Sevilla 2008 Part XV-Writings

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Sevilla 2008   Part XV

Our Flamenco Journey Continues

Wednesday September 24, 2008
     We took some people to La Carboneria the other night. Entering was like coming home, except that home was different. A good change is that they have banned smoking in the small room and perhaps in the big room too. It didn’t reek of smoke and I could breathe!
     There is still Flamenco in both rooms, but the quality is much lower than it used to be. I remembered listening to Luis Agujeta and Carlos Heredia there. It was Flamenco heaven when we first arrived in 1999.
     But none of the people who work there now were there when we lived at the Carboneria. Not even Sergio, Paco’s youngest son was there. He had a brilliant photo exhibition hanging on the walls, though. There was no family to let Paco know we were there and that we wanted to visit. We left our cards with two different people, asking them to please tell Paco or at least forward the message to him that we had wanted to visit him.  We didn’t want to just barge in on him now, without asking first. So we didn’t get to see him.
     I felt like Paco was a captive in his own home. He was stuck upstairs with no one to check on him the whole time we were there. I think it would drive him crazy to spend so much time alone and isolated up there. He used to be such a social and Bohemian person. He almost always had company upstairs and the company was always interesting. His friends who stayed upstairs were usually musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors or writers. I have described the living quarters before and the steep stairs and trapdoor that leads up to them.
     Paco has dementia now, perhaps Alzheimer’s. But as I wrote last year, he was lucid when we visited then and knew us easily. He felt depressed to us at that time. He was very sad. We wonder how he is this year, after more time of this kind of abandoned solitude.
     I haven’t written for such a long time. I’ve just been too busy with classes and the Bienal.
To recap, the first show we saw for the Bienal was the Farruquito show. Then we had the fiasco with the Mujeres show. After that we saw Gabriel and his father’s (Jose de la Tomasa) show. Gabriel’s father presented him as a singer. The show was beautiful. Luisito (Luis Peña), Javi (Javier Heredia) and Fabi (Fabiola “Fabi” Herrera) were all in it too. Antonio Moya played beautiful music for Gabriel’s cante.
     Of course we went back stage to congratulate them. We realized that five of the seven performers had stayed at our house in California!

     We saw Pepa Montes’ show. We saw Angelita Vargas dance at Hotel Triana. She danced better than ever. We saw Sara Baras in Carmen. Her dancing, although modern and classical, was stunning. The way she moved her body and the way she used her feet was incredible. I felt like I was in the presence of a great artist. We had third row seats, which were very good. I had not expected to like her, but both Freddie and I loved her.
     We saw Esperanza Fernandez, whose show consisted of the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla (the Seville Symphony) playing El Amor Brujo by Falla, with Esperanza singing with them at the end. The classical music was a beautiful change but we missed Esperanza singing Flamenco with a guitar.
     Last night we saw Andres Marin’s experimental show. We liked it, probably because we know him and see him almost every day at Bar Algabeño or when we walk by his studio on Divina Pastora. That is the way I walk to Plaza Pelicano for classes. Andres’ style is unique and angular. He had a multitude of bells in his show. The feeling reminded me of the experimental theater of the early 1960’s.
     We got those tickets at the last minute. We went an hour before the show and a man was selling two tickets. They happened to be in the third row center of the Patio Butaca, which is almost the very best place to sit in Teatro Central. Only the first and second row of that section would be better. What incredible luck.
     I am still taking voice lessons two days a week with Alicia. Concha is now giving classes every day at five PM and I take them all, of course. Then almost every day I take a private styling class from Lakshmi. We work with Concha’s choreography.
      I am also taking mainly singing with some dancing from Juan once or twice a week. I don’t have time for Siesta or enough sleep with this schedule. I will be glad when the Bienal is over! We only have three more Bienal shows. But Lakshmi has two Peña shows that we will see. Tomorrow night we go to an exhibit of photos of her and then on to another Bienal photo exhibition where she will dance.




