Sevilla 2008 Part I Our Flamenco Journey Continues


Sevilla 2008

Our Flamenco Journey Continues

Sunday May 4, 2008
We arrived in our beautiful Sevilla exhausted, in the afternoon on Wednesday after leaving Santa Cruz at 2:30 AM Tuesday morning with only two hours of sleep. During the two-hour wait in Madrid I plugged in my Spanish cell phone and left a message for Cihtli, who had written asking if we wanted her to meet us at the airport in Sevilla. We hadn’t heard from her since I had answered her e-mail so I wanted to know if we should wait for her there.
For the first time in our travels in Spain one of our suitcases did not arrive in Sevilla. This time we had taken five suitcases. We filled them full of supplements for six months! While we were waiting for the luggage we received several text messages from Cihtli saying she was waiting and waiting for the bus and finally that it had come and she was on her way. Text messages are much cheaper than phone calls here, and people use them a lot.
As we finally got the four bags that had arrived, two carry-ons, one guitar and Freddie’s breathing machine to the taxi pick up, we received another text from Cihtli saying she had just passed us in the bus and would be there momentarily.
And then she was there, her tanned, trim dancer’s body in a long flowing skirt and a sleeveless blouse. The spring weather was warm and pleasant. We took two taxis to Calle Molino, Cihtli riding with Freddie in the first one. Freddie still can’t speak too well since his stroke, and his Spanish is even harder to access than his English, so I was glad to have someone ride with him. Taxi drivers don’t seem to know where Calle Molino is, but Cihtli was directing, so we arrived easily at the small green door of #9. Calle Molino is just a short cobblestone street two blocks from Calle Feria towards the Alameda de Hercules. We are very near the big old-fashioned open market next to the church on Calle Feria. 
On arriving, we met Angel, our landlord, a gentle man who is a friend of Juan and Lucy’s. He telephoned Juan for us and Juan, who lives less than five minutes away, came over immediately. Lucy, Juan’s English wife, was away visiting her parents. Lucy and Juan had stayed with us in Santa Cruz this year for almost two months while Juan taught Flamenco at the University. 
After getting settled we all went out to lunch and then to Bar Hercules where Ethan, Cihtli’s fiancé, joined us. Ethan, a fine guitarist and an organizer of big Flamenco shows, which he brings to the US, is now teaching English at a school and had to hurry back to class. They are going away for Ethan’s 30th birthday and we won’t see them again until Monday. Cihtli and Ethan are both Americans who have been living and working in Spain for many years. 
We have many friends here, American, Spanish Gypsy, and English, most of whom have more than once stayed at our home in Santa Cruz when they have been on tour in the United States. Our dream of having Spain come to us when we got too old to travel has happened, but luckily we’re not too old to travel yet! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Jet lag seems to have hit. I’m tired and Freddie has been sleeping a lot. Last night we went to a super store, Carrefour, with Paco Fernández, his wife Pili (Pilar) and their nine-year-old daughter Soleá to look for a printer. We found a wonderful cheap one but they were out of stock. Carrefour is celebrating an anniversary and they have incredible deals right now. 
It is different knowing that we will be here for ½ a year, which sounds longer than the six months that it is. For that, we have been investing in more things than we would have for just two or three months here.
We love being near the big open market, el Mercado. It is fun and easy to grocery shop and much better than the MAS supermarket we used last year in a different neighborhood. 
This neighborhood is old and funky. The streets are not as clean and the stores and buildings are run down. On the other hand, there are few tourists and it feels more “authentic”.
Yesterday I walked to Corte Ingles to buy Freddie some distilled water for his breathing machine. It took me less than 15 minutes, walking fast. I am remembering my directions better than any year before. I feel very much at home.
Last Friday I walked all the way to Triana, which amazes most people. It took me a little over half an hour to get to Concha’s studio, where we had stored most of our things, including our worn, red shopping cart, which we had bought in 2000. I walked very fast and ended up taking a little bit longer way by mistake. But I found it. Of course I had to take a taxi back to carry our several boxes, the cart and our tripod. 
It was fun watching Concha’s Romance Bulerías class. Concha’s family, Carmen, Curro, Rafael, Frasqui and Carlos, showed up because Carmen had a singing job later that evening and Curro was going to play guitar for it. We have known Concha and Rafael’s youngest child, Carmen, since she was eight years old and now she is seventeen and beautiful, with smooth brown skin and curly black hair and an exotic round face. Curro, the middle son, is now twenty and tall, bearded and handsome. His guitar playing is wonderful. I remember when he was learning to play for Concha’s classes when she taught in her studio at La Carboneria. Then he was a gangly, awkward teenager. Now I see this new generation of artists emerging. It was also nice to see Frasqui, Concha’s sister-in-law whom we met when her husband, Concha’s beloved brother, died. (See 2001 writings for more details). 
On Thursday, the day after we arrived, I walked to Lakshmi’s apartment to pick up some things we had lent to Lakshmi when we left last year. I met Claire, who is subletting the apartment. Claire is a young American dancer from Los Angeles. She helped me carry my Brita water filter (one of our most precious possessions!), a flimsy square table I use for the computer, a mirror and two small shelves. Each year we buy more household belongings. I saw Claire again at Concha’s class when I went to pick up our other stored things. She is a good and strong dancer. 
Lucy is back from visiting her parents and she and Juan visited yesterday. Cihtli and Ethan are also back and I saw them at Café Hercules, around the block from us. 
Saturday we went to the Chinese store (much cheaper than Spanish stores and full of household goods). We bought some shelves for the bathroom and kitchen and are organizing our house.
We had the computer set up beautifully in the sunny living room but the internet wouldn’t reach through the walls. We hired our friend Silvio (from Malta) to help set it up and he recommended two fifty-euro devices to let the signal go through the walls. However, during a nap on Sunday I looked up and realized that I might be able to get the signal if I moved the computer into the dance room. And lo and behold, I did. So I have moved my computer set up into my dance room. A dance room– how lucky I am. Angel has built me a small wooden stage and hopefully I will get mirrors next week. The room is dark, but fairly large, with some wardrobes and a chair. I have put our suitcases there and am almost done unpacking. Bit by bit we are fixing things up.

