Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Different View

Well, we made it. Move day went smoothly (and it's already almost a week past). Fuengirola welcomed us with fairly miserable, windy, and brutally cold weather (it's gotten down to 3C/38F overnight once, and at worst it's been up to 12C/54F during the day; so, OK, everything is relative). Of course we've been told again and again that it's never like this! The owner of one restaurant was at least honest enough to blame us. Admittedly, we did have some glorious blue sky and sunshine here and there after our first night, but that now seems like a distant memory.

FROM ONE OF OUR BALCONIES IN SEVILLA BEFORE WE LEFT THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

FROM OUR TERRACE IN FUENGIROLA FRIDAY BEFORE THE MISERABLE WEATHER RETURNED.

Thursday is Andalucía Day; lots of businesses will be closed. We still don't have internet hooked up at home. We're expecting that to occur Friday or Saturday. So we checked into a nearby hotel this evening to allow us to relax with our computers and TV while the winds blow outside. We'll stay two nights. The serene Mediterranean Sea looks like Surf City right now. I stood on the terrace at times this afternoon and took pictures of a couple of wind-surfers. The first spent a lot of time on the beach trying to control his sail (which was work enough). The second guy was amazing and surfed back and forth along the coast for a couple of hours.

WIND-SURFER #1 THIS AFTERNOON.
WIND-SURFER #2.
CLICK ON EITHER OF THESE PHOTOS TO SEE THEM BLOW UP.

We left Sevilla on a dreary rainy day and arrived in Fuengirola to much the same. But our views are spectacular, and the apartment is coming together nicely... and we love it. The cats are settling in — and taking over. But they're, so far, afraid to go more than a few feet out onto the terrace. A gull flies overhead or an awning flaps and they're back inside like a flash. Also, it's kind of cold out there.

SUNRISE THIS MORNING FROM THE TERRACE.. SUNSET WASN'T VISIBLE TONIGHT.

We haven't been eating at home yet, but are looking forward to getting settled enough to want to do so in the next few days. Meanwhile, we've discovered several good restaurants — although nothing to compare to Catalina in Sevilla, where we of course had dinner our final night in the city. Lots of photos to come of our final days in Sevilla and our first week in Fuengirola. Our new town has a much larger international community than our old (aka, lots more expats). Americans are rare. But there's a huge population of expats from Finland. And, apparently, they think this is shorts and sandals weather!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Good Neighbors

Our upstairs neighbors (sadly, soon to be our former upstairs neighbors), Anna and Carlos, invited us for a spur-of-the-moment lunch with some of their friends. There were 12 of us, plus three children under the age of 7. Amazingly, everyone (including the 3-year-old) spoke English — well, perhaps excepting San Geraldo whose English is, as you know, questionable. Carlos is an exceptional cook. (Anna, like me, is great at cleaning up.) He made one of his traditional winter specialties, cocido — a chickpea-based stew with meat and vegetables. It's what we would call comfort food.

COCIDO BY CARLOS.

One of the friends, also named Anna (there were three Annas that day), is originally from Sweden. Good friends of hers were in Spain for the winter and they happened to be in Sevilla for a couple of days. They stopped by for dessert with two friends of theirs, also from Sweden. Since I couldn't remember any of the Swedish words my friend Siri has taught me, I greeted the first man, Dino, with a Norwegian expression, "Hyggelig å treffe deg" ("Nice to meet you"). I said it using my best Norwegian accent, which sounds quite a bit like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets. Swedes and Norwegians tend to easily understand each other. Dino looked at me a bit strangely. It turns out Dino was born and raised in Italy.

NEIGHBOR CARLOS WITH SWEDISH/SPANISH ANNA, TOASTING WITH VINO DE NARANJA.

BLURRY, BUT STILL HAPPY, WITH SAN GERALDO.

Anna (the original Anna) decided this lunch was a good opportunity to consume all that remained of their Christmas goodies, including polvorones — a "powdery" cookie that's traditionally made with animal fat, which means they may not be at all healthy but they're delicious and they melt in your mouth. I, of course, was too full from lunch to have the polvorón I was offered. So I instead had two. There were walnuts. San Geraldo hates walnuts, and I rarely get to enjoy them. So, I enjoyed a couple. Then came the chocolates.

A ROSA, RIOJA, AND POLVORONES.

