September 18th, 2006
Upon further review, the score has been revised in the match of Eddy Boston vs The World. Both of The World's points have been overturned by the man in the booth. The first match-up, the case of the broken guitar, has been re-evaluated and declared a draw, as Mr. Boston did indeed get the guitar fixed on time without having to change his travel plans.
In the second match-up, the case of the missing luggage, there has been a dramatic new development. Yes, that's right: kill the fatted calf, break out the good vino, invite the neighbors for a party, for the prodigal backpack has returned!
He's been pretty quiet about where he spent the last few days, but I'm just happy to see him, so I won't grill him too much. I just hope he had fun, where-ever he went.
Much thanks to the very kind front desk crew at the Mad Hostel for their generous assistance acting as liasons between me and the Air Plus Comet beaurocracy.
I also called MasterCard, as I have lost-luggage assistance with my Platinum card. I gave them the info and they said they'd look into it. I'm not sure if it made a difference, but the bag reappeared within a matter of hours. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
September 21st, 2006
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Madrid is the city that sleeps during the day. Shops mysteriously close, the streets empty,everything gets quiet when the sun is at its peak, only to mysteriously come back to life when darkness comes.
There is a good reason for this: In daylight, Madrid is rather uninteresting, by the standards of European capitals. Yes, it still has its charms (like the beautiful Parque del buen Retiro), and a visitor can instantly tell he is in Spain by the distinctive architecture and cultural feel. But the streets are a permanent sort of dusty gray, the traffic moves with all the alacrity of a hung-over Bluto Blutarsky, and the madrileños wear that perma-scowl only seen by Americans behind the counter at the DMV.
At night it's a different story. No longer does el sol expose the urin stains on store fronts. The sluggish traffic is replaced by scantily-clad young chicas, walking fast and talking faster. And get this: they smile! I don't know why Spanish women hate the daylight so much, to the point where they wear dark sunglasses even on the subway. But they do love the glow of streetlights. It's such a pleasant surprise to actually see eyeballs that we could be forgiven for thinking we have been beamed to a different city altogether: a happy one. And indeed, we have.
And about those street lights. They are given a place of honor. More design flourishes and creative touches are expended on the humblest street-chandelier than on the marble edifices lining the Plaza Major. In Madrid, the street light is elevated to an art form.
And yes, the city does sparkle at night. It goes from interesting yet functional to absolutely beautiful. It's almost as if the buildings are designed to be lit from below. The air cools down, the dust settles, the laughter starts. To experience Madrid, you must experience Madrid At Night.
It's 2:14 AM and I haven't slept or changed my underwear in three days. I think I'll have another San Miguel.
September 30th, 2006
Puns don't translate.
It's a sad fact that my favorite form of humor is one hundred percent lost in translation. Many a marketing slogan or headline has turned into gibberish as a result of someone trying to too literally convert it to another language.
I was reminded of this by a line in the English version of Madrid's metro map. Referring to ongoing construction, it blares, "Only one season to go!" meaning the construction would be finished at the end of summer. While this is not gibberish, and is better than some other poor works of translation, a season is certainly an interesting unit of measurement to use, and it doesn't quite get the meaning across. As soon as I saw the Spanish version, though, I understood.
Solo queda una estación, it says. The pun lies in the word estación, which has a double meaning. The phrase could just as easily mean "only one station to go," which in the context of subway construction would make more sense, but which is obviously not true given the state of the stations. (My understanding is that this construction is for normal enhancements to the subway, and not related to the recent bombings.) A small fotenote explains the real meaning of the headline. Who says Europeans have no sense of humor?
Now if only I could make "camiseta de toro" sound as funny as "bull shirt."