Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spain - Day Five

The Incredible Toledo - Just South of Madrid (photo: Wiki)

DAY FIVE

Firstly, click on that picture above - it's magnificent. Now then, as I said at the tail-end of the last post (DAY FOUR), I fell asleep quite late as was the custom by then and after about 2 hours of sleep, BAM! (btw, that's a Chef Elzar BAM!) - the phone went off. I thought it was my usual wake-up call, but was very pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of my former student and friend on the other end (the one who phoned while I was out, from the previous post don't ya know). "Wake up!" she exclaimed. I was truly dusting cobwebs out of my head - but eventually got on the trolley. "When the hell you coming down to Madrid? I'm only here a few more days." "Slight problem," she said, "I'm in Istanbul." "Istanbul eh?" I was not surprised. CNN had sent here there to oversee news activities as her Turkish (and French) are fluent - "Well then, I suspect you won't be rolling into Madrid anytime soon..." And so we wrapped for a good half hour, she had to get to work and I slept a bit more. She's really has amassed some significant accomplishments. In fact, I just got off the phone with her - and wow, she packed her bags in Istanbul and hurried to Mumbai to cover the tragic terrorist bombing and then finally headed back to Paris and then she is ultiamtely now in London. Talk about serious globetrotting! She has truly blossomed and I am most proud of her.

Well, after my shower, breakfast and such it was off to the Ministry of Culture. My time at the Ministry Filmoteca was always well-spent and memorable. Not a soul spoke English there, so my Spanish skills were consistently put to the test and I am happy to report that I got by just fine. There were times, I am sure, where I probably was sounding a bit like Tarzan, but overall there were no problems. I spent a good 90 minutes going over press release kits, marketing ephemera, publicity stills, office memoranda, and so on, photocopying and selecting stills to be scanned at a high quality for publication at a later date. I ordered about 15-16 scanned stills, (to be transferred to a disc) and was told to pick them up the following morning. Brilliant start to a great day!


El Caldero

I met with Carlos and Anita for a lunch at El Caldero. El Caldero is a FANTASTIC restaurant about 10 minutes from my hotel. This was one of my favorite meals (and one of my friends' favorite restaurants - I can see why). This was a BIG meal. The main dish was a paella based dish, not paella proper, but similar. The rice was incredible - each grain popped in your mouth and the saffron was an explosion. We killed a lot of wine, a lot of appetizers, desert, and if you spend a decent amount on a lunch (and are liked by the staff), it is typical in Madrid to be served a free decanter of liquer after your meal. This time it was, I think, a boysenberry liquer. It was the perfect way to end a great meal. After a quick coffee we departed.

Fantastic food at "El Caldero" - highly recommended!


The Plaza Mayor

After lunch we went for a grand walk - all the way down to the Plaza Mayor. I hadn't set foot in the Plaza Mayor since 1989 - just about 20 years. Although I had been to Madrid inbetween back then and this trip, it wasn't in the cards. So, as you can imagine, it was a significant moment when I entered. I recall having many drinks there when I was 19, the 38 year old me didn't have time to sit down and catch a few cocktails and tapas. Anita had to get to work and Carlos and I had business with a small but great movie memorabilia store called Casablanca. We arrived and Carlos set me up with the gentlemen who ran the place, Carlos knows everyone, everywhere. I probably spent 90 minutes going through the hundreds of stills, mini-posters and one-sheets. I felt that in order to commemorate my interviews with Eugenio and Jorge - that I should buy a poster from each of these directors. The decision was made easy for me based on what was physically on hand. They had Jorge's "The Living Dead at The Manchester Morgue" (the orig. Spanish one-sheet which is HARD to come by) and although I would have loved Eugenio's "Horror Express", the only poster they had of Eugenio's was for a Krimis style thriller that he did in the early 60s, "Hypnosis." Also on hand was a mini of Jess Franco's genius "Miss Muerte!" The Goods:

Casablanca (Bailén, 47, Madrid)

Eugenio Martin's "Hypnosis"


Jorge's Genre Masterpiece: "No Profanar El Sueno de los Muertos"


The unrelated but seriously desired killer Spanish One Sheet
For Mario Bava's "Bay of Blood"



And a Spanish mini of Jess Franco's "Miss Muerte"

I was a lucky boy indeed. The total for these posters was very reasonable and put a certain SNAP to my step for the long walk home. Speaking of which, the walk home from Casablanca was terrific. The guys at Casablanca told me to grab a taxi - that it was a long walk, I explained that a walk in Madrid was always a happy prospect. At a strolling pace it would have been about 30-40 minutes, but I was walking at a crisp pace - I should have stopped for tapas and cocktails on the way back but, as usual, I was pretty pooped after a full day of activities. After awhile I recognized a path that led me to the Plaza Tirso de Molina (lovely little square that I encountered daily) -

Tirso de Molina at Night

- which dove-tails into C/ Magdalena (where the Spanish Filmoteca is) which empties onto C/ Atocha which then takes you down to the Paseo del Prado (are you getting all of this down?) In retrospect, this was a really great itinerary for a walk and I should have done it more often. Had I been a proper flâneur, this would have been a regular route for me - I never really had the time. Next time for sure. I gave Carlos a call when I got back to the hotel and we set up lunch for Friday - I told him of my good fortune at Casablanca and he was very happy with my haul! I put the TV on and just tried to relax... That didn't last very long.

Feeling rather restless, I decided I'd try my luck at chasing some girls. This is a serious problem if you are unwilling to go to a nightclub/disco and it happens to be a Thursday night. Around 10:30 I decided to go for a looooong walk and pop my head into as many cafes/bars as possible to try and find some single girls to "practice my Spanish" on. This simple, reasonable, and not too ambitious plan did not blossom in any measurable way... Eventually, I just decided to eeeny meeny miney mo it and walked into a nice little bar that had not one single girl in it, but had plenty of character nonetheless. I ordered a Patxaran and began a long conversation with a cool guy named Angel who was originally from The Dominican Republic. We talked baseball, politics, travel, the States, and of course, women for at least an hour. Angel, who was a pretty smooth dude, told me that I needed to come back Saturday at 8 when he was getting off work and that he would gladly take me to the proper places to meet lovely Spanish ladies and with him as a "wingman" things would go very well. I told him that a raincheck was definitely in order as I was leaving Saturday.

Sooo, I walked back to my hotel and chatted with my buddy Jose in the lobby for about an hour and then set up lunch with Carlos and Anita the next day. After getting directions (it was walking distance) - I read for awhile and dozed off at the usual 3 or 4 a.m. Another fantastic day had sadly come to an end.

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