Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Writing on the Walls

I went for a great walk this chilly morning.  It was 8C (46F) when I headed out the door.  But, no complaints — although my ears did get kind of cold (so, one complaint).  It's now up to 17 (63F) and sunny, and I can hear an accordion player on the plaza doing a decent job with La Cumparsita, that most famous of tangos.  Not a bad winter's day.

By the time I started off for my walk at 10:00, I had already done a load of laundry.  It's unusual for the new me to get such an active and early start on the day.  It felt good.  Tomorrow is coffee with Lola and Albert at 9:30.  OK, that's not very active and perhaps not even very early but at least I'll be out of bed while it's still  morning. And to think, pre-move, I used to get up at 6.  I'm slowly edging my way back from 10:30 and have now succeeded at regularly waking up, unaided, before 9.

While walking this morning (with Paul Simon's "Graceland" playing on my iPod), I took some shots of one particular stretch of riverfront graffiti art.  Of the ones I've shared here, I have a few (well, several) favorites but I'd love to know yours.  I can definitely live without any more vampire/zombie art (and television shows ... and movies ... and books), but I included some because it's clearly so popular as subject matter.















Monday, November 28, 2011

Gratifying Graffiti

I went for a brisk, invigorating walk this afternoon and really worked up a sweat.  I was out for an hour.  I crossed the river via the bridge that leads to Isla Magica a large seasonal amusement park.  I discovered some fascinating plazas, fountains, buildings, and parks.  Some were well-maintained.  Others were woefully neglected.  I'll have to research what I saw so I can share it all with you. 

On my way back, I walked along "my side" of the river again.  I plan to write more about graffiti art here in Sevilla, but will save that for another day.  Much of the graffiti I see around town — good art or not — is simply vandalism to public and private property.  But, today I passed graffiti artists who, with permission (police were nearby), were improving a stretch of vandalized wall along the river and I just have to share one work currently being produced.  I didn't want to interrupt the artist's flow, so I snapped a picture and quickly took off.  The sun was so bright that I couldn't clearly see the screen on my phone and only knew I had at least captured the artwork.  I didn't realize until I got home that the artist had stopped and looked directly at me as I snapped.  Now I'm sorry I didn't talk to him and get his name.  I'll have to go back tomorrow and hope to find him there.  Great talent and a gift to the city.

THE ARTIST WITH HIS WORK IN PROGRESS.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

As the Sun Slowly Sinks in the West

I didn't have a very productive day.  Jerry and I went out for a pleasant breakfast at El Búcaro (where we saw flamenco back in January).  I washed dishes after lunch, did some laundry, sent some emails, commented on some blog posts, phoned my mother and brother.  I didn't go for my brisk walk.  I didn't exercise.  I didn't stretch.  I didn't give money to any street musicians, or to anyone else on the street.  I didn't draw.  I didn't write.  I still didn't whisk any eggs.  I didn't study Spanish.  I didn't socialize.

So, when I headed back up to the roof a short time ago to retrieve the laundry I had left hanging there to dry, I wasn't very energized.  Until I opened the door to the sunset. I am now inspired to do more tomorrow.






Friday, November 25, 2011

Whisk Me Away

ET, PHONE HOME
BUT DON'T USE VODAFONE
We left the States in July, and moved into our apartment here in September.  During the month of August — to get our land line, mobile phones, and home internet set up — I made seven visits to the Vodaphone store (after I finally gave up on their major competitor, Movistar, following my fifth or sixth trip there).  As you may remember, it was not the most pleasant process.  I purchased — I thought — an international plan on our home phone.  After receiving bills for our first two months, we discovered we did not in fact have the international plan on our home phone and were paying exorbitant rates for the few international calls we had made.  (I sure am grateful we've been using skype, either video or computer-to-landline, for most of our international communications.)

So, Jerry phoned the English-language customer service line at Vodafone.  I don't know why we bother.  I understand we're in Spain, but I dont' think Vodafone should say they provide assistance in English when only two of the now-10 reps we've spoken with have actually been able to communicate in English better than I can communicate in Spanish (which is not saying much).  This most recent call ended with the rep quoting a different (more expensive, of course) price for the international plan and saying he couldn't help us with anything else; we should go back to the store.  That's about as good as customer service has been.  So, I went back to the store.  The people in the store are very nice, but, they didn't do the greatest job with the start-up of our account, nor have they ever given me correct information regarding installation, calling in, signing up, etc.  I took several deep breaths and saw it through.

