4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The best doctor: dancing at Plaza de Reyes in Old Town

“I said to my pal, ‘I’m going to dance with that girl, and then I’m going to marry her.’”

Roger, Madeleine, wedding 1955.
Roger, Madeleine, wedding 1955.

She’s wearing her red jacket. It flaps around her as she jerkily spins around and around. Makes her look as she must have when Roger first fell in love with her. He has a play hat on with “ROGER” scrawled across the front. He holds out a dog-eared black and white picture of a young, slim-faced cowboy slipping a ring on a beatific girl’s third finger. You can’t tell if she’s smiling behind the layers of veil. 

Place

Fiesta de Reyes Plaza

2707 Congress Street, San Diego

“That’s us,” he says, “Madeleine and me, her birthday, June 25, 1955. I’d met her exactly one year before at a dance in Winnipeg. I said to my pal, ‘I’m going to dance with that girl, and then I’m going to marry her.’ And that’s what happened. This is us getting married in Manitoba, Canada, a year after that dance.”

Roger and Madeleine Duval, dancing.

Senores, senoras!” A gravely voice booms over the loudspeakers. “Vicente Fernandez! Great singer! He left us, unfortunately, five months ago, but he did not take all his songs with him.” This is Jose Manuel, the violinist of Los Reyes trio. 

It’s Saturday afternoon in the Plaza de Reyes, Old Town. All is quiet, except in this corner of the Plaza of the Kings. The patio here is shoulder to shoulder with everybody — kids, young parents, older couples — all dancing to the live music of this Mexican trio. It seems to be a gathering spot where people who want to dance come and socialize on weekends. It’s a shock to see something genuine happening here, as opposed to actors evoking the usual bygone age. And yet this is as old-fashioned and in the Mexican tradition as it gets. 

“We’re taking requests,” says Jose Manuel. “Vamos a hacer Cumbia!” A trill goes out from some of the older women in the audience. Cumbia is this relaxed dance from Colombia — slower than salsa. Easier on old bones, too. “You want to dance Cumbia? Very old song, una cansion viejita, pero bonita. Como todas las viejas! Beautiful, like all you older ladies!”

He looks around at the band. They kinda sigh “Eeh!” into their mics. “Like all your beautiful music,” he adds.

“Aaah,” goes the band.

“Okay, okay, I know. Everybody wants La Bamba. La Bamba! Later! Right now we’re starting easy. Eee-zee.”

Goddess of the Dance looks over spontaneous dance patio in Old Town.

“Ehh,” goes the band. 

Whatever, pretty soon, there’s Madeleine’s red jacket flapping among the fountains and statues and the potted trees, reaching out to Roger like she could go on forever. Roger, who looks so much like his famous acting cousin Robert Duvall — the same stocky cowboy build, the same seriousness backed by self-amusement — occasionally grabs her for a whirl. She wields her walking stick like a third leg. It spins when she spins, steps out when she steps out. She’s looking…radiant.

“I was in the screen business,” says Roger. Even though he is at least as handsome as cousin Robert, he doesn’t mean the silver screen. He means fly screens. “It was a good little business,” he says. “You never run out of flies in Canada.”

Yes, Madeleine is a little stiff — okay, a lot stiff. But they’re determined to dance, to do their thing today. “The doctor told me that my cancer has returned,” she says during a break. “He said ‘Just live your life. Enjoy yourself.’ So we are! God is my best doctor.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Getting deep at The Shop: Pizza + Cocktails

“West coast deep-dish” means chunky tomatoes and cornmeal crunch in Rancho Bernardo
Roger, Madeleine, wedding 1955.
Roger, Madeleine, wedding 1955.

She’s wearing her red jacket. It flaps around her as she jerkily spins around and around. Makes her look as she must have when Roger first fell in love with her. He has a play hat on with “ROGER” scrawled across the front. He holds out a dog-eared black and white picture of a young, slim-faced cowboy slipping a ring on a beatific girl’s third finger. You can’t tell if she’s smiling behind the layers of veil. 

Place

Fiesta de Reyes Plaza

2707 Congress Street, San Diego

“That’s us,” he says, “Madeleine and me, her birthday, June 25, 1955. I’d met her exactly one year before at a dance in Winnipeg. I said to my pal, ‘I’m going to dance with that girl, and then I’m going to marry her.’ And that’s what happened. This is us getting married in Manitoba, Canada, a year after that dance.”

Roger and Madeleine Duval, dancing.

Senores, senoras!” A gravely voice booms over the loudspeakers. “Vicente Fernandez! Great singer! He left us, unfortunately, five months ago, but he did not take all his songs with him.” This is Jose Manuel, the violinist of Los Reyes trio. 

It’s Saturday afternoon in the Plaza de Reyes, Old Town. All is quiet, except in this corner of the Plaza of the Kings. The patio here is shoulder to shoulder with everybody — kids, young parents, older couples — all dancing to the live music of this Mexican trio. It seems to be a gathering spot where people who want to dance come and socialize on weekends. It’s a shock to see something genuine happening here, as opposed to actors evoking the usual bygone age. And yet this is as old-fashioned and in the Mexican tradition as it gets. 

“We’re taking requests,” says Jose Manuel. “Vamos a hacer Cumbia!” A trill goes out from some of the older women in the audience. Cumbia is this relaxed dance from Colombia — slower than salsa. Easier on old bones, too. “You want to dance Cumbia? Very old song, una cansion viejita, pero bonita. Como todas las viejas! Beautiful, like all you older ladies!”

He looks around at the band. They kinda sigh “Eeh!” into their mics. “Like all your beautiful music,” he adds.

“Aaah,” goes the band.

“Okay, okay, I know. Everybody wants La Bamba. La Bamba! Later! Right now we’re starting easy. Eee-zee.”

Goddess of the Dance looks over spontaneous dance patio in Old Town.

“Ehh,” goes the band. 

Whatever, pretty soon, there’s Madeleine’s red jacket flapping among the fountains and statues and the potted trees, reaching out to Roger like she could go on forever. Roger, who looks so much like his famous acting cousin Robert Duvall — the same stocky cowboy build, the same seriousness backed by self-amusement — occasionally grabs her for a whirl. She wields her walking stick like a third leg. It spins when she spins, steps out when she steps out. She’s looking…radiant.

“I was in the screen business,” says Roger. Even though he is at least as handsome as cousin Robert, he doesn’t mean the silver screen. He means fly screens. “It was a good little business,” he says. “You never run out of flies in Canada.”

Yes, Madeleine is a little stiff — okay, a lot stiff. But they’re determined to dance, to do their thing today. “The doctor told me that my cancer has returned,” she says during a break. “He said ‘Just live your life. Enjoy yourself.’ So we are! God is my best doctor.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Pelicans, seagulls upchuck anchovies in flight

Bluefin give way to yellowfin, yellowtail, dorado
Next Article

Castro's prisoners end up in San Diego with their stories

Achondros and midgets, Marines kill older gays, our fast-growing kelp, poor trees of Balboa Park, Ed Miller turned D.A.'s office upside down, USDA's man on the border
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close