Darío's Impossible Loves

It's always a pleasure to discover new poetry that interests you. That was certainly the case yesterday. The Bilmore group had a nice lunch with Pablo, who was in town to receive the Medal of Honor from the Academia de San Telmo. That event was Thursday evening at City Hall. In any case, Pablo, at his 85 or 87 years of age, still seems like a kid and is doing just great. During the lunch Julio mentioned that there was a reading in the evening with a Colombian poet by the name of Darío Jaramillo Agudelo. I'm so glad I went. Jaramillo turns out to be a very interesting poet, full of irony and elegant clarity. During the reading, which was really more like a conversation, moderated by Fernando Valverde, Jaramillo discussed the distinction he makes between possible and impossible loves. He was very funny: impossible loves are the ones we just dream about, Quixotic and fantastical. They have many of the advantages and none of the inconveniences of possible (real) loves. He declared that his great impossible love was Ingrid Bergman. But there was more than just humor. In fact, the few love poems he read were quite moving. Between poems he discussed his creative process and the importance for him of letting poems 'sit' for a long, long time.  After all, he joked, when we are really in love, it's simply impossible to write coherently about our condition because love makes us completely idiotic in a verbal sense. Good poetry is that which can be successfully digested when eaten cold. Anyway, after the event I was able to chat with him for a couple of minutes and I joked to him that Ingrid Bergman was my impossible love. (I'll never forget the first time I saw Casablaca. Wow!) He joked that was yet another of the great things about impossible loves–there's no problem sharing! On my way back to the Malagueta I ran into Soler, who was playing host to the novelist Clara Sánchez, here for the Book Fair.  So I ended up having a light dinner with that group.


A very literary kind of day

Lots going on yester- day.  In the morning I partici- pated in a collective reading of Rafael Ballesteros' novel Los últimos días de Thomas de Quincy. It was a fun event held at the Civic Center and involved over a hundred people reading from the novel. My turn came almost right at the beginning. Poor Rafael was going to be there all day! The night before we had a nice dinner to celebrate the event and it was an opportunity to meet José Miguel García Vázquez, the director of the Civic Center, and Marisa Dávila, the director of cultural events, even though Marisa assured me we had met before. In any event, it was a great dinner. (More good food!  It's too much–I'll never get back into good shape at this rate.) Then last night, Juvenal presented El cielo de septiembre in a really nice gathering downtown, held at Aula Sur. Soler introduced Juvenal after an introduction by Manuel Pimentel (the former minister and now director of the book's publisher) and gave a wonderful talk on their friendship and collaborations over the years.  It was a masterful semblanza of the poet. Juvenal then read some of the poems from the book. There was a good turnout and it was nice to see a lot of friends there. Afterwards a fine reception at the Hotel Maestranza with the usual suspects. A dedicated handful of us kept going, went to Malacca after the reception wound down around midnight and ended up here at the apartment at 3 am with Murphy making scrambled eggs.  (The photo is from the presentation of the antology of Soler's work I edited last year, with Juvenal in the foreground, followed by the mayor, Paco de la Torre, Soler, and me.)


The Heat is On

Yesterday it was hot in Malaga. Lots of people at the beach. In the morning I had to do some errands downtown, so I went to the market and got some nice little red mullet (salmonete). Murphy prepared them and they were accompanied by some nice Padron peppers. Delicious. Last night we were out with friends and had a grand time. I was a little bit of a party-pooper and left at 2. That was enough for me, and I know that as the night gets later the bars get louder and smokier. Last week Fernando Arcas declared his candidacy to be the new general secretary of the Socialist party in Malaga. This is especially significant because he's challenging the 'official' candidate. The other day we were talking on the phone and I joked to him that I'd take care of any troublemakers, that I had a good arsenal that I had brought back from Valencia. I hope no one is listening in on his calls, they might not be certain it's all a joke about my love of those big bang fireworks. I can see Ferando as the next mayor, that would be great fun. (In the photo: I live in the next to last building on the left, at the top of the photo.)


All the help I can get...

I've been here in Malaga for close to ten months on my own. I love Malaga and love living here, but sometimes living by myself has been a real challenge. If it weren't for the support of family and friends it would simply be impossible. But the kindness of many people in the neighborhood has also been really important. Their good cheer and the friendly familiarity they give to the daily routine is a key element in my quality of life here. There are so many, and I'll eventually get around to all of them. Today I want to mention Noelia, pictured above, who keeps me in coffee at Pepe's. Noelia is all energy and she's always got a ready smile. She is a great sport in dealing with Juvenal's sense of humor (not easy!), and, in short, she's just a wonderful person to have serve you coffee every afternoon. There are lots and lots of places to have coffee in the neighborhood, but this year Bar Levante has been the set place for the daily injection of afternoon caffeine. The others at the bar, Isabel, Olga, and owner Pepe are also great. It's a real neighborhood bar and one feels quite comfortable there. And the coffee is fine.


Cod madness!

