After three days in Barcelona, its on to Madrid airport where a nice Japanese lady meets us with long hair and a squeaky voice and we and the young Japanese couple ride to the hotel on a bus meant for two dozen to the Wellington, not a name youd call a hotel in Paris, but 5 stars with room service and full shower curtain. Nearby theres this humongous park where Squeaky says dont go because hot and cold muggers running day and night so while she checks us in, we sit behind this bald policeman at the revolving front door with handcuffs, pistol and big ass. After the unpacking with a 20 tap bathroom we walk the streets looking for lunch but its all banks, offices and shoe stores plus several tapas bars serving those submarine sandwiches reminding me of cheap Canadian student grub. Sayoko says she wants Chinese food so we guidebook a place then flag a red striped white cab who zigzags half the city before depositing us at the far end of the humongous park, thank you very much, where we enter a sort of rosewood paneled place with Madrid types eating during siesta while drinking beer and smoking low-tax cancer sticks. We order Chinese but its the Madrid variation where the fat egg rolls filled with white cabbage, Shanghai noodles are linguini in brown sauce, and a fried onion blob with thin green peppers is called mixed vegetables. Outside were studying our map for the Sofia Museum, when a tall Chinese student in blue asks if we speak English, then warns this area is very dangerous, the North Africans and South Americans, so get your sorry tourist asses out of here and the Sofias ten minutes straight up this street, below dishwater skies. Then we notice three Moroccans or Tunisians or whatever with dead eyes and blank faces giving us the stink eye so we rickety split until a kind African street vendor points out the main entrance across the court yard. Finally there it is, Guernica, big as a city block in black and white, with arms and legs and heads blown off, arms lying around, the bulls head, the light bulb, the man reaching to the sky, everybody standing back ooing and awing from Germany, Holland, Canada, Japan, but admission was only 3 Euros and theres not much else to see, so we take a taxi along the big empty park except for the muggers back to the Wellington and walk and walk and walk past the banks and shoe stores looking for a wine shop or even a goddamned convenience store so we dont have to eat submarines and drink out of the sky-high mini-bar, finally finding one so we stock up and trudge back to the hotel. Meanwhile back at the Wellington, I order the room service club, which I always do, because the best one was at the Oriental in Bangkok, but this one has too much mayonnaise although Sayokos salads okay and after more bigbreasted Italian quizzers where the men look like women and BBC News where the women look like men, we fall asleep until 1 a.m., when the Japanese couple return next door, then its a half hour shower which pounds louder than Niagara so I find my ear plug and listen to classical highbrow and numbing techno on late night F.M. Tuesday morning we hit the street walking, looking to do the money exchange. Into the first bank through three security doors but rates not yet posted, so its a hundred meters and three more doors where they Xerox our passports then do the cash to cash with small smiles and 3% service charge. Hailing another red stripe he takes the zigzag tourist route to the Prado where we overload on ancient oils and I compose a separate poem about the Madonnas. Afternoon we do the shopping in one of the citys finest department stores, looking over new handbags for Suzanne but then an old bag tells us, sorry the computers broken today so no credit card only cash and I dont want to do three security doors and another Xerox so we go upstairs for lunch where the waitress shoos us into another section because shes cleaning and I order a gut burger with frozen fries, but its not too bad because the waiter does the check mix-up and we pay only half. Evening, locked up in the Wellington because its still too dangerous to do a walk-about and Im not into flamingo music with river dance floor pounding so we order more service and the Spanish prime minister whos supposed to be liberal but hes got a Franco moustache and hes backing Bushs little war crimes Iraq invasion appears on cable so I channel surf through soccer hi-lites and graphic porno with two guys and one gal doing everything imaginable but protesting the coming destruction in Gulf War II. Wednesday we hit the Thyssen Museum, lots of modern art with warm fuzzy colors, Gaugin native girls, Van Gough yellows and blues, so Im feeling happy and we go back to the half-price department store but this time eat lunch in the dining room and its the same waiter but he doesnt remember we still owe him for yesterdays. Later we look at some ugly leather coats on discount which still cost more than ugly leather coats in Tokyo so we look at the basement food section where theres the greatest olive carnival Ive ever seen plus miles of cheese and a salami jungle. Thursday morning we head back to the airport in a sixty passenger bus with only the young Japanese couple who still look tired from their Niagara Falls shower evening. Waiting for our flight back to Tokyo I people-watch a big-assed blonde in black leather pants working the cash machine and a pouty mouth dragging her bag along the marble floor while a Spanish girl sips warm Coke with an American flag on her red sweater. Then nine Japanese seniors arrive, cackling about weather and danger. They stake out their little fortress and express mucho mutuality in some potato farmer dialect then more pour in with their blacksuited tour guide and JTB stickers stuck on coats and luggage. The old bugger sitting across counts out his last Euros, the ladies read Japanese newspapers showing a Hokkaido blizzard and a mayor-type sips tea from a clothcovered plastic bottle. Finally its time to go, so accompanied by our backwater companions, we board our Iberia flight to Amsterdam where well reconnect for our JAL journey back to the land of the rising sun.

Madrid Thurs 02/13/03