There is something to be said about going to a bar and listening to some blues on a Tuesday night. I guess you can listen to the blues any night, but a Tuesday rounds right to me. Just when there might be nothing else going on, you can almost always count on a little jazz or blues somewhere. Madrid has a lot of classic places to sit down to a beer and listen to some live music. One of them is the Café Jazz Populart with its Al Jolson depiction as its logo. I don’t really know when the Populart opened its doors for the first time, but I think it has been as long as I can remember, and maybe longer. The Café Populart is located on a street called Calle Huertas, which is a hopelessly touristic part of town in terms nightlife. Many of those places have little flavor to them than natural plain yoghurt, but the good thing is that they are almost always open and a fallback if you happen to be in the area.
Huertas does have a few legendary spots, the Populart, as I said being one of them. I called my friend Andrés, the one who did the Camino de Santiago with me, and asked if he wanted to join me, and he unbolted his body from his lawyer’s desk and taxied down to the bottom of Huertas. I was a little late because I saw a woman near Retiro staring at a map of Madrid and moving it as if she were steering a boat, an unequivocal sign of being lost. How many times do we see that, wonder about whether or not to help out, and then decide not to? “They’ll figure it out.” This time I decided to ask, and in the end, it turned out she was a little off track. All the way up to Tirso de Molina was where she wanted to go, which was not on the other end of town, but in a section where you can take about a hundred wrong moves. So I told her I would accompany her at least as far as where I was going to and she said that would be nice. From there, Tirso de Molina was a lot closer.
She was from Washington state and here just for a few days from a typical post-college European tour. She had been just about everywhere you would want and not want to go on a three-week tour of Europe. Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, Florence, Venice, Rome, Barcelona. Had she had a chance to eat at all over this period or was she too busy trying to catch a train or plane? That’s what I thought. She said that Madrid was turning out to be her favorite city of all. I couldn’t blame her. That’s what Madrid does to you.
Then she I added, “Now don’t get me wrong,” I hadn’t because she hadn’t said what she wanted to yet, “because I liked everywhere I went. But in hindsight, if I could have done it another way I would have skipped countries like Austria for a few more days in Madrid.”
Damn. I don’t think I could have summed up that sentiment more concisely. Ever.
I finally reached Andrés and set her off on her little adventure from there.