Sunday, February 5, 2023

Considering Bugs and Elmer


Surely there are a lifetime’s worth of more things to still feast on here in Seville.   But there is also enough time for randomness built into this trip to allow for some spontaneity. Page 689 of the Lonely Planet Spain suggested a rather unique way of getting from where we were in Seville to where we were heading in Ronda: “Driving Tour White Towns.”  A straight-line heads out from Arcos de Frontera on their map and squiggles about after you get into the green coloring of the sierra and the Parque National Los Alcornocales, and though the whole trip would be longer than we’d have time for we could jump off the path half way at Grazalema and make our way straight down to Ronda and Mijas where we were to spend the night. 


Before we left Seville our Airbnb host had left instructions for us to make sure we took out the garbage with instructions on how to do so.  I told the kids they had an hour before we needed to leave and schlepped down the four flights of stairs when the elevator wouldn’t come and found a trash bin immediately outside which I decided would do just fine.  Up the street, towards the Cathedral, I’d noticed a wine shop and bought myself a bottle of my new favorite Tio Pepe and some whites from Galicia from a nice lady who ran the place.  


The elevator wouldn’t come when I returned either and as I plodded painfully up the steps, I stuck my head in the third floor apartment where it appeared they had commandeered the elevator, explaining that I’d be needing it soon to lug bags down. “Ahh but you see its broken” he explained.   They guy’d be here to fix it in an hour.  My kids and the one fifty-pound bag they have between them were ready and I commenced the lug.  The workman below gallantly offered to help but I could manage.  On the drive out of town I felt obliged to play “The Barber of Seville” and considered that I would alas, never be able to listen to this without considering Bugs and Elmer. 


El Bosque and Ubrique were both beautiful, but though I tried I couldn’t find anywhere to park and made them both drive by’s.  The ride up and hour of Brique was lovely, with hard granite rock cliffs, sparse greenery and traffic signs that warned we should be careful in snow.   In Grazalemus I vowed to park somewhere found a public lot just above the idyllic town square.  All along the walk down to the outdoor café I identified one after another new plants, some of which, like the Marvel of Peru and the Peruvian Peppertree spoke to the seeds that must have been brought back home from elsewhere in the former empire.   

The descent to the sea was dramatic.  Coste Del Sol was all rather built up , looking like an aspirational Shenzhen.  We were late when we arrived in Mijas but were fortunate to have a rather gracious, if loquacious host who booked us a reservation for dinner at a place down, not far on the beach. Later, when we were seated he and his family walked by, to make sure we were all set.  

Friday, 8/20/21

Grateful That She Hadn't

Late, again.  Stressed, unnecessarily, again.  I tried to let them ladies all sleep late.  I took a call with Tokyo and Tel Aviv and procured tickets for the Cathedral for 11:40AM.  We strolled up shortly after noon time and walked inside without a problem.  I must have missed the papal bull on this one but aren’t Cathedrals supposed to be free?  You don’t pay to go in Notre Dame or York Minster.  In Seville, like Toledo, you pay.  We climbed the tower to the thirty-fourth floor, first thing while the girls were still fresh and considered the city, the bull ring, the orange grove and what we reckoned must have been our apartment among the rooftops below.  Above us, only bells.  Checking the time I was glad to see it 12:33 when presumably nothing would be ringing any time soon. 

A towering altar of gold, what must have been a twenty-foot tall monstrance of pure silver.  How much of this was all taken from the Aztecs and the Incas, and Potosi and shipped across the Atlantic to here?   I reminded my gals that their grand mom had visited this place when she was their age and was considering whether or not she should become a nun.  Three of our group certainly grateful that she hadn’t.  Similar thoughts of gratitude for the work of Christopher Columbus to whom all the New Worlders owed something of our complicated existence.  Chris has a strange tomb that seemed to be held aloft to the side of the nave but it was, we ultimately surmised, an ornament, rather then he himself riding to-be-buried along above the faux pall bearers.  Still, the overall effect of the enormous cathedral was mesmerizing. 

The Alcazar, like the Mezquita is light and contemplative after the weight of the Catholic iconography.  Patterns of tiles on the wall. Patterns in the ceiling and each combination of shapes and colors slightly different.  Shapes of rooms that lead you on, mysteriously, rather than the obvious cross of must churches.  My wife and I took some photos in one room and another and eventually wondered just where it was our kids were by the time we came to the entrance of the Dame’s Garden.  We tried them on the phone.  Tried them on wechat.  I second guessed whether or not I’d actually seen them enter the building.  I had.  They came out of the garden, terrified at the thought that we hadn’t yet enter and still needed time for it.  We made it quick and, with the little one now complaining of a raging headache, I resisted the urge to identify all the plants I was seeing and we made our way out and over towards a nearby place for lunch. 


