UNITED STATES—Off we went, five people piled in a car, to the round restaurant in the planned community of Las Rozas. Around the table were our host, a rock musician self named Dave America, to whom we owed this trip, his girlfriend Miriam, and the poet, Oscar Noviembre. I had translated a selection of his poems for our bilingual journal. By profession a physical therapist, by vocation a poet, he seemed to be a person of few words, daunted by the attention he was receiving.
I wondered how he would do at the microphone, Thursday night, when our group from America would present our journal and Oscar Noviembre would read a poem and speak in public for the first time.
There was plenty of beer and conversation of a Chinese restaurant around the corner (the Chinese are said to love Madrid) and rampant conversation about the restaurant owners harpooning ducks from the reservoir and then serving it as Peking duck, and them eating it.
Dave was emphatic that he had seen the Chinese come into the park at night. What was fascinating was not whether it was true, but an attachment to this story about the harpooned ducks and they still happily went to this Chinese restaurant in spite of the rumors.
Reflections of the strings of Christmas lights reflected in the estuary, this warm night in Madrid. We were among the last to leave. A waiter from North Africa gave us the stink eye.
The next morning we awoke in the apartment in the stuffy top of the apartment unit, the plastic window in the slanted roof let in the sounds of children playing. It was kind of creepy, but the apartment was nice. There was a futon and a refrigerator. Patricio slept in the one room, Juan David on the floor.
I got up early, with a couplet going through my head, about the train to Lisbon. This was one of the ideas floated during the trip, and fizzled out. Like the trip to Toledo, or a jaunt to the beach, but what was important had a way of coalescing and morphing into something else. Toledo, to was mentioned and the southern beach town of Malaga. Anyhow, I started the day trying out something in the rigid form of the sonnet, starting with the couplet I woke up with in the morning. “You go on the train to Lisbon/I’ll stay in Madrid with Quevedo” –Quevedo being one of these exquisite poets who is untranslatable to other languages, being chained to the rhymes so effortless in Spanish.
So away I scribbled as Juan David and Patricio slept in their respective spaces–the floor and the bedroom–meanwhile the skylight was open and let in cool air. Now I realize that my nickname for that place, the Anne Frank hovel, was due to the windowless nature of the apartment and the uninhabited nature of the top floor, and there were the creepy voices of children playing. Why they should be creepy, I don’t know, maybe I’ve watched too much Hitchcock.
Well, I scribbled away, in a chair and in a loft. I plugged in the refrigerator so we could have some ice and cold water during the hot Madrid day. My travel companions slept. They were sleeping off jet lag, and the effects of scotch whisky plied the night before when our hosts father, a person of few, but expressive words offered of bottle of 30-year-old Scotch. The man was living in one of the more upscale residential areas of Madrid and yet remained true to his rural Argentinian roots and halting speech.
At one point in the middle of poetry writing, Dave came to check on us. He went off, and left some keys to the downstairs front door, to escape this place.
To be continued…
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “A Very Grady Christmas.” And “Tales of Darkest Hollywood