (to me). Then he mentioned a box of ginger snaps. He softened the frosting in the microwave. We dipped. Delicious. But, we didn't get far into the stack of ginger snaps before another overdose. No chocolate for at least a few more days, I thought. Then I washed the dinner dishes. We had spaghetti. There were three containers of sauce for the freezer. I discovered three decorative slabs of chocolate that had been intended for the top of Miguel's birthday cake but then weren't needed. I had to make room for the sauce. So, I ate the chocolate. I had no choice.

DOORS AROUND SEVILLA ARE NOW BEING WIDENED FOR US.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learning How to Say Orgasmic in Spanish

Today, I learned the word for "orgasmic" in Spanish. It's not much of a stretch (the word, that is). It's orgásmico. Of course, it was San Geraldo who gave me a reason for learning the word. But it's not what you might think. Or maybe it is.

San Geraldo made what I will avow is by far the best chocolate cake I have ever had in my entire life. And I do believe there are seven other people who will agree with me (San Geraldo, being a saint, is much too humble to say so).

TARTA DE CHOCOLATE A LA SAN GERALDO.

We went to lunch at Teré's for a slightly belated birthday celebration for Miguel. There were 10 of us in total and everyone brought something. The food was, as usual, wonderful. And the company of Teré and Miguel and their friends has no equal. They are warm, kind, funny, interesting, charming... I could go on and on. I am grateful every day for the moment last year when we met and immediately fell in love with Teré. But, enough of that. I do have my priorities. Chocolate cake.

NO CHANCE TO GET A PHOTO OF AN UNTOUCHED SLICE.
(I WAS TOO BUSY EATING.)

San Geraldo offered to make a chocolate cake for the party. Since he can't find many of the same ingredients here in Spain for the meals and desserts he used to make in the States, he improvised. He started by baking two cake layers that he planned to stack with some kind of fruit filling between. But, mid-stream, he changed his mind. Three layers and two different fillings* would be so much more interesting, he thought. He sliced one of the cakes in half (well, sort of) horizontally. Miguel prefers sweet (as opposed to tart) fruits. So, San Geraldo made an apricot jam-based filling between the top two layers. He decided to use a light, cream cheese filling, also of his own creation, for the other. It was all smothered in chocolate frosting and decorated with whole almonds and dried apricots hand-dipped (by San Geraldo) in chocolate. Really, orgásmico.

SO GRATEFUL FOR THE GOOD FOOD, THE BRILLIANT COMPANY...
AND THE EXCEEDLINGLY SLOW WALK HOME ACROSS ISABEL BRIDGE .

*Postscript: San Geraldo pointed out that it was actually FOUR layers, not three, with apricot filling twice and cream cheese filling in the center!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Person Can Develop La Grippe

La Grippe (pronounced "la grip" in "Guys & Dolls" pseudo-French). In Spanish, it's La Gripe (La GREE-pay). Americans know it better as "the flu." And, no, thankfully San Geraldo and I have not come down with it. But, there's still time. We've been getting flu shots annually ever since we were simultaneously slammed in 1989 while living in Connecticut and spent one week together on the family room sofa bed until we had the strength to crawl upstairs. I had gotten the flu every year for as long as I could remember. San Geraldo had worried about getting it for about as long.

A Person Can Develop a Cold


Last year, we went into the local health clinic, showed our residency cards, and were given our shots for free. We had expected to pay, but it appeared the woman at the desk wasn't sure what to do with us and, since Spain historically did not deny healthcare to anyone, she simply wrote us in.

This year, in the midst of the mounting financial crisis, it hasn't been so easy. We went back to the clinic and were told, since we're privately insured, we need to first buy the vaccine at a pharmacy. We then had to take a form to a doctor to sign, and then take the form to the bank where we would pay a €43.50 fee (in addition to whatever the cost might be to purchase the vaccine). Then, finally, we could make appointments to have the shots administered at the public clinic. We weren't keen on the price tag or the time it would take. We thought maybe we could just, using our insurance, find a private doctor to do it all for us.

