If I were a real man, i.e., drove a Ford 150 Raptor with a Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker emblazoning its bumper, I’d take in a bullfight while here in Andalucía. After all, like many macho wannnbes, I read lots of Hemingway in my youth, commencing, of course, with The Old Man and the Sea, then The Sun Also Rises in my teens, all of those great short stories in my twenties (along with A Farewell to Arms and To Have and to Have Not). I concluded the grand tour in ’83, half a lifetime ago, with For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I finished in Athens, Greece, the summer before Judy and I conceived our first son Harrison.
Note that the catalogue lacks Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway’s non-fiction paean to the ritualistic blood ballet of bullfighting. That’s just how much I’m not into bullfighting. People say read Death in the Afternoon for the writing, but I’m hip to Hemingway’s style. Nope, I ain’t doing it. Bullfighting gives me the heebie jeebies.
In fact, I’m so not macho that I actually didn’t enjoy the Real Escuela de Arte Equestre (Royal School of Equestrian Art) horseshow I saw in Jerez today at noon. Caroline dubbed it “animal cruelty lite” and Brooks considered it “just sad.”
Don’t get me wrong. No one stuck picas or banderillas in the horses and finished them off with a sword thrust through the heart; however, the horses – and they were beautiful – were forced to be unnatural, to sidle, to prance, to rear, to rear and kick, and none of these stunts were particularly graceful. The rearing reminded me of a weak tween after great strain successfully accomplishing a pull-up in PE.
The final act, though, was the best. A dozen or so horses and riders did a sort of Bugsy Berkeley routine where they interlaced to form patterns that would no doubt be kaleidoscopically cool looking from a bird’s eye view perspective.
But, hey, consider the source, non macho me. Virtually everyone else besides us seemed to dig it big time, clapping vigorously with each rear and kick. They say if you visit Jerez you have to see it, and we did.
Now, Flamenco is another thing altogether. Caroline, Brooks, and I met Charlie, Concha, Concha’s sister Maria Jose, and her friend Marissa at a tiny club half a block away from our apartment.
The stage consisted of a percussive board on the floor. The show started around ten with three performers seated in chairs in a row. To my right was a terrific guitarist, a vocalist in the middle, and what seemed to be a foot percussionist to the left. The guitarist went to town while the other two provided frenetic percussion with hand claps and foot-stomping, and the time they kept was complicated, at cross currents. The singing was plaintive, a sort of extended, insistent lament that featured dramatic, pained expressions. Undoubtedly, his baby done him wrong or perished in a fire or something else permanent scar producing.
Eventually, the fellow on my left jumped up and started dancing, doing that staccato, rapid fire foot stomping that I associate with flamenco. He, too, was quite dramatic, almost campy, leaning back, throwing his arms into the air. This short video doesn’t do it justice, but I was too close to the stage. Later cousins joined in with extended vocal solos, and a couple of women took the stage for some solo dancing.
So, all and all, it was a full, day punctuated by a delightful hour long snooze during siesta. Today we’re off to one of Charlie and Concha’s friend’s house to watch Spain go against Portugal.
Fun Facts/ Personal Notes
Few people speak English here, so I’ve become an expert mime, hoisting my hands into the air, scribbling on an invisible notebook to summon the waiter, etc.
Wednesday night we had a delicious dinner provided by Concha on the rooftop patio of their beautiful home. Check out their views. Adios!