      The second group performed in the small room. The dancer was Kati, a beautiful blond from Finland who now lives in Spain and who is also a friend of Lakshmi’s and is taking Concha’s class. Ray and Brennan were enchanted with the show and Ray said that that is what he had wanted to see in Spain.
     The next day, Sunday, they walked over here, seeing much of Sevilla on the way. Each of them took a guitar lesson with Paco. Again they were ecstatic. Then they went off to a bullfight.
      Monday, their last day, they called and invited us to dinner. We had tickets for Esperanza’s Amor Brujo so we met them afterwards at Bar Modesto, a well-known and good restaurant in the Barrio Santa Cruz, where they were staying. Lakshmi and Miguel were sitting near us at the show, so they drove us over to Bar Modesto and joined us for dinner. We all had a wonderful time, which included Lakshmi dancing and Miguel singing upstairs in the restaurant where we were eating.
      When we left it was drizzling and we all headed for Miguel’s car, dancing and singing in the street as we went.
      That was the day and night that it rained. We took our raincoats. Today it was hot again!
Ray wrote to us today thanking us again. They had a wonderful time in Sevilla. We really like them and enjoyed their enthusiasm.
      And last night was the night we saw Andres Marin’s show. Tonight I will try to get to bed early, but now I am writing instead of sleeping.
      I am also constantly making DVDs of the classes we are taking. Freddie still takes almost daily classes with Paco and is improving continuously.
      Chris, our young guitar student friend from Santa Cruz, (but now he again lives in Los Angeles since he has graduated from UC Santa Cruz) has arrived and is living upstairs in one of Angel’s rooms. He will be here for nine months. Angel only wants Flamenco guitar students upstairs. Downstairs is for dancers and whomever else the rental agency fills it with. But Angel’s dream is to have only foreign Flamenco students living here.
      Enough for tonight; I do need to sleep.

Saturday September 27, 2008
      For weeks now, Freddie has been looking enviously at the many bicycles in Sevilla, saying, “I want one”. (See the photos in the Spain 2008 photo gallery: “Nina Arrives. Mica’s visit”, of Juan helping Freddie to sit on Lucy’s bike.)
      The other day I rented a “Sevici” bike from the extremely popular bike rental service that has started recently in Sevilla. (Bici, pronounced “bee see”, is the nickname for a bike here).   
      I used the bici to ride to Lakshmi’s house because I was wearing heels and didn’t feel like walking in them. That was the night we went to the photo exhibition and show. Freddie decided not to go, so I decided to ride the bike. You rent a bike in one location and drop it off in another. There is a drop-off point right by Lakshmi’s house. Luckily there was a space left in it to drop off the bike. If there are no empty spaces available you have to find another drop-off point. That can be inconvenient.
      I recently decided that I was tired of walking and the time it takes and that finally I was ready to join the many bike riders in Sevilla. Both Lucy and Angel ride everywhere, and for some reason I had been resisting riding. But suddenly I have gotten so busy that I am looking for ways to save time!
      We used to kid that Freddie needed a tricycle when we would see a little child peddling furiously along the street. Then I saw the adult three-wheeler, which was just what we had envisioned that Freddie needed. I hadn’t known that they made them.
      Yesterday Freddie bought the bike, a stable three-wheeler for adults.
      I discovered that they existed three days ago. While I was walking home from Concha’s class, I saw a man riding a beautiful silver three-wheel bicycle. His crutches were in a large basket on the back of the bike. I stopped him and asked him where he bought it, telling him that my husband used a cane and would love a bike like that. He told me that he bought it in a bike shop at the top of Calle Feria. Then he showed me how stable the bike was and pointed out that even with one leg he could ride it easily. I hadn’t noticed until then that he only had one leg!
      After I got home Freddie needed some things from the market so I left to go get them and walked to the top of Calle Feria to look for the bike shop, but I didn’t see it.
      The next day I asked Angel about it and he told me that it is the shop he uses and that it is actually near the top of Calle Feria, but on the upper side of the Alameda instead of Feria. I told him that perhaps there was one that we could rent. He said he would ride his bike up and see.
      When he returned he said that they don’t rent them but that we could probably sell it when we were ready to leave. The next day, yesterday, I went up with Angel to look at the bike. I rode it. Angel had already borrowed it while Freddie and I were eating breakfast and he had made sure that he could hang it from his bike rack in the hallway. We called Freddie to see if he wanted the silver one or the yellow one. The store also assured me that it would be easy to switch the gearshift to the left handle bar from the right, so Freddie could use it more easily. Freddie’s right hand is still weak from the stroke and he is left-handed anyway.
      Then, we decided that Freddie should actually come to try it out, so Angel took him at five o’clock. I was in Concha’s class so I couldn’t accompany them. Freddie and Angel rode their bikes home.
      I think this will be marvelous exercise for Freddie and help in his rehabilitation. Angel will actually keep the bike for us so Freddie will have it next year when, of course, we plan to return.
Angel also told us that we can store our things here as long as it is not indefinitely. We plan to stay here next year when we return, so that will be easy for all of us! I am relieved.
      We scheduled Freddie’s class with Paco for later today so we could use the bikes, but this morning it is pouring rain! This is very good for Sevilla, but I wish it would rain during the night instead of the day.
      At least it didn’t rain last night, as we were at an outside Bienal show at Hotel Triana. We saw Juan de Juan, a dancer whom we used to like a lot. He is a good technician, but neither of us liked his present style. The show was a fusion of Jazz and Flamenco and the music wasn’t bad. But we were bored and disappointed in the dancing.
      The night before I had seen Lakshmi dance with Oscar de los Reyes at a Bienal photographic exhibition. Lakshmi danced beautifully. Oscar is a good dancer, but I found myself yawning and bored during his performance. I kept comparing him to Pepe Torres (Son de la Frontera). Oscar doesn’t have the “arte” that both Pepe and Lakshmi have.
      Today is September 27. We have only one more month here. I don’t want to leave! Freddie says he is ready, but he just got his bike so we will see.
      Tomorrow night we see Son de la Frontera, and a week later we see Concha’s show at the Maestranza. That is the end of the Bienal.
      Tuesday night Lakshmi performs in the Peñas de Guardia series, at a Peña in Triana. She has one other date at another Peña too before we leave. Lakshmi also danced at the Club Arenal last night. We were going to see her but the eight PM show was already sold out and we had to get to Hotel Triana by ten to get a good seat for the show at eleven, so we couldn’t attend the second Arenal show. We will try to go the next time she dances there. Wednesday night Paco performs with his band at Club Sala Malandar. Of course we will go to see him there.
So we are still busy!