Friday May 9, 2008
I’ve been meaning to write for days. Even “doing nothing” can be time consuming.
The other night, fairly late, we were walking down Calle Feria on the way to a small restaurant. As we past the very popular and crowded Bar Ambigu, I decided to run in and check on the wait time there. For once the wait for an outside table was short so we stopped and waited. 
As we ate outside at a square metal table on sidewalk, I was struck by how empty, dark and deteriorated the streets looked. It is so unlike the Spain I am used to. We have always lived in more touristy neighborhoods where the streets are lively late into the night. Here it felt quiet and almost deserted, except for other diners and a few people walking by. The stores were closed, of course, but there were no ice cream shops or other late night bars to attract a crowd. Probably farther up on the Alameda de Hercules, which now caters to young people, there must have been life, but here it actually felt depressing.
However, the next day we discovered that it was the beginning of Rocio, the famous religious pilgrimage to the little town of Rocio. This may have accounted for a few less people being out at night. When we were here in 1999 we took part in some of the Rocio festivities (photos and writing of that on our website 1999 Chronicles). In the morning very early there is a big mass at an old church and then all the brightly decorated covered wagons pulled by oxen or tractors, along with people on horseback and people on foot start out from all parts of southern Spain on the journey to Rocio. People dress up in Feria type outfits and drink and dance and eat their way to Rocio. 
This year we were having coffee with Lucy at Bar Alegría next to El Mercado when we ran into Carlos Robles in his Rocio outfit hurrying towards Calle Feria. Carlos, a Flamenco dancer, came to visit us in California with Luis Agujetas in 1998. The empty streets of the night before were now bustling with people, many in their beautiful Rocio outfits looking like history come back to life. The women in long ruffled skirts of bright colors and patterns and men in pinstriped pants, short jackets and flat broad rimmed hats, large gold Rocio medallions hanging from their necks, filled the streets. Luckily I had brought my camera and now some of the photos are on our website.
Later Pilar drove me back to Carrefour in her tiny yellow car, to see if the printer was back in stock. They were still waiting for that printer to arrive, but I bought two frying pans and a very cheap computer table to hold the printer. Along with Soleá, Pilar’s mother and me, we stuffed the table, which came in a large flat box, into the car. Freddie spent two days assembling it and now I can type more comfortably. The printer, when it finally arrives, will actually go on my old table.
The next evening Pilar took us to Triana to her father Andres’ guitar shop. Paco had to join us coming by motorcycle, because Pili’s car was full with Freddie and me, Pili’s mother Josefina, and Soleá. Freddie had brought his beautiful inlayed guitar back to Spain specifically to have it repaired. Freddie had bought it in 2003 from Andres, who had made it. 
Next, we all went to Concha’s studio because Soleá’s communion will take place there on the 18th. (Concha is Paco’s aunt). They wanted to figure out what they would need for the party. Later we went out for tapas at a little bar near Concha’s studio. 
Shortly after we first arrived, Freddie and I walked to the top of Calle Feria and back. That was more walking than Freddie had done since he broke his pelvis in 2003. The next day he was so sore and tired that at one point on another walk I had to run back and bring his wheel chair. After that he rested for days. The night we went to Triana he walked up to the end of Calle Feria again and Pilar picked us up from there. It was tiring for Freddie but later he felt better.
Last night Cihtli picked us up (by foot) to watch a movie at their house. She had called earlier, but my phone had died which I hadn’t realized, so she couldn’t reach us. We walked with her all the way to her house near Plaza Pelicano. Freddie did amazingly. And he made it up the several flights of steep stairs to their attic apartment. Then later that night we walked home at 2:30 in the morning. This is Freddie’s newest record. I am blown away with happiness. 
In the mornings we walk to el Mercado to grocery shop and to have fresh squeezed orange juice at a bar, and sometimes coffee and tostadas and thin sliced jamon (“ham-own” – Spanish cured ham). 
One day Juan took us to another little bar, more out of the way, behind el Mercado. It caters almost exclusively to locals and we have now been going there, Bar Algabeño. I have put those photos on the web too. We have also started making coffee and breakfast at home. But we still go out for the marvelous fresh orange juice that they serve here. And today I ate little snails called cabrillos, which are now in season. 
Sometime this last week we have also eaten at the Alameda, three or four blocks up from our house. As I mentioned, it is filled with young people and has lots of open cafes and bars. The young people often look like Halloween caricatures with funny colored hair, odd piercings, black leather and low pants. It is noisy and not my favorite part of Spain. But things do stay open late there. 
I haven’t felt much like dancing yet. I am still nesting, settling in and recovering from jet lag. Our landlord Angel should be returning today or tomorrow and then we can work on putting a house phone down here and fixing a few things, like the dryer. 
Tonight we are going to a concert where Miguel Funi and Juan del Gastor will perform. Juan has been practicing diligently all week to prepare for it. 
I have been taking extra walks while Freddie sleeps, and I love the exercise of walking, as well as revisiting Sevilla. Things seem closer this year or I am stronger. I know my sprained ankle has healed, although I can still feel a slight achy ness as I walk. My Spanish seems to have improved as well, probably from having so many Spanish visitors this last year. 
I sure haven’t covered everything, for example, tapas near the Alameda with Cristina and Pola. Pola lived with us at la Carboneria and we still laugh over many funny experiences we shared during those times. Pola and Cristina visited us in California over a year ago, before they returned to Spain. 
When we arrived here the weather was warm and got hotter. Now today it is thundering and raining. People thought summer had come early, but this is spring. A few days ago we heard the common refrain of “que calor” (–pronounced cah-lore– what heat!). Now we hear “que frio” (what cold!). 

