Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gin and Sardines

San Geraldo and I were a bit down-in-the-dumps last night (no special reason, just low energy), so he suggested we have dinner at Gonzalo's restaurant, Catalina, to perk ourselves up. It worked. First of all, it was a cool night. The first in a very long time. Once we were outside, we even debated heading back upstairs to change into long pants. It wasn't necessary. But it sure was nice to consider it.

MY GIN AND TONIC (LEFT) ... AND ITS LITTLE BROTHER.
MIXED DRINKS ARE POURED AT THE TABLE. THERE WAS A LOT OF GIN.

We had a fairly brisk 10-minute walk to Catalina, arriving around 10:30. We then decided to join the rest of the patrons who were sitting outside enjoying the comfortable temps. Gonzalo was there and greeted us with warm hugs and kisses, which immediately made our world a good place again. We were both in the mood for a gin and tonic, known simply as "gin tonic" here. San Geraldo doesn't drink much. Two or three sips is usually his limit. The drinks are ginormous (a large goldfish would consider the goblet a very generously proportioned home). I suggested to San Geraldo that he just take a few sips from mine. But he really wanted his own, so we asked Gonzalo for a very small one for Jerry and the usual large one for me. He understood perfectly.


SARDINES AND PEPPERS ON A BASE OF RUSK, AVOCADO, AND SAUCE.

Gonzalo told us about the specials that weren't on the menu. He started with sardines and laughed when he saw the expression on my face. Sardines have always been right at the top of my list — alongside anchovies — under the heading "Fishy Fish I Don't Like." But, as you may remember, I love Gonzalo's anchovies. So, I figured if there is ever a chance of my liking sardines, it would be at Catalina. We ordered them. They were beautifully presented on a slab of black slate. A dollop of diced tomato and a dollop of sauce to the side. The large sardine was, as it had been described by Gonzalo, served on a crispy slice of rusk, with a layer of sauce and fresh avocado between. It was beautiful. It smelled delicious. I took a bite. It wasn't bad. If you like sardines. San Geraldo loved it. You can't win them all (although San Geraldo won this round and didn't have to share). To be honest, it was the best sardine I've ever tasted (and that's not saying much). I'll stick to anchovies, but only at Catalina. I cleansed my pallet with a swig of gin tonic.

PATATAS BRAVAS.

"Patatas bravas" is a classic tapas potato dish. The traditional version is fried in olive oil and served with a paprika sauce. To me, they're just potatoes in sauce. San Geraldo loves potatoes and he loves sauce. I can take or leave potatoes. However, I can't leave Catalina's patatas bravas. Gonzalo explained to us that his are baked at very low heat for hours to absorb the olive oil and herbs. They almost melt in your mouth. He told us they had run these as a special and customers were coming back weeks later asking for them. They're now a permanent addition. Once you've had patatas bravas at Catalina, there is no need to have them anywhere else.

COUS COUS.  KISS KISS.  AND HOME TO BED.

So, after more hugs and kisses, San Geraldo and I walked home happy as clams (which were also on the menu).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Ceramic Monastery Museum and Gardens

Some of my recent posts have been all about the special exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Art here in Sevilla. You may remember that the property was originally a monastery built in the year 1400. Gardens, separate chapels, and other structures were added over the centuries that followed. And then, in the mid-1800s, the property was purchased by a Brit and a major ceramics factory was built amid the existing structures. Finally, in the late 20th century, it became the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art). Mostly gardens and structures this post... with just a tiny bit of art thrown in for good measure.

19TH-CENTURY FIRING OVENS (BRITISH STYLE).

ONE OF THE OVENS WITHIN A CONTEMPORARY GALLERY...  AND WITHOUT.
(ADELA IN BACKGROUND BROWSING THE EXHIBIT.)

THE CLAUSTRILLO ("LITTLE CLOISTER"). BUILT IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 15TH CENTURY.

CHAPTER HOUSE, INTENDED FOR THE MONKS' MOST IMPORTANT MEETINGS.
CEDED AS BURIAL VAULT OF RIBERA FAMILY, MONASTERY PATRONS.
IT WAS A CARPENTRY WORKSHOP DURING FACTORY PERIOD (BODIES WERE MOVED OUT).

PART OF THE INTERIOR "SKYLINE."


THE 16TH CENTURY CHAPEL OF SANTA JUSTA AND SANTA RUFINA.
(REMADE INTO A GARDEN PAVILION DURING THE FACTORY PERIOD.)

ARTWORK: THE "BLACK PEARL" CURTAIN COVERING CHAPEL ENTRIES.