On the way home, we stopped at our pharmacy to see about buying the vaccine. They didn't have any and seemed to think that no pharmacies had any because the public clinics had been given it all. (Flu shots are not recommended to the general population here in the way they commonly are in the USA, so it was unusual for us, being "young" and in perfect health, to be requesting them.)

I phoned the private medical center recommended by our insurance company. But, they re-connected me with our insurance company. Our insurance company told me they could make the appointments for us at the private medical center. The private medical center would administer the vaccine for free. Great.

All we needed to do, I was told, was go to a pharmacy and buy the vaccine.

Have you been keeping up so far?

DUDO YESTERDAY EVENTUALLY  LOST INTEREST IN MY GRIPE ABOUT LA GRIPE.

Even though I hadn't figured out how I was going to get my hands on the vaccine, I took appointments for Monday evening. I was meeting Lola and Albert for a drink Friday afternoon and I figured if anyone could help it would be my two resident authorities.

So, over a beer in yesterday's sunshine, I explained the situation (much more succinctly than I have here). Lola immediately phoned our friend Manuela, a pharmacist in the El Arenal neighborhood. Manuela had the vaccine. She put two aside and San Geraldo and I went today and picked them up. Total cost for the two of us combined? €11.20!

So, Monday we'll be innoculated. As I sit here and sneeze, I hope it's not too late.

OUR GIFT-WRAPPED VACCINES (NOW IN THE REFRIGERATOR)..
WITH ENORMOUS THANKS TO MANUELA... AND LOLA!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Open That Door, McGee

There was an old radio show called "Fibber McGee and Molly," and in that show was a running gag about an over-crammed hall closet. Just as Fibber McGee opened the closet door, his wife Molly would yell "Don't open that door, McGee!" Of course, she always warned just a moment too late. McGee would open that door and everything would come tumbling out. I was way too young for the radio show. But it did run on TV for a while. The Dowager Duchess liked to often use the line in our house when I was a kid.

DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR, MCGEE!
FLAMENQUÍN. THIS WAS A VERY EASY CLEAN-UP AFTER A DINNER FOR TWO.

One of my few (very, very few) quirks is a need to have everything appear on the surface to be completely in order. Furniture polished. Stray items put away. Cushions straightened. Chairs aligned. It's very telling and says quite a bit about my personality in general. Publicly, I smile. A lot. Even when I'm miserable. Privately some days, not so much. The living room and kitchen are usually in perfect order, just in case someone stops by unexpectedly. My bedroom, now that no one ever stops by there unexpectedly, is a little disordered, but never appallingly so and can be picked up in a matter of minutes. But, no matter how perfect it all appears to be on the surface, I have always had one drawer or closet that's a complete disaster area.  I have to fight to get it open. I have to shove things back in as they fall out. Then I close the door again and no one knows the truth. Everything appears to be in order. No problems here. Or anywhere. As I said, very telling.

My sister was nothing like me when she was young. Well, yes, her closets and dresser drawers (all of them) were a complete disaster. But she had no qualms about letting people see her mess. Her bedroom floor was covered with clothes, pillows, bedspreads, books, magazines. You name it. She would simply kick a trail through the detritus. San Geraldo was, I've been told, the same way as a boy. Not much has changed.

Following behind San Geraldo in the kitchen (or anywhere else, to be honest) always reminds me of Molly McGee's warning. Don't open that door! No matter how under control he manages to be while preparing a meal the "S#@t" always hits the fan in the final few minutes. When dinner is served, he closes the door and leaves the mess behind. The mess doesn't really bother him in the least; he's just worried the cats will get into it. When the meal is over, I always know what's going to hit me when I open that door. And yet, like Fibber McGee, I open it anyway. I then walk around the house, checking for stray cereal bowls, plates, and silverware. San Geraldo usually has a collection in his office. But I don't mind at all. If it weren't for San Geraldo, I'd be living on frozen pizza and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

LAST NIGHT, SAN GERALDO'S FIRST FLAMENQUÍN WITH PORK INSTEAD OF CHICKEN.

