Saturday, December 30, 2006

ETA Blows up a Van in the Barajas Parking Structure

According to El Pais, a van filled with explosives was detonated in the parking structure of terminal four of the Barajas airport in Madrid. An anonymous caller called three times from the Basque Country to advise the police; during the last of the calls, El Pais reports that the male caller used ETA's name. The explosion occured in an area that was already cordoned off by police. It happened at 9:00 a.m. There were four light injuries reported. The Barajas airport is located about eight miles outside of central Madrid to the northeast.

The amagomundi staff is fine.

Our prediction: If it turns out that it was really ETA, not only will Zapatero's peace process with ETA have to end, but the conservative Partido Popular, which has been nipping at the PSOE's heels at every step, will soon come out and say something smug to the effect of, "We told you so." Not very helpful, we know, but that's how the PP do.


In unrelated news, Saddam Hussein was hanged in Bagdad. Certainly Iraq's problems are through.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Reason #2

We discovered that the arrival of the Christmas tree to our apartment also happened to coincide with an infestation of small, apparently innocuous, flying insects. So even though it's early, we decided to pack up the ornaments and get rid of it. It's too bad, because it had just started to stop smelling like urine. We are going to sneak the tree down to the street and leave it near the garbage tonight. We don't want our neighbors to see us because they are likely to wonder why anyone would get rid of a perfectly good christmas tree before Reyes (aka the Epiphany).

The Roma are a proud, historic people. However, amagomundi recommends that you purchase your tree from a nursery.

And so ended our tranquil Sopranos Christmas.

We did miss Pinhead this year, though.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ghosts of Spain

Walking down the Gran Via towards the Circulo de Bellas Artes last Thursday.

We went to the Circulo de Bellas Artes to see Giles Tremlett present the Spanish translation of his fine new book, Ghosts of Spain. Present at the event was famous Spanish historian Paul Preston and famous Spanish journalist Iñaki Gabilondo. The Spanish title of the book is España ante sus fantasmas, published by Siglo XXI. It is a fascinating cultural study of contemporary Spanish culture as seen from the affectionate point of view of an English journalist. From the cocaine trade of Galicia to the prisons of Sevilla, and from the mass graves left behind by Franco to how the bikini saved Spain, this book has got it all. Seriously.

At dusk today we took a walk through the Retiro and took this fine photo of the estanque.

And towards the northwestern corner of the Retiro, just before you come out at the Puerta de Alcala.

Charlize Theron with a Moustache

Above, as promised, we have Charlize Theron, who shares amagomundi's esteem for the finely groomed moustache. And below, Ms. Theron just before shooting Sweet November:

* Photo included with the implicit permission of Patricia Piccinini. Buy her art. It's great. Seriously.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Buying a Tree from Gypsies

Atocha near dusk, on our walk to the Plaza Mayor.

On Friday we walked to the Plaza Mayor to look at all the Christmas gear. They really do have everything a family could want for the holidays. Fresh strips of cork and live chunks of moss to make your super-realistic nativity scene, and all the fresh trees you could want.

Most of this stuff has been harvested from the mountains above Madrid, although the majority of the decorations you see just behind us (above) is purchased wholesale from bargain plastic importers.

The cork, the moss and the trees, though, are the real Spanish deal, although they are probably not harvested on farms. Somehow we think that all of these particular Christmas goods are surreptitiously collected under the cover of night. Maybe it's the plastic bags used to contain the root ball of each tree. Or maybe it's the unmarked old white van parked next to the old gypsy lady who warms her hands at a charcoal fire in a metal bucket, waiting to sell you a tree in a leaky bucket.

We must say that the selection is terrific and we found the perfect tree for only 16 euros. You can bargain if you want.

The problem, you see, is getting the tree home when you don't have a car.

Here we are selecting the tree that we will adopt and take home with us.

Our tree, all wrapped up in his little diaper and ready to come home.

Walking from the Plaza Mayor to the nearest Metro stop, which is at Tirso de Molina. This particular stop has the added advantage of not requiring any transfers on our way home. Transfers are no good when you are lugging a tree in a box.

Walking. Pause for photo.

Walking. Tree. Getting. Heavier.

A is getting really tired here. We've come all the way from the Plaza Mayor, and now we are going to have to get that tree through the Metro turnstiles.

In the Plaza Tirso de Molina. Approaching Metro. Soon A will pass the tree back to S.

Finding an empty-ish Metro car. Pause for photo.

All trees ride for free. FYI.

The ride home. Relaxing. Thankfully it was not rush hour. Sometimes you have to push your way in. We did not have to do that this time.

Our Metro stop. Almost home.

Getting closer to home. We have climbed the stairs out of the Metro and are waiting to cross the street.