There was fudge — homemade. I've got a weakness for fudge and when it's homemade, well one has to be polite. So I had a piece of fudge. Then came cute mini cups of chocolate of some kind... with sprinkles. At this point, I had no possible room. But Swedish Anna told me her 21-year-old daughter had made them and sent them along for us. What could I do but be polite? I was polite ... twice. They were unbelievably good.

MORE SWEET GOODNESS.

Then there was a wooden box of sweets called "yemas." That means yolks and that's what these looked like when you bit or cut into them. They're one of many sweets made at the local convents for Christmas. The ingredients: Egg yolk and sugar. They melt in your mouth, too.

YEMAS IN THE BOX.
YEMAS OUT OF THE BOX. PURE SUGAR.

San Geraldo and I had arrived with an excellent bottle of vino de naranja (orange wine), which of course had to be opened and shared. I couldn't imagine having any. I had already had two large glasses of Rioja with lunch. So I only had two small glasses of vino de naranja.

ORIGINAL ANNA AND FRIEND JAIME ABOUT TO OPEN THE VINO DE NARANJA.

I needed the vino de naranja to complement the sugared orange rinds that were made by Carlos's father from the oranges he grows in his garden.  The only thing sweeter than the desserts was the company. How lucky can you get?

A BY-PRODUCT OF CARLOS'S FATHER'S ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF ORANGE MARMALADE.

SEVILLA IS NOW EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO LEAVE.
SO MANY PEOPLE WE HOPE WILL VISIT US IN FUENGIROLA.

Anna and Carlos have two of the greatest boys we know. They're both very bright, charming, and funny. They've been learning English since they started school and they, sometimes, love to practice on us — as long as their parents aren't listening. I tried to get a good photo of Anna with Luis (6) and Carlos (7). Carlos always poses politely for the camera. Luis tends to ham it up. Kind of sums up their personalities.



Sunday, February 17, 2013

They're Crackin' Their Butts

THE CRACK IN HIS BUTT,
AS OPPOSED TO CRACKING HIS BUTT.
(THANKFULLY, NO ONE I KNOW.)
That's really what the man said. We were at Los Niños Del Flor for breakfast (something new and different) and we commented on how busy the restaurant always is and how diligently — and happily — the staff all work. It's a big place. The owners and staff hustle. They joke and smile all the time. Service is just about instantaneous. We never have to wait for a thing; not even the freshly squeezed orange juice. And the tables are always full. They put in long days and they always seem happy to see everyone that walks in the door.

San Geraldo said, "They're crackin' their butts."

I laughed.

San Geraldo laughed.

Then he asked (of course), "What's it supposed to be?"

I explained that I thought he might have combined the expressions, "They're cracking the whip" with "They're breaking their butts." I said that if he had enunciated correctly (i.e., "cracking" as opposed to "crackin'") he might have gotten away with it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How Ya Fixed For Spit?

We've begun the simple task of canceling a few utilities in Sevilla before our move down to Málaga Province. Not surprisingly, it's never as easy as it would seem.

There's an old New York expression in response to someone who excessivly grubs (borrows, begs, asks for assistance, etc.). The Dowager Duchess didn't approve of the expression, but my father used to like to use it. For example:


"Excuse me. Do you have the time?" 
"Nine a.m." 
"How far is Lexington Avenue." 
"Three long blocks that way." 
"Wow. Can you break a five for the bus?" 
"Yeah. Here's five singles." 
"Thanks. Do you happen to have a cigarette?" 
"Sure. Here." 
"Gee, thanks. Have you got a light?" 
Finally, in disgust, "Yeah! How ya fixed for spit?!?"

Hopefully, you understood the preceding conversation. When I tried to explain it years ago to San Geraldo, the South Dakotan, he didn't get it. For some reason, it came to my mind when we visited the electric company today.

METAL FLOWERS ATOP THE OLD TOBACCO FACTORY. NO SPIT (OR WATER) NEEDED.

When we arrived at the electric company, a very coarse, loud customer was consuming all the air and energy in the small office. She was also consuming both staff members, even running from desk to desk. Staffer #1, who was on her cell phone on behalf of the customer, had a very heated argument and hung up. The customer was by that time driving Staffer #2 a little nuts.