Of course, we will not get any money back, since they don't provide an official document that shows we've signed up for the international plan (I couldn't prove anything with my hand-written notes).  But, we do now have the international plan.  I added it to my cell phone instead of my home phone, so I have a text message confirming that I ordered the plan (and I will keep that text message forever... or at least until we move again).  It's still not super cheap for calls, but it's a lot cheaper than not having it.  And like I said, we have skype.

MORE CHURROS & CHOCOLATE THIS EVENING.  PREPARED FRESH JUST FOR US.

NOT AT THIS ADDRESS
My next chore is to head back to our local bank.  Four weeks after we opened our account, I went in and told our rep that Jerry had not received his debit card.  He said to wait another week or two; it would come.  Four weeks later, when my card suddenly stopped working, I went back to the bank.  I was told I'd have to wait a week or two for my new card to arrive. I asked about Jerry's card and it was discovered that his card had been mailed to an incorrect address and had been returned as undeliverable.  The address was corrected and a new card would arrive within two weeks, I was told.  It's been five weeks.

THE WHISK
I've been thinking I need to be whisked away from my oh-so demanding life of banking errors, and phone contracts and data plans (which I hate even when they're in English)...

ANOTHER DELICIOUS LUNCH.
Wait, I'm sure I have more to complain about...  Oh, yeah!  So many important things.  For example: Are we sure we have learned the correct way to eat churros and chocolate?  How late in the day is it appropriate to order café con leche before it's time to switch to capuccino?  Is there a proper way to wrap a scarf or is variety OK?  If "embarasado" means pregnant, then what's left for me to be embarrassed about?  Should I be getting out of bed before 9:30?  How long should our siestas last?  OK.  Really not much to complain about.

Anyway, the only reason the thought of being whisked away (or the word whisk) is in my head is because Jerry threw together some eggs for lunch today.  It was another beautiful revuelto.  He had cut up all the ingredients — peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and only he knows what else — and had broken the eggs into a large bowl.

MAYBE I DIDN'T WHISK ANY EGGS,
BUT I DID WHISK UP SOME REALLY GOOD SUDS.
I stood in the kitchen getting napkins and silverware ready.  As he sauteed the other ingredients, Jerry pointed casually to the bowl of eggs and said, "You want to whisk those?"

I was dumb-founded.  He couldn't possibly be serious, I thought.  But he had this excruciatingly sincere expression.  After a moment, all I could think to say was, "Are you serious?"  He laughed.

Three hours later I found out he had actually been serious.  I wonder who he thinks he's been living with for 30 years.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Easy for You, Deefeecult for Me

Jerry cooked another maravilloso Spanish dinner Monday night.  It was his latest success from the pages of "The New Spanish Table" (page 359), called Canelons D'Espinacs — Cannelloni with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts.

There were a multitude of steps and a very considerable mess was made to produce this meal.  So, I joined Jerry in the kitchen to wash up and keep things manageable as he worked.

JERRY APOLOGIZES FOR THE PRESENTATION.
THERE'S A LITTLE PROBLEM WITH TEMPERATURE REGULATION IN OUR OVEN.

While I washed, I told Jerry how much I've been enjoying our meals at home and I that I don't mind clean-up at all now that we're not working.  He agreed, saying he finds the cooking very relaxing now.  I told him I couldn't believe all the work involved in preparing this particular meal.

Jerry commented, "This one is actually very easy.  Just a lot of organizing."

To which I responded in the voice of Johnny, the Señor Wences character, "Easy for you, deefeecult for me."

I used to love watching Señor Wences and his 'friends' when they made their regular appearances on  "The Ed Sullivan Show."  It seems especially appropriate now that we're living in Spain.


Exercising My Demons

I am trying to get back into the habit of working out regularly.  Obviously, it's great to stay in shape, but it's also really important for my mental health.  And some days, my mental health can really use some help.  I used to love to work out and I would do it religiously.  Lately, I just can't seem to find my groove.  A month ago, I took a one-month trial membership at a nearby gym.  It was great and I would return from my workouts energized, but I then I couldn't get motivated to put on my gym clothes and walk the five minutes to get there.  Since we'll be traveling in early December, I've decided to wait until we return before I make another financial commitment at the gym.  So, I try to exercise at home.  Part of the problem is that I've been avoiding committing to any kind of regular schedule for most activities.  I came into this with the attitude that I was retired and I could do whatever I want whenever I want.  It's a fun concept, but not necessarily a very healthy way to live.  I think it's time to create some kind of schedule for myself and then stick to it.

