Monday, December 31, 2007

El Sucko Still at it.

I continue to have an ass-full of El Roto. I realize that I can't think of a clever name for him so I will just resort to being childish. This El Pais cartoonist never misses an opportunity to put a negative spin on the U.S. Of course it is very politically correct to do this in Spain, it sells papers, it provides a convenient scapegoat, it very clearly states that in America we are so different than everyone else - sorry, not true. Nationalism, religionism (if that's a word), regionalism, and flag waving, are going strong all over the world. But only the Americans are perceived as being "too patriotic". Why is this? And why does it irritate Europeans so?

Check out this optimistic gem to help you bring in the new year:

I am really surprised there wasn't an American flag painted on the side of that rock. I also noticed that the 2008 asteroid seems to be headed right for Spain.

Happy New Year Spain! - from El Roto!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The 10 Best Things About the U.S.

I’m jumping on the “10 Best Things List” band-wagon. It all started with Notes From Spain’s “10 most annoying things about Spain”, then moved on to Ben's "10 best things about Spain”, because Spanish people got so pissed, to Show Me Spain’s “Top 10 best things about the states” list.

Now it’s my turn. I certainly wasn't going to do a “worst” list about Spain. That is just scary because I value my life. But let's just say that a few of my "10 best" are items that I think Spain could learn from.

Here goes:

1) Ethnic Diversity, Integration and Solidarity.

If you come to the U.S. from wherever, and you want to be part of the club, you will be. You will be an American and no one will tell you you’re not. I don’t care if you have an accent, are a funny color, worship funny gods, etc. This club is open to all and we are the best at the difficult task of integrating different people into our group. There is no Catalan silliness here. Texans may think they are “bigger” than New Yorkers, but in the end they know they are Americans just like the rest of us.

2) Continuity of Government, The U.S. Constitution, and Amendments.

We may fight and complain about who we elected as President but we know that there will be a President and not a General in charge. Even when all that crap went down with Al Gore and the Florida voters, nothing really nasty happened. Of course we knew there would be no Coup or something stupid like that. And the Constitution and Amendments? We really take those pieces of paper seriously. We have been discussing them, arguing over them, re-reading them, and following them, etc. for hundreds of years! Pretty wild.

3) General Honesty from People.

Generally speaking, I believe you can expect honesty when dealing with people in the U.S. We are taught that it is morally right to be honest. This is our strength and weakness. Sometimes people come from countries where this is not the case, where you have to screw your fellow citizen just to survive (not Spain). These people find that the U.S. is a giant playground made specifically for them to rip off trusting Americans, or the government – until they get caught. September 11 was possible because we trusted those scumbags to behave, just like we trust everyone who comes here. That one jumped up and bit us in the ass.

4) Best Movies, TV Shows, and Music.

Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but our movies kick ass. TV shows also are really the best (of course there are crappy ones too). We even do it without government subsidies. All Spanish movie stars know they have made it when they can go to Los Angeles and make movies. American movies make the most money even in Europe where hordes of moviegoers crowd theaters then feel guilty about liking American movies. And music? Please… Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues… Everyone likes at least one type of American music.

5) Incredible Geographic Diversity and Beauty.

We really have it all from slimy cities to incredible unspoiled beauty and wide-open spaces and everything in between. There are beaches, deserts, mountains, forests, and junk yards. If you want to drive on a straight road with nothing in site for hundreds of miles you can do it. If you want to ski in Southern California and then surf the next day you can do that too. Oh, and the coast of California … No nasty hotels or apartments on the beach.

6) Best Customer Service.

We are reaching a critical level of people complaining about this in Spain - something has to give. In the U.S., businesses know who is the boss. When they forget - they go out of business. Businesses and service providers here better kiss your ass or we get pissed. Everyone here knows the saying, “The customer is always right.” We believe it and expect it. In Spain it seems like companies feel that, “The customer is the one we get to screw”.

7) Best Place to be Creative, Start a Business, Make a Million Bucks.

The U.S. is the place to think of something new, something off the wall, something creative, that new device, that thing that cuts onions better than anything, etc. and make a million bucks, or just a living. Maybe it is something boring like selling hangers… whatever it is you can start your own business, work your ass off, sell a jillion of them, and be an obnoxious rich American (wink). Sure there is red tape, taxes, and hoops to jump through, but there is less here.

