Thursday, 8 a.m. in Cáceres
With the advent of mass access social media on the internet, energy once used for youthful “Soul-Surchins” has been siphoned off leaving a generation of once analytical minds to feed off the waste of each other’s “Spotlight-Lit” productions. Quickly and surely, every generation in the wealthy world is transcending into the oblivion of the ethernet. With the exception of the poorest and impovershed populations, at this point our humanity is virtual. This however, is not the story of Huckleberry’s voyage to Sevilla. His story is wound around the coil of Sevillian partying and celebration known commonly as, The Fair of April. The Fair of April occurs on a different date each year, primarily because its date depends on the date of Easter, and Easter’s date depends on all sorts of multi-millenial confusions.
It’s Thursday morning, the 8th of May, and Huckleberry is watching the sky from a seat in Plaza Mayor of Cáceres. To his right, an old man wearing an old man’s hat and an old man’s sweater walks with old man’s age down the ramp towards the center of the Plaza. The annual music festival of Cáceres that takes place in Plaza Mayor and the plaza of San Jorge is taking shape as stages are built and the bars prepare for the onslaught of people who will occupy the plaza with a massive botellón for three nights straight. To Huckleberry’s left a young, ultra-thin tree is braced and tied to two large sticks placed on either side. They, too, were once trees. Now, having given all they have, they support this young tree as it prepares to live in a small square of space surrounded by rock and concrete. The sacrifice of parents.
Next to the tethered metaphor sprites a springly little birdlet shuffling through the sand and rocks as it looks for goodin’s and treats. It looks so delightfully entertained as it walks about.
This thusly described morning turned into day which passed elegantly away in Trujillo where Huck gave a few more English classes before the school year rounded up at the end of May. Then, the night came in loudly with car horns, screaming neighbors, barking dogs and adolescents getting ready to party at the WOMAD music festival. Huck enjoyed this rumbling white noise of the city as he prepared his luggage to go to Sevilla at 7 a.m. the next morning.
At 1:45 a.m. his phone starts ringing. <I don’t remember changing my alarm music..> Huck looks at the screen and sees “Incoming Call — Max” <Of course.>
Max was an old apartment roomate that was visiting Cáceres during his vacation days in Germany. Being quite the party animal and girl chaser, he had probably lost his hosts in the shuffle of charades and most likely needed a place to stay for the night.
Huck answers the call, “Hey, Max, what’s up?”
Max kindly replies, “Not much, just enjoying the festival. Are you awake?”
Huck nods over the phone.
“Well, the question is – Can I stay at your place tonight? I lost Sofia in the crowd and my German phone doesn’t work here.” requested Max.
“Sure thing, man. Just buzz up and I’ll let you in. Sound good?” Huck offered.
“Great! See you in ten.”
So it went. Max arrived about 20 minutes later, buzzed up, was let in, and was offered the un-occupied bedroom to sleep in. Huck let him know that he’d be getting up at 6 (in 4 hours) to catch a train at 7 seven, so he’d have to help himself out of the apartment in the morning.
The real alarm goes off, and Huck – anticipating its call – wakes like a soldier and picks up his backpack on the way out of the building. <Can’t say I slept well to prepare for the Fair of April in Sevilla, but that’s what four and a half hour long train rides are for, I guess.>
Friday, 11:30 a.m., Arrival in Sevilla
Huckleberry zombie-walks out of the train station at Santa Justa through the unjustifiedly priced cafeterias and on towards the intersection outside where he could get a solid bang for his turkey (a buck is to a dollar what a pavo (turkey) is to the euro). <On that note, bangers n’ mash with some turkey sausage sounds real good about now.> he thinks heading towards el Barros bar and café. Walking in he is confronted by that conversationally friendly but in a life-sucks-moody-gloom sort of pessimistic attitude so typical of the Spanish.
“tomato on toast, and a thick espresso.” – Huck.
“gotcha” – waiter.
The waiter’s act is perfect, his performance unparalleled. It’s very hard to describe the typical spanish character to people and get the right idea across. It’s that kind of, “We’re in the shitter, we have been for 70 years if not more, and there’s nothing we can do to change things around. Anyway what were we really talking about? Oh yeah, screw all that – and let’s focus on having a good time!” attitude. A place where people are all at once joyous, happy, giddy and fatalistically pessimisstic. A marvelous mix. Every culture deals with the mixed bag of good’s and bad’s in a different way. Spain is that little kid, facing the torment of the piñata, and their weapon of choice is professional, top-notch party-going tradition.
