Friday, December 28, 2012

Exploding Pipes: Lessons Learned

I'm feeling a little bit better today. I've been out of bed for breakfast and ... well, personal business. That's the extent of it. Other than sending two text messages and two emails to building manager "F"and to his second-in-command (with no response from either), that's all I've accomplished. Still, I feel better than I did yesterday.

We've got running water — where it's supposed to be running. We've got one flushing toilet. For some reason, the other toilet doesn't work although we were told it did. But we don't have hot water. We're concerned that the water heater had something to do with the original explosion. The last plumber agreed. He called into the insurance office and the insurance office was supposed to have spoken with "F" and then sent over a technician. Nothing. Hence my messages to "F." We still have a hotel room for showers, and I have a feeling "F" and I are not going be happy with each other when I submit the bills to him. So, before I go back to bed, here's what I've learned this week.

LESSON 1: SAN GERALDO CAN COPE WITHOUT LOSING HIS HEAD.

LESSON 2: IF YOU WANT A HOLLYWOOD KITCHEN, YOU NEED THE CUT-OUT TO GO
FROM THE KITCHEN TO THE DINING ROOM AND NOT TO THE BACK HALL.
ALSO, IT'S GOOD TO DO IT WHERE THERE ARE NO PIPES.

LESSON 3: WHEN THE UPSTAIRS NEIGHBORS PIPES ARE EXPOSED ABOVE
YOUR HEAD, IT OFTEN SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE ABOUT TO BE DUMPED ON.

LESSON 4: BROKEN, POLISHED SKY BLUE STUCCO IS AN IMPROVEMENT.

LESSON 5: RECOMMENDED FOR HANGING HATS.

LESSON 6: NOT RECOMMENDED FOR HANGING HEADS.
(AS IF I HADN'T BEEN FEELING CRAPPY ENOUGH!)

LESSON 7: SEVILLA IS STILL BEAUTIFUL. (CHRISTMAS DAY)
CLICK IMAGE TO SUPER-SIZE.

LESSON 8: I almost forgot. I also learned that before I say, "I forgot my glasses!" I should discreetly touch the bridge of my nose and see if I'm wearing them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

¡¡¡Gracias!!!

If only San Geraldo and I spoke the same language.

Christmas morning, my allergies (OK, I should just admit it's a cold — a miserable cold) had hit a really unpleasant point. For the first time in my life I had lost (mostly) my voice. (I'm sure there are plenty of people who would have enjoyed my company more than usual.)  

There was no running water in the house (and there isn't any still). The kitchen was a disaster area (and it is still). So, despite my unhappy condition, we had to go out for breakfast (and I would much rather have stayed home just this once). San Geraldo (he is a saint) kindly waited on me hand and foot at Los Niños del Flor, ordering at the counter, delivering everything to the table for me: tea, tostada, water. Getting up again to bring me sugar (because it feels good on my throat and they didn't have any honey). Like I said, the man really is a saint.

I rasped to him, "Gracias."

"What?" he asked.

I repeated, "Gracias."

He repeated, "What?"

"Gracias!" I loudly croaked.

He looked around the restaurant and then, clearly confused, said, "We have guests?!?"

Spanish is the least of our problems.

SISTER-IN-LAW LINDA AS THE VIRGIN MARY.
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A VIRGIN MARY IN MY FAMILY.
NO WONDER WE SOMETIMES DON'T UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In An Ocean Or In A Glass...

Cool water is such a gas. Unless it keeps pouring from the walls and ceiling.

A new plumber was here Monday for three hours to fix the leak and get us back in working order. He fixed "the" leak, turned the water back on, and then discovered another leak. He had to phone the insurance company for permission to repair that as well. He received permission and did so, and he then went home to enjoy his Christmas holiday. We were still concerned. Since the first deluge was proceeded by quite an explosion, we suspected there was a lot more damage done. But, we went downstairs for lunch and bumped into "F" (the building manager). He was heading to his parents' country home outside of town for Christmas. He gave me the number of the insurance company in case we had any problems while he was gone.

AFTER THE FIRST CLEAN-UP, WHILE FIXING THE SECOND LEAK.

Later that afternoon, San Geraldo noticed a leak in his bathroom. We turned off the water in there and the leak stopped. Then, San Geraldo noticed a leak in my bathroom. The high-polish stucco (which is so prized that we're not allowed to hang anything on the walls) had cracked and crumbled and water was dripping onto the floor. We turned off the water in there. I dialed the number "F" had given me, but instead of the insurance company, I reached the cable TV company. "F" had given me the wrong number.