SO WORTH THE CLEAN-UP.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Feeling Renewed

San Geraldo and I don't just feel renewed, we are renewed! After four months and several visits to the Foreigners Office (Oficina de Extranjeros), we finally have our new residency cards. Since it took 4 months for our renewals to be completed, our 2-year cards are good for 20 months. But, that's more than the 9 months we had on our 1-year cards. And it all makes sense. After about 19 months, we can renew again for another 2 years (or 20 months, I'm not sure). At least we don't have to worry about this again until 2014.

La Rubia (remember our unpleasant blonde friend?) was at the desk again today. We each took a deep breath when we queued up and saw her. When it was our turn, we walked up to the desk, I flashed a broad smile and said (in Spanish), "Good afternoon. How are you today?," as I handed her our receipts from last month and told her we were there to pick up our cards. She smiled warmly. La Rubia smiled! And she said, of course, she remembered us. She took the receipts and our passports, pronounced both our names, found our cards in the box on her desk, and handed them to us with another warm smile. I thanked her. She smiled again and wished us a good afternoon. I wished her the same. La Rubia  wished us a good afternoon!

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE AT PLAZA DE ESPAÑA WITH MY NEW CARD AND A NEW FONDNESS FOR LA RUBIA..

On the way home, we decided to follow our annual tradition. We've only done it once before but, in San Geraldo's world, that often makes a tradition. We stopped at Starbuck's near the University. We each had a mango and passion fruit Frapuccino. Per our routine at Catalina, of a jumbo gin/tonic for me and a mini for San Geraldo, I ordered one jumbo and one mini chocolate/chocolate chip muffin. However, in this case, San Geraldo got the jumbo and I got the mini.

SAN GERALDO'S JUMBO ON THE LEFT.
(THERE'S NO REAL WORD FOR "MUFFIN" IN SPANISH. SO, I JUST ASK FOR A "MOO-FEEN.")

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good Vibrations

We had our first full day of sunshine here in Sevilla after more than a week of mostly cloudy and rainy. All four cats — Dudo, Moose, San Geraldo, and I — have been really happy.


Good...
I've been talking and emailing daily with The Dowager Duchess. Things continue to improve in her co-op. On Election Day, The Duchess was determined to vote come hell or high water (well, I suppose it was despite hell and high water). Her building had electricity provided by an emergency generator but no elevators were yet running. So, The Duchess decided to walk down all 16 flights of stairs (and back up again) to cast her vote. Her next door neighbor was already in the lobby. He phoned her and said he would walk up 8 flights to meet her and walk back down with her so they could go out to vote together. (If he weren't Buddhist, I'd be granting him sainthood.) To her surprise, when The Duchess left her apartment an elevator light was on. She pressed the button and the elevator immediately arrived. There were a few people inside so she joined them, figuring if she got stuck at least she'd have company. She didn't get stuck and she caught her neighbor before he walked up eight flights of stairs. The Duchess and Good-Karma-Neighbor went to my high school a couple of blocks away to vote. The Duchess was shocked to see the impact of the storm from ground level. Today, the Kid Brother was there and we Skyped before they headed out for lunch.

Good...
MY VERY OWN HAIR.
Another friend of mine from high school, whom I haven't seen since late 1971, now lives a rural life quite a bit north of NYC. We knew and liked each other in high school, taking some of the same art classes, but we never socialized outside school. My primary social group was not from within my own high school. Clearly, I missed out on a lot.

ROSALINDA.
Rosalinda and I re-found each other via Facebook in late 2009. She still has the old family home in my mother's neighborhood and she and her husband Ray drove down early in the week to inspect the damage. It was not good news. In the midst of their responsibilities, concerns, and personal heartbreak, they walked up 16 flights of stairs Monday afternoon to visit with my mother. They had never met and the Duchess enjoyed every minute with them. She said she was so grateful for the wonderful company that she thinks she spent the entire hour talking and didn't give them much opportunity.

