Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke at Reina Sofia in Madrid

Madrid was beautiful on my walk home from the University Of New Orleans’s opening night fiesta at Plaza Mayor last month, an event for students studying abroad, and in my case, working on my MFA residency in playwriting. Shiny marble statues adorn granite buildings with massive doors of wood or steel and line promenades that periodically give way to plazas centered around grand lit-up fountains honoring gods like Neptune, Cibeles, and (guffaw) Christopher Columbus? I was born in Columbus, Ohio. Not a name I particularly like to honor these days. The brainwashing about the ‘discovery’ of the New World was excised from my brain years ago, but Cristobal Colon is still a hero in Spain.

Life is good. ¡Pero, Madrid es muy caliente! Everyone’s got to have a fan!

Literature ruled the day, especially my re-visit of Hemingway for the Expatriate Class taught by Dr. Nancy Dixon.

Most of my life I’ve had no use for Hemingway, other than a required High School assignment. His bruhaha and machismo made me puke. I gave up on him years ago, after I read the story about how he liked to shoot terns for fun. I couldn’t divorce my opinion of the man from his writings, no matter how special…or handsome.

After reading A Moveable Feast, I found myself laughing out loud. The ‘pussy’ stuff about Gertrude Stein is a riot, but then he describes her.

She got to look like a Roman emperor and that was fine if you liked your women to look like Roman emperors. (119)

Stein’s chastising Hemingway for reading Huxley hilarious;

Huxley is a dead man. Why do you want to read a dead man? Can’t you see he is dead?

Hemingway busted Stein for saying the current generation (1920) was “lost.” Hemingway goes on.

All generations were lost by something, and always had been, and always would be.(30)

I agree. My generation is certainly no exception. Look at the “lost” leadership that rose to power from my crew. Pathetic. The 70s did seem a little fuzzy in terms of definiton. That 70’s Show isn’t far from the truth – just screwin’ around, getting laid or trying to get laid – both parents still in the house, and the dad “seems” to be the boss. Glad all that war stuff is over. Time to party! There’s a token foreigner hanging around, and he’s gay, so that only takes one actor.

Hemingway is a dick to wag on F. Scott Fitzgerald and others, but then he says things like this.

By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it up by finding something better. (62)

The thrift of his writing was a phenomena in his time. After reading A Movable Feast, I let my indifference go. I love his writing, at least in this book, and honor the moments of perfection in an imperfect man. Once I realized that Hemingway paved the way for some of my heroes like (early) Henry Miller and then later Hunter Thompson, his legacy made sense. His line about “transplanting yourself” (5) rings true – as I write about things back home…

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s book about Europeans grousing around the bull run and fight in Pamplona, was a painless read, but pain is all a bull gets in a bull fight – disgusting event disguised as art. I suppose when the animal groans it means he’s happy?!

Feint of hearts – close your eyes 😦

And then, there’s the other art in Madrid. I paid my homage to Guernica

It was something I needed to do by myself. When I moved to NY in the 70s, I spent many hours at MoMA (in total) staring at this. This exhibit at Reina Sofia has no benches, so I didn’t stay all that long, but there was the pitiful horse, the pitiful women, and the stodgy bull still lording over all. My eye seemed to gravitate to the female holding a lamp, zooming in from above to shine a light on the horror for the world to see – for a world to care is another matter.

In the 70s when I first looked at this painting I had no clue about the Spanish Civil War, other than it being the cause celeb for writers and actors. Errol Flynn comes to mind, as well as Hemingway et al. For me, the suffering was (and still is) a global malady, a malady that still tears at my heart. Picasso nailed it with this work.

And speaking of Goddesses…

The day I arrived in Madrid I was surrounded by a huge Gay Pride Parade. The streets everywhere around my apartamento were blocked off. My place was near the district of Chueca, a sort of West Village gay community. I have since explored the area, and love the little shops, and cobblestone streets. At one edge of this community is the huge statue/fountain of Cibeles, the Greek Goddess of fertility. Her priests in Rome were trans-gendered males. This Goddess is the one Waite used for the Strength Card in his Tarot. I have certainly relied heavily on the strength of Cibele over the years. I’ll end this chapter of my mee-moir with a picture of the Goddess watering her lions.
Hey, Madrid is one HOT city!


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