Writings from Sevilla, 2007 Part 2

More photos (of events described here) have been uploaded HERE (or will be soon).   We have also revised some of the other albums, so take a look.

I’m losing track of time again. Last night Cihtli and Ethan visited. Soon Ethan will have an incredible CD for sale with Miguel Funi singing and also a video section of them both, with Funi both singing and dancing. Pasarela Records, a big Flamenco label here, is putting it out. We got to hear parts of it last night. It is definitely a “must have”. Cihtli and Ethan are doing well and we look forward to seeing their new apartment. Cihtli and Ethan are two young gifted Americans who live in Sevilla. Ethan is a guitarist from a family of musicians who has an incredible grasp of the old style Flamenco –the guitar, the cante (singing) and the structure of it all. He has been giving excellent classes on all of it. He has also produced wonderful Flamenco shows which he has brought to America. Another will be happening this fall. Ethan is of the “next generation” of Flamencos who came to Spain young, like David Jones Serva (our generation), and stayed and were successful. Cihtli, his partner, is a dancer who studied with the Farrucos and became a part of their extended family. Her dark and delicate Mexican features and coloring make her look like a Gypsy from here. She has stayed at our home a lot and taught inspiring and highly successful dance classes there. Her father suffered a major stroke in San Diego five years ago and she and Freddie and I share this common bond and understanding. We love them both very much.

Yesterday Freddie and I had lessons with Juan who also cooked a delicious chicken for us while he taught. Later Freddie and I walked downtown with Luis pushing the wheelchair and saw our old friend Raul “el Perla”, a guitarist who used to play for Farruquito, who now lives in Madrid (see photos from 2003). El Perla was in Sevilla visiting his seven year-old son. We met Raul El Perla’s mother and grandmother who happen to have a little stall selling papers and little snacks and things in our Plaza.

I am still enjoying being “on vacation”.  Soon, I will rent a dance studio and start taking some dance classes, but right now I am just giving myself permission to go at a slow pace, something new for me! I have called Concha (my friend and dance teacher here) but we haven’t visited yet. I am still thinking about what I want from this trip to Sevilla. And I am feeling very lazy.
Our elevator was not working this morning so Freddie walked down the two flights of stairs and back up again. His walking seems to be improving, but we rented this apartment because it had a working elevator!!

Night. The elevator started working again so I took Freddie out in the wheelchair. We walked to Calle Sierpes, then to the Giralda, then through Barrio Santa Cruz over to la Carboneria. Sergio, Paco’s (the owner’s) son, greeted us and told that Paco couldn’t come down but he would love to see us. So Freddie stumbled out of his wheelchair and with some help, and holding on to the banister, climbed up the steep narrow staircase and through the familiar trap door and up into Paco’s living space. Paco was thrilled to see us and seemed very coherent. Another of his sons, Pisco had warned us that Paco has good and bad days. There are some days where he doesn’t recognize people. We hit on a very good day. It was good to see Paco again and Sergio and Jose Luis who still works at the bar downstairs. Paco seems sad. His legs swell up when he walks, so he just stays upstairs. I remember how he used to walk very quickly all over Sevilla (see the 1999 Spain Chronicles for more). He was very connected to the world when I first met him in 1999. Now, his upstairs domain is no longer filled with traveling Flamencos as it was when we lived there. Bruno had recently spent a few nights before leaving for Madrid, but that was it. Paco seemed lonely. He was appalled at the state of Flamenco in the current world. It seems that people here really think the old Flamenco is dying and they are very sad about it. I hear it often on this trip, even from the young ones who are trying to carry on that tradition. There was a glorious time that had seen its day. The world now is very different and is changing rapidly, as we all know.