That was, in part, why Huckleberry came to Sevilla this time: to see the massive festival which is the Fair of Sevilla. During Carnaval in Cádiz, Alberto the “Russian” advised Huck to buy his hostal tickets NOW! because the city get’s filled so fast for the celebration. So he did.
“You’ll love it, the Fair is a lot like Carnaval here: free live music, everyone is dressed up, lots of partying and good spirits! Only differences are: the free live music is popular flamenco for dancing, like Rumbas and Sevillanas; by dressed up I mean – this is no costume party – all the men don their best suits and the women, the women wear the Traje de Gitana and all of them are stunning; and the partying isn’t done in the streets like here in Cádiz, it’s done in casetas (small tents made to look like the inside of a house) at the fairgrounds. We drink rebujito which is basically a cheap citric flavored soda mixed with Manzanilla (a type of sherry wine). It isn’t the most delicious thing, but it keeps you cool in the sun and keeps you toe to toe with the crowd, so to speak.” After such a description, in the heights of the Carnaval High, Huck had to book a night for the Fair of Sevilla, at least.
After eating his 2 euro coffee and toast breakfast alongside the angry mug-of-a friendly and attentive bartender, Huck finishes waxing nostalgic about Carnaval in Cádiz and meeting friendly people like Alberto by starting his new adventure in Sevilla by heading straight towards the city’s largest cathedral.
<Four years since I’ve seen this place.
The city is ten times more bourgeois than I remember, and the women are ten times more gorgeous.> Huck observes. Whole families were heading to the fair. The men dressed in their Sunday’s-best, the women dressed in Traje de Gitana. <For the men, it seems to be like a giant fraternity party at an Ivy League school. For the women, it’s like homecoming or prom – except the dresses are.. not so much revealing as..thoroughly suggestive.>
Huck drops his backpack off at the hostal and decides he’ll scope out the fair grounds before he got all snazzy with his only pair of good clothes. <The hostal is super touristy, but – this is Sevilla, after all. Even so, it seems like the perfect accomodation for anyone coming to the city to party even if they don’t care about doing tourism; this is Sevilla, afterall.> Huck thinks as the receptionist gets him all set up.
When he gets to the room he finds his bed, the bed #14. The room is pretty big, and he wonders just what it will be like so sleep in a room with 14 people. <Even though I’m the only one here now, I’d be surprised if I get this place all to myself tonight. This is the Fair of Sevilla.> He unloads his things, lightens his pockets, forgets to apply sunscreen and heads towards La Triana on foot.
The closer he gets to the fair, the more fancy dressed fair-goers he sees. Once he gets to the street called, “Calle de la Asunción” (which leads directly to the gate of the fair) he thinks <I’m starting to understand just why, just why they might have called this street the Street of the Ascension. Its filled with the justifiably famed gorgeous women of Sevilla dressed so prettily in those trajes of so many colours and..so many shapes. Getting beyond this street and to the fair, dead or alive, will make a saint out of me.>
As soon as he finds the fairgrounds, he has a pretty good idea of what awaits him after a little siesta, a drink, and the donning of good shoes. The fairgrounds are properly strung with paper lanters, and it smells of so many varities of horse-smell due to the dozens of horse drawn carriages taxi-ing families around. Men on horseback give children rides around the grounds receiving cups of beer, wine, and summer-hooch from the crowd, just like marathon runners are given water.
The tents, or casetas, look like six city blocks of wall to wall houses except each house has knocked out their front wall so as to give all who pass by a view of their family, their society, their pedigree, and their joy. There was food and drink everywhere, and at any given moment one of three casetas (these mock-house tents) had music flowing out into the festival grounds. Dancing, cheering, laughing, yelling, Spaniarding, and such.
<Well, looks like this will be one event where I won’t be bringing the camera along when I come back. I don’t think I’ll bring anything along, actually. I’m getting enough lusty and distrustful stares as it is with my white complexion, blue eyes, and blonde hair. Best play it safe to some degree> Huck decides as he leaves the fairgrounds.
Walking through the streets back to the hostal was just as impressive as the stroll to the fairgrounds. He’d have to take it easy with so much festive stimulation going on around him.
Huck arrives at the Hostal, takes a shower and gets dressed. No one else seems to have arrived at the room. <This could be nice, especially after last night’s terrible sleep!> he thinks as he adjusts his tie in front of the bathroom mirror. Thinking about the dress code, Huck remembers advice he got from the flamencos of Granada in 2009, “We’ll teach you Flamenco, just don’t ask us to teach you Sevillanas! That’s not real flamenco, that´s just gentrified yuppy typical-Sevillano-bourgeois flamenco. Nothing at all to do with flamenco from here.”
