After the drama of not being able to find Rubi right away because of the multiple metro exits and multiple El Corte Ingleses, which has become an empire that will soon battle Walmart and Macy's for domination of the world, a la Godzilla vs King Kong, we settled in for a lovely evening.
The first thing we did after introducing ourselves - it is not so hard to identify Americans in Madrid - and doing the two-cheek Spanish kiss with both Rubi and her friend Victoria, we had a beer. Well, SH had a cana and I had some water. SH decided to not be cranky and whiny.
Which was good, because the next stop of the evening was the shoe store where we were already supposed to have shopped for the leopard-print shoes that Rubi found for me last month when she bought the zebra version.
I tried on some boots that were too tight. "If you lost some weight in your legs," Victoria said, "they would be fine." Which shocked me for a second until I remembered that 1. oh yes, Latins tend to be a little more direct and 2. she was exactly right. Spanish women must have skinnier calves than American women. Oh well.
The shoes in my size had a flaw, but the saleslady called another store a few miles away that also had the shoes and had them hold them for me. I will tell you about that drama later.
Once the shoe shopping was done, we were on to the real point of the evening: eating and singing.
Victoria took us to a tapas place she likes. It was completely empty because who goes out at 8:00 on a Friday? The emptiness was to our advantage in being able to find a place to sit but to our disadvantage for the calamari that we ordered. "They're heating the oil," Rubi explained, "but I think they're really fishing for the squid."
Fortunately, our fried peppers arrived quickly and we devoured them. Hot, salty, slightly greasy little green peppers with the tiniest bite. We ate them all and Victoria and Rubi generously let SH and me have the lion's share. Those are the peppers in the first photo. Padron peppers, I believe. A cross between a jalapeno and a bell pepper and absolutely divine.
The calamari still hadn't arrived, so we ordered some pinxtos, little open-faced sandwiches with baby eels, tuna, cheese, peppers and salmon.
Victoria went to scold the bartender about the lack of calamari. It arrived, hot, fatty, and salty, which have become my new favorite flavors. I never thought sugar would fall from favor on my list, but I am becoming a salty snacks person in my dotage.
We took a short walk, then found another bar and ate some more. Pinxtos of oxtail, hake, cheese with roasted apples, and one more flavor I can't remember. Victoria, Rubi, and SH had wine, I had a Schweppes lemon soda, which I had not had since we lived in Spain when I was a kid. I usually don't like soda - it's too sweet - but this was good. Also, when SH and I are overseas,* we usually get a real Coke made with cane sugar. It tastes completely different from the Coke made with corn sweetener here in the U.S.
These Madrilenos know how to live.
Then we went to another bar to say hi to Rubi's friend who owned the bar. The guys next to us had ordered a tortilla. "She makes the best tortilla in Madrid," Rubi said.
I looked longingly at the tortilla. One of the guys asked, "Are we in your way?" I guess my longing look = "get out of my way." Who knew?
"I'm just admiring your tortilla," I told him.
"Would you like to try some?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't," I protested.
"Don't ask me again!" I warned him, "or I might say yes."
A minute later, he tapped me on the shoulder. "Here." He handed me a fork with a piece of tortilla.
What a great country.
And what a great tortilla.**
Victoria had left us, but Rubi, SH and I soldiered on. Next stop: Karaoke.
I don't like to go out to karaoke with SH at home because the bar is very loud, because many of the singers are bad, and because I have to wait 40 minutes between SH's songs. Forty minutes of boring.
But at the Madrid karaoke place, there were not very many singers. With the exception of the drunks who moved to the downstairs party shortly after we arrived, the singers were excellent. SH sang almost immediately.
Rubi had modestly classified herself as "advanced intermediate" karaoke.
She forgot to mention that she is an excellent singer. Both she and SH made people stop and listen.
While SH was singing his first song - Suspicious Minds, a white-haired Spanish man came up to me and gave me a thumbs-up and told me that SH's English was muy bueno. When I told him it was SH's native tongue and it better be bueno, he asked me if SH would sing a Kenny Rogers. Me encanta Kenny Rogers! he said.
SH declined, as he does not like to sing songs he does not know in a new place because he wants to show off the songs he does know and who can blame him? I will note that before he met me, SH would have looked with disdain on Elvis, Johnny Cash, Johnny Lee, Engelbert Humperdink, Tom Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Glen Campbell, Brooks and Dunn, and a host of others whom he now not only sings but owns their CDs. I have contributed, in my own modest way, to the enlargement of SH's world.***
And he to mine: I can appreciate some Britney Spears songs now.
Rubi rocked with her version of Killing Me Softly.
There was a six euro drink minimum at the bar, i.e., we were supposed to each spend $8 on drinks, which almost made my heart stop until I took a deep breath and realized that two beers at home cost that much and SH usually has two or three beers when he goes out.
"Sometimes I buy shots for people," he told me, which was information I could do without, as I think of spending money on alcohol only one step up from setting it on fire. At least shoes can be worn more than once.
However, Madrid is a big city and has big city prices on alcohol, so that six euros bought only one beer. I got one and SH carefully poured it into his glass and Rubi's glass while I sipped on a tiny little bit. Technically, I suppose we were cheating, although it was my beer and I drank part of it. If I hadn't shared it with Rubi and SH, then it would have gone undrunk and they wouldn't have bought any more.
SH and Rubi each sang a few songs, then sang Endless Love, which I think is a total cornball song but it is technically difficult and they did it well. It was also one of the few duets in English. They didn't even have Jackson, which is my favorite after I Got You Babe, which SH will not sing with me. Then we went back to the hotel. Which involved drama at the metro. The end.
* I know. First world name dropping. Trust me I understand just how lucky we are and am extremely grateful and very scared it could all go away any second, which is why I try to save as much money as possible by being the frugal person I am.
** Yes, Rubi, I know you don't like sentences that start with "and." I know it's against the rules. But if "gift" can become a verb, then there are no standards left.
*** SH was reared in a world where only classical music was acceptable, so even basic pop music - the Beatles - was quite a rebellion for him. One can understand. It's not like Paul McCartney is a good singer or composer or anything.