STROLLING ON A RIVER
In the meantime, I'm trying to get into the habit of taking a good healthy walk regularly, at a fast clip.  Thursday, I walked along the water.  More than two miles (3.5 km) in less than a half hour, and that included two quick pauses for photos.  The walk was invigorating and I discovered a bit more of the city that I hadn't yet explored.  I'll have to build this into my new schedule, as well.

ALAMILLO BRIDGE TO LA CARTUJA.

I walked past the Olympic Stadium,which is across the river, actually between two branches of the river (the Canal de Alfonso XIII and the Guadalquivir River), on the island of La Cartuja.  Olympic Stadium from Expo 92 sits on La Cartuja and the Alamillo Bridge takes you there.  The bridge, completed in 1992, is another wonderful opportunity to contrast the old and the new in Sevilla.

ROWING ON A RIVER.

It was a glorious afternoon and I saw a crew team out practicing.  Seeing that crew speed by was an inspiration, but I think I'll stick to walking.  Unlike Tina Turner, since leaving my (good?) job in the city, I usually prefer to take things nice...  and... easy.

I wonder if it's time for my siesta.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Making a Joyful Noise

SEEN FROM OUR BALCONY. "STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT."
Street musicians are very common here in Sevilla.  I've mentioned them in earlier posts.  Some are wonderfully talented and a joy to hear.  Others are pure torture and I'm tempted to pay them if only they'll stop.  One day last week, I heard the tune "Strangers in the Night" being played fairly decently outside our windows.  Musicians making their rounds regularly stop in front of Dos de Mayo to perform for tips for the four restaurants/bars on our plaza.

Last Saturday afternoon, I heard an energized flamenco beat being carried by some sort of drum and clapping hands.  When I went out on the balcony, I found one man playing a guitar and singing while another drummed on a large box.  A baby in a carriage was mesmerized, and people around them clapped skillfully to the beat.  It was uplifting. At the end, no hat was passed; no money was exchanged.  They just hugged and headed on their way.

FLAMENCO LAST WEEK IN FRONT OF EL SANEDRÍN.

As we neared the plaza on our walk home from dinner late last night, we heard a joyful noise.  Many voices were raised in song.  They sounded great despite the fact that we groaned when we realized they were singing "Cielito Lindo." However, as we turned the corner, we discovered the crowd was being led by a group of traditionally garbed troubadours.  And, thankfully, the troop's next and last song, which they sang alone, was something much more fun — and less familiar to us — than "Cielito Lindo." 

We were so grateful to have arrived home before they made their musical exit.  I hope the video I caught of that last number — right at our front door — will give you a sense of the happiness we felt as we headed upstairs for the night.



Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Park Half a Car

It was a busy Friday night in Sevilla.  Lots of people.  Lots of cars competing for very few spaces.  Smart Cars are ideally designed for these streets.  They look to me like half a car and, since many of our streets are the width of half a normal street, and the parking spaces that result are about the same, Smart Car owners have a distinct advantage.  As we passed the Plaza de San Lorenzo tonight on our way to dinner at the Alameda de Hercules, we got a new lesson in parking Sevillano style.  The spot was too small even for a Smart Car, so the driver was creative.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drawing on Memories

FEELING LOST AND LONELY IN AN ELEGANT APARTMENT.
SELF-PORTRAIT, AVENZA, CARRARA, ITALY, 1977.

I just pulled out an old sketchbook and discovered some drawings that brought back memories.  The memories that come back when I look at my old drawings are often more vivid than those that are awakened by looking at old photographs.  I think it's the fact that I was completely engaged in the action at the time and spent more than a moment snapping a photo or awkwardly posing for posterity.

10 SEPT BECAME 11 SEPT 1980 WHILE I WAITED IN MY '78 MAZDA GLC TO GIVE
A "FRIEND" A LIFT BACK TO BOSTON AFTER A BUSINESS RECEPTION IN CAMBRIDGE.
HIS NAME WAS STEVEN AND HE WAS MORE THAN AN HOUR LATE.

