Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Madrid is Awesome!
The turkeys have landed!!  Zack and I are in Europe, Madrid to be exact!  
I now realize two mistakes I made on my last visit to Madrid 31 years ago: 
            1. I came in August and it was 142 night!  Dry too, as if that matters.  Now I'm here in May and the weather couldn't be more beautiful.  Sitting outside in outdoor cafes, sipping sangria and watching the world go by.  
            2.  I was in a rush and tried to see Madrid in one day...or was it one afternoon!  Slow down, Steve
This time is going to be different:

We've taken the time to walk through the beautiful green parks


We've taken the time to see the amazing street performers in the city squares!  Like this guy in gold leaf.  A Goldfinger wannabe! Very cool.  The pigeons really liked him too!


Madrid is in the middle of a terrible financial crisis.  The government has to find a way to deal with 40% unemployment and so it's cutting everything - including education.  There were 1000's of people protesting in the square and in the park.  Mucho mucho police tambien (also).

One guy, who I believe is a teacher, didn't want his face in a picture, so he put on these incredibly big sun doubt made by the Hindenburg Sunglass Co.  He has a string of hams, I guess to signify, "too much pork in government" and at the top the sign says, "More education and less corruption."  Wow!  And I thought I was alone in that sentiment!

This was the beginning of the excuse me, protest march.  This was right outside of the Prado and was over  a mile long.  They were wearing kelly green t-shirts and many had green derbies.  It resembled more of a St. Patrick's Day parade than a protest.

There were hundreds of police.  Made me think of the old song:
 There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there / Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn / Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds / Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat / A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs / Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep / Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid / You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
(For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield)
       But really...they're teachers!!  I think a couple of overweight cops, donuts in hand, sipping on a coffee would have been enough force.  I can't imagine my third grade teacher running through the streets with a molotov cocktail shouting, "Burn Baby Burn!!"   (Actually, I can't even imagine her running, or for that matter, walking fast!)

Speaking of terror on the streets:
 here's another street performer, or street stander, a guy dressed like a monster.  
He stayed frozen for 30 minutes on one foot!  
 I was so impressed 
 that I gave him a quarter!  

The Cathedral is beautiful, big and has an incredible view!  

The building in Madrid are incredible works of art.

The Royal Family lives a few miles away, however the Palace Real is still used by the king in special occasion, such as weddings, visiting dignitaries, inquisitions... .. (okay, not the Inquisition).  It has over 2000 rooms and was built by a Frenchman who, though he became the king of Spain.  He never got over his love of being French (Shock!!) so he built the Palace in a very Versailles style.   
Editor's thought - Can you imagine living in THAT palace and telling people that they were going to lose their jobs??!!

We woke up at 3o'clock this morning as if it were 3 PM and fought to fall back asleep, finally giving up and getting up at 5AM.  We walked the dead, but remarkably clean streets of Madrid.  The guidebooks say that Madrid is a city for night owls and that it is!   We did find a delicious way to stay awake...get juiced on cafe con leche and Churros y chocolate -  Their churros have no cinnamon and no sugar, which is fine because they give you a mug of hot chocolate pudding/sauce to dip them in.  One of my all time favorite memories of this trip will be Zack and I sitting in a little "character filled" bar dipping our churros and sipping on a hot cafe con leche.  (editor's flashback: Michoacan, Mexico- 1983 - writing poetry & sipping hot cafe con leches in hole-in-the-wall cafes everyday from 3:00 - 3:45 while waiting for the monsoon rains to stop.)
WARNING:  The following is an OPINION      Read on at your own risk!!
The Rite of Passage that we call ART APPRECIATION
  3:00 pm  5/22/2012  
        This morning Zack and I went to the world famous Thyssen Museum.  (Have you heard of it?)  Wow!  I'm going to be as positive as I can about the museum.
1. Beautiful walls - faded orange pastel
2. The AC worked magnificently
3 & 4. The bathrooms were handicap accessible AND very clean (that counts as two)
5 & 6.  All the guards uniforms appeared to be freshly ironed and they were well groomed.  (again two)
7. I liked seeing two of Fredrick Remington's and one Van Gogh
8. The walk to the museum was gorgeous
9. They take Visa  
10. They take American Express
    I did like seeing two Fredrick Remingtons and one Van Gogh
    I did like that they have pictures from the 16th century, and that the collection of paintings gave me insight into the values and mores of the era, however... judging by the sad faces of the women in the paintings of the 16th century it must have been the most depressing century of all time.  
      I wonder if I'm alone in my thoughts on the art that I saw today:
abstract art-  of course there are exceptions, and I'm sure I'm missing something.   We looked at one picture of a few straight lines on a monotone canvas...(trust me - the color isn't important)
           Me:  Really?  He got paid for that?
          Zack:  Oh come on Dad...he probably did that without a ruler.
Someday I really want to introduce Zack to the works of Andy Warhol:         
          Me:  Over here son, I want to introduce you to an Andy Warhol masterpiece...
          Zack:  It looks like a can of Campbell's Tomato soup.
          Me:  Yes, amazing isn't it??!!  
          Not to pick on the 16th century, but Jennie Craig would have made a killing! (Oh Steve!  Don't you know that plump was in?)  Okay, I am going to pick on the 16th century.  After seeing the male anatomy in the statues I think I have an inkling as to why the women in the paintings were so depressed. 
        I will grant you that knowledge of the artist, the era he painted, as well as having a knowledge of the events happening in the painting will certainly make a painting more "enjoyable".   There were no such signs at the Thessyn.  I am sure that if I was traveling with an art teacher, the art work would have been more meaningful and thus more likely to have been appreciated.  
        But my biggest issue with calling the majority of these painting "masterpieces" is that the figures in the paintings looked as if they were painted by a 1st year  Dunn-Edwards paint mixer.  
        Did that shock you?!?!  When you get up off the floor, I'll explain my four biggest concerns, but first I believe that all of the paintings have great historical value because they have withstood the test of time, earthquakes, floods, etc.    