Huck didn’t disagree. They were right, the city itself is super yuppy and the fair is yupster-ville 3000 but – it sounded absolutely worth investigation, especially being a despised Guiri (guiri = tourist, foreigner). Indeed, in Granada Huckleberry would get out of school in the afternoon and then head to the Albaizyn and Sacramonte to hang out with artists and learn Flamenco Puro. Flamenco puro is pretty different from the flamenco at the fair, and it’s a world away from the flamenco on the radio and on t.v. here in Spain. The tradition was already exhaling its last breaths when Huck was in Granada in 2009 and who knows if there’s any evolving art left in Flamenco, or if the only thing left of the tradition is a commercialized ghost – a consumerist shell. When one peruses the web to find where the actually artistic Flamenco’s are at now – one can see that they’ve fled the ultra-conformist society of Spain and dispersed un-coordinatedly throughout the world. Having left Spain, they’ve collectively left behind a shattered mess of lazy tangos, lame rumbas, and over extracted coplas.
Even though his flamenco gurus of Granada warned him that the Fair of Sevilla is a place for “pijos” (suffice it to say that it basically means a cross between “yuppy” and “bougie” as in “Wow, that wannabe artist from Yuppyville is unbearably bougie”), huck was pretty sure he’d have a good time.
<Arriving at the fair with my guiri-compensating snazzy threads and the fair is even more crowded and boisterous than before. It’s like one giant block party where no one gets out of hand becuase doing so will get you kicked out indefinitely from the social club and you don’t want that because being different (or cast out) from the group is a subject of immense fear for these Sevillians; and, it seems to do the trick. Everyone is behaving themself and on the booze train. Kids are running around everywhere and horses with their burdens (carriages) fill the cobblestone streets of the fairgrounds. A curly haired little boy falls asleep on his mother’s (or some woman’s) shoulder while a father (of somebody) to the left spins around in circles with two little girls in his arms. Everyone is smiling, laughing and dancing.> observes Huck in the fluidly moving masses.
Taking in the festival is tiring business, and with the powerful sun still hanging in the sky, <If I want to make it to nightfall at the festival, I’m going to need some shady breaking.> With that, Huck leaves the grounds to wonder around the neighborhood of Triana, a working-man’s place, a Normal Joe and Simply Sarah kinda area. Nearly every bar is selling the coveted and very festive Rebujito (Sherry wine with 7 up or Sprite) at 4 turkeys a pop. Huck steps up to cash in on tradition.
“What’s the smallest cup of rebujito you can sell me?” asks Huck.
“Jose!” yells the waiter behind the counter “Whaz the smalles sighz?”
Jose, we assume, yells back from three feet away, “La maceta”
<Dear god, una maceta?> Huck thinks.
The waitress tells Huck, “UNA MASETA, FUH FO (holding up four, or, fo’ finguhz)” she screams back at Huckleberry. Spaniards are loud. On top of that, Southern Spaniards consider being loud a source of pride that distinguishes them from the rest. They’ve also got the silly accents but that’s an entirely different conversation altogether. A maceta is the word used for plant pots. That’s right, for plant pots. So, what size do you expect to get back if the smallest size is the maceta?
“OOf, I’ll take it.” replies and orders Huck. <4 turkeys a pop aint so bad, especially considering the prices at the Fair. Even if I only finish half of it, I’d be drinking 2 pours worth of Manzanilla (the type of sherry whine used) for 4 turkeys. At that rate, the 10 ounces of jancky 7-up soda is like an added bonus.> Huck mused ironically to himself, rationalizing the irrational like any good human does on a good day. Then, as he receives the flower pot of ice cold booze, <This, this is going to hurt>.
Wearing super shiny black shoes, black as midnight dress pants, a night sky blue shirt, a dotted plaid blue tie and gold rimmed aviator sunglasses; Huckleberry didn’t look that bad. One could almost say he looked nice. Add a giant clear plastic cup full of sherry and soda with a red straw to his thirsty lips and all of a sudden he looks like a wealthy loader taking a careless freewheel around the streets of Triana.
<I may look rather ridiculous, but between the shade and this cool drink – I don’t feel that bad about it.> he thinks.
Just then, a teenage girl passes by lifting the volante of her traje de gitana up with both hands. The dresses are beautiful, and suitably expensive. Some women spend more than 500 euros on their dresses all in all. <Wait, what?> Huck turns around eyes wide, <She’s holding up her dress to cross the dirty street, and in her mouth she’s holding a plastic Maceta of booze like the one I’ve got here in my hands. Huh, how bout that. Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad. I probably should, but I don’t.> A few blocks later and Huck encounters a whole street having it’s own botellon/block party. <The fact that this country is in an economic crisis isn’t surprising anymore. What’s truly surprising is that this un-reality that is Spain doesn’t just simply crumble apart at the foundation.> Part of the beauty of this place, is that the people, how do you say?, dontgiveafuck. This, of course, has repercussions particularly in bureaucracy but it’s awfully refreshing for those of us brought up in more protestant environments or states where the motto is “Forward!”.