8) Rule of Law, You Can Fight City Hall and Win.

We take the judicial system seriously and follow the rules. If you don’t like your government, something it did, something it ruled on, how it treated you… you can fight City Hall and win… It may not be easy but it’s easier here. If you think a company is screwing you or the people. You can sue, you can vote, you can run for office. You can go on the evening news and get people on your side.

9) The ACLU and the NRA.

We have all types, all free to try to get whichever crazy idea they have turned into law. We have the American Civil Liberties Union defending pedophiles and fighting for the rights of Nazis to march in the streets and we have the National Rifle Association making sure you can go buy a gun if you want to. Now that’s freedom!

10) Best Place to get an Education.

Let’s be honest. Some people in Europe like to say that Americans are stupid. Does this really make any sense? All the best universities are here. There seems to be a lot of research and innovation coming out of these stupid Americans. If you want an education and you are serious about working hard, you will get one. You will find grant money, or loans, or go to a state university basically for free.

That's my list.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kadafi - What a Guy!

One of the standard gripes that many Europeans have against the Americans is what they perceive of as us acting “in our interests”. This is usually applied to any dealings by the U.S. with unsavory world leaders, dictators, related business deals, etc., especially during the cold war, and usually because dealing with said character was the lesser of two evils. A perfect solution? Hardly. But there you have it. The world is complicated.

I really can’t count the number of times I have been in discussions when Europeans have brought up this issue. Man they love to bitch about this! They naturally expected the U.S. to always do what they perceived as the "right thing" in each situation. The implication being that European governments would not act like the U.S. government.

Now the EU is growing up, and growing up means decisions must be made on your own. Spain, France, all of those guys, now have to decide what is in THEIR best interests. Kadafi the dictator is in town and European leaders are lining up to kiss his ass, sell him services, sell him guns, buy oil, in short, everything in their interests.

Hey, I’m not saying it’s wrong necessarily... Making decisions in this complicated world is not easy. I just wish that the hypocrisy was recognized. But doubt it will be ....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spanish Inferiority Complex Alive and Well

What the hell is going on with these Spanish people getting their panties in a wad over some silly (very mild) criticisms about Spain?

I really am trying to make sense of this. It may take me awhile to write something coherent. There is a HUGE inferiority complex running rampant in these people.

And talk about a disproportionate response! The commenters go for the juggler on the Brits calling them pigs, drunks, dirty…. etc. They even dragged the Americans into it because they can’t tell the difference between Brits and Americans. I thought only Americans can't distinguish nationalities? Yeahh, right.

And my favorite foil completely adds to the fire by mischaracterizing Ben’s site as one whose main point is to criticize Spain – what A-Holes!

Again I say, the Spanish have no idea what it means to take criticism on a daily basis about your country... with aplomb.

What I Accomplished in Madrid

Answer - not much.

I was in Madrid for a while (back in L.A. now) and since I am a goal-oriented individual I am usually thinking about what I've accomplished, or what I haven't accomplished - so I can then feel badly about it.

Let's see .... I found this old table top in the street near the Plaza Mayor. It is from a bar there called "La Posta de Quitapenas". Which I would say means, "The Place to Forget Your Troubles". It looked like a deal - free. So I picked it up carried it home and worked on it a little to make it presentable. Not much, just added some stain around the edges to make the cheap particle board look "aged", cleaned the front with furniture polish, etc, and hung it on the wall. I like the "old Madrid" look, and I like the sentiment too. I do want Madrid to be the place to forget my troubles at least.

Did you know that Madrid now has THREE IKEAs? I'm afraid that I do. I went to all of them on this trip, which is pretty pathetic since I was in Madrid - where there are a few things to see other than huge furniture stores that are exactly the same in Los Angeles.

IKEA is a total pain but I love it. You see, things are expensive in Spain. The dollar sucks ass, and there seems to be only two versions of furniture stores. 1) The fancy Spanish or Italian (modern or traditional) store where everything costs a boatload of money and the people seem to enjoy paying for it for the status or something and, 2) The really crappy old-looking furniture that Grandma buys and seems to be in every Spanish house you walk into. I am trying to do a modern look so my only (affordable) choice is IKEA.

