Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Random thoughts on Spain

A few random observations from my recent trip to Madrid:

1. Not all cafes are created equal. I had what I thought was impossible: anabsolutely flavorless ensaladilla rusa at a cafe near Atocha station today, notto mention the albondigas that tasted of cardboard, heavily-flavored with onion.

2. Bullfighting is rife with ironies, not the least of which is that theultimate macho battle of man against beast features men who wear skin-tightsparkly suits with pink socks.

3. While watching a bullfight on TV other night, one matador was interviewed,apparently one of the top matadors in the country, even though he looks barelyover 20. The interviewer asks a question, and the kid opens his mouth, and Iswear, he’s still waiting for his testicles to drop. Imagine Mike Tysontalking, but make him 100 pounds lighter, and dress him in a sparkly suit with pink socks.

4. The house where Cervantes lived and died was on Calle Cervantes, just downthe street from the Casa Museo de Lope de Vega, also on Calle Cervantes. In theultimate indignity, Cervantes was buried, I believe, in the Trinitarian conventjust around the corner on Calle Lope de Vega.

5. That whole neighborhood around the intersection of Calles Huertas and Leon,where the Academia de la Historia sits, is now being called the Barrio de lasLetras. Periodically, you will find literary quotes written in what appears tobe brass inlaid into the pavement on Calle Huertas and other streets, fromEspronceda, Cervantes, Quevedo, etc. Despite the literary pretensions, however,the whole neighborhood still smells like pee.

6. Madrid is always and eternally “en obras.”

7. The Prado is being expanded, which has had the ironic effect of constrictingspace on the inside. Entire sections have been closed off for remodelingleading to awkward bottlenecks where rivers of tourists converge into oneseething, sweaty, smelly mass before splitting off again into their respectivetributaries. Even though I’m carrying a camera, I like to consider myself a cutabove the standard tourist, since I’m here for work, dammit, and therefore Iresent it when I find the paintings that I am particularly interested insurrounded by tour groups with their droning guides.

8. That does not stop me from occasionally eavesdropping, however. Hey, if they’re going to intrude on my space, I’ll intrude on theirs.

9. I also went to the Reina Sofia museum today and discovered that, at least today, I prefer representational art over non-representational.

10. Spanish TV has more channels now, but it’s still just as bad as ever.

11. The President, Zapatero, looks like Mr. Bean.

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