Yesterday friend Juvenal Soto and I embarked on a rather extreme gastro- nomical adventure. We had noticed that Artxanda, the local Basque restaurant in the Malagueta, was celebrating a week dedicated to cod.  As we both love that king of the North Atlantic, we decided to give it a try. Wow! I'll just give you the menu, and I think any further commentary is unnecessary. Well, I should say first that all the dishes were very good, and most were really outstanding. So here we go, a twelve course feast followed by dessert: 1) cod "meatballs" with almond sauce, 2) crispy cod canelloni, 3) marinated cod, 4) cod salad with a crab vinagrette, 5) cod tartar in pistachio oil, 6) an easy done egg with paper thin slices of cod, 7) cod in an onion confit with raisins and ham, 8) grilled cod with a squid vinagrette, 9) slices of cod with grated Idiazabal cheese and quince. Those were basically the appetizers, which were followed by three classics: 10) cod al Pil-Pil, 11) Cod in the Vizcayan fashion, and 12) cod al Ajoarriero. No, I don't eat like that on a daily basis. Not even on a weekly basis. An excessive treat, perhaps, but it was wonderful and a lot of fun. Afterwards I had a splendid nap!


Summer is here

Yesterday my cousin Mary Lou was here. She and her husband Paul are just starting a two week visit to Spain with their friend George, a Catholic priest. It was great to see them.  We walked around Málaga, went to the Pimpi and then had a fine dinner at Miguelito El Cariñoso. The dinner included an espeto (see photo), so for me it really felt like the beginning of summer.  (We also had fresh grilled shrimp, baby squid, red pepper salad, boquerones, and some wonderful pargo, red snapper.) An espeto is simply some fresh sardines pierced on a wooden stick, covered with sea salt and slowly roasted by the embers of olive tree wood. A small feast. Lots of people out on a lovely Friday evening. Today they are off to Granada.  Murphy also arrived yesterday, but he went off first to Frigiliana to spend the weekend with Chris and Rosalind, and of course, he's very anxious to see Canastera's new foal.  


Feeling grateful for the help

The past several days I've been struggling with a nasty case of tonsillitis. It's no fun when you're not feeling well, and much less so when you are living by yourself. So it was tremendously encouraging and greatly appreciated to be receiving so many calls from friends here. They kept checking in, could they do this, do that. Wonderful. Thanks friends!  I was brought vitamins, medicine, food, reading material...  Asun's calls have been the best medicine of all. And the antibiotic seems to have really kicked in now, so I'm finally starting to feel halfway human again. Monday morning I was definitely not feeling human. I woke up identifying with Gregor Samsa, Kafka's protagonist in The Metamorphosis, the main difference being that Gregor was alive and acutely aware of his surroundings. I'm not sure if I felt more like a dead cockroach or a sack of rotten potatoes covered in molasses. Today I'm feeling much more like myself. I'm not 100% certain that's a good thing, but I'll go out on a limb and rate myself higher than either a dead cockroach or a sack of rotten potatoes covered in molasses. Speaking of which, last Saturday night we had an end-of-year dinner with the students at the Bilmore and were served an interesting salad of endives with fresh cheese, avocado and miel de caña, which is kind of like a very light molasses.  That may not sound too appealing, but it was actually quite wonderful. Miel de caña is a kind of cane syrup that is produced locally. It's extraordinarilly good with lightly battered and sauteed slices of eggplant.  It's a sad, sad evening in Malaga: ETA's latest victim was from here, from El Palo, where lots of our students live.  The terrorists leave behind another widow, this one with a six year-old son. And we're also distraught over the tragic plight of the earthquake victims in China and the storm victims in Burma.


Poetic Justice

Pablo just won the Reina Sofía!  Friend Pablo García Baena yesterday was awarded the most important prize for poetry in Spanish, the Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana.  This is a wonderful recognition for Pablo, who's creative efforts span seven decades!  Pablo was our honored guest a few years ago and spent a memorable week in Carlisle.  His work is not easy, but it's worth the effort.  His poetry is sensual and baroque. Often it distances itself from everyday language in verses that celebrate classical traditions and sensuality. Pablos's poetry languished for years, both unknown and willfully forgotten, but in the 1970s he won the admiration of a generation of younger poets. Some of my translations were published in Sirena. Pablo is so quiet and unassuming; and his work is so rich and powerful.  He's going to have a difficult time for several days, with the phone ringing constantly.  We tried calling as soon as the prize was announced, but had to leave a message. Congratulations Pablo!


Barrio Chino

The above photo was taken by Joan Colom, an accountant born in Barcelona in 1921.  At age 36 he developed an interest in photography. (Yes, 'he'; "Joan" is Catalan for Juan.) This photo, "Barrio Chino" is from 1960. I saw it at an exhibition at the Picasso Museum here in Malaga. I was intrigued by the image. The little boy stands with a posture and an expression that seems well beyond his years. His ragged clothes contrast sharply with his dignified pose. He seems to be looking off into the distance, perhaps trying to spy a better future. A long-standing mystery for me is the term "Barrio chino" (literally, "Chinese neighborhood"), which in Spain and some other Spanish-speaking countries is used to designate a 'red light district'. Spain has never had very significant immigration from China, so the term clearly never referred to areas inhabited largely by Chinese.  Maybe 'chino' was understood to be synonymous with 'strange', 'marginal'.  