IT CREATES A WONDERFUL EFFECT FOR VIEWING MY FRIENDS.
(UNFORTUNATELY, IT'S MADE OF BLACK PLASTIC BEADS; NOT REAL PEARLS.)

THE BACK OF THE CHAPEL/GARDEN PAVILION.

ALMONDS ON A TREE.
NEAR A LARGE ORANGE ORCHARD (BITTER ORANGES FOR MARMALADE).

TOWER AND TWO (DECEASED) WATER WHEELS THAT USED TO PROVIDE WATER TO GARDENS.
THE GARDENS ARE IN NEED OF AN INFUSION OF MONEY.

SADLY, THE WATER WHEELS WEREN'T THE ONLY THINGS DECEASED THAT DAY.
(TWO MOURNING DOVES FLOATING IN THE STAGNANT WATER.)
SEVILLA'S NEW 40-STORY OFFICE TOWER RISING IN DISTANCE.

THE TREE, HERB, OR PLANT CALLED PHYTOLACCA DIOICA OR, SIMPLY, OMBU.
THOUGHT TO HAVE BEEN PLANTED BY THE SON OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
(WHEN COLUMBUS'S REMAINS WERE KEPT AT THE MONASTERY).
ITS TOXIC SAP MAKES IT IMMUNE TO INSECTS.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tutti Frutti

I just read that the best cure for insomnia is sleep. I wish someone had told me sooner. In the meantime, during two recent sleep-deprived nights: I solved all the world's problems; evaluated every decision I've ever made; vowed to sculpt, paint, draw, pump iron, read El País (in Spanish and all the way through in one sitting), get up every morning before 9:30, finish hanging pictures, clean, iron, and be an all-round better person. Progress: I got out of bed before 9:30. But, then I wasn't sleeping anyway. I'm not concerned about the insomnia. It usually lasts a few days and then all is well again.

I'M NOT ONE OF THOSE CATS THAT CAN SLEEP IN ANY POSITION.

Despite being sleep-challenged, I've still been enjoying myself. A very exciting highlight this week: I walked over to Plaza de España the other day to check on the status of our residency card renewals and to find out how to obtain a document that will allow me back into Spain/Europe after I visit The Dowager Duchess and The Wonderful Brother — if our new cards aren't issued before my next trip. I was treated well, but was told I needed to go to the original issuing office for that information instead of the renewal office. Since it was already early afternoon, the other office had a very long line outside and a waiting room filled with people. I was hot and tired and decided to go back one morning before breakfast next week. Afterward, my reward will be another perfect cup of coffee (café con leche) made lovingly by Fatima at Emperador Trajano.

MY MORNING COFFEE MADE WITH LOVE BY FATIMA.

LATER THAT SAME DAY.  IT'S ALL ABOUT ME.
REFLECTIONS OF MY MORNING COFFEE AT THE CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART.

PEEPING TOMÁS ACROSS FROM EMPERADOR TRAJANO THURSDAY MORNING.
(BUT IT'S NOT HOW IT LOOKS... REALLY.)

I've racked up about 5 hours sleep total between the last two nights (and 3-1/2 of those were last night). I prefer 8 hours a night. I rarely get it... but I prefer it. My thoughts can be random and scattered on the best of days. They're pretty much tutti frutti today.

EITHER A VERY SMALL PLUM OR A VERY LARGE CHERRY.  (TASTED LIKE A CHERRY.)

THURSDAY'S TUTTI FRUTTI FROM FRUTAS FAUSTINO.  MORE THANKS TO SAN GERALDO.
(WITH A PLATEFUL OF MONSTER CHERRIES ON TOP.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blinded By The Light

This is the final post (so he says) of my experience at Sevilla's Center for Contemporary Art's exhibition, "Abstraction and Motion." In a future post, I'll be sharing images of the architecture and gardens of the Center. Come to think of it, I may have a little more art to share, as well. So, let me adjust my opening statement slightly: This is the final post of the parts of the exhibit I physically interacted with. If I share any more art, it will be more straightforward displays. You may have caught on — since this is the third post on the subject — that I really enjoyed this special exhibition.

AN APPARITION?

We four — Adela, Rocío, Alberto, and I — nearly walked by the curtained room containing this work by Anthony McCall. McCall, born in 1946, is an avant-garde artist who specializes in projected film. This specific piece is part of a series of works that are simple projections that emphasize the sculptural qualities of a beam of light.

AN ETHEREAL ROCÍO.

