Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time and Flamenco Wait for No Man

It is a scientific fact that Spaniards have internal clocks that run on some whacked out Iberian quartz crystals that cannot be found in North America. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is a force to be reckoned with if you are one of those time-constricted/restricted anal butt-clenching clock-watchers who like meetings and people to be punctual and for things to happen in a timely manner. Like me.

The reality is that quite simply,
things tend to happen late here. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. And we try. We try hard. We try not to get too freaked out that dinner hour here in most restaurants is closer to 9:30 p.m. than 6. And even then you may be the only people in the restaurant. Yup - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and flamenco.

Flamenco? Sí. A few weeks ago Señor Gato Gringo and I, in an effort to experience something of Andalucían culture which did not come in a bottle, went to a flamenco festival in honour of virtuoso flamenco guitarist Quino (Cinchona) Román here in La Línea. We bought our tickets well over a week in advance and were told that these were the last tickets. That didn't auger well. I made a mental note to bring my glasses.

The show was slated to begin at 10:00 - so the poster had assured us - but remarkably when 10:00 came and we were still on our way to the concert hall, we were neither concerned or frantic. Had we finally kicked the Spanish time gremlin?
A little after 10:00, we arrived at the Palacio de Congresos and joined the several hundred people still milling about the bar - a bar, I might add that served beer for a euro. That I was able to extricate Señor G.G. from the bar was, in itself, a minor miracle.

Eventually, an Official Looking Woman advised us all to finish our drinks and take our seats. Señor G.G. and I, oxygen tanks in tow, began the long labourious ascent to our seats on top of Mount Everest in the final row of the theatre. Shortly after 10:30, Román took his seat on stage and played. Olés were tossed at his feet like roses from the audience.

Román quietly slipped away and a Long Winded Man took the stage and haltingly read something from a 25-page document which, although completely incomprehensible to us, even made the locals fidget in their seats. He rolled up his prodigious scroll and people applauded politely.

During the course of the evening and early morning, we would be plagued with more recitations from the Long Winded Man - and what may have been an awards ceremony, we're not really sure - but there would be other artists: singers who often erupted into bursts of spontaneous dance and musicians - my favourite of which are the box (cajón) players. I believe they are called "boxists" (I made that up - they are actually called cajónistas which means "boxists") and represent the only musical instrument I could probably master - although the constant threat of splinters turns me off of it somewhat.

For the record, a serious "boxist" (not me) can actually buy a Flamenco Percussion Box
for several hundred euros. From our snow-capped seats on top of Mount Everest in the final row of the theatre, they looked like orange crates. I suspect that the first musicians to start thumping a box didn't have the luxury of choosing between beech and walnut wood for their instruments.

During the entire show, three enlarged photos of Ramon flickered across the screen on the stage. Three. One of which was a blow-up of his hand. I made a mental note to have a word with the producers after the show.

Time passed and we were enthralled/electrified/enraptured by the evening's frenetic soleás, alegrías, bulerías, and fandangos.
Señor G.G. and I even tossed out a few olés and remarkably, we didn't feel like complete knobs in the process. Boxes were thumped, hands clapped, feet stomped, guitars strummed, and pudgy men in sombre suits sprang from their chairs and danced a contortionist's St. Vitus day dance with flowing handkerchiefs in hand.

Then the lights came on.

Was it over? - everyone was getting up. Where were the dancers? There were supposed to be dancers
- so the poster had assured us. We joined the several hundred people milling about the bar - a bar, I might add that served beer for a euro - where we came across a few colleagues. Was it over? we asked. No, no, they assured us. This is only the intermission. We looked at our watches. It was 1:30. Señor G.G and I were nursing nasty colds and we were exhausted. But we wanted to see the dancers. Really we did. But we were sick. And we were oh so tired.

Reader, we caved. Any credibility we gained with our unrestrained
olés vanished the moment we left the Palacio and beetled on home. Spanish time had once again bested us.

The concert ended at 4:30 a.m. We suspect that we missed a very great deal.


Cath said...

Have these people no sense of Circadian rhythm?

La Gatita Gringa said...

Apparently not. It defies logic.

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