UNITED STATES—In Hollywood, I ran into some French tourists and their children. One of the dads told me, “We feel good in Hollywood.” I replied, “You come here to feel good, and I go to Paris to feel good.” We laughed.
Of course when I said that I was thinking really of Madrid, and those days in the end of June when a great happiness and innumerable conversations, aided by much wine and beer and espresso, descended like a euphoric cloud. We scarcely escaped the foyer of the brick residential unit where we were lodged our first night in Madrid. The door to the foyer didn’t work, and the key didn’t work, not until we found out about a secret button by the elevator.
We then took a bus into the city from Las Rozas, this planned, huge residential area, to Atocha, eastern gateway to Madrid. We then got on a clean efficient Madrid Subway. One feature of the station was an enclosed, glass-windowed mini-library for passers-by. We had to get instructions from a woman on how to get the line to Velasquez station and that would take us to El Retiro Park, our day’s destination. It was clear from her clinging gaze and reluctance to run away to catch her train that she was more than smitten with blue-eyed, fair-skinned Juan David, the Colombian filmmaker in our party.
We had good luck of this kind in Madrid. In a produce market in Las Rozas village the next morning, Juan David was witness to a magical moment between me and an Ecuadorean woman, shopping for melons. She was convinced I was good a person, we exchanged e-mails and she invited me to come visit her other home in Guayaquil, a seaside city in Ecuador. She went in kind of a dream. Juan David was there to memorialize it and retold the event with great relish.
Well, the subway brought us to Velazquez station and when we climbed the stairs to ground level we were in a tony neighborhood that was rife with name stores and finely dressed people seated at sidewalk tables. The names were Bulgari, Hermes, Gucci and Cartier.
We had to stroll through this to get to the big park, El Retiro. Acres and acres of stores in austerely classical buildings that put Rodeo Drive to shame. Rodeo Drive is tacky; Madrid is splendid, rooted as it is in its own personality instead of pandering to an imagined tourists’ vision that ends up loaded with a lot of cheap Vegas flash.
Patricio, the Ecuadorean poet and I, the Mexicanized gringo, went to one place to breakfast. It was an airy place, looked over by the Virgin of coffee. Everything was wonderful, the espresso, the criossant and Patricio’s milanesa as the place was managed singled handed by a Peruvian woman, clearly overworked, but simpatico.
Juan David, meanwhile ventured across the street and had the sort of nightmarish experience that gives life to a traveler’s tale. It was a wrap place where business necktie types crowded the tables. Juan David deduced that the waitress might have been another Colombian and was thus fearful that a fellow countryman might threaten her capacity to keep seating her business customers and keep making the boss happy.
Juan David had just started eating his chicken wrap and the waitress slopped coffee on the table, signifying meal’s end.
“It’s pretty soon for coffee,” he said. The waitress said:
“It’s the last thing we serve. You get my drift. Time to roll, bub.”
Juan David got insulted. So he took his sweet time getting out of the flea-bitten eatery. He took each bite of falafel wrap and chewed it 30 times. He drank his coffee out of a teaspoon. It was sweet revenge.
To be continued…
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood,” available on Amazon.