You don't need to know any of the preceding to enjoy and appreciate the experience of his art. As I mentioned, we nearly walked right by the exhibit. When we entered through the heavy rubber curtain, we found ourselves in a dark room where a spotlight was being projected from one wall onto its opposite. 'Big deal,' I thought. And then I noticed an apparition within the light. A very friendly museum employee came in and told us kindly to "Go into the light." We hesitantly did so. And everything changed. Oddly, staring directly into the source of the light did not blind us even momentarily. We noticed that the projecter traced an outline around the spot on the wall and the outline slowly disappeared only to be slowly "redrawn." The spotlight itself remained at all times. The experience of being within it was fascinating, uplifting, other-worldly. I don't know how long we stayed, however I know we didn't — any of us — want to leave. But we did. I guess it just wasn't our time to go entirely into the light.

BROTHER AND SISTER.

ALBERTO, TRANSFIXED.

ALBERTO GOING CLOSER, WHILE ROCÍO WATCHES.

"ANOTHER RUNNER IN THE NIGHT."
I NEVER GOT HER NAME... AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HER.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Magic Theatre Tripping


There was an American media art collective in the 1960s and 1970s called USCO (The "Company" of "Us") that went around the world producing multimedia art installations and performance art using stroboscopes, projectors, and audiotapes. One of their installations is included in Sevilla's Center for Contemporary Art's current exhibition "Abstraction and Motion," which I got to see Sunday with Adela, her friend Rocío, and Adela's brother Alberto.

DUELING ADELAS. (THAT'S ME IN THE WHITE SHORTS, AND ME, AND ME, AND ME.)

ROCÍO FLANKED BY HERSELF AND OUR MANY OTHERS.

Walking into the display "Teatro Magico," you become an integral part of the art creation. You enter through vertical strips of silver mylar that form a curtain. The walls are covered in irregularly draped sheets of mylar and the floor is made up of tie-die-patterned tiles. Music plays. Stroboscopes flash. It's clearly what tripping on LSD would feel like — to some small extent. (But I can only go by hearsay.)

A DARK MOMENT AND A REVOLVING ROCÍO.

ADELA UNDULATING.

Originally called simply "Strobe Room," the name "Magic Theatre" comes from the book "Steppenwolf" by Hermann Hesse. In that book, the magic theatre is where the main character, Harry, goes to "interact with the ethereal and phantasmal" and "experience the fantasies that exist in his mind." All I can think of when I look back at my experience of the Teatro Magico/Strobe Room is the group Steppenwolf's song, "Magic Carpet Ride."



We could have spent the afternoon inside, but we tore ourselves away after about 20 minutes. If we had stayed any longer I don't think we would have been able to walk. As it was, it took a while to "come down" and the other exhibit spaces looked a bit off-kilter for a while. It was a great trip, man...

I WOULD HAVE SWORN THIS WAS PERFECTLY VERTICAL...
...BEFORE WE VISITED THE TEATRO MAGICO.

Monday, July 23, 2012

They're Fun To Look At But Not All That Bright

The title of this post is the answer to the age-old question: "How are men like lava lamps?"


One of the exhibits I just saw at the Center for Contemporary Art made me think of that old joke. It also made me miss the lava lamp I bought in 1969 and gave away some time in the late '70s before I moved from Brooklyn to Boston. I bought a new one for my office when I worked at UC San Diego in the '90s, but it wasn't the same. Maybe I was missing my tie-dyed bedspread, worry beads, and long hair. Well, I know I was missing my hair.


You may remember that my cousin Al and I visited Sevilla's Center for Contemporary Art in June. There were a couple of exhibits of interest at the time, but for the most part, although the property is fascinating, I was disappointed. I have been talking with Adela, who is a painter, about going back together to see what's new. We've been waiting for her brother, an art student, to arrive in town. Adela texted me early Sunday morning and asked if I wanted to walk over with them and another friend of hers. I met them after breakfast and we crossed the river in the blazing heat — and, of course, brilliant sunshine.


Spread through a huge number of galleries was a special exhibit called "Abstraction and Motion." The first large gallery we hit contained five projection screens with what looked like close-ups of lava lamps in constant movement. Music played that beautifully complemented the motion. Unfortunately, I didn't note the name of the artist and I've been unable to find it online. I'll keep looking. In the meantime, I have a feeling one of my faithful friends will come up with it!


I would have been very content to simply sit on the floor amid the larger-than-life lava lamps, listening to the music and enjoying my flashbacks... I mean memories. But, after leaving this room, the exhibit got even more interesting and the flashbacks... memories... got even more vivid. I have so much more to share. For now, I'm off to bed with Grace Slick's voice singing in my head...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Peach of a Guy

I've been saying for years that San Geraldo is a peach of a guy. Kind, funny, loving, intelligent, fascinating, sometimes exasperating, generous, entertaining, interesting, and adorable. And he cooks! The other day, he asked if I'd like a nectarine. I said, yes, and a few minutes later my nectarine arrived, in a bowl along with a spoon and napkin, and cut into cubes so I wouldn't have to handle that inconvenient pit.