Good... 
My mother has nothing but good things to say about the volunteers and emergency workers all around her. She has been stunned by the generosity and kindness of people who were strangers to her before this event. Rosalinda, Ray, Bonnie, Howie, my amazing friends, my mother's neighbor's, a few members of my family and Jerry's, my blogging friends, to name but a few, have overwhelmed me (and my mother) with their kindness. This week (and this life) would have been empty without them. You are all an inspiration.

Good Vibrations

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cooking In A Wet T-Shirt

Since I got a lot of people's hopes up with the "wet T-shirt" come-on, I should probably put that excitement to rest immediately. Sorry to disappoint you, but there will be no nipples to the wind on this site.  When I went inside Tuesday after lunch to pay our bill at Los Niños del Flor, I noticed one of the regular staff was out of his usual uniform, wearing an English-language T-shirt instead. I ribbed him about it and he said in Spanish that he had just spilled sauce all over his shirt. I hadn't gotten a clear view of the shirt, so asked if I could read it. Since neither he nor anyone else on staff had any idea what it said, he told me he would be grateful for a translation.

"WEATHER FORECAST... ALL NIGTH LONG... WET"
(LUCKY FOR HIM, THAT'S ALL IT SAID.)

Fortunately, I was able to translate the T-shirt (and the typo). It seems a bit risky to me to wear a shirt in another language without knowing what it says. Then again, people in the States do it all the time. I've even heard of people getting Asian characters prominently tattooed on their bodies only to discover the characters don't mean what they thought they meant. The staff person pictured is originally from Paraguay. He (along with everyone else at Los Niños del Flor) makes us feel like one of the family every time we're there. He always greets us (and sees us off) with every bit of his English repertoire. "Hello! Very good! Very nice!" He once tried to teach me to say something in the language of his native people, I could barely wrap my mouth around the words and, after practicing for a half hour, I promptly forgot it. I think it meant, "Hello. Very good. Very nice."

The Gourmand and the Gourmet
Tuesday night before dinner San Geraldo taught me, and I improved on, a gourmet hors d'oeuvre recipe that he's apparently known for years. We were about to have stew for dinner. While the stew was heating, San Geraldo brought out the crackers and butter to go with it. He opened the crackers and started snacking in advance of the stew. He then left and returned from the kitchen with a container of raisins. He buttered a cracker, took a handful of raisins and popped them in his mouth, and then took a bite of cracker.

We've been together 31 years. I'm sure I must have seen San Geraldo do this before. I had to have seen him do it before. But, it never registered. It actually looked kind of appealing (unlike bread & milk or lutefisk). But his way was a little too gauche for my tastes (I am after all the son of The Dowager Duchess). I spread butter on a cracker and then carefully placed raisins so they stuck to the butter. Much more elegant.

Oh, it was delicious. I ate an entire package of crackers with butter and raisins and barely had room for the stew.

WHO SAYS I DON'T COOK?
(OH, THAT'S RIGHT, I DO.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Found: One Dowager Duchess

At last, the Dowager Duchess has been found. Of course, the lady would tell you she was never lost, having herself known where she was all the time.

Electricity, via an emergency generator, was restored to the building at 10:30 Sunday night. Still no hot water. But it will come. I had been posting requests for information on different websites and was gratified by the responses I received. One person who apparently lives nearby knew who The Duchess was and emailed me during the night. He said he was heading over to the building and would ask the volunteers making the rounds to get a message to her for me. It turns out the information I had been given about The Duchess being downstairs was not correct. A message appears to have been mis-relayed. An easy thing to happen. She has been in her apartment this entire time. Anyway, about 20 minutes later I received an email telling me someone had just been to visit the Duchess and her computer was back online. So, I Skyped and she answered!

SONS WITH THE DUCHESS IN THE '60s. WATER WHERE THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE WATER.
CHECK OUT THE DUCHESS'S BATHING "COSTUME" AND MATCHING "FASCINATOR."