The young kids in the plazas here dress in black and are full of piercings and heavy make-up. It looks like Halloween on a Friday night. They listen to iPods and no longer make their own music, singing and clapping as they used to. This changing aspect of Spain has really stuck me. Before, the young people had to make their own music. Now the modern world has come and Flamenco does not have the same forces driving it, the same influences and necessities.
After we left La Carboneria, which looks very much the same and brought a lot of nostalgia to us, we walked down Santa Maria la Blanca in our old neighborhood of Barrio Santa Cruz. This has changed too. It is more filled with tourists than ever. El Cordobes now has two restaurants called the Mesquite and the food doesn’t seem as good. We found Antonio, the owner, at the newer one, which replaced the delicious ice cream shop on the corner. Across the street there is a terrible restaurant, the Tres de Oro, and above it is a fancy new hotel. Antonio has a perfect location and it was mobbed, both inside and out. It has many round tables on the sidewalk as well as the square tables inside. It was nice to see Antonio again, but we were disappointed with both the food and the new atmosphere here. We already knew that at least one of the regular waiters was no longer working at El Cordobes. The day after we arrived in Sevilla, we were walking to buy the wheelchair with Delia and we ran into our favorite waiter from El Cordobes, Jose. He was now working at the hospital and there he was, in the middle of Sevilla where we never used to go. It seemed as if everyone knew us! There was one waiter at the new restaurant, the Mesquite, who remembered us and was thrilled to see us. The others had all moved on.
After our food, I wheeled Freddie back to our apartment, along the big main street. They have bike lanes now, on the sidewalk, and they are smooth and easy to wheel the chair on. It was a much easier experience than I imagined it would be.
This was our first solo foray into the world of Sevilla, outside of our new barrio. It went well. And I’m still not motivated to dance. Although this morning, Freddie and I stopped into Peregil’s bar. Peregil is an older Flamenco singer who owns the small hole-in-the-wall bar in our plaza. It is usually filled with scraggly, toothless, older men and sometimes funky, older women. It is dark and dingy, very old style. After talking for a while with us, Peregil put on a Sevillanas tape and started doing palmas and I started to dance with my arms while sitting on the bar stool. It was fun.

Wednesday May 16, 2007
We’ve been here two weeks already, but it seems like less. Time is flying by. We had great lessons with Juan again today and Juan cooked us a Puchero. I am writing down the recipes so he can put out a book. Lucy will write down some of Juan’s stories with it and it will be a wonderful little book with great recipes.
I put some photos on the web of Juan dictating the first recipe to me.
Tonight Freddie and I walked down to Plaza San Marcos again. It took us twenty minutes, but we made it. Luis joined us when we were almost there. We went there to meet our friend Susana and her husband Paco. They live nearby but thought their stairs would be too steep for Freddie to navigate. So we all sat outside, at the little round tables by the church, having drinks and talking. Beautiful piano music filled the plaza. It was the pianist of the Barrio. He lives upstairs in an apartment on the corner of the plaza and has won many awards. He practices all the time and can be heard clearly in the Plaza. His music is moving and concert quality. What a treat. Susana says she can also hear it on her asotea (roof top set up as a porch or outdoor living area). Lucy and her friend Jennifer strolled by. They were going out for tapas and a drink. Juan was at home watching a big Futbal (Soccer) match. On the way home from Plaza San Marcos we saw Lucy and Jennifer in the Tres Terceros plaza near Santa Catalina and stopped to rest and to drink some juices with them. As we were leaving we saw Juan and his friend Ludo, heading to Bar Manué where Luis had gone. Sevilla had won the soccer match and people were honking horns in their cars, walking by and riding by in cars and motorcycles and bicycles dressed in capes and red and white paint (the colors of Sevilla futbal). etc. We were glad to be getting off the streets. But we love the neighborhood feeling of this Barrio (neighborhood). We are more in it than we had realized when we first arrived. We headed home, which was very close. It is already 1:00 AM. It is good that we slept for two hours after lunch today. It is impossible for me to go to bed early! I keep meaning to.

Thursday May 17, 2007
As I slow down and give myself permission to relax and go at my own pace, I am overtaken by a wave of sadness and depression. I fight it and then give into it. It must have accumulated from these recent years of Freddie’s health traumas. I know I need to just feel it, but there is another part of me that thinks I need to “do something”. I took another nap today. It feels so strange to not be really dancing yet, but I need to locate a studio. And I still don’t have the energy. I did do a little dancing when I sang the Soleá with Juan, but I did it barefoot because I don’t know if we have neighbors downstairs, but I assume that we probably do.
This morning I walked down to the El Monte Theater and bought tickets for the show tonight with Paco Fernandez, Esperanza Fernandez and her husband Miguel Vargas. I first tried to buy them over the phone with a credit card and the woman didn’t know why they were being rejected. I finally asked where I could just go buy them. She gave me another number and that woman told me that they had trouble with foreign credit cards. If I had kept trying to put them on the card, I would have never gotten them! It was a five minute walk for me and I felt better that I knew where to go and could do it. I can wheel Freddie down there later for the show and I can park the chair inside. He will have to climb when we are in the balcony, but he can do that.

