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Friday, February 13, 2004


These Spanish keyboards are kicking my ass which kind of cramps my writing since I have been over here.

Spain is a great country. It has been over 15 years since I have last visited and in that time it has prospered and improved on so many levels. This country is further proof that a social democracy can work to raise the level of ALL of its citizens—not just a few lucky rich. I haven’t seen anything remotely approaching a bad neighborhood. Universal public health care is guaranteed in the constitution. Where is the downside of this? Any of you right-wing, free market blow holes care to explain?

Probably the most remarkable thing about Spain is the fact that people spend so much of their lives in the street. From Thursday to Saturday everyone in the city of Madrid is out walking around from 8-2 in the morning. People are out shopping until 8 and then they start hitting the tapas bars in earnest. Saturday nights are truly something to see. The streets in the area of my hotels are completely packed with people. I could get used to this place. I am used to this place. Can someone sell everything I own back home and send me the check?

There is a bunch of stuff going on in Madrid this weekend so I still don't have a room for Saturday. I'm not worried about it because in the worst case scenario I can always go to the train station and go somewhere for the night like Toledo or Segovia--places I had planned on seeing before I went to Seville instead. And why do we call Sevilla Seville in English? It's not like it's difficult to pronounce in Spanish. I blame it on the xenophobic Brits but maybe I'm wrong.

The soccer match Wednesday night between Seville and Real Madrid was pretty crazy. Every bar in Seville that had the game on the TV was packed to the rafters. Seville won in an upset that had a few very controversial calls by the refs. It's not like they need much excuse to hype a soccer game here so we won't hear the end of this. Some other time I'll give more of my thoughts on soccer.

It was a blast going to se Real Madrid play at their home stadium of Santiago Bernabéu. We got free tickets from our Spanish friends. We took the metro to the stadium. We left a little early and when we walked up out of the metro tunnel the area was packed with fans. All of the area bars and restaurants were selling beer and food to people passing on the street. We got a couple of huge beers (3.5 euros) and tried to fit in with the Madrileños. It is tough to be from Madrid, what with all of the countless stops for beer and tapas, late night carousing, all preceded by late afternoon siestas. I'm trying my best to blend in.

The game was super. Ronaldo had his almost obligatory goal and Roberto Carlos had an awesome penalty kick goal. Their opponent, Málaga, is a pretty crappy team but we had fun. It also gave us better credentials with the locals as we were now official Real Madrid fans. They have another big game on Sunday night we will catch in some bar somewhere.

Madrid rivals Paris when it comes to art museums. I went to the Reina Sofia museum today which houses Spanish art from the 20th century. Lots of Picasso, Dali, Miro, and Gris. The building it is in interests me more than the collection. There is a big contemporary art fair going on this weekend which is making a mess of our hotel plans. If we don't get a room for tomorrow night we will take the train to Toledo for a day and come back to Madrid on Sunday. That eventuality doesn't bother me.

Madrid is a fantastic city, filled with great architecture and pleasant plazas. It must take God's permission to tear down a building here. I have observed construction techniques since I have arrived and I have seen lots of buildings that have been gutted completely except for the outer, older shell. Spaniards realize how important it is to hold on to their past no matter what the price.

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