Don't get me wrong. IKEA is a battleground. You have to know what you want, know how to put it together, know that however much you plan something will be missing, or they will be out of the one thing you want (hence the trips to the 3 stores in Madrid), and just know that you are on your own - actually that's the way I like it.

This trip's goal was to install one section of kitchen cabinets (a pantry) and to replace the old propane tank stove I've been using with an electric one. Well, most of the job was done. I got the kitchen pantry installed including a section for the "bar" but the stove is not in, it is purchased though and sitting in the house - which believe me, is an accomplishment.

There is still a piece of "Zocalo", or baseboard, missing over there in the corner. Guess what that means? Another trip to IKEA to get another piece ..... next time..

Other than these two jobs I mostly just ate and drank too much. Nice!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dessert - A good Habit?

There is one thing that is never thought of as a good thing for your body in California – and that is dessert. Dessert is what you indulge in then feel badly about later. Dessert rots your teeth, adds inches to your belly, and takes the place of the healthy stuff that you are supposed to be eating.

But in Spain dessert is much more than the sweets. To be honest, Spanish desserts just aren’t that spectacular. The ice cream is mediocre (Italian ice cream in Madrid not included), there are no pies, and there are only a few cakes. At least the the flan is good.

What they do have that is fantastic is the fruit. Melon, tangerines, oranges, pears, bananas, hell, even an apple. If you are at someone’s house or in a restaurant, they will always ask, “Postre?” (Dessert?) It is a great opportunity to eat a balanced diet. Go for the fruit, maybe a yogurt, sometimes they even offer a glass of milk.

It seems odd to Americans since to us “dessert” equals “ sugar”. Something we got from the Brits? I'm not sure why this is but I do know that thinking of "dessert" as a piece of fruit is one of those very simple, but life changing habits, that we can learn from Spain. It ranks right up there with olive oil.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Madrid Research

I've been in Madrid for the last several weeks so I can't seem to get anything done except ... being in Madrid. Late nights, late mornings, and no writing. Gotta get back to the more boring home town to have time to say something.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's Rough Out There

La calle de la Montera is a very important street right smack dab in the middle of Madrid, and for that matter Spain, since it starts at the Puerta del Sol (the geographic center of Spain) and ends at the Gran Via. This has always been one of the streets where the hookers hang out and ply their trade. In the old days, when I was passing through Montera at late hours on my way to c/ Hortaleza and home, the prostitutes would whistle, wink, call out … hell, even yell sometimes for my attention. I guess I looked like a good prospect, a foreigner with cuartos (that's money).

The problem was: 1) There is no way I would pay for that (at least I haven't so far) and, 2) ALL of the hookers were absolutely scary looking! They were all Spanish in those days (let’s say 1983 through 1995). They were old, fat or very thin due to drugs, bad teeth, probably many were even men, they dressed like some bad 80’s Almodovar stereotype, and they wore nasty make-up. It was really depressing to see, I would quicken my pace near them every time – with head down.

Fast forward to …. today. I walk on Montera now, and thanks to I guess immigration, there are some (not all) very young, and to tell you the truth not bad looking, girls standing around. What the hell is going on? First I think, well times change, things get better. What? Things get better? These are young girls working as prostitutes presumably because they are desperate? Illegal? Or is it just another job to them now?

I’m trying to think…. Are there attractive young girls standing around L.A. Streets working as prostitutes? No, to tell you the truth – I don’t think there are attractive young girls 0n L.A. streets working as prostitutes. But of course in Los Angeles prostitution is illegal and everyone knows it. Prostitution in Spain is one of those, "it's illegal but we don't do anything about it" issues. They even put a police station right on c/ Montera - but obviously no one gets arrested.

Times change, and I think things are getting better in Spain with the EU and all, but judging by the pretty young women selling sex for money, I'd say it's still rough out there for some.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bag Your Own

Every Madrid grocery store I have ever been in makes you bag your own groceries. After you are done shopping and waiting in line, there is a frenetic rush on the part of the customer to unload his/her stuff on the counter, start fumbling for plastic bags, open them (they are all stuck together), start bagging your own groceries, get your money out to pay the checker, finish bagging your own stuff, and then try to get the hell out of there. All the while there is another customer right behind you pressing forward - willing you on.