Saturday May 10, 2008
Last night I knew again why we are in Spain. We went by taxi through the cold rainy night to hear Juan del Gastor perform with Miguel Funi in a sparsely publicized show put on by the University Peña circuit. It was a celebration of the centennial of Diego del Gastor’s birth. Diego, Juan’s uncle, was a legendary Gypsy Flamenco guitarist who lived in Moron de la Frontera (Andalucia, southern Spain). Many Americans and other foreigners flocked to Moron, Utrera and Lebrija in the 60’s and 70’s to study Flamenco with Diego and to immerse themselves in the Flamenco that gathered around Diego. His influence on Flamenco worldwide put Moron on the map. And each year there are fewer people left who actually knew him. This year, especially this July, there will be many events honoring the one hundred years since Diego’s birth. 
Freddie and I sat in the front row and enjoyed a phenomenally great concert. First Funi and Juan talked about Diego and their experiences with him when they were young. Then they started to perform. Funi, his black wavy hair just starting to turn gray, sang and danced. At almost seventy, his voice is still strong and vibrant. Both Funi and Juan were “on” and several times I was so moved that tears were streaming down my cheeks. 
We had shared the taxi going there with Cihtli and Ethan. Other friends of ours were there too, including Diana/Francesca and Toshi (from Flamencarte), Jill Snow (American widow of Pedro Bacan), Madeline (dancer from New York who lives in both cities), Cristina, Silvio, Ludo and Mila (good friends of Juan’s whom we met last year) and of course Lucy. 
Afterwards many of us walked to a nearby Bar for tapas and when that started closing, the Flamenco die-hards caravanned in people’s cars to another bar in a remote and distant place in Sevilla. Some of the cars got lost but finally everyone gathered there. The bar staff/owners were friends of Funi’s, and the bar was in the process of closing, but I think they knew we were coming. We all piled inside the bar and they shut the metal closing door and we began to party. They started bringing dishes and more dishes of delicious looking food to the table. 
While we had been waiting for the last cars to arrive, Freddie and I had realized how tired we were and that we were fighting colds. We decided to take care of ourselves and to leave, as we had been out so late the night before. Cihtli helped us call a taxi and explain to the driver where we were and to go around to the back of the bar because the front was closed. 
By the time the taxi arrived we are all sitting in a circle and Funi was singing and Juan was playing guitar. They were continuing the very inspired Flamenco that had started during the show. The Fiesta had just started and Freddie and I left! I can’t believe we did that. We walked out on a Fiesta that probably turned out to be legendary. We chose health over Flamenco, a first for sure. If we weren’t still jet lagged I’m sure our choice would have been different. We arrived home after three-thirty AM and were in bed by four. I imagine the Fiesta went on until dawn or longer. We will find out later today. I slept until noon.
Our apartment is quiet. Our living room and kitchen (one long room) faces the street and has light streaming in from the windows. Our small, dark bedroom is farther in and is shielded from most of the noise, although we do hear the church bells count the hours. The room farthest away from the street is the dance and computer room, once a second bedroom. It is also dark, but when the mirrors arrive it should open up. Juan gave us a poster last night commemorating the show and the Diego Centennial. We will put it up in the dance room. We have been in Sevilla a week- and-a-half and our six-month stay is off to a good start.