The whole truth

OK, so you might think from the photo that I'm going to write about Proust and memory, childhood, etc. Absolutely not. Just going back a few weeks to set the record straight: I wrote one day about my healthy breakfast routine, and what I related there is certainly accurate, but also incomplete. After the healthy stuff, some days, if I'm feeling weak, or if I've had a couple of good days in a row of exercise, I can't resist one of these marvelous magdalenas that I get from Angela. (I didn't mention the magdalenas then because I thought I'd put them behind me. Wrong!) Wow! These babies are made with olive oil and are just irresistible. They are so good they should be prohibited. I've tried telling Angela to lie to me, to tell me she doesn't have any, but it's no good, she just laughs and gets them anyway. These things are absolutely nothing like the supermarket ones, which are worse than useless. And usually when I have one I can't help thinking of the grandmother in Almodóvar's classic What Have I Done to Deserve This?–the character who hides the magdalena's because she doesn't want her son or grandson eating them, but who herself shouldn't eat them because she is diabetic. But for the most part I'm just for a moment experiencing a wonderful, mildly gluttonous taste treat. It's terrible, I think magdalenas are supposed to be consumed only by grandmothers and children. And now that I think about it, I've also got to put an end to the sweets they serve at the Café Negro on calle Alcazabilla. Was there yesterday with friends after tapas at the just opened bar La Moraga run by Dani García, the celebrity chef who innovates with nitrous oxygen. The tapas were phenomenal.



Yesterday I got up feeling well rested, but a little dis- oriented nonethe- less. After a morning of rather unproductive work, I went down to the street in search of some necessities, especially fresh fruit, for which I felt somewhat desperate. So I walked over to Alfonsito's to get pears, oranges, grapes, milk and a couple of other things. I got into line at the same time as a woman who had a basket full of stuff. After much of the typical no you first, no you, I insist you go, etc., I said, "no, please, you go first, that way I'll have a moment to forget what I'm remembering."  ("...así puedo olivdar lo que estoy recordando.") Way to go Marksie. Ole! The look she gave me was priceless. We both laughed. Oh well, at least I didn't address her in English, something I've done many times right after a trip.  (In Carlisle, I did start to answer the phone in Spanish on Saturday morning.) I don't know if it was jet-lag or just my usual knuckleheadedness. In any case, it occurred to me that maybe one way to measure how we're feeling is to ask if we want to forget what we're remembering.  Not today.



Fantastic. I got to see three performances and I would have gladly watched three, or thirty more, had it been possible. These CPYB productions are always impressive and Cinderella was no exception. To see Daniela in the lead role Sunday was a very special treat. All of the dancers were incredible, even the littlest ones. It was especially nice to see Daniela surrounded by the girls she has been with for so long in other leading roles. And of course, Marcus as her Prince was great. (In the top photo, Daniela with Marcus in Gambol, in 2006; left, Daniela with Mary Aldrich's niece Melanie after the performance Sunday.) Her development as a ballerina has been so fast and amazing! Asun and I are tremendously grateful to Marcia Dale Weary and all the faculty at CPYB for giving Daniela these opportunities. There's no doubt that CPYB is an exceptional and unique institution. Two of the best articles available on line are "Setting a High Barre" and a 2001 article published in the The New York Times. In addition to Marcia, we owe special thanks to Leslie Hench, Lazlo Berdo, Alan Hineline, and Darla Hoover for all of their work with Daniela. And it sure is a lot of work. If it weren't for the obvious passion that Daniela has for ballet, there is no way we would consent to this intensive training. I keep telling Daniela that we'll support her in this as long as it's fun. If it weren't fun it would be complete madness. And she no doubt has loads of fun, especially when it comes to performing. That's quite evident when you see her on stage. Very, very few children have this kind of experience. Daniela has danced on stage in professional productions over a hundred times. Literally. For tens of thousands of people. I don't think giving a book report in class is going to unnerve her. This is just one of the benefits these kids get from the ballet training. They are poised, mature, and very, very disciplined. On Tuesday just prior to heading for the airport, I had the opportunity to sit in on Daniela's private class with Leslie Hench. (The day following three days of intensive performing it was back to class–there's no rest, no letting up! And today after the private with Leslie, another three and half hours of class.) Very interesting. Even the stretching and strengthening exercises at the barre were extraordinary to me. The work between teacher and student is so intensive. And all that French terminology–many of the terms are familiar to me, but I can only link a couple of them to the movements they refer to. Then seeing the dynamic of working with the video monitor was fascinating. Step by step. Repetition. Critique. Correction. Again. (And again, and again, and again...) And during the class Leslie announced that this week Daniela would be working with Anna-Marie Holmes. Holmes is a genuine legend in the ballet world and was the first non-Russian to dance as an invited principle with the Kirov. She is at CPYB this week to rehearse La Vivandiere for the June series; Daniela and Grace will be the leads. And so it goes at CPYB. Seven days a week.