UNITED STATES—Wednesday turned out to be a day of surprises. The focus was for Colombian filmmaker, Juan David, to submit his recently completed movie to film festivals. It took us to an unlikely, un-Spanish setting: the Grove of Madrid. It is a huge hit with the busloads of Asian tourists. They love shopping at the homogenized same classy stores as everywhere, Armani and Burberry and Starbucks.

In Madrid, they boast that Heron City has introduced the madrilenos to “how Americans enjoy their leisure time.” Theaters, bars, bowling, international cuisine–you name it, they have it and then across the parking lot, “a new concept” – Outlet Village. Even the names are in English.

This weirdly exotic form of tourism came about because Juan David needed a place with Wi-Fi to work on his laptop, Starbucks, of course. It was in “Outlet Village,” a sort of Versailles dedicated to name designer shops. It couldn’t get more bourgeois than this. The turf on the grounds was immaculate, the stores magnificently staged.

Juan David set up on his laptop, meanwhile, a steady stream of customers came through to order. At times there was a long line. This Starbucks was a winner. He was there to enter various film festivals with a suspense, “Overexposed,” movie shot over two years in the Colombian jungle. Juan David was both grim and determined. “Overexposed” has now been named Best Experimental film at a major LA festival.

Only later did I learn that a cinema teacher had lambasted his labor of sweat and love. This is why, when he could have been strolling the Gran Vía, Juan David instead chose to sit in this Starbucks.

Meanwhile, I planned to hang out. First of all, I went into Burberry and entertained myself trying a hip version of a trench coat. Burberry shares Acquascutum’s claim for the invention of the trench coat and of course Humphrey Bogart wore a standard issue khaki Burberry trench coat in “Casablanca.”

The hip one didn’t cut it. Travel, espionage and suspense are all things dear to me, but the original trench coat truly belongs to a world that has past. Maybe it past with jet airplanes. And to wear it would be like wearing a uniform to a country that has ceased to exists, like the Austro Hungarian Empire.

Patricio left to go into central Madrid with Dave America. I accompanied Juan David to find an adapter so he could use his American plug laptop in Starbucks. Across the parking lot in “Heron City,” the entertainment oasis we found as well some graffiti which may attest to the drug problem in this halcyon-appearing land which partook, in equal measure, of the best of American material life and the Spanish penchant for enjoying the moment. A wag with a can of spraypaint turned a sign for Heron City into Heroin City.

I was going to stay in the Starbucks and get a turn on Juan David’s laptop so I could file my weekly column for the Canyon News. I thought well, here I am. And I’d started in when Pat showed up. He was supposed to be in Madrid. It was one of the few times I could undo something and say, “I’m going.” So I went with Dave and Miriam to a place near the Gran Vía. (To anybody who came aboard this travelogue, the Gran Vía is Madrid’s 42nd Street). We awalked past the James Joyce Pub and a sign, “Attic for Rent.”

We came to a fine plaza, and it was nearing the perfect dinner hour, a little past 9:30 p.m. The dregs of orange sunlight were fleeing to the vanishing point of the city streets. The foliage in the trees above the plaza was turning dark as bronze. Sangria was ordered. We sat outdoors at an eatery touted to be “organic” and “vegan” in a city where you could generally order anything you wanted as long as it was ham.

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)