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On Thursday, Madrid celebrated another Puente (holiday on Thursday so they extend the vacation to include Friday as well- like a “bridge”. Makes sense to me!).  We took a four-day trip to Asturias with Daniela and her boyfriend.  Asturias is one of the most beautiful areas of Spain. It is in the Northwestern area, and it borders the Cantabrian Sea. It is a very green, mountainous area with beautiful water views.

We always have a great time when we are with Daniela because #1. she is a darling, and #2. she is a native Spanish speaker and we eat very well when we know what we are ordering.   Asturias is famous for cider (Sidra) and the waiters have a fancy way of pouring the liquid. They hold the bottle high over their heads and only look at the liquid as it falls into the glass. A lot of it splashes on their pants. They pour about a sip worth at a time, because it is best to drink immediately. If you have liquid still in your glass when they return to refill, they throw it on the floor (even indoors!).  This is in keeping with the tradition because originally cider was use to be consumed outside and the leftover liquid was fertilizer for the earth, plus sometimes they only give you two glass to share and the thought is that it is more hygienic to get rid of the last sip.

Our hotel was in Oviedo and we were in for a surprise the first night. There was a special celebration with a huge bonfire in the middle of the city. People wrote things they didn’t like about their lives and threw the paper into the fire. It was magnificent. On Friday we went to a small town called Congas de Onis, which has a Roman bridge with a large cross hanging from the center. From Congas, we went to see the Covadonga (virgin Mary) in a chapel built into a cliff and the surrounding lakes. We took a taxi when we went to the lakes because the windy road was very narrow- not to mention occupied by cows.  The area seemed enchanted because it was so green and fresh, and the air was filled with the sound of cowbells, which the cows wore around their necks. Someone told me that people drop the cows off in the area in spring to let them graze free until the end of the summer, then they collect them once they have been fattened. It seems like a nice alternative to a factory farm I suppose.

On Saturday we went up the Sella River on canoes.  There were many people there because the weather was warm and the water was cool. We saw about 15 boats flip because of the rapids but luckily we were safe. After the river we drove to the beach town of Gijon. The seawater was so warm compared to the coast of RI but it is supposedly quite cold for Spain.  And lastly, on Sunday we went to my favorite place, Cudillero. Cudillero is an old fishing town built on a cliff. The houses are quite charming. We had delicious seafood there and, of course, more cider. One of the best things about Spain is that the people eat a huge meal for lunch instead of at dinnertime. The restaurants serve a “menu del dia” which is usually 8-12 euro. It includes bread and wine/beer/cider, a first course (salad, pasta, paella, etc), a second course (fish with a side veg, ham, chicken, etc), then a dessert and café con leche). All for VERY cheap.

Asturias was suppose to be our last big trip before we return home but we are considering squeezing in one more… maybe… Asturias will be hard to beat though!

Bigger:

Thread here seems to be how characters respond to adversity, with some mixed results.  On the one hand, we have the bad:  Coach not telling Tami about an overwhelming party she has to throw in an effort to avoid her scorn.  Lyla seeking comfort in the arms of Rigs.  Rigs not confronting his paralyzed best friend.  Saracen bashing the car of a rival with a baseball bat.

Then we have the good:  Tami, knowing that her husband dropped the ball, bails him out and throws one heck of a party. Street takes some ownership of his paralysis and fights back, eventually regaining use of his hands.  Saracen gets jumped but doesn’t name names.  Coach corrects himself and apologizes.

The characters who confronted pain in the short term turned out all right.  Those who didn’t, didn’t.

Small:

1.  Grandma Saracen’s battle with dementia leads her to take a bath in a neighbor’s place, triggering anger and confusion in young Matt.  Later, he gets jumped by eight boneheads and just takes the beating.  Old Matty feels abandoned and friend-less.  Like that old Dylan line, ‘everybody sees themselves, walking around with no one else.’

2.  Lyla has a voice that erodes credibility.  Impossible to take you serious when you sound like a passive-aggressive CCD teacher.

3.  Julie is more sincere here in season 1.  She reads books and cares about her mother’s feelings.  This changes.


This is when FNL starts to get good. The town of Dillon is whining about not getting their W’s and Tim is falling apart at the seams, harboring guilt over Jason’s injury. The Smash gives an accusatory interview, which causes Coach Taylor to lose it. The team members get a late-night call and get corralled onto a bus for practice? punishment? An iconic scene unfolds with the players running in the rain. I thought- why don’t the coaches have raincoats at least? But it’s Texas, and in Texas the men are men. The Coach confronts Tim about Jason’s injury- saying it wasn’t his fault and Tim’s facial expression is truly touching. Matt continues to be lovable. He has heard rumors about being replaced as the Qb1 by an evil looking kid (I think he is about 35 though) from New Orleans. The “kid” walks onto the field as the episode ends.

Small:

1.  Great scene with Coach trying to fix an air-conditioner.  The first of many where he’s aggressive with an appliance in the backyard.

2.  Grandma’s cake looked dumb good.

3.  I think Joe Pesci once said the first thing he focuses on with a new role is how his character walks.  It was fun watching how Tami (Connie Britton) chose to ‘walk’ with her character.  She keeps her face bright and her movements confident.  Coach (Kyle Chandler) keeps his face irritated and his movements slightly hunched.

Bigger:

There is more focus on religion here than in later seasons.  Coach prays privately and with his team.  Smash always praises God.   The scenes in church are as spirited as some of the football games.   The show doesn’t embrace religion as rigidly as some of its characters do, though.  In episode 2, we get our first man-of-science vs. man-of-faith debate.

Coach and Jason Street are both in the middle of crises.  They seek out their significant others (Tami and Lyla, respectively).   Lyla tells Street, ‘This will work out because we want it to in our hearts and because it’s the plan.’  Tami tells Coach, ‘This will work out because you’ve successfully overcome a similar problem in the past.’   That Tami’s advice turns out to be wiser is an early indicator of tone.  While themes like personal salvation are maturely woven into the series, the writers seem to value empirical data over egocentric ‘faith-i-ness.’

Strong opening shot- sunrise from a moving vehicle capturing Texas.  The feeling of the first show seems surprisingly consistent with later seasons. There are some minor differences though. Tammie,  Connie Britton, hasn’t quite mastered her southern drawl yet and the music is more poppy than emo.  My favorite characters made appearances: Grandma Saracen, Buddy Garrity, and Tammy Taylor… but so did my least favorites: Lyla Garrity, um I guess just Lyla. The episode has quite a bit of football footage (any is too much) but it was pretty powerful to see Jason Street sustain his character defining injury.  Favorite line: Grandma Saracen “Matt, you need a new friend” in regards to Landry.