First, there is the sol y sombra the cocktail. If you are one of the five people who read this blog then you know that odds are this is the light side to which I just referred. Just as the tortilla is greater than the sum of its parts (4), so is the sol y sombra (2). Simply put: a) mix equal parts of brandy and anisette. b) Drink. Voilà: heaven in a glass. If you're a bit of a nob you can a) mix the brandy and anisette with ice and then b) strain it into a brandy snifter. c) Drink. Voilà: heaven in a glass but you're still a bit of a nob.
The more sinister aspect of the sol y sombra - that would be the darker side if you're keeping track - refers to the mid-priced seats at the bullring where you get both sun and shade during the course of the afternoon; sombra being the most expensive and sol being the cheapies - not nosebleeds per se but, more accurately, nosebleeds in need of SPF 50. Where a seat in the sun can cost you about 2 euros, a nice seat in the shade where you're guaranteed to need a Shout stick to get all the bloodstains out of your shirt can set you back about 150 euros.
Señor Gato Gringo and I went to the bullring yesterday. I pray that you paid careful attention to my very deliberate use of vocabulary because it - and/or my inability to speak clearly - sent my (advanced level) students into a tizzy this morning. You went bowling? No, we went to the BULL-ring. I'm going bowling this weekend. BULL-RING. You went to the bullfights? Wishing to release them from their
Señor G.G. and I made the trip out to the bullring at Las Ventas for a number of reasons. Firstly, just shy of its 70th birthday, Spain's largest bullring was designed in the neo-Mudéjar style, and I'm a sucker for anything neo-Mudéjar. Who isn't? So yes, we went with cameras in hand to look and snap. Secondly, I am freakishly drawn to bullrings as well as the grandeur that is the corrida - ineptly translated as 'bullfight'. As my thesis supervisor once said, "Egypt would be great if it weren't for the Egyptians", so would bullfights if it weren't for the bullfights. I blame Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon - he almost made it appealing. If the systematic torture and ultimate execution of the bull could be exorcised from the pageantry of the ring, then I'd be a season ticket holder. Thirdly, I love strolling through bullfighting museums - normally tucked away in the less sacrosanct parts of the bullring - so that I can admire (the heads of) those bulls who gave their matadors a good what-to (see photo, above left, of a bullfight I'd pay to watch and buy the video).
As it turned out, yesterday there was a corrida de novillos (novillos are 3-year old bulls while toros are their significantly more mature and ready-for-the-grave 4-year old counterparts). Six bulls, 3 matadors. Now if you are an educated and informed consumer then you'll want to know everything about the bulls you're going to see
Needless to say, after an hour or so of strolling about, watching old men buy their entradas and young families with toddlers in tow buy theirs, the feeling that we were witnesses at an impending execution overwhelmed us. It was time to leave. On our way out, we walked past the stables and wished the horses good luck. My students, who almost unanimously confessed to despising the corrida said that by the time a child is 3 or 4, s/he is already desensitized to the horrors of the ring from having watched televised fights with their grandparents. Well, we watched the Lawrence Welk Show with my grandparents which was probably equally cruel. But, as one student said, shuddering as he spoke, Watching a corrida on television is nothing like the real thing. It's horrible. Words can't describe it. I went three years ago for the first time and I'll never go again. My rogue corrida lover conceded to its brutality. It's cruel but I love it. I know that's not rational, but that's the way it is.
I nodded my head - I understood what he meant. Sol y sombra. Light and darkness. Yin and yang. Good and evil. I made a mental note to fail him.
Addendum: With undying thanks to our friend and fellow