Saturday May 10, 2008
Cristina, another American from New York, is a mixture of Mexican, Spanish and Lebanese. She got together with Pola when he was working in New York singing Flamenco. She now lives here in Sevilla. She visited us this morning and shared some incredible insights on the history of Sevilla. Although she was a political science major in college, she loves history and so she goes to the library and researches things. For example, she just explained to me that the four pillars, which adorn each end of La Alameda, were brought from a Roman palace by Julius Cesar. Julius Cesar and Hercules supposedly founded Sevilla, which was called Hispalis. There are three more of these columns in Barrio Santa Cruz, another neighborhood of Sevilla where Freddie and I used to live. They were unearthed during construction for new apartments.
During the 1800s La Alameda was full of Flamenco and was the birthplace of many well known Flamenco artists. It was also a neighborhood filled with prostitution and drug addicts for many years. Now it is “cleaned up”. 

We went out for coffee after Cristina left. A warm wind was blowing and the clouds had half cleared. It was hard to find a free table at the bars around el Mercado. I hadn’t expected a Saturday afternoon to be so crowded, but it was. As we drank our fresh squeezed orange juice the weather got hotter and I peeled off several layers. 
We talked to Lucy by phone. She told us that the fiesta hadn’t stopped until six AM, but that we hadn’t missed that much. She had been cold for much of the night. So we made the right decision by leaving. 
Lucy went to Toshi’s Pilates class at 10:30 the next morning and was about to take a nap. Juan is playing with Son de Frontera in Moron tonight, but the show has been sold out for weeks before we even came, so we won’t be going. So tonight I will meet Francesca Diana and her mother Delia. Freddie was supposed to go too, but he is not up to it. He was watching TV and found a program about Fernanda de Utrera, a great Flamenco singer who died recently. Spanish TV has a lot to offer. I watched the second part with him and then took a little nap. He has practiced his guitar for the last hour. That makes me ecstatic. I love to hear him play, even now. He is working on his right hand, which lost so much from his stroke. 
Last night I recorded snippets of Funi singing on my Spanish cell phone. Today I used one of those as a new ring tone.


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