Fortunately, the Duchess's next-door neighbors — a mother and adult son — had also not evacuated the building. My mother said she couldn't possibly have stayed the week if it hadn't been for him. In addition to the kind volunteers and emergency workers who have been climbing the stairs throughout the week knocking on doors, delivering food and water, and checking on residents, my mother's neighbor regularly checked in on her and went above and beyond the call of duty.

Someone a couple of floors above had apparently opened the taps when there was no water flowing and then didn't close them again before abandoning their apartment for the duration. When the water came back on, it came back on with a vengeance. My mother heard rain against her windows and thought it was pouring outside. But she then noticed it wasn't pouring outside every window. She walked into one of the bedrooms and found it had become a lake. The Fire Department broke into the apartment above, turned off the taps, and cleaned up the standing water. The very kind neighbor then mopped up my mother's floors! I'm glad he was there. I don't do floors!

Oh, I didn't have my external camera connected, not realizing I would be Skyping today. The Duchess uses the built-in camera on her laptop. So I could see her but she couldn't see me. When I told her my camera was turned off but I was thrilled to see her beautiful face, she immediately started patting her hair into place. She said, "Oh, if I'd known, I would have put on lipstick!"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Where's the Duchess?

In the United States and Canada, the series is known as "Where's Waldo?" The original British books are known as "Where's Wally?" and that's translated directly into Spanish as "Dónde Está Wally?" So, with that as my inspiration, here's "Where's the Duchess?" ("Dónde Está La Duquesa?"). She's much easier to find in this piece of art than she is right now (for me at least) in real life. But, as in the art, she's no longer alone.

The latest word is that, not long after Sweet-Bonnie's-Friend-Good-Samaritan-Howie's visit, The Duchess did in fact leave her apartment as she was required to do. My understanding is that she was helped down to the lobby of her building by emergency workers. I believe, but am not certain, that a shelter has been set up in a community room off the lobby. I do know her two local emergency contacts were phoned and told she was downstairs, with her neighbors, with everything she needs, and she's in good spirits. I know this all third-hand. I didn't hear it directly but, thankfully, I did eventually hear it just the same.

WHERE'S THE DUCHESS?
CLICK TO GET THE BIG PICTURE.

Old friends and acquaintances have been exceptionally generous and kind. One of my mother's incredible friends let me know The Duchess could stay with her as long as necessary. If I could only reach the Duchess, I would tell her that. I'm also especially grateful to a few always empathetic and thoughtful members of my extended family. They communicate with me and don't blame me for living far away. They also laugh (and listen) while I speak in New York hyper-drive, which is what I do when I'm stressed, angry, nervous... or happy. (I guess I'm often in New York hyper-drive.) One of these days, I'll actually speak with or exchange email with The Dowager Duchess herself. In the meantime, I'll leave things to her minions.

Who needs electricity anyway? As the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey once said:

"I couldn't have electricity in the house. I wouldn't sleep a wink. All those vapours floating about."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

She's Not Called The Dowager Duchess For Nothing

NO PHYSICAL SIMILARITIES... AND YET.
I'm heading off to bed, but thought I'd share the wonderful news that The Dowager Duchess is quite well, thank you.

Here is the message received a short time ago from an old childhood friend named Bonnie:

"Good news. Mom is fine. Howie walked up the 16 flights (what a guy). He bought her some groceries. She wants to stay. I'm sitting here crying. I'm so grateful to Howie. I feel like we owe him our lives. He is a big guy. Now we can relax. I've done my Mitzvah for the day. Catch you later."

Bonnie and I were schoolmates from the age of 10 to 17. They were very big schools and we were in different classes. We didn't see each other often after fifth grade, but she was always one of those kind, sweet, and decent human beings. I haven't seen her in more than 40 years. We reconnected on Facebook a few years ago. She is still a kind, sweet, and decent human being.

Bonnie lives with her family in Southern California. She saw my post on Facebook about my inability to reach my mother. She went into action. I don't know Howie. He doesn't (well, didn't) know my mother. But Bonnie contacted him and he, as she described above, walked up 16 flights of stairs to make sure my mother was alright and to let her know we were thinking about her and what we thought her options were (go to the shelter, go to her sister, go to her friend).

