Monday, 20 August 2007

The Party Is Over

Sorry to keep everyone dangling.

After many hours of worry and searching, Una Dog came home. She announced her arrival by tossing over the kitchen trash bin and spreading its contents across the floor. Bloody dog. No one should love an animal so much. She was in fine shape, covered in sand, and very tired. God only knows where she´d been.

Worrying about her took up most of the night, so Sunday, the second day of my Fiesta de San Tomas, was spent mostly in a zombie-like fog. Which is really not so bad, when you consider how many people spend hundreds of dollars to achieve the same effect by other means. I was not hung-over, but many other people around town admitted to having "peso en la cabeza¨-- a heavy head.

At 1 p.m. we went to Mass AGAIN... what with the Mother of God Assuming on Wednesday and San Tomas on Saturday, this makes THREE Masses this week. It´s a little much even for me, who really digs church. And later in the afternoon the bell summoned us yet again to the church, this time for a guitar concert.

"Cool," I thought. "Spain. Guitars. Paco de Lucia. Andres Segovia. Flamenco!" But no. It was the Orquesa de Cuerda Ganados -- the same 12-person combo that played last year´s fiesta. (We were in Moratinos for the fiesta last year, and it was a red-letter event in our lives. It was exactly a year ago we learned a finca was for sale in town, and would we like to see it? And that is how we came to find our Peaceable Kingdom. So Fiesta is kind of an anniversary for us, even though we didn´t buy our place until October.)

The String Orchestra is a dozen surly-looking people playing lutes and guitars of different keys and calibers. Each selection started of at a steady 4-4, but seemed to lose steam as it rolled on... and on. The pews were packed with people pretending to appreciate their annual dose of High Culture: more people were nodding off than even do during church services.

The music was excruciating. I have been to better Junior High choral society Christmas concerts at shopping malls. Paddy was in an agony -- I couldn´t tell if it was mirth or real horror, as he´d tucked himself behind the confessional and held his head in his hands through most of the second half.

There was lightness, though -- reasons to stay on till the very end. First was the director, a character called Carmen Sabugo. Carmen is a small, birdlike person who conducts wearing a topcoat, tie, and tails. The shoulder-length, jet-black hair, receding hairline, little jowels and padded shoulders come together to create an air of mystery. You can´t wait till Carmen turns around again to take a bow, so you can maybe discern some more gender cues... last year I thought I detected lipstick. But you cannot tell, honest to God, if this is a He-Carmen or a She-Carmen. Until this year. A close look at the little program, and Carmen´s called ¨directress.¨ Mystery Solved!

The other diversion was the overflow seating. The pews up front were full of the terribly Middle Class people from out of town, the real music aficionados. We later arrivals got to sit on the rickety balcony stairs, or on one of several three-and-a-half person backless benches brought in from somewhere else. These were apparently designed by the same person who did the teeter-totter. The fun started when someone on the end of one of the benches got up to sneak out. When his weight lifted away, his end of the bench would suddenly rise up and give him a quick smack on the bottom. Meantime, the people on the other end of the bench suddenly plunged downward. It´s an ingenious idea, an ideal way to stay sharp during those long sermons. I almost hit the floor two times, and each one brought gales of suppressed laughter from everyone in the narthex.

I am sure the benches are why the Orquesta de Cuerda graced us with an encore number. Soon as the last nail was driven into "O Sole Mio," and Mr./Ms. Carmen turned to take her bow, someone on every bench, clapping politely, stood up to head for the door. Everyone else on the bench leapt to his feet to keep from being bucked off. And there you have it, ladies and gents... an instant Standing Ovation!

Anyway, after that we all went out to the plaza again for the Big Feed, otherwise billed as a ¨Tasting of Paella.¨ The sun was setting, and a chilly wind blew, and the guys from Casa Barrunta over in St. Nicholas were a good half-hour late with the food. The men passed around a bota. The ladies went home to get sweaters. And when the caterers´ furgoneta finally pulled up -- its windows steamed-over and its backside loaded with giant pans of rice, saffron, snails, and rabbit -- Raul and Restitución and Co. were given a truly heartfelt round of applause.

Paella´s best eaten outdoors, I think. This was delicious, with crusty bread and hard cheese and rough vino tinto on the side, and plenty enough left over for everyone to have seconds. Yum!

Patrick and I packed it in after dinner, even though the Disco Movil was due to start up at 11 p.m. We were whacked and our bellies were full, and this time nobody came to roust us out of bed. Una curled up on the floor underneath us. I could hear her moan in the night as the cohetes blasted away and the Rod Stewart tunes echoed off the front of the house.

Viva la fiesta! Next year, no orujo for me. And we´re shipping the dog out of town for the duration.

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