28 July 2008

Reàl Madrid, for real

I like Madrid. It reminded me of New York: huge, noisy, crowded, and nobody speaks English. I had to squelch some of my overambitious plans for lack of time, so I didn't get a chance to see the Escorial palaces, where Philip II once acted CEO of the Spanish empire. I did, however, see the two top ticket museums: the Museo del Prado and the Museo Reina Sophia. I saw the latter first and the former last. I love visiting museums. They're usually so peaceful inside, little worlds cut off from the world; it's like going back to the womb. The prize of the Reina Sophia's modern art collection is Picasso's enormous "Guernica", which has its own room (like Seurat in Chicago) and TWO female attendants making sure no football teams try to steal it.

The Prado is one of the greatest museums in the world, I have oft been told, and has a quite large collection of the European masters, especially those rascally Spaniards Goya and Velasquez. Actually, I thought the Prado would be bigger, but it seems to be under restoration, and many of the exhibition rooms were closed. Still, it's no Met, and I'm sure that's an unfair comparison. Nevertheless, experiencing the face-off across adjoining galleries between Goya's "Family of Charles IV" and Velazquez's "Family of Philip IV" is something I won't soon forget (it's like crossing the beams in Ghostbusters: too much artistic power concentrated in once place). There were three other paintings I must mention because they seemed so strange to me. The first was a portrait of a man with a single breast, feeding an infant. I am sure there is an allegorical religious message contained therein, but I can't read artspeak Spanish, so the label, like the one-titted Renaissance guy, was beyond my comprehension. The other two paintings were versions of the same scene: a statue of the Virgen Mary coming to life in St. Bernard's presence and squirting milk into his mouth. According to the tag (this one I could just make out), this is a particularly beloved subject in Spain. Weirdos.

I did not much else in Madrid in the few days I was there. People-watching, mostly, and ambling up and down the wide boulevards. But there was one exciting development. Do you remember my Irish friend, Maeve, who appeared in sundry of my South America blog entries? Well, she made a special guest appearance in my life yesterday. She just finished her yacht duties in Newport, RI, and flew directly to Madrid to visit her friends here, where she used to live and work, here where I just happened to be, too. So we had the mostly lovely, drunken reunion. Luckily, her friends had to work the next day and she was jet-lagged, so I didn't end up staying out all night--normally a fine diversion once in awhile, but I had a train to catch to Barcelona in the early morning, and I wanted to at least be semi-conscious in the last city of my trip.

I can't believe it's almost over: two and a half years outside madhouse America. I hope my country won't reject me like a bad organ. I may have changed in ways I can't perceive, perhaps too much to fit back in again. The more frightening possibility, however, is that I haven't. In any event, I do miss my loved ones very much (my books, my Mac, my inflatable exercise ball, certain people) and hope to see you/them all soon.

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