That evening we found that many of the recommended restaurants were closed for August but we found a notable one up in the Macarena that welcomed us in.  We took a cab up to the Macarena neighborhood and passed the lovely façade of that church.  After so much tapas, it was good to sample distinct meals of food which we ordered way too much of, as usual.  Our waiter was from Argentina and after realizing I could ask not only for “dry” white but “mineral-amente” and he served us something from Galicia which was perfect.  The walk home was quicker than we figured and I was off to bed not long after heading up the steps. 




Thursday 8/19/21

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

White Roofs and Green


Toledo had been one hundred and eight degrees.  The yellow ochre walls of the city stared back at us, knowingly brittle.  Cordoba felt much lighter in comparison with its’ white roofs and green Guadaquival river snaking through the city.  The echo of Ricardo Montalban’s voice in my head repeating the name of the city, incorectly, despite all attempts to quiet it, as I lugged the oversized suitcase my daughters piled all into up the road to wherever our Airbnb was.  Got the key from the box well enough.  Beautifully situated in the old town it was tight heading up the two floors stairs with this monstrous suitcase to lug.


Dining.  You’re dining in Cordoba! Senor Montablan reminds me.  One place was sold out and then another and eventually I decided to try one of the spots that also has a Flamenco show.  Five summers ago we visited a spot in Addis Ababa and dined in a restaurant which provided Abyssinian cuisine with a dance routine.  Tonight, the little one said she had a headache so my older one and my wife and I walked around the majestic walls of the Mezquita and turned up and into the place which seated us by the wall.  The late show was about to begin.  The guitarist, a male singer, a portly dancer and a middle-aged woman took their seats as we finished our order.   I have been reading about the world of flamenco in the book “Duende” by Jason Peterson and I avidly projected the books characterizations on to this quartet.  The dancer with the belly in the red shirt began the dance and soon he was bathed in sweat, head cocked back like a rooster.  I believed him and knew I could never wear those shoes. 

I’ve cancelled most of my regular calls, of which there are many, for the next few weeks.  In one or two cases I decided to maintain them and this morning I thought I’d take a walk around, pre buy our tickets or the Mezquita and come back home ready to journey out.  An Uber conference call I had to dial in and then whenever I muted it would not unmute.  Walking past church and gurgling fountains I kept muting and rediscovering I could not be heard.  The remedy was to keep dialing back in over and over again.  Certainly one of the most rational historic sites so far, there is an easy, automated kiosk from which to buy one’s Mezquita tickets and no one the call needed to know. 


I thought to find a café to sit at and take this call with some morning fuel to set things straight, but I seemed to arrive at place after place just as the last seat was taken.  The call still had ten or more minutes to go by the time I returned to our Airbnb, I saw a woman with cleaning gear arriving at the same puerta.  I told her we’d be just a minute and, muting again, I went upstairs to get everyone up and packed in short order.  Harried, and unclear if it was cool to leave luggage in the hall, while we toured about:  what if the next people arrived and expected keys or if we left them, what if they took them and weren’t here when we returned?  We decided to schlepp everything back down to the car first and then return at least thirty-minutes late for the ticket time’s I’d purchased.

Serene and refreshing to consider this mosque after so many churches.  Perhaps as a result of their needing to assert themselves so strongly, Spanish churches have such heavy, anchored feel to them. The Islamic architecture by comparison was light and contemplative and we walked back and forth through the archways considering the patterns in the ceiling. The Alcazar was closed for anyone without tickets.  My little one had been keen on a horse and buggy so I ended up getting one from Manuel who promised me he’d be happy to drop us off at the Flamenco Museum but instead returned us precisely to where we’d left from.  We made fun of him for the next day or so.  The Flamenco Museum was closed when we got there. Thanks Manny.  We had a so-so lunch and left for the garage and our onward journey to Seville.  The ticket machine in the garage wouldn’t take my card or my cash and people started beeping at me.  The guy in the spot wasn’t much help but eventually I got the door to rise and left, driving onward to whatever it was Seville would reveal. 