I went out for a walk – to Corte Ingles to buy some blank DVDs. I recharged my mobile phone (you have to keep putting $ in them, because it is expensive to call) and then I bought some sandals for me and a change purse for Freddie. I kept looking for a firewire hub for a Mac, but couldn’t find one. There are not many Mac stores in Sevilla and everything caters to the PC. I walked and window-shopped and got tired, but it was fun and as I wrote before, we are living much closer to the “centro” than I realized.

Tonight Freddie and I got dressed up and I wheeled Freddie down to El Monte Theater. The night air was hot and never cooled off. We had to find a side door to enter with the wheelchair. From there we took an elevator up to the second floor. We sat all the way up in the top of the balcony. We parked the chair in a corner, and Freddie walked up a few stairs to our seats at the top. Luckily the theater is small and we could see and hear everything. We saw Esperanza Fernández sing (she is Paco Fernández’ sister and Concha’s niece).  Her husband, Miguel Vargas, danced to her singing. The show was good, but we were especially moved by Esperanza‘s singing. She has a beautiful strong, clear voice with a lot of feeling and stage presence. We had thought that Paco would be playing the guitar, but he wasn’t. We will ask him about it tomorrow.
On the way home we stopped for ice cream. Spanish ice cream is still fantastic.

Saturday May 19, 2007

Our little place is starting to seem bigger and friendlier tonight. Freddie is quietly practicing his guitar. We’ve had a lazy day resting. I went out in the morning to empty the garbage, in the large trash bins across a small street, in plaza Padre Jeronimo de Cordoba, right in front of our house. They have bins for garbage, plastic recycling and glass and paper recycling too. Very convenient but not particularly attractive. It was already quite hot this morning. Later in the late afternoon we went to the MAS supermarket before it closed to stock up on food for Sunday when the markets aren’t open. Juan is going to cook at our house again. And Lucy will join us. She and I are going to try to cook Juan’s cauliflower recipe while he gives Freddie a lesson. Every time we have lessons with Juan now, he cooks and I write down the recipe. We now have four. Lucy will write down Juan’s anecdotes and put them in his book along with the recipes. Everything will be in both Spanish and English. Freddie has taken a lot of photos so far of Juan cooking here.
Yesterday Juan made us a fish and shellfish dish. Cazón is the fish and to that he added langostinos (large shrimp or prawns) and baby clams, green peas, white wine and more. He calls it Cazón a la Marinera con Langostino y Almejas Gastoreño. It was fantastic. We ate some cooked langostinos separately as tapas and we ate my favorite cold soup, gazpacho, without bread in it. What a feast. And we had enough left over to have a meal tonight.
After our classes and that feast yesterday we took a siesta. But before Juan went home to do the same, we contacted our friend Tania, a wonderful dancer and person who grew up in Spain and lives in San Francisco. The night before, Ricky Diaz had called us to say that Tania’s house in the Calle Feria area was for sale. Juan had mentioned to him in passing that we were looking for a house or apartment to buy. We had earlier fantasized with Juan about buying an apartment, talking about all the things we wanted it to have and what Juan thought we should have too. And now Tania was suddenly selling her beautiful house. So we called Tania and arranged to call her later when we woke up.
That evening I wheeled Freddie down the pre-chosen streets more confidently than ever. I used the middle of the street when I had to, and looked for the inconsistent wheelchair access in the curbs when we were on the sidewalk. I am learning the corners that do not have them or have very steep curbs. Nothing is uniform here.
We called Juan and Lucy and they met us at Tania’s, which is two blocks from their house. Tania’s place is beautiful and is furnished exquisitely. It has a garage that can be easily turned into a dance studio. Then it has two more floors, connected by a winding staircase that Freddie was able to easily negotiate. We left the wheelchair inside the front door, at the bottom of the stairway. There was plenty of room for it. The house is full of beautiful old tiles on the floors. It is new, but done in an elegant old style with the best of everything done well. Modern kitchen with a flat ceramic electric stove, full air conditioning, marble floors, dark shining wood doors and trims, balconies. The beautiful furnishings are included with it, including a full set-up for vacation rentals, with separate sheets and towels for both the renters and for us. All we have to do is move in and put our personal belongings in it. We don’t have to buy anything extra!!!!  And we love her taste.
How amazing for this to have just opened up for us and for her too. She woke up one morning knowing she had to sell her house in Sevilla. So she booked a flight for the next month and arrived a day before we did. She said she just had a good feeling about selling the house. We just have to figure out the details of how to buy it. I believe it will be a good investment as well and a beautiful home here in Spain. But it is scary. And it is exciting.
After we visited and studied the house, we all went out for tapas and sat and enjoyed ourselves in the warm outdoor café. Then Juan and Lucy walked us home, Juan wheeling Freddie. What a wonderful evening.