HOW TO SERVE A NECTARINE TO THE SON OF THE DOWAGER DUCHESS.

Despite threatening to lock himself in the house for the next four years (until the next quadrennial Dia de San Geraldo), San Geraldo can be daring and adventurous. His latest adventure, other than getting rid of most of our things and moving with me across the ocean to Spain — and much more of a challenge for him than all that — was to go to our little neighborhood fruit market, Frutas Faustino.

SAN GERALDO MAKING A QUICK STOP AT FAUSTINO THIS MORNING.

Shopping at the supermarket in El Corte Inglés is much easier for San Geraldo. He can ignore the staffed counters, opting for all the packaged meats, cheeses, and produce, and thereby avoid unnecessary attempts at Spanish conversation. But Thursday, he branched out. He went up the street to Frutas Faustino where the owner and staff handle the precious produce for you (you can look but don't you touch). San Geraldo pointed at things, asked questions, and came home with an abundance of fresh and gorgeous fruits and vegetables, including by far the best avocados I have ever tasted — and, coming from Southern California, I have tasted some really good avocados. Shopping at Faustino gave San Geraldo such a burst of confidence that, back at the supermarket Friday morning at El Corte Inglés, he stepped up to the cheese counter and bought the fresh stuff!

FRIDAY'S SALAD A LA SAN GERALDO INCLUDED: SHRIMP, CRISP LETTUCE, JUICY TOMATO,
OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD AVOCADO, AND CHEESE-COUNTER-GOUDA WITH HERBS.

But, oh, the peaches! The peaches from Faustino are sweet and juicy without being soft (yes, I like my fruit firm). Thursday afternoon, San Geraldo dished up my daily serving of cheese, crackers, and apples; and he added a peach. The texture was almost that of a honeydew melon, and the color was a bold orange. These peaches are unlike any peaches I've ever tasted. I even ate one later, all by myself, without having it first cut up by San Geraldo. Imagine that!

CHEESE, CRACKERS, AND APPLES.  AND PEACHES.  (ACTUAL COLOR.)

Not wanting to always live in the shadow of Chef San Geraldo, I have been refining my skills in the kitchen. Our English family rented a vacation apartment while they were here earlier this month. It was not equipped with a tea kettle and they couldn't live without their daily dose of English tea, so they bought a little electric tea kettle and then dropped it off at our house before they went home (because Melanie was appalled when I told her I nuke the water for my tea). So, I made myself a cup (well, a mug... well, a beaker, as they say in England) of tea this morning using real boiled water from the electric kettle. You know, it tasted a lot better.

OK, so maybe I'm not as peachy as San Geraldo.

AROMA OF FRESHLY BOILED WATER ABOUT TO FILL THE KITCHEN. I'M BECOMING A GOURMET

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dudo, El Gato Demonio (The Demon Cat)

I had a hard time sleeping Tuesday night. Dudo was no help. I could simply close my bedroom door and not let him in, but then the guilt would keep me awake anyway. The night began with Dudo begging me to pet him while I sat at the computer. I did so. It continued when I got into bed to read. No problem. I finally turned out the light. Dudo left the room only to return moments later with his "drawstring." Tap. Tap. Tap. He mewed. Play with me. I told him, "No." He tried again. I said, "No," and rolled away so my back was to him. He muttered and left the room. Seconds later, he was back on the bed. I heard the rattle of his stuffed mouse as it was dropped behind me. Tap. Tap. Tap. He mewed. Play with me. "Dudo, no," I said. He muttered again and left the room.

DUDO THE DEMON CAT. UNRETOUCHED.

The next thing I heard was what sounded like the clanging of metal against ceramic. It went on and on. I got up and went into my bathroom to find Dudo sitting in the sink with the tweezers in his mouth. I took them from him and put them away. He muttered, jumped down, and left the room. I went back to bed.

A little while later, I heard the rustle and crackle of heavy plastic. I tried to ignore it, but it went on for several minutes. I got out of bed and looked into the hall. I use a large IKEA shopping bag to carry laundry up to the roof. I usually fold it after use and put it in the bottom of the laundry basket. I had left it out and Dudo decided it made a great fort, lair, nest... I don't know what, but he was having a grand old time. He did look actually kind of funny. I snapped a picture. When I downloaded the photo in the morning, I was shocked to see the true evil I had captured. According to what we've read, Dudo and Moose are of the non-specific breed known as "Common European." Demon European may be more like it. (Moose, however, slept quietly nearby. I think Dudo may have put him in a trance.)


