Friday, November 21, 2008

Spain - Day Four

The Amazing and Elegant Gran Via

You know the drill by now - alarm, shower, breakfast and taxi. The difference this particular morning (Wednesday) was the terribly shitty weather! All week long we had great weather - but the day Madrid decided to be temperamental - she did it with grand style. To begin with, it was cold - probably about 40 degrees (4 to 5 degrees Celsius) and WINDY! Thousands and thousands of umbrellas were blown inside out and destroyed, it was hailing and just generally shitty. It got a bit better later in the day, but this was the one stain on an otherwise perfect week of weather.

And, once again, I forgot to get a receipt from my Taxi. And, the taxi had a bit of a time finding the address - but he finally felt that we were in the right row of numbers and we pulled over. I arrived early and hung out outside of Eugenio's building. An older woman popped out of the building and I decided to make SURE that I was at the right address. Of course, I asked her, in perfect Spanish if this was the case and she immediately responded "Oh, you are English?!" No, I responded "From the States" - "Oh, she said, I lived in Seattle for 10 years" - "Was my Spanish that bad?" I queried. Oh, no, not at all, but I knew you were either American or British, I'm originally from Germany." "Fantastic, I said, I know it well." "Of course, I love Madrid, but I really wish I was back in Seattle..." - - - And, so it went like this for about five minutes. Lovely woman, but it's always disheartening when people respond to you in English when you're doing well with the host language... I had a cigarette while waiting in the downpour (always the stylish gentlemen, I had my umbrella) and Anita and Carlos came along a few minutes later. Very happy to see them, we moved into the lobby of Eugenio's building.

A few Ad Mats for Eugenio's Classic of the Genre, Horror Express (1973)

Some very accomplished poster art on the various one sheets and quads

A moment later, Eugenio Martin (83 years young) answered the door. How impressive a man he is. He's 83, looks 73, and acts 63. Incredible. We sat down and started the interview - Eugenio was a charming, gracious, and incredibly informative interview - having worked across multiple genres (especially the horror film and the spaghetti western) and having worked in and out of the Spanish film industry (and on many international co-productions), his life's work and cumulative experiences made for brilliant conversation. He has directed many major talents during his career including James Mason, Lee Van Cleef, Christopher Lee, Telly Savales, Peter Cushing, Gina Lollobrigida, Carroll Baker, Clint Walker, Judy Geeson, Michael Craig, Chuck Connors, among many others. He's a very modest man, when I told him that his legendary "Horror Express" was the centerpiece of many cherished memories (especially on one late-night occasion with my brother and grandfather) he thanked me - but I pushed a bit further to explain that mine was merely one story where there were many, many, many more (that particular filmed aired every month or two for the majority of the 1970s!) - he became very modest. I said, trust me, you've made an impact on many lives - at 83 years old, I would have been ashamed not to verbalize that.

(Left to Right) - Carlos Aguilar, Yours Truly, Eugenio Martin

Circulo de Bellas Artes

After our time with Eugenio it was of course time for lunch. The weather was still horrible and to top it off - the taxi ride was interminable. It seems there was some demonstrating in the center of Madrid (around the Gran Via area) by the police force, who, apparently, were very upset over wages, pensions, etc. It sounded like a soccer match - the chanting was incredibly loud and they were like a half mile away. At any rate, this demonstration was having a tremendous effect on Traffic and we just sort of sat for a long time. Carlos really wanted to take me for a great paella that day, but luck was not favoring us. His idea was to go to The Ciculo de Bellas Artes instead. I loved this place. Here's a nice summary from Frommers:

This former members-only club is now open to the general public, and if you dine out here, you may still get the feeling you're crashing a private party (a time-honored tradition in Madrid, incidentally). With its 1920s-style ceilings, chandeliers, artistic statues, and soaring pillars, the cafe lies in an arts center. Locals don't even know the place by its formal name, having nicknamed it la pecera, or aquarium. The food and drink are served in a palatial hall. At lunchtime join politicians and bankers from the nearby parliament or the Banco de España to enjoy a variety of pork, beef, fresh fish, and chicken dishes -- the menu is rotated daily

It was a lovely place and we were very happy to be indoors as the weather was still miserable. Not to mention we had a severely cute Andalucian waitress who took the pic of Carlos and I... Ahem, anyways... The food was great, the place was bustling with activity. Anita had to go teach her classes and Carlos and I stayed for quite some time enjoying a great after lunch hot chocolate which suited the weather perfectly.

Madrileños LOVE their hot chocolate

Should've talked more with the lovely Andalucian girl who took this pic!

