Letters from Madrid – Fiesta de San Ysidro — Vistillas


The last night of the San Ysidro Fiestas in Madrid, back in 1996, turned out to be magic, despite the rain and cold.

27 May 1996

San Ysidro Festival
There was a lot of rain during the week of San Ysidro Fiestas, so we missed a lot of the activities and concerts. We had to choose between one of fifteen events happening at any given time. The last night of the fiestas we first tried to go to the battle of the bands. They wanted 1000 ptas a person to get in. I did not have that much money on me, plus it was starting to rain. The rain began to come down hard as we made our way to Vistillas, a park in the old part of Madrid. As we climbed the hill to the plaza, we heard what sounded like a recording of Gloria Estefan. It turned out to be a local band “Orquestra Tabarca,” who were very good. There was a sparse crowd because of the rain. We danced salsa and swing on the plaza, in the rain, for over an hour. After Tabarca played, much to our surprise, José Mercé and Moraíto Chico, appeared on stage. It was 10 PM, cold and raining hard. The plaza was now packed with fans, cheering, singing along, and doing palmas. We were up at the front of the stage very close to José and Moraíto. The performance was outstanding, very intimate and magical. The very enthusiastic, die hard fans braving the cold, the wind, the rain to hear José’s expression of pain and sorrow, love and laughter, life and death, bearing his soul through his song, and Moraíto’s masterful accompaniment, added to the romance between the performers and their fans. They played, with much encouragement from the cold, wet crowd, for almost an hour, which was very considerate and well beyond the call of duty. I had only heard José Mercé on disc before that night, and was pretty much ambivalent; however, I became a fan that night. For a matter of fact, we can’t even listen to his disc at present because it sounds so processed and impersonal. After José Mercé played, Orquestra Tabarca played a set, there was a fantastic fire works display, and then Tabarca played again. The rain had ceased, so we danced along with several other people in the crowd until the band quit playing. As I mentioned, there were many, way too many, great looking events scheduled for the week of San Ysidro Fiesta. The problem was it rained so much we did not go out to see many of the events we were interested in. Most everything was outside, and our stamina for standing in the rain is limited. I guess San Ysidro can still bring water even hundreds of years after his death.

Jose Merce y Moraito Chico Bularias 2010 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJ-_nJ2_3c4

Coke Head Challenge

We have very hard well water, and calcium carbonate builds up on wet surfaces like the inside of the toilet bowl (see photos at the end of the narrative). For years I used a product called “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner that removed tough calcium deposits, rust and other hard water stains from the toilet bowl really well. Then all of a sudden the stores stopped carrying it. For some months “The Works” was not on the shelves. The company’s website showed they still made the kind that worked on calcium deposits, but all the calcium fighting bottles of “The Works” I found on-line were very expensive. Then “The Works” appeared in the stores again, but only as a regular toilet bowl cleaner with no claim to removing calcium deposits, or other hard water stains. I tried a few other products than claimed to work on calcium deposits, but they did nothing, not even removing the ring around the waterline that almost all cleaners removed. The calcium in our water sticks really well and is almost impossible to scrape off, so chemicals are needed to dissolve it or at least soften it enough to scrub off.

While doing research on products that would actually remove calcium deposits, I came across a forum where someone said that Coca-Cola Classic did a good job on calcium deposits. Laurie was skeptical about the claim, but I figured it was worth a try. Neither of us drink Coke or other sodas, so we didn’t have any Coke around the house to try out in the toilet, so I dropped by the store Friday on my way home from work and picked up a 2 liter bottle of Coke Classic — paid a whole $1.50 for it. It took two rounds of pouring Coke in the toilet, letting it set for about 45 minutes, then scrubbing the calcium deposits with a stiff scrub brush, but the Coke actually worked to soften the calcium deposits enough that I could scrub them off the inside of the toilet bowl.

Why it worked, I can’t tell you for sure, but it’s probably the citric acid and bubbly. If you drink coke, I wouldn’t be too concerned, because stomach acid is very strong. If I was bulimic,  barfing in the toilet and letting it sit for 45 minutes would probably be more effective than Coke, but since I hate throwing up, the next time the calcium starts building up, I’ll try lemon juice with fizzy water and see how that works.

A third of a bottle of Coke for round 2 of the Coke Head Challenge

Calcium deposits that were still hanging on after the first round of Coke. I forgot to do a photo of the calcium deposits before the first round.

Rosencrantz checking out the Coke before the 2nd round.

The start of round 2 of the Coke Head Challenge.

The empty coke bottle reminder that round 2 was underway.


After a 45 minute soak in Coke, and a bit of really hard scrubbing most of the calcium is gone.