Monday, September 22, 2008
Sketches of Spain
Ten thousand people on the street at midnight. Street culture: tapas, raciones, jamon Serrano. Madrid once again. I pay 10 euros and watch a Mestizo barkeep build me a sangria. Recipe: Start with an empty cognac glass; add two tablespoons of sugar; then three fingers of Rioja wine; stir wildly in circles; add a finger of lemonade soda and another of orange soda; splash of Lemoncello or a white liqueur I can't make out; splash of cognac; handful of ice cubes; level off with more Rioja. The tint must match the wine-red sandstone of old cathedrals. Onward to the Museo Chilocote Bar, where Orson Welles and Salvador Dali hung out with Sinatra. Dali, in fact, grew up with the poet Garcia Lorca. Then Lorca went on to explain passion to us in whirling flamenco poetics... he was shot and thrown into a common ditch. Poetry is a hard way to go. Ask Leonard Cohen. Ate Paella at La Barraca on Reina Street, watching Japanese tourists take photos of lobster pies. Another meal at Casa Botin where the echoes of muleteer's carts rattle through the brick caverns. Can't forget the paella at La Barraca. I've learned to make it myself, you know. It's an exercise in alchemy and luck. It involves the exorcism of the Spanish soil; a ration of the right herbs and rice and saffron, a good white Rioja and deep song, conte hondo, wailing off the hi-fi player. Maybe the voice of "Aguates," the singing blacksmith who gargles with the kerosene of lost love. But you too can build your own paella! Go to www.thespanishtable.com and order up a paella pan, rice and some "pembrella" herbs. They usually throw in a recipe sheet. Impress your wife or girlfriend. Grandmother; husband; lover. Wail! Listen to "Camaron de la Isla," the flamenco junkie, who sings like a raw nerve inside the heart. Read Lorca's poem on the death of Sanchez Mejias when you've finished. "At exactly five in the afternoon!" Then walk backwards down the Gran Via in a dream and remember all the hookers from Ghana and the Chinese men who sell warm beer from cardboard boxes and Watusi's hawking bootleg Madonna DVDS. The Caterwauling white nights of Madrid. Sketches of Spain.