Friday, April 20, 2007

Castles in Spain

Algunos de vosotros puede recordar que mi familia vivio en Espana por un tiempo largo, y anos demasiado pasado...

Some time tomorrow, Mom and Dad will set sail on a Trans-Atlantic cruise from Tampa with ultimate destination in Barcelona, Spain. I know for certain they have ports of call in Portugal and Morocco along the way. Upon reaching Barcelona, they'll head out on their own and explore Spain in a way they probably couldn't 30 years ago, with four pre-teen/teen daughters along in a '64 Chevrolet. They'll wrap it up with 10 days in or around Madrid and I'm certain they will spend some time in Alacala de Henares where our family lived for most of our treasured years there. In all, their trip will be about 30 days long.
I dug around google images for photos of my fondly remembered Alcala and happened upon these (I acknowledge and thank their owners for their display here. Please don't sue me, I'm just a nostalgic girl). This photo of the theater (cine dore) may well be the restored theater where my sisters and I would often go see really terribly done Spanish cinema for practically no money at all. It was in a very narrow street near a shoe store where my friend's parents used to buy her Gorilla (that was the brand) shoes 'cuz she was a tough girl, hard on her shoes. As a sidenote, Mandy was the 9-year old version my cBFF A.---except I don't think A. is hard on her shoes. I think we also bought some blue suede boots there for me. Can you imagine being a 9 or 13 year old American kid in the early/mid-70's, allowed to explore a city like this, mostly at will and on your own? Its true. I remember walking for miles to get places I wanted to, seeing the most amazing things. An old city---the US just doesn't have any like these.

This photo, as well as the on at the top of this post, are of the Plaza Mayor, also called Cervantes Plaza, in Alacala. Like many European countries, Spain has a rich community tradition of casual gathering in city-squares. You can get drinks from the bars surrounding it, they probably even provide table service in the plaza... foggy memories of an inattentive kid. But summer evenings, this square would be full of people, parents talking, drinking, kids playing and shrieking, colored with red geraniums, green foilage. It was a beautiful place to grow up. The father of our closest family friends at one time worked in the bar across the street for la Plaza Mayor, situated so as to allow the view you see above. We were allowed to walk down there in the mornings (in Spain, bars are open all day and serve more than alcohol), have some hot chocolate, tortilla and/or churros. And Manuel would somehow override the switches on the pinball machines so we could play them endlessly.

In my looking around for familiar images for this post, I found images by an artist who calls Alcala home now (he's from Colombia). I loved his cariacatures, they are quite amusing and well done. This one is Jose Saramago... check him out. There are a number of really good ones.

I'm really happy for Mom and Dad. You guys have a great time, kick up your heels on Memory Lane, drink some great sangria, come unas papas y chuletas---un fuente de ensalada. I hope you'll send pictures from the adventure so we can follow along.

Tunes for the time...

Oh, the confusion of a not-quite-nine year old in a whole new world. I was a 3rd grader who knew my synonyms though, that's for sure. Shortly after we'd moved into our apartment in Alcala, Mom and Dad made a brief evening escape (their first in probably a couple months) to the corner bar for a cocktail. The three of us girls were left home with strict instructions to not open the door and for god's sake don't plug anything in until we get the right converters for them.

Well, that's seemed reasonable enough, right? We could amuse ourselves in the new place, our stuff was all there but mostly not yet unpacked. But sure, we could have some fun. "You know", I thought, "I don't know why Mom is going on and on about needing converters---we've got adapters! And with the adapters, we can plug in our record player/radio (much like the one you see here) into those strange European plugs with round prongs instead of our flat-blade ones". "Pheh!," I said to myself; "converters, adapters, tomatoes, to MAH toes. We'll just get this party started! Our records aren't unpacked (all 3 of them) but we can tune in the Armed Forces radio station."

There we were, dancing ecstatically and a bit smugly. So it is, my friends and family, that every time I hear "Crocodile Rock", I think of Alcala, and the smell of ozone, and our record player/radio being fried on the 220 voltage running through our new world...adapted---but not converted.
"Crocodile Rock" -- Elton John, 1972

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