Wednesday, 8/18/21

Monday, September 19, 2022

To Capture Something Ineffable


We have just entered the province of Cordoba en route to the city of the same name.  It’s a bit greener than La Mancha, there are more hills, it appears to get a bit more rain, but still, it is olive groves for as far as the eye can see.  Olive groves and scrub bushes and half-hearted industry.  My wife just slowed the car.  There was fire up ahead.  Could it be a forest fire?  Had a car crashed?  No.  They were just burning out weeds in the meridian of the highway.  Reluctantly you wax nostalgic about the normalcy of U.S. highways.


Mateo Fletcha has no connection I believe to my alma mater, the Fletcher School, though that is how you’d likely pronounce  the name there, in Medfah.  We are crossing Andalucía listening to this sixteenth century Spanish guitar.  We are digesting our late afternoon meal, adusting to the fact that dinner won’t be till at least 9:00PM or so.  Apparently, the public parking in Cordoba is only a short walk to the Airbnb there in the same city.  Slowly, we’re getting back into the rhythm of luggage and check ins.  Yesterday we got in remembered that in order to plug things into the wall we’d need physical adaptors which we rushed out to buy.  So rusty.

This morning we saw El Greco, in the scarcity of the Toledo cathedral.  Then we went to a museum built on what they’d thought was his home but later turned out not to be.  Grey, certainly, illuminated, I was intrigued to learn that he used people with mental health issues as his subjects to capture something ineffable.  Elongated faces and digits they wondered if El Greco’s vision notably was compromised.   Next door to what wasn’t his house was a lovely Synagogue which we took a walk through as well.  But it’s about one hundred and ten degrees in Toldedo just now and it was 2:00PM when every sane person was enjoying a siesta when we took the long trot back up over the hill to where it was we were staying. 


If I call a cab, will they know where to come?  If I explain, will I make sense?  Will I be able to clarify where we are going with any conviction?  It all went off without a hitch though I’d fretted about it before hand.  At lunch my older daughter asked me to explain what I knew about Afghanistan.  I told her what I could.  I suggested it was best that the U.S. ended this twenty year war.  But she felt ill at ease, vacationing when so many people were confronting terror.  She’s right, of course.  “Was this the beginning of another genocide?”, she asked.  She mentioned that there was a way to donate raise to help people.  It is the least we could do. 


We will be arriving in Cordoba in five minutes.  It’s best if I put this computer away. 




Tuesday, 08/17/21

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Philip II Was Busier


A small business owner, I’m busy.  I don’t know if I’m as busy as you. I have lots of clients. Am grateful for their business and they keep me very busy.  It is safe to say that no matter how busy any of us are, Philip II was busier. Perhaps the enormity of his burden forced him to be a consummate whiner.  Philip II  let everyone know he was too busy for most things.  (Phil inherited the largest empire the world had ever seen.  Genghis never even knew there was a new world to conquer.)  Then Phil came in line to absorb the Portuguese throne and, with a little persuasion, took over the second largest empire in the world as well.  Hence, Phil had so many demands, hundreds of must-do’s came across his desk every day.   He had reason to complain. 

I’d wanted to finish off the “The Imprudent King” before I left and then I’d figured I’d finish it on the plane but sleep took me and it wasn’t until last night, that I finally made my way through the remainder of the biography. How did he reconcile murder of Escodobo and then the murder of the man who murdered Escodobo, Perez ll in the defense of Catholicism?  He won great battles, as with the confrontation with the Ottomans at Lepento while at the same time lose key battles in the Netherlands at sea with England and always it was God’s will.  It’s hard not to read with a sense of inevitability towards our current democracy.  Kings were a horrible way to rule.  Phil II wasn’t a bad fellow.  But no one could have done that job “well.”


The flight over the Mrs. and I were bumped to business but, heading to Spain, feeling chivalrous we offered our tickets up to our daughters.  They’d want to sleep.  They’d enjoy the novelty.  I for one, didn’t care.  It was odd being on a plane itself, for the first few moments.  But then it was back to normal, being in a crowded space with so many other strange humans. I was good about my mask, but you have to eat.  And like I did last time I’d flown, eighteen months ago, just before the pandemic descended, I thought about the poor  stewards and stewardesses who have to be surrounded with strange humans four or five times a week, to earn their daily bread. 

