Sunday, December 26, 2004

Expatriate Writer

Bar El Brillante MadridBar El Brillante, Atocha 122

The famous bocata de calamares is simple yet delicious: large, tender fried calamari rings, lightly breaded and stuffed between two halves of a fresh, foot-long baguette. No condiments necessary.

After having read so many praises sung to the bocata on MadridMan’s message board, I literally stepped into this café without even realizing I was there!

I sit under the canopy of trees just off the street facing the Atocha station. The floor is strewn with cigarette butts and napkins. Cleverly avoiding the hurried footsteps of busy waiters, pigeons and finches pick scraps off the floor. You can have a 40 euro lunch at the Ritz just 10 minutes away, but it doesn’t get better than this -- a bocata and a caña one August afternoon in Madrid.

People stare at me: the men lustily; the women suspiciously. Yes, I’m a woman and I'm writing at this table, alone, sitting here quietly satisfying my hunger and my need to write all at once. I realize this afternoon that I am profoundly bored I where I permanently reside, that my soul must travel in order to feed itself, that the words I jot down in my journal will sustain me once I return home: anything eaten in a state of freedom and happiness tastes much better and the memory of this meal is just as satisfying.

Do the little finches consider themselves Madrileños? These magisterial pigeons who lord it over the sidewalks of the world, do they have a sense of nationality?

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