July 16, 2004
King For A Day
DAY 263: "If this gets anymore romantic," I said as the two flautists and solo guitarist serenaded us and the handful of other outdoor cafe patrons, "I may have to ask you to marry me."
Jack took my joke only semi-lightly. "Alright, cut the music, that's enough!"
We were sitting in the Plaza Mayor, a huge plaza in the center of Madrid flanked by beautiful classical architecture. The sides of the inner rim of the plaza were populated with cafe tables and parasols as they were in the perfect place to just sit out with a loved one and people watch. In lieu of a beautiful Spanish loved one, I had my Uruguayan buddy Jack.
Whenever we'd get lost in Madrid's web of diagonal streets, Jack would ask for directions -- but only to attractive women. "The way I see it, if you're gonna ask for directions, you might as well ask a hot chick. I mean, what's the point of asking some fat bald guy?"
After our "romantic" serenaded lunch, we went off into to the town information office to see just what we could do in the city. Ahead of us in line was a Spanish-speaking girl with skinny legs and a hairstyle from 1984. Jack brought out his Uruguayan charisma and asked for directions. Her name was Selima and she was a 25-year-old girl from Argentina who didn't know much English. She had scrapped up all her savings for her big trip to Spain, the trip she was currently on.
Pretty soon Selima was tagging along with us to see the sights on the west end of the city center, from the Casa de La Villa to the Cathedral de Almudena to Iglesia San Francisco. Although she was tagging along us, the entire walking tour was merely an afternoon of flirtation between her and Jack, and it was not-fast-speaking-Spanish me that was the Third Wheel. Jack did his magic with his fellow South American and walked the extra mile (literally) -- even up a tremendous set of stairs up to a lookout point.
"I can lose her if you want," Jack said to me.
"Nah, it's cool," I said.
"Cool. 'Cuz I figure why lose a good thing?"
Selima was temporarily "lost" when she decided to save her Euros and wait outside when Jack and I visited the Royal Palace (picture above), home of King Philip VI (where I managed to get a pocket knife passed security that I forgot I had on me). While the king and his new queen were nowhere to be seen, the rooms of his house were, including the all important throne room where the king sits in a chair all royal-like.
"This is where the king does his new wife," I said in the massive dining hall with a 100-seat banquet table fit for a king. Some other young Spanish guys had similar theories, particularly in the billiard room.
"[This is where the king plays pool and smokes joints with all his friends.]"
"Funny thing is," Jack said, "it's probably true."
After a visit to the royal armory, full of the swords, shields and suits of armor of Spain's medieval past, we walked over to the grand observation platform with a king's eye view of the kingdom of Spain.
"This is where the king looks out to his kingdom and says, 'I declare tomorrow is Crazy Hat Day.'"
Funny I said that because right after, we noticed that the royals guards did in fact, where crazy-looking hats.
"Hey 'Rik, you mind if you give me like half an hour with this chick? I want to see what I can get out of her."
"Sure." I had some business on the internet to attend to anyway concerning my upcoming Trans-Siberian Railway trek. I sent made some calls and sent some e-mail messages while Jack sent messages of a different sort to Selima.
"Alright!" I said. Not bad for a guy whose pick up strategy was to jokingly call her a prostitute over and over.
"She wasn't even that hot, but it's just that feeling of conquering." Jack the king had completed his conquest of the day.
"Attencion, attencion... Yo soy tu rey Philip sexto... ¿Que tal? Tengo dos cosas de decir... Numero Uno... Number Uno tienne dos partes... Uno A... Soy un hombre... Uno B... Vengo in my wife's FACE! Numero Dos... Yo digo... que hoy... es Craaazy Hat Day... Si tu tiennes un crazy hat... wear it today!" (The English parts are to be annunciated like comedian Dave Chappelle.)
The two wannabe kings of Spain concluded the night at another bar and at the Tablao Flamenco, a flamenco bar more authentic (and far less expensive) than the bigger, 70-euro dinner shows geared for tourists. For just a two drink minimum, we watched a flamenco dance recital of seven amateur dancers whose entire audience seemed to just be family and friends cheering them on. All the dancers seemed pretty professional to me -- they danced for the love of the dance -- moving their bodies to the rhythm of the music through the speakers and the fast rhythmic clapping of hands.
As great it was to watch the centuries-old traditional dance performed in front of me, with that two drink cover, I was less concerned with the dancing and more concerned with Crazy Hat Day. I suppose it didn't matter; when you think you're the king of Spain, you can think whatever you want -- it's good to be the king.
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