I am well by morning, so after an absurdly expensive hotel breakfast that makes us yearn for the Amsterdam free hard boiled eggs and cheese, we make our way once again to the Prado, where we see some men working.
Frank is wearing his Mountain Three Wolf Moon t-shirt again and right away we begin to see the effects as he is accosted in front of the Prado by a woman asking him an incomprehensible question, probably asking for something called mehdh, then right inside the museum another women asks him if he would like a “92”! A 92? What strange code is that? Frank, however, wonders if the t-shirt only attracts women of a certain age. We forge onward, trying to find Goya’s “Third of May.” I ask an attendant who waves her hand around and would have sent us to the wrong floor but we realized in time that she was simply angry that I had been the one asking instead of the man in the wolf t-shirt. We find the painting, along with the “Second of May” which is more an ordinary sort of war scene with sabers and men falling off horses, and for all its overt violence, it’s much less compelling than the “Third of May” with all of us rooting for the glowing guy in the white shirt but knowing that nothing will stop that ominous line of backs in uniforms from doing what they do, leaving behind only that river of red flowing into the ground. Next we go into the room of Goya’s Black Paintings which Frank had entered yesterday but left immediately, so eerie and forbidding it was. But with me along (and the three wolves), he is brave, and we spend some time contemplating the dark and dire parts of Goya’s oeuvre, which is dark and dire indeed. I had never seen the drowning dog painting before, and I’m not sure if I’m happy to have it now embedded in my mind.With Goya around, one can never be too unaware of the sinister part of the human spirit that lurks underneath all the…all the everything.
I come out of the Black room feeling that the world is filling up with a kind of syrupy evil…everyone’s smile laced with rotting teeth and evil portent…the only thing for it is a good dose of Heronimous Bosch, or “el Bosco”, as he is labeled here.
The “Garden of Earthly Delights” lives up to its name. What one misses in the reproductions, along with the clarity of the bizarre imagery (this very clarity rendering it even more bizarre) is the quality of the color, the delicate rose petal pinks, the vibrating pastel blues, the succulent saffron greens…the softness, the richness, the pillowy seductive hues that might just lead you into doing odd things with fruits and animals were you to experience it even for a moment…oops, there you go, stage right, into the harsh and tenebrous tones of hell to be impaled or strung up on your favorite instrument…I’ve never noticed before the duck force-feeding the man some kind of red berry. Indeed, these berrys are ubiqutious, and they look very similar to those decorating the piece of cheesecake that we had just eaten at the Prado café. Coincidence? I don’t think so! What is it with Bosch and fruit, anyway? What is it with him and those alchemic structures sprouting spearlike appendages? Is it sin and shame and punishment he's portraying, or wonders that are worth every second in that dark fiery place. Or does that dark fiery place hold certain pleasures of its own? One could stand in front of this painting forever, marveling at the mysteries and puzzles, and never find a way either into or out of his maze. Maybe el Bosco was an afficianado of Amsterdam hash bars...
The top of the right panel, “Hell”, reminds me of a night some time ago when I was in a cab at night hurtling down the West Side Highway, going by the site of “Ground Zero”, still in a state of chaos with steel building skeletons looming over a tangle of machines and materials, some of the “buildings” sporadically streaming out with welding flames that spewed outward into the night.
By the time we leave the Prado we are ready for sunshine, and it greets us in the form of the Botanic Garden that abuts the museum, not unlike in New York with the Brooklyn Museum and adjacent Botanic Garden. Here we find a Caucassion Elm, the even more rare Metal-Star tree, and Frank sits and wonders where all the babes have gotten to.
More treats lurk outside the museum in the form of lifesize Velaquez people perched on balconies, And a Neptune sculpture that comes alive and blows his horn for us. Later we try to go to the Samarkanda restaurant in the in Atocha train station that was written up in our guidebook, but when we got there at eight, they said they weren’t opening until nine, leaving us to have a less than inspired meal at our hotel. It was either that, or this: Or else this:
But we do get a great view of the moon over Madrid to top off our night.