They really need to catch a clue from the American model. In the U.S., you stand there very comfortably watching someone else do the bagging. You can, 1) look for more crap to buy in the checkout line, 2) make sure they are not overcharging you for something (maybe this is why they don’t have baggers in Spain), 3) get your damn money out so you can pay, and 4) just generally have a nicer, calm experience. Even the Corte Ingles ( the fancy store in Madrid) does not have baggers.

It really would be a win-win situation if they started hiring baggers. The line would move faster, the customer would feel special and important (another thing they have to work on in Spain), there would be more jobs for very grateful Spain dwellers, and …. the only other thing I have is - I say that they should have them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Airport Stories

Serious About Not Smoking

So I’m passing through London Heathrow on my way to Madrid. We are the usual throng of passengers / cattle going up escalators, filing into security lines, etc., and suddenly one of the official airport workers runs out from behind us and starts screaming, “ ALRIGHT WHO IS BLOODING SMOKING! WHO IS IT? THERE IS NO BLOODY SMOKING HERE. YOU WILL BE ARRESTED!” With no response from the culprit he stormed back to his position – very satisfied with himself.

He really did see us as cattle and not worthy of much respect. There is no way an American airport worker could get away with treating passengers like that. For the record, I didn’t smell any smoking.

If Looks Could Kill

So I’m trying to make a connecting flight in London but I don’t have my British Airlines boarding pass for Madrid. I head for the BA line but am told that Iberia runs that flight. I groan. The BA line looks pretty good but as usual, the Iberia line has one person working. I have 1 hour to get on the plane.

The Iberia line consists of about 8-12 people, mostly Pakistani men – then me. Each Pakistani passenger’s transaction seems to take forever with a lot of verifications of identity cards, missed communications, and hand waving. It does not look good.

Suddenly, a new Iberian lady comes out from the back (where they usually hide) and starts going through the line looking at everybody’s info – seeing if they are in the right line. She gets to me, looks at my stuff, and promptly brings me to the front of the line brandishing my American Passport for all to see. Everyone waits for me while I get my boarding pass. Now, this was because my flight was leaving not because of my nationality. But – the rest of the line pretty much wanted to kill me I think, maybe literally.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This is Wrong - But Funny

Click on the picture.

The King Rocks!

I know everyone is talking about this so my two cents are as follows - The King rocks!

As an American the whole thought of having a King is just so foreign and quaint and European. It is exotic. Of course, if I grew up with a King in charge (sort of) I may not like it so much. I'm also not even sure the Monarchy is going to last another fifty years in Spain - but this sure helps it along!

I think what Juan Carlos does do is show the people that all this bullshit they are usually arguing about - PSOE vs. PP, what happened in the past in that goddamn civil war, everybody pissed off over ideology, etc. is fine... just don't forget we (not me, them) are all Spanish (Yes, even the Catalans). This is where (I like to think) the Americans are different. We fight and argue a lot but in the end we know we are all Americans. We will close ranks - Democrats, Republicans, different colors, etc. - to an external foe. To his credit, Zapatero did do his best to defend Aznar.

Another thing.... The Spanish should understand that in Latin America they are seen as the imperialist interlopers past and present - just like the Americans are. There really isn't a lot of "brotherly love" toward the Spanish down there. Many South Americans (especially native peoples) hold a grudge.

I also love how Fidel Castro immediately backed Hugo Chavez even though Zapatero has done a lot to snuggle up to Fidel. Even Castro thinks that in the end, Spain is the imperialist enemy, just like another democratic country on his mind.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sadness in Finland

I have been watching the news and reading the commenters over at - wondering how they were going to start blaming the Americans for this. It wasn't too bad. There were a few that blamed "el cine Yanki", but mostly it was normal lamenting about disturbed people.

Also wondering if the European media will write stories on the violent and evil Finnish population - doubt it.

I didn't know that Finland had such a high gun ownership rate among the population. The handgun that this guy used was legally purchased and registered to him.