When I was 25, I landed a job in Medical Illustration at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.  I drew kidneys and muscle tissue.  I traced cross-sections of cadavers that had been cast in polyurethane.  I created art and typography for slides that were used by the medical school.  It was fun work and was what began my career in publications and communications.  At the time, I never went anywhere without a sketch book.  I would sketch unselfconsciously, and had been doing so for years. I doodled my way around Italy in the '70s and gave away almost all the sketches as "thank you" gifts for the hospitality I received there.  I wish I had had a scanner!

BANANAS, MAY 1980, TOP FLOOR, 15 CHARLES STREET, BOSTON.

SEDUCTIVE BANANAS.

While working at Downstate, I drove up to Boston, just 4-1/2 hours away for a weekend visit with an old college friend, Mary.  I fell in love with Boston and immediately decided I had to move there.  I left  Downstate four months later after only 1-1/2 years for a job as a typesetter and graphic artist in a small, quirky (aka, cripplingly dysfunctional) studio in Cambridge, ironically named "Together Graphics." The job in Cambridge paid a lot better, but was not as interesting nor did it offer the same opportunities for professional development and personal growth as the job in Brooklyn.  But it did get me to Boston, which is where I met Jerry a little over a year later.


SNACKING AS I SKETCHED, ENABLING NEW POSES.

HOURS OF SKETCHING.  I CONSUMED MY RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE OF POTASSIUM.

For my first month in Boston, while I looked for my own place, I stayed in a basement apartment on Gray Street in the South End with Brian, a friend I met through Mary.  He was to become my best friend over the years and was my first good gay friend.  I was still living the life of a straight person, thinking I could ignore who I really was and wanted to be.  As a good friend (and someone with "gaydar"), Brian clearly knew the truth, but he never let on and he let me come to terms at my own pace. I spent a month on his couch and many afternoons hanging out at Mary's apartment with my sketchbook, sketching the room, the house plants, and, as shown here, bananas that happened to be left on the coffee table. Jerry and I had already moved twice by the time Brian and Mary decided to move together to Maui.  I lost touch with Mary, who met someone in Maui, married, and was living in Missouri the last I heard.  After a few years, Brian (who was a serial monogamist) had also met someone.  They moved to San Diego and stayed together about a year.  Brian remained in San Diego.  So, I was elated when Jerry and I had the opportunity in late 1992 to move to San Diego, as well.  But, just before we left Connecticut for San Diego, Brian went back to his parents' home in Massachusetts, where he died at the age of 37 of complications from AIDS.

DARTMOUTH "T" STATION, 1981.  BACK FROM ENGLAND TWO WEEKS AFTER MY SISTER DIED.
ON MY WAY TO A PARTY WITH STEVEN AFTER DISCOVERING MY CAR HAD BEEN STOLEN.

I think it's time to start sketching again.  It's very therapeutic and I like the depth of the memories.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Churros and Chocolate Virgins

LARGE CHURROS WITH A CHOCOLATE KICKER.

The title is misleading.  We did have churros and chocolate last night.  But we did not have chocolate virgins. (Would they be anything like chocolate bunnies, chocolate Santas, or chocolate Easter eggs?)  Nor were we virgins to churros and chocolate; it was not our first time.  It was our second.

RACING TO CATCH UP WITH THE REAL VIRGIN.

It was, however, our first time to have churros and chocolate done right.  Besides, on our way to our first good churros and chocolate, we stumbled upon another procession of another virgin, this one more grand than any we had seen.

THIS PASO MIGHT JUST DO FOR THE PROCESIÓN DE SAN GERALDO.
BUT JERRY WILL WANT A CHAIR.

Back in August, on one of our various trips to IKEA, we had a wonderful taxi driver who, as we rode on the boulevard alongside the river, pointed to a kiosk at the start of one of the bridges into Triana and said in Spanish, "They have the best churros and chocolate in Sevilla." The place was called "Los Especiales."

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES.  ENGULFED BY INCENSE.

We have had churros in San Diego and in Mexico.  To me, they're nothing more than a long donut stick.  I'm not a huge fan of donuts in the first place (with or without preservatives).  But, I am an enormous fan of chocolate.

AFTER THE SMOKE CLEARED.