Sunday May 20, 2007
    Juan is here. Lucy will join us a little later. We’ve started cooking the chicken and refining that recipe. Now Juan is giving Freddie a guitar lesson. The weather has turned cool today and the sky is cloudy. When I went out to empty the garbage this morning I was dressed in a short skirt and everyone else was in jeans! I wasn’t cold but I will put on more clothes to go walking today! I guess this means it is still spring here. Yesterday it was over 100 degrees according to Diana.
    When I talked to Diana last night, she mentioned that there are not too many Flamenco shows happening here this time of year. I realized then that we did not come here for the shows, but for Spain itself. Freddie says that his motivation for being here is to work on his guitar and to learn Spanish. Mine is to relax and to absorb. Juan says he will rent a studio for me when I feel ready, which I think will be soon. It will depend on what happens with Tania’s house and how much work and time it takes to arrange buying it. In Spain, it all takes longer, but the pace is more relaxed than in California. However the pace here for the people who live here is picking up too. Life is changing here and in the US. And prices are rising here even faster than in the US.

We had a wonderful lunch with Juan, Lucy and their friend Inca, an English teacher who lives near them. Juan cooked cauliflower and chicken with white wine, two recipes we have already written up for the book. We ate everything all up! Lucy told me the location of a good market near here and I will check it out this coming week. It is near Plaza Incarnación, which is very close to us.
I worked on my voice with Juan at our cante class today. I need to learn to sing from my chest and not my stomach. Freddie’s guitar is coming along well. We are happy. After lunch we took a long siesta again. It is just hard to wake up after two hours.
Tomorrow we go to the Arabic baths with Cihtli and Ethan. These are new since we’ve been here last, but I think they are at an old site. Everyone says they are wonderful. We will have mini massages afterwards. Monday night Lakshmi returns from London.

Tuesday May 22, 2007
We have decided not to buy Tania’s beautiful house. It is too expensive for our budget and it does have stairs between the floors. Freddie does not feel comfortable with all the stairs, so we haven’t negotiated further. We don’t need to own a palace here, only a nest, if we find it. Tania’s house is beautiful and elegant like Tania. We love it, but reality has prevailed.
Yesterday we went to the Arab baths on Calle Aire with Cihtli and Ethan. Ethan pushed the wheelchair the whole way. He learned about wheelchairs pushing Cihtli’s father after he had his stroke. The baths were once Moorish baths, then they were ruins for many years, and about three or four years ago they were restored. They are beautiful and relaxing. Huge pools of different temperature waters on two different levels, some with Jacuzzis, and a steam room. The whole atmosphere reminds me of Granada or Morocco, with the Moorish designs and little tables and beautiful tiles. Freddie and I had mini massages during the two hours we were there. Afterwards we had tea and incredible Moroccan style little deserts.
Then we all took a taxi to Cihtli and Ethan’s new apartment and Ethan barbequed on their rooftop porch. They have what is called an attic apartment, which means that the rooftop is on the same level as the apartment. Theirs makes an L shape around their porch, so Ethan’s office, which is in their second bedroom, looks out on the rooftop porch and so does the living room and kitchen. Their bedroom is on the inside, away from the street. It is a lovely and light filled place. We would love to find something like that, although it too does not have an elevator. Freddie did manage the stairs.
Lakshmi arrived from London and met us there. She had a great time seeing her parents. Lakshmi and Luis broke up. She spent the night at our apartment last night. There is a bus strike here, and the buses are running part time. That means the taxis are busier than normal. We decided to call a taxi at 2:30 AM, because we had the wheelchair and Lakshmi’s suitcase and it was late at night. Sevilla is not as safe to walk in late as it used to be. The first taxi never came and when we finally called back, they said that they didn’t have one free. We finally found another company who answered their phone. That taxi driver got lost but we finally talked them through the route. Luckily Lakshmi sat in front and directed the driver, who seemed to be enmeshed by her charms and so had a great attitude. It was four AM before we got to bed! But we did have a wonderful time.
If any of you want to buy a wonderful apartment in Sevilla, contact Tania. It is truly beautiful and good investment.

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