My Last Cigar

In his 1924 classic Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway constructs a dialogue between himself and another American on the subjects of bullfighting, soccer and football.  The number of young men injured, paralyzed and killed playing football numbered in the thousands (today, it’s the tens of thousands).  The number of young men hurt playing soccer is minimal by comparison.  And then there is bullfighting.  Where humans occasionally get hurt – but rarely killed.  Hemingway’s point — those who decry bullfighting rarely raise a whisper about American football.   

Many years ago, in another lifetime, Donna and I spent the better part of a month following the corrida de toros circuit in Spain.  Diego Puerta was a favorite.  Madrid.  Cordoba.  Malaga.  Sevilla.  And others.  It was pretty special.  I still have great pictures from those Sundays.  There was artistry.  Tension.  Spectacle.   A unique smell.   There was the classic music.  And the denouement. . . . .  The last time I went to a bullfight was in Monterrey Mexico with my good friend Antonio G.  The Plaza de Toros Monumental on the Avenida Alfonso Reyes.  That was the last time too when I had a cigar.  A gigantic Cuban.  Hand-rolled.  Cohiba Robusto.  If you haven’t been to a bullfight, read Hemingway’s classic and then go.  I’ve read it a few times.  And get yourself a big hand-rolled Cohiba Robusto . . . . .

The Hotel Selu

Cordoba.  Spain.  1972.  Donna and I had been married a few months and we took a belated honeymoon trip – 3 weeks – to Spain and Portugal.  Two 25 year olds driving around with no reservations.  No plans.  No itinerary.  Getting up each morning and going “what shall we do today?”   Fortunately we were in sync on pretty much everything so the trip went swimmingly.  We stayed in the state-run “Paradors” for about ten bucks a night.  And we dined on the “big four” — calamari, coffee, churros and chocolate.  And informally followed the famed matador Diego Puerta as he wound his way through Spain – featured in various corridas.  The bullfighting was special having just read Hemingway’s 1932 classic Death in the Afternoon.  And Michener’s Iberia.  

Then – we got to Cordoba.  It’s late.  And the Parador was booked.  And other hotels had no room.  Finally – tired and hungry – we found a room.  In the basement of the Hotel Selu.  Cue the theme from “Dragnet” . . . .

Now today – the Hotel Selu may be a four star offering.  But in 1972 it was . . . .  Anyway, we checked in.  There were chickens cackling outside our window.  And some guy was yelling at his wife in the next room (I think the walls were made of cardboard).  Donna sat down on the bed and began to cry. . . . And that was before the rooster woke us up at 4:30 a.m. . . . . 

I felt like an idiot.  But mind you – I am not as dumb as I look.  So I resolved then and there that there would be no more Hotel Selus in Donna’s future.  Over the years, we’ve come close a few times but so far I’ve stayed out of that kind of trouble. . . . .