nylon guitars & hearts in madrid

I looked for the center of the city. I wanted to see where everyone congregated in the capital, so I started toward Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol.

The first thing I noticed was that the streets were very narrow, romantic like something out of a movie.  Every so often a dude zipped by on a moped, usually with a girl riding in back. I thought about how I could get one for myself, and maybe a Spanish girl of my own to go with it. I was a stranger here, but hey, the night was young.

I arrived at a smaller plaza. Too quiet, I figured, to be either one of the plazas I was looking for, but I liked it.

The rain fell softly in a mist. People sat on the square, lovers gathered there, friends and families. The smell of beer, wine, tobacco and some delicious incredible food all hit me at once. I heard laughing, saw kids playing. The rain didn’t seem to bother anyone. Yep, I liked the plaza a lot.

Plaza De Santa Ana, Madrid
The plaza, I later discovered, is named Plaza De Santa Ana, and it would become my favorite plaza in Madrid. St. Anne, mother of Mary, is significant to me for a few reasons, one is that my favorite street in New Orleans is also named in her honor, only in the French Quarter they dropped the ‘e’. St. Ann. The sight of my first adventure in America’s true music city, but that’s another story.

Then the rain lifted suddenly and I heard the sound of a guitar. I thought of maybe grabbing a beer first, hanging out there for a minute or two, but decided to just keep moving, only after getting one last whiff of hot chocolate and fresh cinnamon churros and reconsidering whether to just stay there the rest of the night.

To my right stood the opera house and I saw that Barber of Seville would be playing in a few weeks. I wouldn’t be able to see it, since I’d be long gone and far deeper into the continent by then, but I flirted with the idea of staying in Madrid anyway. I was beginning to like opera after all, but only beginning. The only show I knew was Barber of Seville, or at least the overture.

Teatro Español, Madrid
Teatro Español, Madrid with banners announcing the Barber of Seville.

Anyway I continued up the alleyway and followed the guitar. I thought about my own, currently in a spare room down in South Florida. I missed it, but I thought maybe I could get a hold of one here, maybe in Madrid or down south in Andalusia. I ignored the more uncomfortable truth that I’d grown exhausted from playing, more than likely from working on the new album and getting lost in the process.

What I felt like doing the most was writing. Specifically working on some new lyrics for the sudden melodies and fragments I’d been hearing since Zion National Park.

As I followed the guitar, I kept an eye out for anyplace that might be selling small, pocket-sized journals. I figured something that fit in my pocket would come in handy for this new, on-the-move lifestyle I was beginning.

The sounds of the guitar faded, then evaporated amidst the rising echoes of a crowd. It must have been a big crowd. I turned the corner and found myself standing front-and-center before a gargantuan town square from which a series of additional streets shot off into different directions of town like the fiery rays of the sun. Puerta del Sol.

Puerta Del Sol, Madrid
at the foot of Puerta Del Sol; Madrid. This was taken later in the day and it was indeed a great time to arrive at the Gate of the Sun.

It was an enormous commercial district. I approached the center where a few dozen kids hung around skateboarding and playing games around a vast circular fountain, where a few other people sat to relax and take in the sights of the city. I took a seat myself.  I half-expected to see the Virgin Megastore. Puerta del Sol felt like Time Square only not so touristy, with your occasional street peddlers and trickster magicians here and there, but nothing in-your-face.

I walked across the plaza and noticed a massive, more modern-looking edifice looming high above. A sign at the top read Corte Ingles. Judging by the shoppers walking in-and-out, I realized it was a store, one that made Walmart look puny by comparison. Actually it was a nine-story behemoth, and stepping inside I felt like I’d walked into a mall swallowed up by a department store, with a grocery store on the side. There was in fact a grocery store built at the bottom level.

The inside wasn’t too crowded.  Kind of relaxing, actually.  I wandered up two floors and then, in one section, saw an arts display with some fancy calligraphy pens and pencils, markers and paint brushes. I’d been anxious to start painting but hadn’t yet. The only thing I’d painted was the inside of a church, modeled very loosely on a church I’d visited once upon a time, near my old apartment in Los Angeles.

Anyway I took a few pens and tried them out. One was very smooth and drew like air. I started with a few ocean waves and then for no particular reason, I drew my name. I wrote it and drew a little heart at the end, the way I’d seen girls do with their own names, back when I was kid in school.

I liked the way it looked under my name. I don’t know why.  I just did.  Actually I really liked it, so I took out my phone and snapped a picture. Little did I know, in a few months time, that picture would form the basis to the cover of my first album.

Ren Michael Original Drawing
The original drawing. Madrid, ESP.
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