Tuesday, April 3, 2007

madrid--day 1

March 16, 2007

Ah, el aeropuerto Barajas. Basically my second home when I lived here three years ago. Customs (which only involved getting our passports stamped) took no time at all, retrieving our bags only about 10 minutes. Then we waited outside about 45 minutes for the Hotel Atlantico bus. I put on a blindfold and posed like the pedestrian-crossing sign to humor myself. My dad made friends with a different bus driver while we were waiting for ours to show up. The man apparently said he hates our president, and I recalled my trip to Interlaken--the most peaceful place on Earth--and even there someone had spraypainted "KILL BUSH" on the wall of a building. If there's anything to look forward to politically-speaking, it's that Bush can no longer be re-elected, which is a blessing, seeing as he wasn't even elected in the first place. What a joke.

The ride into the city wasn't familiar because the only time I didn't take the Metro to/from the airport was the first day I arrived. And I was so jet lagged and overwhelmed at the time, I didn't take visual note of my surroundings.
Once we got into the city limits, though, and drove past el Parque Retiro and the Cibeles fountain and then down Gran Via, I felt like I had never left. My dad turned to me and asked in a mocking tone, "Did you learn any Spanish while you were here?" after I temporarily couldn't remember how to say "good morning" (buenos dias). I immediately became defensive and declared it preposterous that he would even ask that. In fact, I feel like as soon as I was once again immersed in the language, everything came rushing back to me.
Our room needed 40 minutes, so the concierge took our bags and directed us to the first floors (all ground floors in Spain are "0" not "1") to use the teléfono. We took the elevator one flight one flight up to call Sheri but got distracted by the complimentary breakfast. Desayuno ----> this way. When my mom and sister visited me they stayed in this same hotel, and I met them here every morning to take advantage of the free food.

My first cup of café con leche on 3 years! Amazing. The yogurt is better here. Freshly-squeezed orange juice doesn't cost extra. God, I love Spain. We filled our bellies (once again) until our room was ready. #414, right across the street from the same cine as the last time. It's a charming little room. We each have our own twin-sized bed, mine is up a step and in an alcove-type area. Love it.
I took about a three-hour nap, dozing in and out of real sleep. I woke up when I heard my parents talking about leaving to go to the tourist office at Plaza Mayor. They left. I took a long shower, and what a powerful one! I was just about to leave to walk around for a little bit when there was a knock at the door--Sheri! She said she had to go back to her place to call the restaurant to confirm our dinner reservation, so I went with her.
We passed la Plaza de España, where I used to sit by myself and read and once wrote a poem about pigeons on the back of a postcard...

For no reason an army of pigeons landed on Plaza de España
In rows they faced the fickle sun in a sleeping position--
heads held back, bodies inflated
When a gust of February wind intruded upon their siesta
They rotated in unison, a quarter turn
Resumed resting
Then one by one,
As though voices called them home
They took flight over the fountain

...and a travel agency I swore I'd been in before. She lives cerca del Parque del Oeste, though, which I'm pretty sure I never saw in the four months I lived here. The setup of her building's lobby--c/ Urquijo, 43--was similar to what mine had been. An old-time cage-looking elevator and an old doorman, named Juan, to match.
I understood most of what he said to my sister in his native tongue, except I thought he said "luna" (moon), when he actually said "lunes" (Monday). I kind of wish I hadn't so confidently replied because it ruined how poetic I thought he'd been. I thought he said, "The weather is going to change with the change of the moon (cambia a la luna), but in actuality he said "cambia a lunes" (change on Monday)...so when I said , "más frío mañana," they both looked at me strangely--
Sheri: No, Monday.
Juan: No, el lunes.

The elevator buttons lit up neon in a circular ring around the floor numbers. I commented how that was way more advanced, if not futuristic, than Maria's elevator buttons. The "apartment" she lives in is HUGE! I mean I guess it makes sense--2 parents, 4 kids, 1 dog. I met the 21-year-old sister, Fatima, and the 23-year-old brother, Yago. I had a hard time understanding both of them but did notice they were "atractivos" (I may have made up that word). I wanted the older brother, Eugenio (29), to be there, as he's all I ever hear about. No such luck. But of course their small black dog, Capri, took an instant liking to me and my lap. I succumbed to checking my e-mail--so much for giving up cell phones and computers for 10 days. Well, at least my phone doesn't work here.
Sheri gathered her change of clothes and we walked back to the hotel. Ran into one of her friends from her internship (at Club de Madrid) and her boyfriend on the street. I don't remember her name, but she seemed like a very happy person. Back at the hotel Sheri and the parents reunited, and we had about 15 minutes to get ready for dinner. Sheri wore a new dress, a silky thing that was probably meant to be a shirt. And no underwear. Ok, a thong doesn't count. This comes into play later.

We met Jordi, Alex, and Vicki beside the statue in front of the Palacio Real and walked from there to the flamenco place--Corral de la Moreria. We sat at a table for 8 (for the 7 of us) perpendicularly touching the front of the stage. We shared a pitcher of Sangria--ah, it's good to be back in Spain--and treated ourselves to fat American amounts of food. This confused our waitress (who's name, by the way, was Alina. Dad: Alyse meet Alina, Alina, Alyse.") because she kept telling us we were ordering too much.

The food was delicious--my favorite parts: my goat cheese salad and Sheri's dessert, which consisted of honey ice cream with chocolate dribbled on top. The flamenco dancers and singers danced and sang with an intensity you can't find in most performances. They leave you wanting to know what caused the pain behind their eyes and stomp the ground like the wooden floorboards killed their children. I remembered my señora, Maria Luisa, telling me that I would look "preciosa" in a flamenco dress. A giant bobby pin landed on my sister's empty dinner plate. Must have flown off one of the female dancers' heads. Then there was the one male dancer. He sweat so much that when he spun in circles the perspiration spiraled across our entire table, landing both on our desserts and our faces. Yummy.

We left during an intermission, as we were all getting pretty sleepy, the clock approaching midnight. As soon as we stepped outside the wind blew up Sheri's shirt/dress, causing her to inadvertently flash the sleazy Spanish men lingering around the front of the restaurant. I flew at her, my coat held open, and threw it over her shoulders, hugging her to me. "Next time, wear underwear," I advised.

We said goodbye to our dinner buddies, laughing about how it took coming to Madrid to meet up with our neighbors from back home. My family got in a cab, first dropping Sheri off at her apartment and then to the Hotel Atlantico for me and my parents.
I took some photos in the hotel bathroom because my dress looked like it was supposed to be part of the decor. Then I got ready for bed.

"Dad, can I use your floss?"
"Why not?"
"Well cause it starts and ends with my vitamins. 100 of each."
"Alyse," mom interjected, "just use it without asking him."

I decided against flossing, despite how gross my teeth felt. Before I fell asleep I thought about how there was no phone to set an alarm on and no last-minute e-mails to check...I could get used to this, I thought.

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