Staffer #1 was on her desk phone when her cell phone rang again. She put her desk phone on hold, called across to the customer saying, "It's her. Watch this." She then pressed a button on her cell phone (I assume it was "answer"), spit into her phone, and hung up.

The customer cackled. Staffer #2 looked glumly at the papers on his desk. The cell phone rang again. And, again, Staffer #1 pressed the button, gave the caller another raspberry and hung up.

Finally, the coarse customer was done and left. Staffer #2 smiled sheepishly at us and welcomed us to his desk. We explained that we needed to cancel our service beginning Thursday of next week. He was very pleasant. He explained that we couldn't cancel service more than two days in advance. Huh? Ah, bureaucracy. Anyway, we'll head back Tuesday morning to take care of it.

In the meantime, I'm not letting that other staffer anywhere near my cell phone.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Very Good, Very Nice

I'm at least three of the Seven Dwarfs this week. Sneezy, Sleepy, and Dopey for certain. If Coughy, Sniffly, Achy, and Whiney were Dwarfs, I'd have them all covered. (San Geraldo cornered the market on Grumpy.) Colds have always been my stress illness. Every time I started a new job (which was often), I would have a cold my first week. I'm going to work on ways to reduce the risk and the number of colds once we start our next new life on the beach (in one week). I'm sure simply the location will help. Being finished with "F" will also help. He's now making threats. Nothing reality based, but unpleasant enough that we decided to hire a lawyer rather than deal with him directly any more. And that means the story will soon be, thankfully, over.

We went out for dinner with Teré and Miguel to celebrate Jerry's birthday. I was a bit of a drip, but it was still a great evening. We went to a Japanese restaurant that, I think unintentionally, had a Spanish flavor. I wonder if that makes it Spapanese. The highlight was the tempura ice cream dessert.

TERÉ ON SAN GERALDO'S BIRTHDAY.

I haven't been to Los Niños del Flor the past three mornings. San Geraldo has gone on his own and brought home a tostada for me, which I have with my tea (not microwaved) and honey. I've become quite the gourmet in the kitchen.

MY CHOCOLATE TEMPURA ICE CREAM. VERY SOOTHING ON THE THROAT.

The staff at Niños del Flor speak just a few words of English. I probably wouldn't be exaggerating if I told you they speak a total of nine English words among them. Every morning when we arrive, they all call out from behind the bar, "Very good, very nice." Last week, San Geraldo decided those were our names. He told them he was "Very Good" and I was "Very Nice." They loved it and those have now officially become our names — although the owner's son thinks that Jerry is probably "very nice," too. Oddly, he didn't mention thinking that I was also probably "very good."

VERY GOOD, THE BIRTHDAY BOY,  PICKING UP OUR COFFEES AT THE COUNTER WITH ADELA.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me,

When I'm 64?

I've got a number of years to go until San Geraldo has to answer the preceding questions. Maybe not such a very big number. But still, a number. San Geraldo, on the other hand, has arrived.

And in case anyone is wondering, yes, I still need him. But, no, I will not feed him. Why ruin a good thing? If I had been feeding San Geraldo for the past 32+ years, he might not have made it to 64.

My public birthday message to San Geraldo is brief this year. I try to tell him at least daily how grateful I am for every moment with him. How grateful for every adventure we have taken (and continue to take) together. For being loving, charming, and gregarious. For being exceedingly predictable and exceedingly inconsistent. For being shy sometimes, generous, fascinating, sincere, honest, childlike, comically (mostly comically) grumpy. For being open, empathetic, patient, and entertaining. For being every other thing I could possibly wish for — and any number of things I never thought I would have the patience (or love) to tolerate.

Happy birthday, San Geraldo.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Brilliant Career

The trash strike is over. When we were leaving Catalina after dinner late Thursday night, we saw a garbage truck cleaning up the small mountain of trash across the street. Gonzalo informed us that the strike was over and the crews were now going to work overtime to clean up the mess. A reporter and photographer from the local newspaper, "ABC Sevilla," were with the work crew at that moment and I thought of introducing myself — being a national television personality (click here). But, "ABC Sevilla" is the conservative newspaper and I'd prefer to not have my professional reputation tarnished by any association. Besides, I really don't want to be typecast or have my name permanently connected with trash.

BEFORE THEY STARTED HAULING IT AWAY.