Allow us to say that this was one heavy little tree. He's short, but very dense. Although this photomontage might suggest that the tree project was a collaborative effort, in the interest of maintaining amagomundi's high standards of full disclosure and perfect honesty, we must inform our faithful readers that A carried the tree the whole time.

While we look happy enough, upon arriving home we were dismayed to learn that the tree was not exactly what we expected. After we had purchased a bucket at the local euro store to put our tree in, and having found some stones to put in the bucket to maintain the tree's vertical attitude, we finally unwrapped the root ball and settled our little tree into its new habitat. And what a surprise we had! The tree smelled exactly like (do not blanche, dear readers) wild animal piss. Yes. Underneath the sweet smell of fresh mountain pine, there is a strong scent of mountain animal urine. Imagine our surprise.

After trimming the tree and a bit of odor control (for the tree), A wrapped some gifts for our family. The tree smells much better, but it doesn't quite smell normal. It was pointed out by one of our faithful readers that, in yesterday's New York Times, there was an article about how in Nebraska "they prevent people from stealing little trees from parks and campuses and places like that by spraying them with wolf (or other mammal) urine. "It's called seasonal tree poaching, and it's happening everywhere. “When the tree is out in the cold, the smell is not noticeable,” says Mr. Baird, a landscape engineer at the University of Nebraska, but once the tree is inside and starts to warm up, “it’s nasty.”

Our beautiful little stinky tree.

Check back soon for a photo of Charlize Theron with a moustache!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pig Display, Part II

It has come to our attention that Freddy the Prayer Warrior has been up to a bit of piggy mischief in his back yard. Well, we see your road kill hog blog and raise you two pig heads with sunglasses and one cigarette. The characters above only prove our initial assertion that we made on Tuesday, December 5th, when we said that pigs are the new fish for this season. The above hogs were photographed in a butcher shop in Barcelona near the Born neighborhood.

Spoiler! Below, we offer photos of some other butcher shop denizens. Stop reading here, dear faithful readers, if you are weak of heart or squeamish. We have it from a pretty good source that sheep heads are still great for making killer soups.

Small sheep heads and assorted guts, brains, hearts.

One large sheep head with guts. These photos were taken at a specialty butcher stand in a Barcelona market. The butcher specializes in interior organs and heads.

Memphis has nothing on Spain.

What Does This Mean?

We invite our faithful readers to offer interpretations of this advertisement that we have seen throughout Madrid and Barcelona. In the image, we see famous Spanish actress Paz Vega, whose signature can just be made out there on the right, below the words "Chocolate Possession." If we read the poster from left to right, it appears that after eating this chocolate dessert item, famous Spanish actress Paz Vega has become a sensual chocolate person. But the chocolate treat looks alarmingly like poo. What are we to make of this? Does Paz Vega's signature add authenticity and authority to the Magnum brand? Is she suggesting that really good dessert items will make a nice white girl brown?

What does "chocolate possession" mean? Will Madrid be the next chocolate city? Is Magnum really the number one hand held ice cream brand?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The New Fish Display

The word on the street in Madrid is that pigs are the new fish. We have it from our customary source that the pig display is going to overtake the traditional fish display in terms of yuletide popularity.

Suckling pigs are the "it" foodstuff for this holiday season. Pick yours up today!

Get your fresh shrink-wrapped piggies here.

Join the Falange!

Do you love statues of Francisco Franco?

Do you dislike the flag of the Second Spanish Republic?

Do you hate Pedro Almodóvar?

Do you abhor Catalunya?

Do you hate people who come to Spain in boats?

Are you tired of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the peace process with ETA?

Join the Falange!

Both of the Banco de Santander branches on Goya street had these posters pasted all over their windows. The posters are for the semi-fascist Falange party, which apparently still has a healthy membership in Spain. Founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1933, the Falange was the only official political organization allowed to exist during Franco's regime.

In the photo above, you can see a nice photo-montage of the different things that falangists don't like (clockwise from the upper left, the pictures correspond to the various questions we introduced above).

But why Santander? Sure, Santander is the capital of the autonomous region of Cantabria in northern Spain, but why post all these posters on the windows of the Banco de Santander? We do know that Santander is the only major city in Spain that still has a statue of the lil' dictator in their main public square, but this seems like a strange marketing campaign, doesn't it?

We at amagomundi think that the Falange's invitation would have been much more enticing if they had used positive imagery rather than negative imagery. For example:

Do you love long walks on the beach?

Do you love pastries and pork products?

Do you have a hankering for a beer right about now?

Tired of hatin'?

Join the Falange!

