This is the view from Franco's tomb outside Madrid. I was at El Escorial with Pilar and Mercedes, and their friend Irma who must have taken this picture. It is an enormous structure high on the hill, as much a tribute to ego and power as any pyramid - or am I unfairly anachronistic to attribute ego to Egyptian God Kings? My friends told me that the week before Generalissimo Franco died, every store in Spain sold out of champagne and the people just waited... Do you suppose anyone told the caudillo? How do you think he felt - "Oh sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless country."

When I saw the mass of El Escorial in the distance I said, "Wow!" And my friends laughed and afterwards incorporated it into their own speech. It came to signify striking-looking young men. "Mira un Gwaoaw!" And we would look. It was ususally Irma who called our attention. I didn't know Irma before this trip. She was tall and lean with wild curly hair and knowing, laughing eyes. Pilar played basketball with her. Irma was a fanatical player.

This Easter trip to Madrid and its environments is a little scary for me. Although I've been here for about 7 months it's the first time I've been all alone with my Spanish friends; living and interacting entirely in Spanish without a break and without the possibility of translation. I can more or less 'defend myself,' as the Spanish put it, but I basically exist in a linguistic fog, guessing at a lot of the imput and output - not without consequences.

For instance I reduced Irma to a hysterical heap when, in our hotel room, I suggested we needed "mas cojones." "More what??" She asked. I plumped the pillow between my hands. I didn't know the word for pillow, so I was using the word for cushion - that should have got the message across - we needed more cushions. "Mas cojones." Oh worldly browser, you know perhaps that "cojines" are cushions and "cojones" are balls.

Other memories jogged by this photo. Further memories. This Photo. All the Photos

Culture/Politics Trail - Spain

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