After passing the blockparty, Huck notices another signature image from the event: a dressed up couple arriving to the city wide party on moped – long flowing dresses and all. After they dismount, the man helps his date fix the peineta (decorative haircomb) in her hair. Some of the decorative combs they place in their hair are truly beautiful and are usually accompanied by a large flower, of some fake or real variety, that they pin in the top of their hair.
<This is like how I imagine a Shakespearean festival scene or wedding where the whole Italian city is invited to indulge in graceful debouchery.> notes Huckleberry.
The Fair is fairly wonderous and spectacular, but one can only take in so much. At sunset, Huckleberry found himself at a bridge over the main river of the city listening unattentively to the latin music flying off the miniature cruiseboat-restaurant-club boats barely moving along. <This is a good place to let the glory down before settling down at the hostal and closing Adventure Park Hucklberry for the night.>
On his way to the hostal, he orders a smoothie for the first time since he left The States. <My word, why do all the women have to be so pretty here?> he thinks while he talks with the lady making his smoothie. <I’ve always thought that the pressure to be pretty along with propaganda for the oversexualization of the species was abnormally strong in Spain, I can’t help but think there are major psycological ramifications for the girls here. They do look pretty, all the time – but..sometimes it seems just a little too much.> As he pays and leaves, his eyes are immediately caught by the infallible power of advertising. In big, bold letters he reads , “SEX, FUN & LOVE”. <My God, I knew it – Rock n’ Roll really is dead!> he thought. It was a fashion shop called Desigual. <They’ve done it; and they’ve prounounced the reign of FUN over ROCK, and re-ordered the heirarchy. Sex still appears to be king of the mountain. That’s not too surprising. Though, there is a sort of Tyrrany of Fun about this whole place. I mean, Aren’t you having fun?> Huckleberry laughs with his Crazy-Maniacal-Doctor-Belly-Laugh. <What a horrifying type of reign.>
Arriving at the hostal, blasts of Reggae from the third floor balcony bar dig the roots of his phantom locks. <Ever since I got here, I’ve had these frequently re-ocurring phantom-dreadlock sensations. Guess the middle age of my locks was spent right here in Spain. I’ll look into it later. What I really need now is to get these shoes off, lose the tie, grab a drink and chill upstairs so I can write away the experiences of the day.> Each step is a triumph. Ounces of energy seep from his feet and paint the stairs with his remaining voyaging valor. He’d need a good night of deep, dark, soundless sleep to get his forces back.
Pulling out his keycard for the room and loosening his tie, he enters the room.
The audience gasps in silence, their faces are shocked to the brim. Thirteen college girls, who are clearly in Sevilla to party, stare at Huckleberry. He laughs that belly founded crazy man laugh, nods diagonally in assessment of the situation, and starts scatting away as he goes to his drawer to pull out the current necessities.
Walking over to his bed now occupied by a stranger’s belongings he decides to break the ice. “Sorry, to whomever put their stuff here. I’m technically bed number 14, but since you’ve already got your stuff sprawled out there I’ve got no problem with using a different bed.”
“Wait, are you staying in this room? I thought there were only 13 beds?” says one of the girls, her face is confusion.
“Yes, well, looks like a mistake has been made.” Huck says, <Although, to be honest, figuring all this out can happen later – now I need food and drink to nourish my starving bones from the Fair of Sevilla.> “Where are you guys from?”
“A town near Bilbao” another girl responds.
“Oof, quite the trip you’ve made! Tell you what, if you guys want the room all to yourselves I’m sure we can fix that up.”
“¡Cállate, Chaval!” says one of the girls, not even looking at him. Was it something he said?
At this point he exchanges his tie for a notebook and a pen as he leaves the room to take care of priority number one: nourishment.
Huck orders some vegetarian lasagna and a mojito. Pulling out his little flip-notebook he begins to jot down memories of the day. A few minutes later, a deadlock-mullet youth comes around. It’s the kid from reception.
“Ahr jyou Andjyou? Weve made mistake with the rooms, can you sweetch?” he says in perfect English. Some people insist on needlessly speaking English to Huck at the most inconvenient times, like when business needs to get done. This is ok, to an extent, unless they outright assume he doesn’t understand Spanish.
Well, as they say: spare the rod, spoil the presumptuous child.