      In the last few days I have realized that my Spanish comprehension has greatly improved. I noticed one day that I understood other people’s conversations. I can understand much better at a normal Sevillano speaking speed than ever before. Alicia always speaks quickly in cante class and now I understand what she says. This improvement is exciting.

      I had a great cante/baile class with Juan tonight. Freddie played too, with Juan. Freddie was impressed with my voice. He said, “Baby! It’s getting better!” Juan said that I will like what I hear in the recording of tonight’s class. I think my voice control work with Alicia must be paying off! I was thinking a lot about breath, breathing and not straining tonight during class. I think these two teachers are a good combination for me.
      My voice has gained a range too. At first I could only sing Soleá on two por arriba, which is not very high. Then I moved up to three. And tonight I was up to four! I am amazed. (The numbers refer to which fret on the guitar the cejia (capo) is placed. Por arriba refers to the key.) Of course Juan and Freddie want to get me much higher.
      I also had my Lakshmi class today. I work very hard in her classes, trying to change ugly old habits. I am improving, but I am taking tomorrow off to just rest and so is Freddie.
      Tonight I made plane reservations to Cihtli and Ethan’s Mexico wedding in December. I feel better. I have emailed about hotel reservations as well. At least the travel arrangements are now booked.
      Another thing I have noticed recently is that I finally am feeling comfortable saying dame (give me, pronounced dah-may) instead of quiero (I want). It used to feel rude to me to just say, “give me”, but here it is considered wrong to say, “I want”. I had to force myself self to say dame at first and now it is coming.
      Mario Maya, the renowned Flamenco dancer, died of cancer today at dawn. Juan told us and then we read it in the paper. He was only seventy-two. Another great has passed on.
      I remember when I was in Sevilla in 1980. I went to Mario Maya’s show Ay Jondo with Ansonini and Evalina. I might have an ancient tape recording of it somewhere, with Ansonini shouting his jaleo (like Bravo) from the audience. It was fabulous and I still refer to images from that show. It was about the persecution and survival of the Gypsies. At one point Mario Maya is dragged and thrown on the ground. Then, after a short silence, he begins to tap the compás with his fingers, on the floor. The rhythm builds and finally he rises, dancing. The rhythm and music have given him strength, hope, joy and freedom. I will never forget that.
      Concha Vargas danced with Mario in the show he did before that one, Camelamos Naquerar (1976). A clip of that show is in the video anthology Rito y Geografía del Baile.