On my sister's birthday in September, Jerry and I were out for a walk and decided to honor Dale, who would never have passed up any opportunity for junk food, by trying churros and chocolate.  We stopped at a neighborhood café. We really had no idea what to expect of the chocolate.  What was delivered to the table came in mugs and looked like what we know as hot chocolate (or cocoa)  The churros were large and broken into long pieces having been originally made in a large spiral (Spanish style).  They were phenomenally greasy.  The chocolate was too thick to drink but not quite thick enough for dunking, which Jerry said was what one was supposed to do with churros and chocolate.  None of this stopped us from consuming the entire platter and the two mugs of syrupy hot chocolate.  It left us with indigestion, heartburn, and the sense that we hadn't yet truly experienced Spanish churros and chocolate.

VERY SERIOUS.  AND SUCH A CURIOUS HAT.

Fast forward to yesterday evening.  I suggested we go for a walk in the afternoon, and Jerry suggested we walk over to Los Especiales as suggested by the taxi driver.  On the way, we heard rhythmic drumming that sounded like there was a procession nearby.  We were just a block away from the Church of the Magdalena, so we headed into the crowd, following the smell of incense.  The drumming grew louder and the smoke heavier until we reached a truly stunning paso.  It was either another saint's day or the people of Sevilla had organized a parade to escort us to the churro stand. I choose to believe the latter.

THE BAND.  AND WAS THAT ALFRED HITCHCOCK AT RIGHT?

We caught up with the paso, watched it turn up a small street, and we then continued on our own the last two blocks to the river. Now, I don't know if this really is the best churros and chocolate in Sevilla, and I am certainly not going to make it my life's work to find out.  Suffice it to say that the churros and chocolate were so good that there is no need to look elsewhere.

OUR GOAL.  I CAN'T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I SAW JERRY MOVE SO FAST.

On the way, I learned something.  Jerry can still move a lot faster than I can.  I have been dragging him around Sevilla for four months.  Often, I actually stop and wait for him to catch up.  But, last night, when he caught sight of the churros kiosk and thought it might be closing early, I had to run to keep up with him.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

If I Went to Church

SANTA ANGELA
DE VERA CRUZ
If I went to church, and if I wanted to experience "God" in a variety of settings, I would never run out of places of worship in Sevilla — especially Catholic churches.  Every street seems to have at least one church, small or large.

But, I'm not a believer.  I was a bit of a believer in my own family's religion when I was a child, simply believing what I was  told.  But, I apparently asked too many questions and, by the time I reached my teens, my faith had faded.  When I was in my 20s, I would usually describe myself as an agnostic, but if I had been pressed to explain what I believed, I wouldn't have been able.

I have grown into a strong non-believer.  I won't describe myself as an atheist, because that also requires a certain strength of conviction. And I'm still not really convinced of anything. But, I am not comfortable (to say the least) with organized religion and will only accept that, maybe, just maybe, there is some other kind of energy in the universe... not God, just something else.  Then again, maybe not.

Sometimes, I envy others (I know, I know; it's a deadly sin) the power of their religious convictions, if for no other reason than the fact that being a member of a church enables you to meet, connect, and share community with people more easily.  This is especially useful when you're new to a place and feeling a bit disconnected and lonely, as at times are we.

INSIDE SANTA ROSALÍA, THE LITTLE CONVENT CHURCH NEXT DOOR.

My intention here is not really to share my religious beliefs or to argue against those of anyone else.  It's just that, as I mentioned, Sevilla is filled with churches and religious history.  The history of religion in Spain is very troubling.  But it remains fascinating.  And the work — the architecture, sculpture, paintings, and more — created over the centuries to honor Sevilla's religious and political history can be majestic and inspiring, whether you believe in a greater power or not. 

It's also a comfort to know that so many talented artists and artisans have had gainful employment over the centuries.

THE CHURCH, BASILICA, AND PLAZA OF SAN LORENZO (TAPAS ON THE RIGHT). 
JUST UP THE STREET, AND A HUB DURING HOLY WEEK IN APRIL.

A VERY POPULAR PUBLIC SQUARE.  UNUSUALLY QUIET WHEN I TOOK THESE PICTURES.

SAN LORENZO'S BELL TOWER, RINGING AS I TYPE.
THERE'S A VERY TRENDY (AND GOOD), TAPAS BAR IN THE WHITE BUILDING AT LEFT.

LOCALLY CREATED CONTEMPORARY MOSAICS ON ANOTHER NEARBY CHURCH.
I THOUGHT THE ONE ON THE LEFT WAS A BIT CAMPY.