When I finally folded up the IKEA bag to put it away, I found some surprises in the bottom. I'm a little worried. Devil worship? Voodoo? At least I didn't find a lock of my own hair. But then that's kind of hard to come by.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Among the Ruins: Italica

My brother-in-law Dave and I braved the 35°C/95°F heat Saturday to visit the Roman city of Italica (also known as Old Sevilla), which is 20 minutes away by bus. The city of Italica has its origins in the year 206 BC. It would have remained more intact had its stones not been used in later years (1301 AD) to build, among other things, the nearby Monastery of San Isidro del Campo.

MONASTERY OF SAN ISIDRO DEL CAMPO (NEAR BACKGROUND) AND THE CITY OF SEVILLA (FAR).
CHECK OUT THE AGAVE AMERICANA IN BLOOM IN THE FOREGROUND (LEFT).

As usual, I'll keep the history lesson short and, I hope, sweet. The Emperor Trajan was born in Italica in 53 AD. He was the first Roman Emperor to be born in a distant Roman province. His nephew and heir, the Emperor Hadrian (born in 76 AD), spent part of his youth in Italica. The area was considered of high strategic value and was officially settled by Roman soldiers who had been injured in a battle against the Carthaginians. In a nutshell, Dave and I walked the streets and saw the remains of a once-powerful and prosperous city more than 2,000 years old. The park is a work in progress. Digs continue and the city is being painstakingly excavated.

VENUS ENJOYING SOME SHADE NEAR THE PARK ENTRANCE.
(UNCONCERNED ABOUT THE SUN BEATING DOWN ON HER HEAD... OR ARMS.)

I had read and been told that Italica was fascinating but flat and completely exposed, and that there was absolutely nothing around it of interest for shopping or dining. Not so. The town of Santiponce looks charming and there are a variety of restaurants and shops along the route to Italica. In cooler weather, it will be really pleasant to walk back down the hill to Santiponce to see the ruins of the Roman theater — apparently grand and impressive — and the small public baths. Italica itself is a beautiful walled park with a small but excellent visitor center that clearly and interestingly explains the history of the city in both Spanish and English. Much of the park does bake in the sun with little chance of shade, but down near the entrance are some beautiful gardens and protected spots.

MAIN ROAD THROUGH ITALICA.

It was a hot day to be wandering the arid paths, so Dave and I visited about 3/4 of the park before heading directly across the street from the park entrance to a very good and very friendly restaurant, Gran Venta Italica (with a patio, a bar, and — even better — a large air-conditioned dining room), for lunch and an ice-cold beer. San Geraldo and I will have to head to Italica together once summer has passed to explore the entire park and the additional excavations in Santiponce, the town within which Italica now resides.


HOUSE OF THE PLANETARIUM.

SANTIPONCE CEMETERY IN BACKGROUND (BEHIND WHITE WALL).

THE EMPEROR TRAJAN. BORN IN ITALICA IN 53AD.

SANTIPONCE AND SEVILLA IN BACKGROUND.


THE HOUSE OF THE BIRDS.
WITH A CREPE MYRTLE IN BLOOM (TOP PHOTO), TO REMIND ME OF ALICE.

MORE OF THE HOUSE OF THE BIRDS.
YOU CAN SEE THE STATUE OF TRAJAN IN THE DISTANCE.

THE THERMAL BATHS INCLUDED HOT, WARM, AND COOL ROOMS WITH POOLS;
MEETING SPACES; EXERCISE AREAS; LIBRARIES; AND MORE.

TRYING TO PROTECT HERSELF FROM THE BAKING SUN,
AN ARCHAEOLOGIST DIGS UP MORE TREASURES RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES.

We ended our stroll at the Amphitheater, which was awe-inspiring. I walked the halls imagining the spectators hustling to their seats. We saw the gladiators' small lobby and their entrance to the arena. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get decent pictures of that because a family of five American tourists had noisily commandeered the space for themselves and, by that time, I was too hot, tired, and hungry to wait. Maybe next time.

AT LEFT IS THE ARCHWAY TO THE GLADIATORS' LOBBY.



THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN COVERED OVER IN ROMAN TIMES.


HEADING BACK OUT OF THE AMPHITHEATRE.


DIANA THE HUNTER.
FOUND FAIRLY INTACT IN 1900 NEAR THE THEATRE SEATING IN SANTIPONCE.