BUT... you wouldn't look at the art found in 10,000 year old caves and say, that is a "beautiful drawing!"  You would be amazed, however, but it would be because they are so old!   Seriously, they're stick figures!  Come with me to kindergarten and I'll give you about 2 trillion dollars worth of art.    

4 big concerns:
                  1.body parts that are over or undersized - 
 Yes, I understand that Exaggeration is a technique that artists have long used to poke fun at the rich and powerful of their time, as well as an attempt to demean someone who drew the ire of the artists,  but that doesn't explain the many unintended distortions.  Feet were too big.  Noses were unintentionally distorted. Every part of both sexes were drawn disproportionately.   Oh and my favorite: boobies growing out of a woman's head??   Note to self: don't do heroin and paint!
                 2. paintings are too dark - did they not make Venetian Reds or Naples Yellows or whites back then.  Just browns and blacks??
                 3. perverted paintings: - One painting showed a guy, I know it was a guy because his disproportionately wee little personal belongings were hanging out for God and the free world to see, holding a big disproportionately fat naked baby upside down about 8 feet above the ground. 
I wanted to try and keep an "art is in the eyes of the beholder" attitude with Zack so... 
         Me - Wow!  Look at that picture.   Interesting... What do you think this work of art is trying to say? (it probably came out something like, "What's that pervert doing with that baby?")
       Zack - I think it's a 16th century gravity test.
                 4.  it is so unfair to deserving painters - I think about the incredible painters in the world who will die and never be recognized.  They must go bananas as they look at these paintings and say, "Really?  Why not mine?"    There was a live art demonstration at the Prado today.  A woman was painting a still-life of flowers in one of the 7,000 rooms  that had still-life flower paintings.  And guess what....Yep, every bit as good as the masterpieces.  
    Here's the kicker:  In the next few days, Zack will experience the following conversation several times:
           stranger: So where have you been?
           Zack:  Madrid
           stranger:  Oh Madrid!
           Zack:  Yes, great night life!  Incredible city parks!
           stranger: Oh and the art museums!!!!
          Zack:  ohhhhhh those art museums!!
          stranger:   Didn't you just love the Prado and Thyssen?
          Zack:  Oh those museums!
         Blah Blah Blah!  Call me a cretin if you must, but you  weren't in the Thyssen for 18 hours and you didn't crawl up 53 flights of steps only to have a 12' naked statue flashing you as you reached the top of  the steps!!!
Okay, here's a positive note...We're going to the even bigger Prado Museum tonight!  No, that's not the positive note...  it's free after 6:00 and they close at 8:00!  
5-22-2012  9:00 PM    UPDATE:
       Great news!  The Prado experience was Mucho Mucho better.  Part of the reason was that we had realistic expectations and secondly, they had signs telling a bit about the paintings.  We enjoyed the museum but I stand by my earlier rant:  Too many of those guys had marketing skills that far exceeded their painting skills.  
It must be a Rite of Passage - we all tell little lies so that no one thinks poorly of us.  We sit in meetings, have people tell us things we know aren't true, and let things go without voicing our protests.  We call that adulthood.   As for me, I appreciate that those teachers and students hit the streets today and put their feet where their beliefs are.  I admire anyone who can take the arrows for doing what's unpopular...even if it's something that I disagree with.  You want a pee in a jar and stick a crucifix in it???   Fine, just don't call it art and expect me to pay for it.  
Would I recommend you go to the two museums?  Absolutely!  
You simply must go see the masterpieces!   They're incredible!