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Report from Spain

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So, here I am in Segovia, at an Internet cafe under the Roman aqueduct that you've probably all seen a thousand times in pictures of Spain. Thank God my daughter is here to guide me around, geographically and linguistically. She is as good at Spanish as she is at deciphering a city map or a map of the Madrid Metro. The only Spanish phrase I am at all confident of using --- and I have had lots of practice, lugging my big suitcase through airports, Metro stations and train stations --- is "perdone," which my daughter assures me I speak with a hilarious American accent. The good news is that the day I arrived here, after months of depressing news about the slide of the dollar against the euro, an article in the Daily Telegraph said the dollar, at long last, was growing stronger. Hurray! Make that DOS cervezas! We spent all Saturday in Madrid, walking from monumental plaza to monumental plaza, each of them packed with thousands of people. We had lunch at a restaurant called Museo del Jamon, Museum of Ham, for good reason: the walls were entirely covered with hanging legs of hog, all smoked in various delicious ways. The temperatures were in the 50s, falling probably into the high 40s at night, which all the locals seem to find horribly cold, as most of them were dressed in wool or thick down jackets. I was the least-dressed person in all of Madrid, I think, with just a T-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt over that. We weren't planning on going to the Prada, but after finding ourselves in front of that famous museum, and finding out that admission was only 9 euros for both of us --- about $13 --- we decided to go in. The exhibition is called "The Portrait of Spain," covering everything from El Greco to Picasso. We succumbed quite soon to museum exhaustion, zipping through huge galleries of paintings any one of which would reward hours of contemplation. The highlight, I think, was Rubens' "The Adoration of the Magi," over which we lingered for a good long while. The oddest piece was another Rubens, this one called "The Creation of the Milky Way." It shows the goddess Juno squirting breast milk past the waiting mouth of a young Hercules on her lap, the spray turning into stars just beyond the young fellow's head. I have just been warned that my time is running out, and we have to leave to watch a soccer game on television. I wish I could tell you about the wizened little old blind man from India I sat next to on the plane from Salt Lake City to New York, or the cathedral here in Segovia or a dozen other things, but I guess that will have to await my return. Did I say return? I'd be looking for work if I had any marketable skills; spoke a lick of Spanish; had a work visa; and was not aware that Lee Enterprises is holding the rest of my family hostage, threatening to exile them to Iowa if I don't return as promised. I could not do that to them. I won't be able to proofread and edit as per normal. Perhaps my friends at the Gazette could clean up any particularly bad errors. Thanks!

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