DURING REPAIRS, DUDO UN-MADE MY BED AND THEN REARRANCED AND HID UNDER THE PILLOWS.

I phoned and twice texted "F." Our upstairs neighbor, Carlos, phoned and texted "F." No response to either of us. San Geraldo cooked a very nice dinner. He commented on a musty smell coming from the kitchen closet above the clothes washer. Another leak; water was running down the tile wall. So, once again, we turned off the main water supply. Before going to bed, I texted "F," told him about the kitchen, and wrote that we would need to get a hotel room until he got the problem resolved. We are so grateful to the manager of Espacio Azahar, a little hotel down the street, for giving us an incredible deal on a room. I'll expect "F" to be as grateful when I pass the bill on to him.

DUDO, AFTER THE PLUMBER LEFT MONDAY.
LULLED INTO A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY.

I'm glad we weren't cooking Christmas dinner. A former work colleague of mine is traveling Europe for the year with her husband. She emailed to say they'd be in Sevilla for Christmas and hoped we might have time to get together. They've been missing Mexican food, so the four of us had a traditional Christmas dinner of nachos and enchiladas near the Cathedral this afternoon. San Geraldo and I talked incessantly and had a great time. I hope we didn't send our friends running away screaming. They sure saved our Christmas.

IN A NEW SHOP WINDOW ON OUR WAY HOME FROM THE HOTEL.
NOT THE BEST OUTFIT FOR LOUNGING AMID THE PLASTER DUST.  BUT, GOTTA LOVE THE "HAT"!

As we headed to the hotel to get cleaned up before lunch today, "F" finally phoned. He had just then noticed his missed calls and the text messages... so he told me. He'll be back with the plumbers Wednesday morning. I have a feeling they're going to have to tear up a lot of walls and ceilings. The poor cats (not to mention San Geraldo and me). Maybe we'll be moving on sooner than planned!


"COOL, COOL WATER."  MY FAVORITE PART OF THE SONG BEGINS AT 1:52.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gonna Be a Floody Floody

This morning, Sunday, San Geraldo noticed an odd noise coming from the walls. Just after he told me to rise and shine, the walls began to shake. Then came an explosion. Soon, the sound of a fearsome waterfall. Water poured through the ceiling lights and down the walls, quickly flooding our interior hallway and kitchen. Could it be the end of the world? Would an ark help? (Where the hell was I going to find gopher barky-barky?) The cats, already in twosie-twosies, ran under the couch.

DID NOAH ACTUALLY TAKE FLEAS ABOARD THE ARK?
(ANOTHER HOLIDAY FAIR. LA ALAMEDA DE HERCULES.)
MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE CHECKED TO SEE WHERE THEY TOOK THE CAMELS.

San Geraldo and I got the water turned off and every towel, pot, and bucket in the house was put into use. They had to be wrung-out/emptied within seconds. With the aid of our upstairs neighbors, whose apartment was fine, we reached the building manager, who I'll call "F." After a second call by our neighbor, "F" (did I mention he's a lawyer?) arrived with two insurance company plumbers in tow. The plumbers were both great and easily found the source. A broken pipe. Not the end of the world (literally or figuratively).

I'M NO EXPERT, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S SUPPOSED TO DO THIS.

"F" — whom we've suspected takes advantage of our good natures (and our ignorance of Spanish housing laws) — then told me his insurance company plumbers wouldn't fix it; our insurance company had to take care of it because it was in our wall. The short of it, San Geraldo phoned our insurance company while I argued (very kindly and gently) with "F," explaining the wall and pipe was not in fact ours and we were not responsible for it. I eventually won. He suddenly remembered that they had a second insurance policy to cover these situations. He even showed it to me (which didn't earn him any points).

AFTER WE STOPPED THE DELUGE.

So, it looks like we won't need the ark afterall. But, we will be without water until Monday when the plumbers return. The cats are still a bit put out. The apartment smells (fat chance the owners will address potential mold issues). Fortunately, it's a beautiful day and we can keep all the doors and windows open to air things out.

COWARDS! THEY'VE FINALLY SETTLED BACK DOWN.
THE SITUATION MADE THEM NEARLY CRAZY-CRAZY. MOOSE (RIGHT)  STILL CAN'T FACE IT.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pesto Change-O, Constipado

I'm not a magician. San Geraldo, however, has the ability to magically change (presto change-o) both Spanish and English into languages that are difficult to understand. Today after breakfast, we walked over to Triana's Public Market to see if we could find a couple of the spices San Geraldo needs to make his Norwegian holiday pastries. We were looking specifically for star anise and bitter orange. We found star anise — the most aromatic star anise, but no bitter orange, which San Geraldo will concoct on his own (since we're surrounded by trees loaded with bitter oranges).