So, we walked home and I took a few last shots of the large mountain of trash on our plaza before going to bed. I then spent most of the night awake. There was constant noise on the streets and plaza. I assumed it was from crews cleaning up the trash, but I finally got out of bed Friday morning to find the trash mountains exactly as they had been. Instead, the remaining palm tree on the plaza had been trimmed of dead fronds, and all the orange trees had been harvested. So much for a good night's sleep.

MY MOMENT OF FAME TOOK PLACE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN.

Last night, they began to attack trash mountain. More than half remains. I have a feeling tonight's sleep won't be any less peaceful, but I sure am glad they're cleaning it up. Even our airy plaza is beginning to smell. So, the strike ends and so too my brilliant career.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Just Desserts

We are oh-so-close to our move to the beach. Less than two weeks to go. Meanwhile, in our current apartment, idiot building manager "F" is showing an interest in the repair issues. Sudden professional and moral responsibility? Don't bet on it. It's simply panic. A soon-to-be empty, uninhabitable, and not inexpensive apartment on his hands — in a very tough market. Although the situation still gives me angst at moments, it has really become comical. Of course, we are not going to allow repair people access as we get ready to move. There are no more leaks. We waited weeks for nothing. Now, F can wait until we leave. It's very satisfying to serve him his just desserts. And that's all I'll say on the subject today.

CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH EDIBLE APRICOT ART.

To get the bad taste of selfishness and incompetence out of my mouth, I'm thinking of some of the delicious and beautiful desserts we've had recently. The first two desserts were served at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The sauces were artistically presented and delicious.

MORE DELICIOUS APRICOT ART WITH CARROT CAKE (TARTA DE ZANAHORIA).

While out shopping one day, we couldn't resist some pastries we saw in the window of a bakery near El Corte Inglés. Then, after an as-always incredible dinner at Catalina, came a lemon tarta dessert. It reminded us of Jerry's mother's lemon bread. Anything that reminds us of Alice is heavenly.

VERY SIMILAR TO A NORWEGIAN PASTRY (KRUMKAKE) JERRY HAS MADE.
I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT THEY WERE CALLED.
CATALINA'S VERSION OF ALICE'S LEMON BREAD.

More Sweetness On Its Way
Tonight, we head back to Catalina — our favorite place — for our "see-you-again-soon" dinner with Adela, Paula, and Vanessa. It's very satisfying to note that our "just desserts" are so much sweeter than "F's"!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

You're A Good Man, Charlie

Today, February 5, is my favorite (and only) brother Chuck's birthday (aka Chucky, aka Charlie, aka Charles, aka CB). I almost got all sappy and posted a video of The Hollies singing "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." But I decided to end this post with a much more meaningful video.

I was prepared to tell you how much my brother means to me. How much joy (and, OK, challenges) he has brought to my life. How much I've learned from him. How many fat lips he gave me over the years during his fits of temper, which are thankfully history. How every one of those fat lips was worth it, although it didn't seem so at the time and, truthfully, I may be exaggerating their worth. How much we've all worried about him over the years. How it still isn't easy sometimes, but how grateful I am that he has been able to live a fuller, more independent life than we ever imagined. How kind he can sometimes be. How much less anal-retentive I seem when I'm with him.

LIKE AUNT SYLVIE SAID, "HE WAS ALWAYS MUCH BETTER LOOKING THAN YOU. STILL IS!"
LAKE WINNEPESAUKEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1966.

The Dowager Duchess will read just a bit of this to him (only the good parts) when he visits her on Sunday. All he'll really care about are the photos, the video, and his moment of fame. I phone him every year on his birthday. He told me Sunday when we skyped that I "could call" if I want this year, too. In Chuck-speak, that means, "You'd better call or you'll hear about it!"


THE BROTHERS ON SKYPE LAST WEEK.

The Part For Chuck
Happy birthday, little brother (you old fart)! I look forward to many more years of comedy routines with you.  Who's on first? Why a duck? Say the secret word and I'll give you a hundred of 'em. A hundred what? That's a very good question; give me the answer and I'll give you two hundred of 'em. Two hundred what? That's a very good question...