“Yeah, gottanotheroomferme?” Huck replies.
A blank stare of silence follows, and suddenly the arrogance falls from the kid’s face.
“Uh, come with me”
Huck goes along with the kid as he looks for open beds. He walks into a couple of rooms, and finally finds a bed for Huck. After grabbing his backpack and recently bought souvenirs, Huck exchanges keycards for the new room and says adieu to the 13 charming ladies of room #3.
<Well, now back to more important matters, like that order of lasagna and the mojito!> As he gets up to the bar the attractive russian speaking lady behind the bar says, “I was waiting for you! Where did you go?”
“You know, staff mistakes at the hostal, nothing unusual. Sorry, had to go pack my things up and change rooms. By the way, got utensils?”
“Oh!, yeah” she flusters for the red wrapped fork and knife. Was it something he said? Maybe it’s his lousy Spanish. One can never tell. <Best not to take things too personally. Also, what is it with the size of things here? This mojito is massive.> He takes a sip – it’s pretty good. Back in the day, they say Sir Francis Drake drank the mojito with aguardiente, thus requiring some sugar to knock down the intensity. Who knows if Hemmingway knew the difference, or how he drank them. Anyway, all I know is that I´m in that curious writing mood. Time to scribble up and jot down.>
Saturday, 8 a.m., Sevilla
<I don’t think I’ve slept so poorly in quite some time, maybe since last night!> That night, a choir of snoring rushed down from the heavens. Snoring has one of three functions: 1.) to keep predators away 2.) if sleeping near competing males, to deprive them of nourishing sleep 3.) to keep Huckleberry up all night.>
Like some foul competition, one guy would snore in a rising crescendo and then break allowing the next dude to start his unmelodious chant of nose-grunts. What does Huckleberry do? Leave the room to sleep in the lounge area where he is woken up by the 13 girls from Bilbao as they get back from their partying. What wakes him isn’t their percussive heels, but their whispering voices as they talk about him. Not wanting to creep them out anymore than his laugh already must have done, he lays there eavesdropping from no feet away as they encircle the sofa like he was a zoo-monkey having accidentally fallen asleep outside of the observation cage. One of the girls says something about the shape of his ears, and then somebody timidly touches his left earlobe.
Huck “shuffles” in his “sleep” and the girls hush each other as they swiftly retreat into the darkness of the hostal hallway towards their 13 plus one bed hostal room.
Having been woken, Huck decides maybe it’s worth a shot to see if his fellow men in room 31 have finished the round of snoring.
Nope. Not yet.
<Well, seeing as dawn has already broken, maybe its best to just go for a walk and grab a coffee. When I get back it’ll be a good time to check out.>
Hucks leaves, feeds his caffeine addiction, and returns to find a stranger in his bed. Justifiably, Huck laughs loudly having no more shits to give. The Typical Spanish BroMc’Brotime wakes up.
The cocky Spaniard says, “Sorry, is dees djyour bed?, dhere was a guys in my bed, so I sleep here. Do you want it now?”
“One: yes this is my bed, and Two: that’s a shit lie. No worries though, I’m on my way to checkout. By the way, I’ll let reception know that whoever let you into the hostal will be held responsable for cleaning your shit up. Understood? Great.”
Suddenly, Typical-Spanish-Bro isn’t so happy or arrogant.
<Huh, fancy that. On to enjoying the day.>
Huck goes downstairs, checks out early, and explains to the staff that the half naked stranger that appeared in bed 10 of room 31 accepted responsibility for all of Huck’s hostal obligations. The dreadlock-mullet kid tried to offer a free night in the future at the hostal to make up for the “several dissapointments about Mr. Huckleberry’s stay”.
“No I don’t want that, in fact I really don’t give a damn anymore, actually. I’m just letting you know, that you have shit to take care of. Get to it, and have a nice day.”
The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the beautiful city, taking in the sun and the shade. Luckily, no more strange events, just a string of pleasant strolls and destinationless sight seeing. Since the fair was still going on, one could still take in the unusual alteration that Sevilla goes through during La Feria de Abril.
<While the inspiring architecture of Sevilla is certainly astounding, it seems that one of the best things is simply to come to this park and watch the buildings and towers appear through the canopy of the tropical trees. The sound of those water fountains doesn’t hurt, either. Quite the dynamic city, all in all, this Sevilla: wild, beautiful fair-goers in unbridled mirth; ego-tripping anti-authoritarian youth; and the quiet shade of this giant park next to the visually stunning Plaza de España.>
On his way to the train station half the day later, he recalled how he set out for Sevilla the day before, <Didn’t sleep much last night, but – that’s what trains are for, I guess>.