OUR STAR ANISE (ESTRELLADO).  CAN YOU SMELL IT?  IT'S MAGNIFICENT.

Mortar and Pesto Pestle
Last year, we bought an enormous, solid marble mortar and pestle, because San Geraldo was sure he would need it for all the traditional Spanish meals he was going to prepare. He's used it once. So, he was very excited as he held the star anise in his hand and said, "Now I can use my pesto!"

"PESTO" A LA SAN GERALDO.

I had a major compliment when we were shopping today. After we found the star anise, San Geraldo walked up to another spice counter and asked the woman (in Spanish) if she spoke English. She said (in Spanish), "Not a word." I then stepped up and told her that we were looking for dried bitter orange. She said she only had sweet oranges. I explained that we needed it for Norwegian Christmas pastries and she laughed. She then said, "You speak perfect, proper Spanish! Better than I do! Why did you ask if I spoke English?" Flattered, I thanked her and explained, "He cooks. I speak." I guess my Spanish has improved.


Feeling Constipado
The other morning when we first saw Adela at El Sanedrín, I asked her how she was doing and she surprised me by responding, "Uf. Estoy constipado." This was a bit more information than I had been prepared for, but then I suspected "constipado" was not the Spanish form of the English "constipated." Maybe it had to do with having a stuffed up nose instead. I asked her to clarify. Yes, it was a stuffed up nose. Allergies, the weather, perhaps a cold, but not constipation. And she was appalled when I told her that's what I thought she was talking about. full-voice, across the bar. "Hombre, por favor," she said. (Man, please.)

I MAY BE ALLERGIC TO JUNIPER (IT MAKES ME CONSTIPADO).
HOWEVER, PAULA, MAKES THE MOST DELICIOUSLY FRAGRANT AND ARTFUL GIN TONIC.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Art's Sake (And Not Pete's)

Yesterday, Adela, her brother Alberto, and I went back to the Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art (Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo). There were several new collections on exhibit that I really enjoyed. Others... well, I'll just say that not all art suits all tastes (or understandings). I decided to share here some of what I was able to appreciate and to forego sharing what I did not.

"DESPRENDIMIENTO" ("DETACHMENT"), 1995, BY NACHO CRIADO.
A MAGICAL ASSEMBLAGE OF GLASS, MIRRORS, CERAMICS, AND METAL.
HIS VARIED WORKS WERE ALL OVER THE GROUNDS AND GALLERIES.

The first special exhibit we saw included some fascinating drawings and some terra cotta sculptures that complemented them. They were intriguing, even more so when I learned the works were created by identical twin brothers.

LA INTIMIDAD" ("INTIMACY"), 2002, BY BROTHERS MIGUEL PABLO AND MANUEL PEDRO ROSADO.
I SUPPOSE THIS IS A "SELVES" PORTRAIT.

A MID-CENTURY ORIGINAL, BY THE DOWAGER DUCHESS OF BROOKLYN (AND THE ROYAL CONSORT).
WHERE DO THE LITTLE ARCHWAY AND LITTLE STAIRS LEAD? WHO'S LOCKED IN?

I'm drawn to video and kinetic art, especially art that the viewer can become part of. I found the below creation mesmerizing.

ADELA AND ALBERTO ENTERING THE EXHIBIT.

"ONDAS" ("WAVES"), 2006–2007, DANIEL PALACIOS.
ADELA BECOMES ONE WITH THE ART.

ADELA. CLICK THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

BROTHER AND SISTER. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

video


It wasn't easy to leave, but after two hours, we were all hungry. So we headed back across the bridge on a rare, cloudy and foggy afternoon.

THE WALK HOME IN THE FOG.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE ARE THREE HUGE CONSTRUCTION CRANES ATOP THAT TOWER.

After all that high-brow stimulation, I passed a shop window and saw a piece of art that I might not be able to live without. Several of these brilliant "works" might even be required. Whether or not it's art, it did make me smile. Although it's no Michelangelo. (I don't really intend to buy one.)