I did get a kick out of this one comment on

"¿Álguien se ha dado cuenta que si ese tarado hubiera hecho eso en España estaría unos trece años en la cárcel y entonces saldría? Por suerte se ha muerto en el hospital. En esto los americanos del norte son admirables, ya que lo mandan a la milla verde y de alli a su paraiso."

"Do you guys realize that if this retard had done this in Spain he would've spent only 13 years in jail and then he'd be out? Luckily he died in the hospital. In cases like this the Americans have it right. They would send him to the green mile and from there to his just reward."

I got a kick out of it - but it is not true of course. This kid at 18 years old would surely have spent his life in prison or a psychiatric hospital, but he would not have received capital punishment. Obviously he was very sick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Servesa or Thervetha?

This cracks me up. Talk about language chauvinism! This Mexican director has a new movie and the Spanish film industry wants to dub it in “Spain Spanish”. They say that if it is in “Mexican Spanish” the people won’t want to deal with it.

What is it with dubbing in Spain? They love it! I have also been in several conversations with Spanish people who say that their dubbing is the best in the world. Maybe so, but when you hear the "Spanish Woody Allen" or the "Spanish Dr. Evil", it just doesn’t cut it. Just like a Chilango running around Mexico City saying "thervetha" - it loses something.

There is a lot of talk about how isolated Americans are, how we don’t watch foreign movies, how we don’t learn languages, etc. I don’t know… at least the foreign movies we do watch are subtitled like god intended.

Even President Bush speaks (sortof) a foreign language (Spanish) – and Zapatero?

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Friendly "Entity" Will Protect You

Add this to the list of all the things Spain is quietly doing because of the threat of terrorism - EXACTLY like the US has done - just a little delayed so people won't notice so much and get alarmed.

This "Entity" kind of sounds like "The Department of Homeland Security" to me. I know it is very un-PC to call this new government department anything that rings with terms that provoke images of patriotism or deals with anything unpleasant like the thought of people trying to kill you. So, they will come up with a very innocuous name for this "Entity" I'm sure.

Whatever the name, I know that the people in the security services of Spain went to the government and said, "Listen guys, I know we talk a good game about how the US is taking away people's freedoms, and that they are paranoid, and that they are aggressive Neanderthals, but if we don't do EXACTLY the same thing we're screwed! Because WE are the West too! Just like them."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An American Invasion

Is this how some people feel about Halloween in Spain? I have to tell you that I guess I have mixed feelings about Halloween getting big in Europe. On the one hand, I like that an American tradition - yes really a tradition - is popular in Spain.

I'm the smallest one over there, a Pirate. My brother was the Hobo on the left. He was too cool for the picture even at 12 years old (circa 1967). Hey, it looks like my sister was a Gitana!

On the other hand I am wary of MY old Spain turning into California. Alright, I said it! I do like that Spain WAS different. Now, I am not sure if I will notice that I am in another country when I am walking around Madrid! Of course, that's an exaggeration.

It was inevitable though. Let's face it. Halloween is fun. Kids get to dress scary or silly and adults have a reason to act like kids - but with booze.

Teresa over at The Rain in Spain is doing her part to push Halloween on Spain. Her kids obviously like it. Hermann has a video on how Halloween is big in Berlin - complete with cheesy everything.

I very clearly remember when Christmas trees were non-existent in Madrid. I know I will see more trees and decorations this year – and more the year after that. Soon everyone will forget that a lot of these customs were made popular by Americans, or they will conveniently ignore the fact. It must be making some people mad though. Another nasty American habit imported. I wonder if the French have Halloween?

Anyway, just what they need in Spain, more holidays and more ways to party! I now envision a Spain with all their existing fiestas, puentes, historical and religious traditions, etc. - AND - Halloween, Xmas trees, Santa Claus..what next? 4th of July? Uh probably not...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Blog Detective

It is interesting to try to figure out an author’s deal from their posts, etc. You see what their interests are, you try to see their location, age, sex, politics, etc. Sometimes it is not easy.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out if this person is a man or a woman. I think he/she didn’t like my piece on “Not Almodovar” very much, so it makes me think that maybe he is a gay man. I think he/she jumped to the conclusion that I am some kind of gay hater. (I’m not, of course). I just don’t think a good movie idea is based on any kind of gratuitous boning and drug taking – between whichever genders.

