Madrid

Hamlet on the Outskirts of Madrid
Rex took being boarded with his usual grace--he howled like a demon and shit in the cage. He took his cues from my work performance. Early in my career I had a "make no enemies" policy...in the tight Government contracting world, what goes around comes around. (For example, a junior tester who worked for CSC on a State project is now our Government task manager on a USVisit contract.) I took in the big picture of personalities and bureaucratic politics and found the lines of cleavage to make things happen. Hari Seldon was my role model. Big changes through small, carefully placed, seemingly innocuous acts. The closer I get to retirement, the more I...wave my cane? have no vested interest in being nice? move from Meyers-Briggs F to T? tell people that they're the problem.

At any rate, I'm sure a number of people would be glad to tell you that I needed time off. Did a redeye--got in at 1AM (7AM local). Slept through the flight and felt surprisingly ready to do the day.
Spain is so advanced that the subway actually goes to the airport. Maybe LAX and Dulles will catch up someday. I'd been conditioned to think of Spanish-speaking countries as third-worldish, so it was disconcerting at first to have everything all European. Made a non-English vow that worked--was able to check in, drop off luggage, ask if there was a room available this early, all in Spanish. Big improvement since my Argentina trip a few years back, but still short of real fluency. BTW, unlike Latin America, the formal form is disappearing, everyone's tu. This is the reverse of English, where the informal form is archaic unless thou art Quaker.

Looking at the subway signs, I wonder how many people think every stop is named Salida. (It's also a town in Colorado with a restaurant called Joe Furphy's. Immigration made a typo when Joe immigrated from Ireland, and he decided it wasn't worth fixing. But my favorite town name is Salsipuedes, Mexico.)
View from Hotel Window

Hotel Atlantico was great...on the main drag, one block from the Metro line that served both train stations (for day trips), walking distance from the museums and, oddly, from all the funky stuff (a few pages down). However, the entrance was so narrow that I walked past it six times before spotting it, making me feel like a Muggle in a Harry Potter movie.
Spanish architecture runs to stunning on a large scale. This is the Cathedral of Saint....oh wait, it's the Post Office. So many of the buildings are essentially too big to photograph. Only Madrid's wide avenues made this possible. It's a big city, but not overpowering like New York or DC.

Madrid is all about the arts. With the sparkling sun, trendy people and Spanish architecture, it's what LA could have been if it had dedicated itself to high art instead of pop culture.

   
When I got off the plane in India ready for Indian food, I ran straight into a hot dog stand. In Madrid, the first thing I spotted was an "irresitable!!! American breakfast". Same principle. Oh, and here's the hot dog stand. (In Australia they're always "American hot dogs". Maybe they want to make sure we take the blame.) Another food surprise: Buffalo wing have inflitrated tapas menus.
The defeatingly large Prado. It's not wide but it goes on forever and there's a basement. More than 100 rooms full of big canvases by big names--Goya, Velasquez, Greco, Rembrandt and van Dyck all had several rooms to themselves.. What struck me the most were the anachronisms...a photorealistic Adoration of the Magi from the 1500s, Christ with his hand on a pretty damned accurate painting of the Earth from Space, El Grecko's St. Anthony with his head tilted like a college student about to make a snarky remark about being shot full of arrows. Got the dreaded pies de Prado here (my new name for sore feet).
Artsy lunch at the Prado. I hate my camera--resolution is fine but there are autofocus failures and dismal low-light performance, causing over-reliance on the flash that prevents me from taking covert pictures such as a picture of the guy taking covert pictures of the pictures with his iPhone.
 
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Of course I tried all the restaurants.  Here's the world's best sopa de mariscos. Yet Jaleo in DC has as tapas as good as any, and better than most of Spain. Concluded that Spanish food is as good as the chef.

The English sides of menus made me aware of the dangers of overtranslation, undertranslation, mistranslaction, phonetic translation. The fish of the day is golden? Oh, Dorado--actually Dorada in Spain. Crepes of cigars with sauce of ants? (Need my dictionary.) Dead of Chocolate? (Close but no cigar.) And back at the hotel, what's champu?  Oh.

Speaking of which, why do no hotels have washclothes? Why is there a no smoking sign and two ashtrays? Why does the lamp have a pull cord that's nonfunctional--there's a switch? Why are there no-hitchhiking icons on subway cars? (Discovered that if you look very closely, it's a "don't pull the doors apart" icon that happens to have a raised thumb.) And when is the subway door going to open? (While I was waiting, someone pulled the handle, making me think of the Cheech and Chong movie where Cheech is climbing over a huge wrought iron gate into an estate when Chong swings the gate open and walks in.) And why does no one drink milk?

Except in horchata. For shame, Mexico! Spanish horchata is made with evaporated milk, not skim milk. And it has ground ice like a granita. I'm spoiled now.
This is the reason I was able to have the sopa twice. Spent two hours on foot trying to find the restaurant again en vano. Then went back to the hotel, looked up this picture, and googlemapped it.
This picture is remarkable for what's not there.  The municipal parking garage is under the this circle.  Instead of building a 14-story office building in the center, they built a performing arts plaza.

La crisis economìa