Another gift for me - I lost track after awhile. There were many!

This book above is particularly important as it catalogs, or rather. provides an anthology of nearly every Spanish horror film produced in the 20th and 21st centuries and commentaries on them. I was confused by the exclusion of a few films, like for example, A Bell From Hell (La Campana del Infernio 1973). I realized later when I read more carefully that this was an inventory and history of the Spanish FANTASTIC canon of films. Films that were not fantastic (in the literary sense of the word, see Todorov) were not included. As A Bell From Hell has no supernatural elements it was not included. This book (which is impossible to find!!) was another in the long list of tremendous gifts from two good friends. Thanks you two!

I know that Carlos and Anita are going to laugh that I am including this - but, a running joke between us concerned a cologne/after shave that I love and had not been able to get here in the States. The bottle that I once had ran out about 20 years ago (my Grandfather had brought me a bottle back from Spain in the 70s). This scent has the distinguished honor of being Frank Sinatra's favorite cologne - he wore it daily. Of course, my logic is that if I wear it, then the modern equivalent of Ava Gardner will sniff me out... I am speaking of the legendary Agua Lavanda! Carlos wasn't a huge fan of it, but didn't mind it either - he wore it after shaving when he was in the military. I, on the other hand, love Agua Lavanda, and I'm not a Huge cologne guy - I definitely own a lot of different fragrances, but just put enough on so that only the person who should be smelling it - is actually smelling it. AND, I have worn this a few times since being home and have been told by two very lovely women (after hugging them) that it was amazing, "wow, you smell goooood" "what are you wearing?!" - proof's in the pudding amigo Carlos!

I also picked up another scent from Spain that I loved - Royale Ambree. It's very different from Agua Lavanda which has strong base notes and very light lavender mid-notes that linger. Ambree has a strong citrus note, a lot like 4711. I love it - I'm a big fan of having a GOOD after-shave that interlaces with your own natural scent. Why? Mostly, because, the girls that I have known like it too. So. That's good enough for me. These two have served me well in the past, and God willing, will continue to do so in the future. Okay, enough on after-shave - but ya know - it was a big part of the day. Day four ladies and gentlemen - all about the after-shave... Okay, not so much, but I'm glad I was able to find these - even if the lovely saleswoman was thinking that I was a Grandpa in my tastes (which she didn't). Hey, I always go with the classics. There's a reason they're classics. Agua Lavanda launched in 1940! Now, that's some legs for a cologne.

Carlos and I also stopped into the Objetos de Arte Toledano store from the previous post where I picked up a few items (mostly art prints). We parted late in the afternoon and I had a few phone messages waiting for me when I returned to the hotel. A former student, now close friend, and lovely young lady had been working in Paris for CNN and we had talked about her taking a train into Madrid - unfortunately she called on Antonio's shift. She spoke no Spanish, Antonio no English. Stalemate. She said she would call back. The other message was from my friend Pedro who is like a brother (we had lived together years ago and our families go back 60 plus years). Pedro lives north of Madrid in Bilbao (pictured) which is a home away from home for me. We had hoped to get together that week, but activities and business kept me in Madrid and he could just not break away. His message said that he would phone later too.

Typical square in Bilbao

I would have loved to get up to Bilbao. Pedro's family is my extended family and I had not seen his wife Nuria in ten years (no to mention their 4 year old daughter Paula). Plus there are sooo many special places in the Basque Country, San Sebastian, Fuenterrabia, Pamplona, and so on. At around 10 o'clock Pedro called and we talked 90 minutes or more about all sorts of things. His English is still VERY good and he was flabbergasted that my Spanish was so serviceable. We lived together when we were 18/19 years old - back then it was pretty awful. The funny thing is that I haven't practiced one bit since then!! We said adios and spoke a few days later. Either I am going back to Spain in the next year or two OR Pedro and his family are coming here for a decent visit - we've decided this much at least.

It was about midnight when Pedro and I finished up our lengthy conversation. I watched some television, relaxed on the balcony, went down and talked with my friend Jose at the desk for an hour and finally went to bed around 3. As usual, sleep didn't kick in until an hour later. Day 5 was moments away. Thanks for dropping in and checking out my trip, much appreciated dear visitor.


gilligan said...

Just letting you know that (A) I've been enjoying your travelogue and (B) I'm still insanely jealous.

Sinatra's cologne, huh? Interesting....

Chick Young said...

Hey Gil! What's up buddy? Thanks for all the feedback on the Spain posts. Tell you what though, if you knew the amount of work that went into planning this trip (a years worth) the jealously factor might drop a bit! Still, you are quite right. It was a great time - amazing time.