Whatever he/she thinks - I want to thank him/her for mentioning me.

I was looking over at his/her site and saw that he had a link about Dr. Watson’s thoughts on black people. I won’t jump to the conclusion that he/she thinks it’s true that blacks are not as smart as whites. That would be judging without enough information… He/she probably means it is sad that Dr. Watson said this.

I also noticed some posts from Iberian Notes over there. Maybe John knows something - at least I hope he does...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Look on the Bright Side

Well, on the bright side, even though there are fires burning all over the place here in SoCal, the sunsets are really pretty.

I know people say global warming is to blame for all the weather and fires around the world, and maybe it is, what do I know. I do know that as a guy born and raised in Los Angeles - there have always been fires here - just like there have always been high winds at this time of year, called the Santa Anas. Cool name huh? Very Spanish.

Every time there is some news here no matter how insignificant, a fire, an earthquake, etc. friends always call from Madrid wanting to know if I am in the street. The news-media is the same everywhere, making it sound real bad. This time though, the fires are pretty impressive. But this city is so big that I haven't seen anything - except on the news. And even here they make it sound real bad.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Almodovar He Was Not

Let’s see if I have this right. This article (click the picture to read) is a tribute to the short life of a guy who made his first movie at 22 years of age, and died at 32. His first movie was about a bunch of drug-taking, partying, lowlifes, “in search of the ultimate experience”. Right after filming was completed, two of the actors - while blasted out of their minds on drugs - recreated a scene in the film by KILLING their drug dealer, CHOPPING the body into pieces, and THROWING it in the river (this was real life people). El Pais says this event was “the perfect launch” for the film (not a great launch for the drug dealer though), and that the director “had arrived.” WTF?

Next this young director had a great NEW idea for a movie, this one would be about three gay men living in Chueca, indulging in sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But it seems they had trouble getting Spanish film subsidies for this story about explicit gay sex and drug taking (thank God!). According to El Pais, this theme was “too advanced” for Spanish audiences.

He was not done yet. His next story idea was for a stage play, also set in Chueca. This gem features three guys again - one dude who has to work over the weekend, but doesn’t want to because he wants to go out and bang guys. Another tio whose boyfriend says he has to quit partying and get a job, and the last one who missed his chance to give up his life as a male prostitute in order to become an actor. All of them are bummed out so they want to escape reality for a weekend through … yes you guessed it, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. The big question posed in the film? “Do I stay with my partner this weekend, or do I fuck 30 different guys?” Now that’s movie-quality stuff!

To El Pais this is all perfectly natural, even to be lauded. To them, these are great film ideas. This guy was a genius and “too advanced” for the Spanish film going public. I wonder, are these great ideas because everyone is gay?

I’m sorry this guy is dead and all, but obviously the real story here is he led a tragic life. He achieved some success too young and then spent the next ten years of his short life trying to recreate it. The only problem was – he only had one (bad) story idea in him.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just a Cool Picture

This is a picture I took a long time ago up in the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. I used a colored filter on a normal, film-using, 35 mm camera. The lake below was red - not because of the filter - but because the local fire department dyed it that color for some kind of a fiesta. I'm glad they did though because it made it look very spooky.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Worst Swearing I Ever Heard in Spain … or Anywhere!

The first time I lived in Spain I traveled with my roommate to visit his family in Cartagena for Christmas. I was finally getting a little better at Spanish after a good five months of barely saying anything. Of course, the first Spanish words and phrases I learned were cuss words and dirty words - I was twenty after all. I learned the normal ones like “Joder” and “Mierda”, etc. These words were satisfying and fun to me because they were familiar, direct translations of the English - and all seemed well with the world.

But, on this first big trip out of Madrid, my roommate’s father decided to have a holiday-style disagreement with his estranged wife, my roommate’s mother. One afternoon something was not going well. During the argument, I couldn’t quite catch what the problem was but I did understand one huge horrible phrase. It was the foulest swearing I have ever heard, and almost beautiful in its ability to offend (especially Catholics). He said, to his estranged wife at a particularly heated moment, “ ME CAGO EN DIOS, EN LA VIRGEN PUTA, Y EN TODOS LOS SANTOS, CUARENTA MIL VECES!”