In true form, The Dowager Duchess had another option. Stay put. I hope the power comes on soon. I hope cell phone service returns. I hope to see her smiling face on Facebook.

But, right now, I know Jerry and I will sleep much better tonight and I expect the Dowager Duchess will, too. I'm sure it's comforting to know people care about her. I 'm sure she was grateful for the message that we've been trying to reach her and I'm sure she was shocked by the efforts this complete stranger made on her behalf.

It's certainly reassuring to me to know there are such kind people in this world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

D.D. Phone Home

Still no word from The Dowager Duchess (DD). Cell phones right now are useless. Am I obsessing a bit? As they say in South Dakota, "You betcha!" The most recent news is that her co-op's power plant suffered serious damage (and a possible gas leak) and the co-op is being evacuated.

It could be two or more weeks before the power plant is operational again, while other parts of the neighborhood have already had their power restored. Historically (more than 45 years), it's been a benefit to the co-op to not rely on city power. We sure gloated during the 1965 blackout when we were living life as usual while the entire city around us was dark.

BRIGHTON BEACH LOOKING WEST, YESTERDAY.
(PHOTO FROM THE WEB.)

MY VIEW IN SEPTEMBER.

Everyone was supposed to have evacuated before the storm, but hindsight is 20/20.

My mother has friends in neighborhoods more mildly impacted, but I don't know if she'll get to one of them or to a shelter. So, right now it sucks to be 3,500 miles away. Some very thoughtful old friends of mine in Brooklyn and the vicinity are getting the word out to track down the Dowager Duchess. I'm very grateful. It's also comforting to know that my mother's neighbors were all as stubborn as she was. There's safety in numbers. She's not alone!

1980ish, THE NEW MOTHER
AND THE DOWAGER DUCHESS.
It's also good to know that, although it will be a long slow walk, she has managed to stay physically fit enough to walk down those 17 flights of stairs, with lots of resting along the way. She's a survivor. When we finally do talk, she'll probably say, "I don't know what you were so worried about!"

So, Dowager Duchess, when you finally do get to catch up on all the blog posts, I hope it's a comfort to you that all three of your boys have been obsessing thinking about you!

And by the way, your grand-niece Lindsey had a beautiful, healthy baby girl yesterday (with help from grand-nephew-in-law Mark)! Congratulations on being a great-great-aunt... again! And congratulations to Carol and Paul on their first grandchild and to Al on being an uncle for the first time!

The baby is not named Sandy.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Zombie Diva of Sevilla

I partied like the big boys and girls last night. I went downstairs to El Sanedrín at midnight and Teré had just started singing. I was there until 3:30 a.m., and I had two (not one, but two) gin tonics! I have to share some of last night with you. Not the headache and the sleep-walking. The music. Teré was dressed as a zombie. I prefer the living-and-breathing-looking Teré to this, but the voice was not affected by her stint as one of the walking dead. I hope you enjoy this almost as much as I did. You really should have been there!

TERÉ, THE ZOMBIE DIVA.
I LOVED HER ZOMBIE TOCADO/FASCINATOR (AKA "LITTLE HAT.")

STRANGE APPARITIONS CAUGHT ON CAMERA (UNRETOUCHED).
NOTICE THE ECTOPLASM COMING IN FROM LEFT?

STRANGERS NO MORE.
THE POOR GUY IN THE MIDDLE COULDN'T GET HIS HEAD ON STRAIGHT.

WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO ORDER A DRINK FROM BETTY? THE LITTLE DEVIL.

THE FIRST DUET OF THE EVENING, A VERY NICE (AND TIPSY) ADMIRER.
WHICH ONLY DEMONSTRATED HOW TRULY TALENTED IS TERÉ!

MIGUEL, MY FINE FEATHERED FRIEND.

ANOTHER DUET.
THIS MAN COULD DANCE!