IMAGINE WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SWITCH WHEN YOU TURN THE LITTLE GUY ON.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Originally built in the 17th century as a seminary school for the orphan children of sailors (on property belonging to the institution responsible for the Spanish Inquisition), The Palacio de San Telmo is now Andalucía's presidential palace. Over the years, it was a number of things, including the private residence of the Dukes of Montpensier beginning in 1849. It's an impressive example of Sevilla's Baroque architecture and I find it fascinating — although, interestingly, I never found Baroque architecture fascinating when I was forced to study it for my art degree. If I'd only known.

GRAND AND MINI PALACIOS DE SAN TELMO, WITH THE THREE WISE MEN OUT FRONT.

But this is not the story of the Palacio de San Telmo, this is the story of the Second Palacio de San Telmo. As I've mentioned in recent weeks, there are Nativity Scenes (Belénes) all over town right now. Of course, the convent/church around the corner, Santa Rosalía, has a very popular Belén. It's visited by school groups, tourists, and locals every day.

APPARENTLY, THIS IS REALLY WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY, YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO SPOT THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL.

I went around the corner after breakfast today to check out Santa Rosalía's Belén and I was delighted to find that it includes a reproduction of the Palacio de San Telmo and another building known as the Costurero de la Reina (The Queen's Sewing Box), which was built in 1893 as the guard house/garden retreat for the Palacio de San Telmo.

THE QUEEN'S SEWING BOX (BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE A SEWING BOX, I'M TOLD). 

As with so many of the other Belénes I've seen around town, I was struck with awe when I saw the level of detail, the workmanship, and the loving attention. Even better I arrived just as a group of noisy tourists was leaving and I left just as a group of noisy teens arrived. Someone was watching over me. (I think it was the volunteer who was guarding the place.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Eat, Therefore...

CHEF GONZALO,
PRE-BEARD.
For someone who doesn't cook, I sure do a lot of writing about food. If I'm not careful, I might soon start dicing and slicing (although that's highly unlikely).

The other night, San Geraldo and I decided we needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so we took a walk over to our favorite restaurant, Catalina (Casa de Comidas), where we had another perfect meal and some tender loving care.

As usual, we started with Chef Gonzalo's special creation "rollitos." Another dish we usually order is a rich, dark risotto. And we like to try at least one new dish from the daily specials. This time, Albert, manager and charmer originally from Barcelona — (as opposed to my friend Albert who doesn't work at Catalina, so is just a charmer originally from Sweden) — told us about an artichoke special that sounded delicious. Artichokes — lightly battered, delicately spiced, and lightly fried — with a side of mayonnaise and curry sauces. It was kind of like tempura (which I love), only different... and oh so much more interesting.

PASSING PLAZA DE LA ENCARNACIÓN ON OUR WAY TO CATALINA CASA DE COMIDAS.
SAN GERALDO REMOVED LAYERS AS WE WALKED.
ALCACHOFAS (ARTICHOKES) BY GONZALO.
ANOTHER "BEST I'VE EVER HAD"!
SOME DIE-HARDS STILL ENJOYED PATIO DINING DESPITE "FRIGID" 11C/52F NIGHT-TIME TEMP.
SANDRA SERVING. SHE WANTS ORDER FORMS FOR US WITH ROLLITOS PRE-PRINTED.

We stayed so long, we closed the place. A couple of veritable party animals. By the time we walked home, all the Christmas lights had been turned off in town. We'll be back there on the 21st. They're hosting an evening of music, dancing, and more good food. I'll have to get a new photo of Chef Gonzalo. He's grown a beard, but he says it's only temporary. He told me, "Now you and I look alike." I told him, "In my dreams."

THE VIEW FROM THE BALCONY THIS EVENING. SWEET DREAMS.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting Lost in Sevilla and Ending Up in Bethlehem


Everywhere I turn in Sevilla right now, there is another Belén (a nativity scene) on public display and free for viewing (although some of the churches have a donation box as you exit). Many displays are much more than just the Nativity. I especially love the ones that recreate entire cities and towns. There's even a Lego Belén. I might check that out this week if I can find a day when the line of children is not overwhelming.The complexity and attention to detail on some of these displays is incredible. The other day, I happened to pass the one shown below. It was in the covered plaza of a modern office building. For me, pure fantasy. I don't focus on the "religious" aspect of the scenes (although I know that if I actually understood what I was looking at, it would all be religous). Ignorance in this case is my bliss.








Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hee Hee Arrow Arrow

We had our second annual pre-Christmas dinner at the home of José and Juliette. Teré and Miguel very kindly share their friends with us. The foursome invited another of their warm and charming friends, Enrique, who speaks excellent English. The first thing he did was teach us two "...most important Andalusian expressions that everyone must know."


1) No Ni Ná
I've heard this expression used, but never had any idea what it meant (except for "no" which I figured meant "no," and it turns out I was correct). No ni ná is what you say in response to a question or statement that is obvious.

Does Mitchell like chocolate? No ni ná! 

Mitchell isn't very good in the kitchen. No ni ná. 

Is San Geraldo a bit of a hypochondriac? No ni ná.

I know a few American versions of "no ni ná" used when someone states or asks the obvious. Those are: Is the pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? Does Howdy Doody have a wooden ass?*

SAY KIDS, WHAT TIME IS IT? IT'S HOWDY DOODY TIME!
(WISH WE STILL HAD THAT ORANGE VINYL DEN SOFA!)
*For those of you not in the know: Howdy Doody was a wooden marionette who had his own American TV show from 1947 to 1960. His sidekick was known as Buffalo Bob. It has always been assumed that Howdy Doody had a wooden ass, although said wooden ass was never shown on American television.


2) Hee Hee Arrow Arrow
That's exactly how the second expression sounds. I asked Enrique how it's spelled and he instructed me that, "No one would ever write it the way it's said. It wouldn't be proper Spanish!"

The expression is used when you want to strongly agree with something someone says.  "Hee hee" for some reason in this case is said instead of "sí sí" (yes yes). I think the Spanish spelling would be more like "ji ji."Arrow Arrow is really "aro aro," which is short for claro claro (clearly clearly). So, "Ji Ji Aro Aro" means "Yes, Yes, Clearly, Clearly"! I asked Enrique what was so short about "aro" as opposed to "claro" and he said, "Two less letters!"

So there you have it. My Spanish language education for the week. These I easily remember! San Geraldo has already forgotten them. But no one has forgotten pre-Christmas dinner and dessert!

TERÉ'S FIRST-EVER POTATO TORTILLA. DELICIOSO!

SAN GERALDO'S 2ND ANNUAL SHORTBREAD LEMON AND RASPBERRY. COMMAND PERFORMANCE.

ENRIQUE'S SPECIAL TIRAMISU. THE BEST WE'VE EVER HAD.

JOSE'S MANTECADO (SPANISH CHRISTMAS COOKIES). THEY MELT IN YOUR MOUTH.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sparkly Lights and a Cat

I pity you, poor readers. There's another month to go on this holiday season and I've got so much more to share with you of Sevilla's decorations, festivities, and observances. If you hate the holidays, then just pretend I'm sharing lots of sparkly lights and interesting/unusual people and traditions. That's all I really mean to be sharing. You won't get any "good cheer," "good tidings," "peace on earth," or "good will towards men," from me. You should all have all that all year long. And sparkly lights, too, if they make you happy.

PLAZA DE LA ENCARNACIÓN, UNDER THE METROPOL PARASOL.

Anyway, I'll keep the holiday part of this post brief. Check out the brand new "tree of lights" set up beneath the Metropol Parasol at the Plaza de La Encarnación. The Metropol Parasol had only been open less than a year when Christmas 2011 came around. This year, there are rides for kids, the spectacular "tree," lots of candy, a charming holiday market with food and handiwork, and (as seen at the lower right in the below photo) artesan CHOCOLATE!

A FEW MINUTES FROM HOME AND A WORLD AWAY.

The Three Faces of Moose
Our cat Dudo gets a lot more air time than his brother Moose. I'd say it's because Dudo gets into more trouble, but that's not necessarily true. Moose plays innocent, but we regularly catch him at something he's not supposed to be doing. He stops the minute he realizes he's been caught out and then acts as if he's as surprised as we are. Moi? Dudo's reaction is more like, "You can't be serious!" One thing's for certain, Dudo is busier and gets distracted much more easily than Moose. So, this year, no Christmas trees and no sparkly lights at our house. They wouldn't survive an hour with "the boys." An example of the difference between Dudo and Moose can be witnessed in the series of Moose photos below. Dudo would have ended up right in my face tugging on the camera strap or licking my hand (until something else caught his attention). Not Moose.

"AW, MAN.  DID I JUST HEAR THAT DAMN CAMERA? AGAIN?" 
"I'M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE.."
"OH, NO WORRIES. I'M GOOD."
NOW, WHY DID I SUDDENLY MAKE MOOSE SOUND LIKE A SURFER DUDE?