Here’s the first page of my latest metamemoir:
I arrived in Madrid, by myself, on April Fools’ and left on Good Friday. There was no fancy rationale for these dates—the first was the earliest flight I could get at a cheap rate by the time I was finally ready to buy, and the second was simply to beat the Easter crush.
I hadn’t been to Spain since the summer of 1962, when I was wrapping up a post-college, Europe-on-less-than-$5-a-day grand tour that had taken me to most of the castles, cathedrals, and museums in Europe, from Dublin to Istanbul. (It was the next generation that pushed on to India and Vietnam/Thailand.)
And, in the fullness of time, I missed the post-Franco boom. I didn’t get into Almodóvar. I didn’t pick up a condo on the Costa Brava. I didn’t check out Gehry’s museum in Bilbao. When tapas took over my hood, I didn’t bite.
But I wanted to see Velázquez.
On my wanderjahr, I had been knocked out by Vermeer’s View of Delft (1660); it struck me as the greatest painting I had ever seen, even though I hadn’t yet seen all that many. After I retired, in 2011, I went to see it again: just as startling, even more profound. I also took a day trip to Vienna to see Vermeer’s Art of Painting. And, of course, in Amsterdam, I wallowed in the crown jewel of the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
I know I went to the Prado in 1962, but I must have been tired, eager to get home. Velázquez didn’t really register. I wanted to see how he would stack up.