Sunday September 28, 2008
      I read in the paper that Paul Newman also died and died of cancer too.
It is raining hard here -yesterday and today. I am so excited about Freddie’s new bike, but we couldn't go biking in the rain!
    I am not at all ready to go home, but Freddie is. I was starting to understand more and more Spanish at a normal talking speed. Then all of a sudden my comprehension went back down again. There are times when I can’t understand the conversations around me and that is frustrating. But sometimes I can.
      I am thinking about packing, with today less than a month left. How time does fly. Freddie's hip is a little better, but not enough. But he is much better than before. And his speech is still improving too.

      Last night Lakshmi and I saw Son de la Frontera. They were fantastic. Freddie had decided not to go, so Lakshmi and I walked to the theater and later we walked home. It was fun. Son presented new material, which will be recorded on their new album soon.

Monday September 29, 2008
      When I see the old people greet each other from my seat here outside at Bar Algabeño, I think about how long they have known each other, maybe since childhood. This neighborhood is like a family community. People walk by and say Buen Proveche to us and to each other, which is what you say to people when they are eating, like “Bon apatite”. Many people we only know by sight now say hello to us.
      I hear the older people asking each other about mothers who died long ago and children and grandchildren. Many of these people have lived in this neighborhood all their lives. They have known each other as children, young adults, middle-aged adults, and now aging adults who walk with canes and watch life pass by them in the streets.

Thursday October 2, 2008

      Tuesday night we went to see Lakshmi dance at the Peña at eleven PM. Our friend Susana went with us. We got there early and the place was already filled with people. Luckily Lakshmi had saved three seats for us up in front.
Angel and Chris rode their bikes there and arrived exactly at eleven and could not get seats. They could not see very well from where they were standing in the back, so Angel, who was tired, left for home.
      As usual Lakshmi was fabulous, although her musicians did not do her justice. She did a Siguiriyas in pants that was beautiful. She also did a Soleá and Alegrías. Of course we got home very late.
      I was exhausted for my cante class the next morning. I had to sleep during the day. That night, Wednesday, we went to see Paco’s show, which started at eleven-thirty. He had promised me more Flamenco Puro and he kept his word. Although he performed with his band and did some of his fusion, he also brought David “El Galli” from Morón. David is a good friend of his, which we hadn’t known. David sang and did palmas. He often sits in with Son de la Frontera as their guest artist. He has been with them every time we have seen Son in Spain. He is also part of Pepe Torres’ group. It was a pleasure to hear both David and Paco sing. And the Flamenco was wonderful.
      Of course we got home late again and I had to get up early for a massage. Our masseuses, Alicia and Perla, are going home to Argentina for a month to visit friends and family. We will not see them again this trip. Freddie was lucky; he got to have his massage at three-thirty. He rode his bike there.
      Tuesday after the weather cleared up Freddie and I went bike riding on the Alameda. I used Angel’s daughter’s bike. We also rode to the bike store yesterday to get a bell for him and to have his seat adjusted. He is getting stronger on it.
      And my bike riding has come back after forty years of not riding a bicycle!
      Tuesday Freddie rode his bike to Concha’s class while Chris and I walked beside him. Chris has been sitting in on Concha’s classes to learn how to play guitar for them. Freddie played cajon (“cah hone”, a drum shaped like a box that you sit on to play). Freddie had a big smile on his face as he rode to and from class. I could tell that he loved being part of this Flamenco student community in Sevilla. He has a lot more independence that he did with the electric wheelchair.
      Chris is very good with computers so I have had him transfer the photos that you could only see with Safari to our other website. Pretty soon you will be able to see all the albums on one site. Just click the Photo Gallery link on the left our webpage. Then go to Spain 2008 and then pick your album. I am so glad that I found someone I can trust to do this type of geek grunt work.
      Wednesday our friend Susana visited and brought some incredible black and white photos she had taken of Freddie last year. She is a true artist. We met her in 1999 and have been friends every since. She is a beautiful and exotic longhaired Gypsy. Although she lived in Germany for a while, she is not a German Gypsy as I had once been told. She is canastera from her grandma's side and kalderash from her grandpa's side. Susana lives in Spain with her son and her Gypsy husband   Paco, whom Freddie calls his brother. They love each other. I have written more about Susana in other years. They are both authentic Bohemian artists.
      Later that day, Juan, Nina and two friends, Paquita and Ignacio visited us. Paquita saw the photos that Susana had taken and was amazed at the quality of her art. She will call Susana and perhaps buy some of her photos.
      Juan had me sing for them –Alegrías and Soleá. They liked it! He also made me dance! I am now singing without having to look at the words.
      It is late again and I am going to bed.