Franco's statue in Santander. Enjoy it while it lasts...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Exit Strategy


"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Madrid. This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever. We're going to stay in Madrid to get the job done as long as the government wants us there."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

So last night we went to see the 6:35 show of Casino Royale at our favorite first run theater in Madrid, the Yelmo Cineplex Ideal. Even though online transactions are famously inefficient and unreliable in Spain, we decided to buy our tickets via internet because it was opening night. With some trepidation we made our way to the theater to pick up our tickets and were pleased to find that the process had worked. While we waited for them to let us in, we took a romantic twilight walk around the Plaza Mayor.

At about 6:25 we walked back to the Cine Ideal and grabbed our seats. A went to buy some popcorn to go with the Rolos we had smuggled in. And as the opening advertisements were screening, guess who came in and sat in front of us? You won't believe it, faithful readers, but it was none other than Pedro Almodóvar. You know, the superstar Spanish director. (One of the advertisements before the movie was for Antonio Banderas's new film, and we couldn't help but look at the side of Pedro's head and wonder what he must have been thinking about his former star who was now making his directorial debut.)

So we saw Casino Royale through the filter of Almodóvar's spikey hair and we loved every minute of it. The film, that is. It's really good. Director Martin Campbell has infused the Bond series with a new seriousness and authenticity that was lacking before, even though he does not forgo the occasional joke about the Bond persona. And Daniel Craig is so handsome!

We were also satisfied to know that Pedro employs the same strategy that we do when it comes to using the bathroom during a movie. He waits until the sappy love stuff comes on. So when Bond is comforting Vesper in the shower and sucking on her fingers, Pedro bee-lined it to the loo. We would have done the same if we weren't totally dehydrated from all the popcorn we had eaten. Seriously, I believe we are both still thirsty.

The world's greatest living film director, Pedro Almodóvar. This is roughly how he appeared to us at the Cine Ideal, only he was wearing jeans and a black jacket.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Scenes from a Madrid Tour

J came to town for a visit this weekend. After a horrible descent into budget airline hell, she finally arrived 4 hours late. Ryan Air was the culprit, along with some of that pesky Venetian fog. Thus, we did not see her until Saturday morning.

J was our first visitor. In the following blog, you will see just how much fun we have here at amagomundi, especially when we have nice guests.

On Saturday morning A met J and they walked around town and took lots of pictures. (They were to meet S later for lunch.)

J mailed some postcards, and A helped.

Everyone was happy after mailing those postcards. It was a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

We all met up at Cafe Oliver (c/Almirante 12) for lunch. We like the atmosphere of this restaurant near Chueca. Above, we have a photo of the fine piece of duck with potatoes that S enjoyed. Confit de pato, baby. A had the solomillo and J had a delicious bit of steak tartare. Cafe Oliver has a house red is definitely worth drinking.

On Sunday we met J at 10:30 to go to the Rastro, Madrid's huge swap meet.

We never seem to buy anything, but we enjoy going anyway. We like to look at the stuff. Last time we bought clothespins. This time we bought nothing.

We looked at some antique furniture and art.

Then we decided to make our way to the Plaza Mayor. The Rastro is way too crowded by 11. We suggest that you go early, like 9:30. Above, we have a plaza somewhere between La Latina and Plaza Mayor.

A satisfying trompe l'oiel (above). Only one side of the building has real windows.

We took more photos and kept walking. Madrid is very nice at this time of year.

J and S. I wish we remembered what this plaza was called. It is very nice. We had fun with J.

This is a little garden we stumbled upon. It is in the middle of the Madrid de los Austrias.

It's a regular urban locus amoenus.

Still walking around the portion of Madrid that was built up when the Austrian kings ruled Spain.

Calle de Cuchilleros, on the southwest corner of the Plaza Mayor. S's parents have a watercolor reproduction of this bit of Madrid.

Interesting Plaza Mayor factoid (above and below): On Sundays old man philatelists gather to trade stamps and talk about philatelia. You can find them at the northeast corner of the plaza. Bring your stamps.

After walking to the Rastro and then trading stamps at the Plaza Mayor, we suggest that you get yourself to the nearest churreria forthwith for churros and chocolate. Only we Spaniards could invent such a delicious combination of fried dough and molten milk chocolate. It is a meal in itself, and well worth whatever physical side effects you may ultimately suffer. When we were younger, we used to enjoy churros y chocolate on the morning after a drinking binge. Now we like churros y chocolate after a morning spent shopping with our girlfriends. Ah, the pleasures of ageing.

After a brief break at our apartment, where we looked at photos of our house in Indiana (which we miss, believe it or not), we went to Arola Madrid for lunch. It is the new restaurant in the new wing of the Reina Sofia Museum. Unfortunately, we got there too late to sit in the restaurant area, but we were able to order sandwiches and patatas bravas at the bar. S had a nice glass of wine, while the ladies enjoyed bottled water. We also had croquetas. It was a very fried dough kind of day.

On Monday morning, A met J to go back to the Reina Sofia Museum to see the art. They had a very nice time together. We all did. Ain't life grand?