Getting in the country was easy.  Should I be worried?  Waited a long time at Hertz.  They tried to give me a Skoda.  I had to look it up.  They’re from the Czech Republic.  I’m sure it’s a fine car but I’d pre-ordered a Volvo.  What happened to that? They ended up giving me a new “DS” model instead.  I had to look up that brand as well.  It’s from France. I was calmed but only so much so.  The interface looked like it was designed for someone who was trying to imitate a Cadillac, but had failed.  I took it.  We drove to Toledo, which wasn’t far, but I was so tired and though I pulled off at one or another service stops I couldn’t seem to find the café with a double espresso I’d hoped for.  At Toledo there was free parking outside the city and we took a cab up and considered the Alcazar in the distance and the ochre walls of this fabled city. 




Monday, 08/16/21

Friday, September 2, 2022

Truck Stops in Mississippi


I’d been listening to medieval Spanish music.  “The Chronological list of Spanish classical composers” page they have on Wiki that has twenty or more composers listed there under the headings:  Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern Contemporary.  I’d been enjoying my time with the Renaissance and then the Baroque but after having my fill of choral and church organ I leapt ahead two centuries.  Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga has a friendly face and he lived only twenty years it seems from 1806 till 1826.  Apparently, a childhood prodigy who shared a birthday with Mozart.  I’m listening to him now.

Later today we will all fly to Spain.  That should be interesting.  It’s been over two years since we’ve done anything like this as a family.  A road trip, earlier in the summer was certainly time away from New Paltz, but the truck stops in Mississippi are only so different from the one’s in New York.  Spanish truck stops, one assumes will be notably distinct.  This time tomorrow I’ll be riding along the highway en route from the Madrid Airport to Toledo.  My first gas stop probably won’t be till the next day when we head off to Cordoba. 


It’s finally cool outside today.  A regal, sunny afternoon there’s hardly any reason at all to leave.  Everything is welcoming and lovely.  But we’re going to go, as we’ve always done.  I was just off the phone with my dad.  We’re meeting him at my brothers and then he’s driving us nearby to Newark and returning the car back up here.  Good man that.  My mom and her husband will be here any minute.  They have offered to help water my wife’s garden.  There is nothing more important for her.  They have also, been willing to help look after my older one’s leopard gecko Barrack. She cares for him greatly and this is all above and beyond the call of duty. 

They came.  I showed them where we’re staying.  They learned the garden watering preferences.  I moved the terrarium to the back of their car.  We talked at length, sarcastically about just where in my mother’s house it would ideal for this terrarium to rest.  My stepdad, the biologist is up for the task.  My mom, upon whose lap we placed the aluminum foil tray and top within which Barrack stood staring and we considered how uncomfortable she appeared.  And they're off.  And we’ll leave too now, in about ninety minutes.  Lee Morgan’s “The Rajah” is playing so beautifully in that way that only . . . and I looked to check but it isn’t Herbie Hancock on the keys and Wayne Shorter on tenor.  It’s Cedar Walton and Hank Mobley who form just another version of a classic quintet.




Sunday, 08/15/21                         

Wanted Shorts and Hats


My old friend left this morning.  I think we all exhaled.  This was the third sleep over guest we’ve had in two week’s time and after such a long period of isolation it’s quite a change, welcoming someone into the space here.   We waved him off and then called him and told him to return.  He’d left his laptop. 

I got an angry pile of must-do work done during the morning.  I was incapable of creating any more distractions and finally went in with a stool and whip and forced my way through.  It was late, maybe 4:30PM or so when we finally headed off to the Galleria mall on the Poughkeepsie side.  My daughters wanted shorts and hats and I needed a summer shirt and some sneakers.  And importantly we were going to have the new lenses for my daughter placed in her frames.  But the guy who does this wasn’t in till tomorrow at 11:00AM and for that we’d need to return. 


I got much more than I needed at Banana Republic.  They had shorts in my size.  They had tee shirts that would feel familiar and shirts that would make me feel cool.  I got an espresso from a guy who’s accent I couldn’t place and then tried to find some sneakers.  Pumas.  I hadn’t considered Puma’s in a while.  The suede blue Pumas looked cool but they didn’t have any ten and a half or elevens.  The overweight attendant told me my chances weren’t great, in general. Then he found me a not too bad looking pair of black Nike Air’s that I bought and walked out of the store. 

Down at the rendezvous point where I was to meet my daughters I took the insoles out of my other shoes put them into this pair.  Kid walking by told me: "lace em' up!"  They may be air but one of my legs is shorter than the other I’ve a pain in my left foot that was asserting itself in these new shoes.  My daughters needed more time.  I went to Macy’s and got another yellow shirt I didn’t need and eves dropped in on a conversation between a brusque African American fellow and his daughter. It was his opinion that she wasn’t nice to shop with. 




Saturday, 08/14/21