Friday October 3, 2008

      Angel’s daughter didn’t like the other bike she was riding so she is now using her own again, which is lighter and smaller. She rides it to school and has to lift it. The other bike is very heavy.
This morning Angel wanted to take us to see the romantic bike trail along the river but the little bike was gone. So I tried the other bike, which felt too big to ride when I tried it the other day. But since I had practiced with Margarita’s bike, I regained my “bike legs”.
      So today I was able to ride the big bike. It is actually much better than Margarita’s bike, but I can barely climb over the center bar. Freddie rode his three-wheeler and Angel rode his bike and we all went to the river and rode along the bike path there to the Plaza de Armas. From there we came back up to the Avenue and rode back along that bike path on our way home. Angel was amazed at how strong Freddie was. Half way through the ride we adjusted Freddie’s seat higher and then he was able to ride much faster. Before he was way to low and his legs didn’t stretch enough. Angel also told him to change gears. The bike has five gears. That helped too. Freddie had never ridden bikes very much before now and not at all for fifty-five years. He absolutely loves riding his bike in Sevilla. I still have to take photos of him riding.
      Instead of parking at home, we all continued on to Bar Algabeño where we had a date to meet Daniela (the Italian photographer whose Bienal exhibit of photos of Lakshmi I had attended). Daniela has also been to the house several times. The first time she came she took photos of Lakshmi rehearsing.
      Lakshmi was also at the Bar waiting for us. We all ate. Then Paco joined us and then he and Freddie came home to have a class.
Angel had to leave to go to Granada for the weekend. He left Margarita’s bike for me to use while they are away
      Daniela came over to copy a DVD of her many photos for Lakshmi. She is going home to Italy on Saturday for at least a month. She will send me some of her wonderful photos to post on our web site. They are for sale. And they are beautiful.
      I rode Margarita’s bici (bike) to Concha’s class today, but I put so much weight in the make-shift basket that I put on the front, that it was very unstable, especially on the very bumpy cobblestones. When I got home, Chris lifted the basket off of it, which had my dance bag and Freddie’s heavy bicycle lock inside it. He thought the basket weighed as much as the bike! The bike is an aluminum fold up bike and is very small and light. My shoulders were tight from keeping the bike upright with all that weight on the handlebars.
      When Chris and I returned from Concha’s class with our bikes, Freddie asked me if I would go bike riding with him. I told him I couldn’t, because Lakshmi was coming and we were having a class in a few minutes. Then I looked at Chris and asked him if he wanted to go with Freddie.
      Chris said yes, so they both took off for the Alameda and were gone more than an hour. They went to the bike shop where Freddie had his bike bell repaired and bought some comfortable add-ons for his handlebars. Then they rode all round the Alameda and went for some drinks. Freddie was thrilled. He loves his new bike.
      Tonight he is enthusiastically watching the DVD I made of today’s Paco class. Paco is really a genius at inventing exercises for Freddie’s rehabilitation. Freddie is improving in everything so quickly.
      His speech is improving, as are his level of exercise and his guitar. People ask if he is seeing a specialist here, but he is not. Spain just seems to be good for him. Since getting his bike he also does not want to go home!
      As we were riding bikes around the Alameda yesterday, I was circling one set of the Pillars of Hercules. They are the pairs of ancient stone pillars on each end of the Alameda. I was awed by their antiquity and the juxtaposition of casually riding bikes around them.   They are museum pieces in their historical site. And we get to see them.


Photo of Freddie 1975 just sent to us by Charles Berger, who took the photo.
This is how Freddie looked when we met!
Freddie 1975 photo by Charles Berger
A note on the photos: some people have been having trouble seeing the older photos. Unfortunately, Apple made it difficult and I have been using their iWeb to post the photos. So, now you must download Safari, which is free, and it will work; you will be able to see the photos!
     However, I am now putting the newer photos on the Photo Gallery on our website in the Spain 2008 Album (see Photo Gallery on the left hand main menu). You can access this with any browser. But I haven’t transferred all of them, so you will still need Safari to see the older photos. I like the formatting much better in the iWeb but if you can’t see them, it doesn’t matter!

End of part XV

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