Instead of some sappy song, I'd simply like to wish you a very happy birthday from me and "The Big Guy," (oh, and from your nephews, Dudo and Moose). Don't forget: Seven times thirteen is 28 (it's really not). Get it right, Chuck, and you're hired!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Making Waves

In case you've missed it (and, yes, some people have), we're moving. The pipes burst in our Sevilla apartment in December. It took more than three weeks for 12 damaged pipes (really no more than hoses) to be replaced. By that time, permanent damage was done. The water heater has no thermostatic control (which we think is what caused the problem in the first place), so we have to unplug between uses or the water boils. Added to that our own "vertical garden" of mold growth along with damaged walls, ceilings and floors, and the once-elegant apartment is not very pleasant at this point. We had planned a move to the beach for late in the year or early next. But these headaches made us decide to move things up. So, in just a little over two weeks, we will be living on the Mediterranean Sea.

LOOKING FROM THE HALL OFF THE BEDROOMS BACK TO THE ENTRY.

The most recent entertainment in the current apartment is the new skateboard park. Who knew you could create one (without even trying) from wood-laminate flooring? We're practicing for our new life by the sea by surfing the waves of our apartment.

GREAT FOR PRACTICING SKI JUMPS, TOO..
DUDO DOESN'T QUITE "GET" OUR SURREAL FLOORS.

WAVES WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE. OUR BEACH AS I WALKED IT A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO..

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Passing By Before The Parade

Sevilla's teams of Semana Santa costaleros, the guys who carry the floats (click here to see some from last year) have been practicing in the streets lately. Another group came by our plaza last night.

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MEN BEHIND THE SCREEN.

PASSING BY THE PILE OF TRASH THAT MADE ME ALMOST SEMI-FAMOUS.

I can't believe we won't be living in Sevilla to see Semana Santa a second time (click here for a post from last year). It will be fun to witness the processions and events in Málaga, but it won't be the same as living in the center of the historic part of Sevilla and watching the processions pass directly below our balconies and right by our plaza. Although, maybe a procession in Fuengirola will pass right by our terrace.

GETTING A BIT OF GUIDANCE AFTER THE TURN.

The costaleros are usually well-hidden by plush velvet curtains, so it's fascinating to see them practicing beneath a simple base without those, the flowers, statues, candles and other additions that can make the float itself weigh up to 7,000 pounds (3,150 kilograms). It's hard to imagine that during the actual festivities, the costaleros do this job with their vision almost completely obscured, leaving them reliant on drum beats, coded knocking on the float, and other non-visual cues. Admiration aside, I doubt this is what San Geraldo had in mind when he mentioned wanting a dozen burly men for his own procession (click for that post).

IN HINDSIGHT.

P.S.: I've been including "click here" lately along with my hypertext links because I was told that not everyone knew to "click here." I don't want anyone to miss anything.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Talking Trash

I have now been on Spanish television. And I even had a speaking part! Not only that, someone recognized me and phoned Teré who then phoned me. I didn't catch the TV news last night, but Teré sent me the link. (Click here.) It's the entire half-hour news program, but the time counts down on the right side of the video. The segment begins at 15:00 and my bit starts at 13:34. Truthfully, the only reason I'm so excited is because I spoke easily in Spanish and didn't embarrass myself.

There's been a trash collectors' strike in Sevilla and the trash has been piling up on top of and around the dumpsters. I must admit, it's being kept very orderly, but it's unusual to see piles of trash in a city that is always so well-maintained. The street cleaners still come through every night. The sidewalks and plazas are still spotless. But, the dumpsters have become an eyesore. It's also, obviously, very bad for business.

THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES FOR ME TO BE FAMOUS (WELL, ALMOST FAMOUS).

Before heading upstairs after breakfast yesterday morning, I stopped on our plaza to take a picture of the piles of trash. I hadn't noticed that a reporter and a cameraman were doing the same thing. The cameraman asked if he could film over my shoulder as I locked in on my photo. Of course I agreed. Then the reporter started to talk with me and asked if I would mind being interviewed. Of course I agreed.

When we arrived for breakfast this morning at Los Niños del Flor one of the other regulars exclaimed (in Spanish), "I saw you on TV last night. I want your autograph. No! I want a signed photo!" (Of course I agreed.)

What aired of my "interview" lasts about 7 seconds. So, be sure to spread the word. It's the only way I'll get my entire 15 minutes of world fame.

The Short Version of My Moment of Fame