Now THAT is the worst swearing I ever heard.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Watch Out! They're Mad Now

So NOW they are taking off their gloves huh? Kinda late. I touched on this once here.

I was never a big fan of Spain's beaches - Las Islas Cies are pretty. But mostly, the ones I saw were OK but not great, with huge ugly buildings right near the water. I go to Spain for the OLD cities, the crowds, the buildings, and the “Europeness”. Sorry, I don’t go for the natural scenery. I’m afraid California is hard to beat in the nature and beaches department. But Spain, and more specifically for me Madrid, does have so much that California lacks...

I hope they do wake up and save the coasts though. It’s a real shame that there is not a sense of scale and appropriateness when building on the coastline.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

You Are Not In Control

One of the things you have to get used to as an American in Spain is the fact that you are not in complete control of your own bank account. The practice of writing a check and mailing it to a company to pay your bills just does not exist in Spain. They also won’t let you go online and pay after you receive a bill in the mail. What you have to do to pay, let's say your telephone bill, is give the telephone company your bank account number so they can suck the money right out of your account whenever they want to. Then they just tell you what they took - nice guys! If they take too much money because they screwed up, you get the pleasure of trying to fix the problem after the fact!

This is unsettling to Americans. Virtually the only entity that can do that to you in the US is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - for income taxes, and if they do that it’s because you haven’t been paying taxes for years. In Spain it seems they don’t trust people to actually pay their bills themselves so they have this foolproof method instead.

So, every month (or so) I look online to see what they took from me. Usually it’s ok but currently I can’t stop Telefonica from taking money for a dial-up connection I canceled, or for a DSL line I never received.

The latest fun came from Gasnatural. I normally use very little gas. My consumption might be 12 cubic meters per month or 14 Euros. So, imagine my surprise to see I used 2000 meters one month! The company didn’t seem to think this was unusual so they just started to suck Euros out of my bank account – 168, 185, 153 Euros on three consecutive months.

All this makes me very leery about signing up for any more domiciliacion bancaria. It also makes me feel more like a pawn than a customer. In the US, at least you can say, “Screw you I’m not paying!” But in Spain it seems like “The Man” is doing all the screwing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Big Brother in Spain Doing Fine, Thank You

I wonder if there will be a huge outcry about privacy and the oppressive socialist regime invading the citizen’s lives? I doubt it. El Pais seems to be fine with this law. Of course, if the story was about the U.S. government doing the same thing – I believe the spin would be slightly different. It says calls won’t be recorded. Maybe not .... for now, but I bet they will be listened to for “key phrases”.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everyone's Equal in Cuba - Unless You're Black

Wow, they must have been napping at El Pais. They let a negative op-ed piece on Cuba get through the idealogical gauntlet. This editorial written by a real live Cubano says that Black and Mulatto Cubans are doing poorly, racism is alive and well there. In contrast, the U.S. has Blacks in real positions of power.... I'll say, just ask Oprah Winfrey. She made 260 Million dollars last year, top of the television heap.

I know this is not what most Europeans would think is the case. How could the evil Capitalist empire be doing better with racial problems than the people's Cuba? Because Latinos are just as elitist as anyone, maybe more so, and the so-called egalitarian political system does not seem to be so equal.

Good thing Zapatero is supporting them with Spanish tax dollars. He knows how to back a winning horse.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quien es Mas Green?

It is common knowledge that Spain is much more “green” than the U.S. They recycle more, use less gas, grow organic food, etc. and we do nothing but waste... Really?

Katie over at Espana Profunda had to answer to a commenter of hers after she had the gall to mention something positive about the U.S. She said, gasp, that we are doing a lot to be “green” in the states. There are more Toyota Prius hybrids here than anywhere, recycling is commonplace, organic food is easily found and very mainstream, farmers markets are in many local neighborhoods, energy legislation makes us build more efficient buildings, and makes cars pollute less. In fact, the only reason the whole world now builds cleaner cars is because California made Detroit then Japan then Europe - build them.

That picture above is a blue recycle bin. Every house in Los Angeles has one, along with a green one for garden clippings and a black one for trash. The blue bin takes any type of recyclables, cans, paper, plastic, cardboard, plastic bags, even styrofoam now, all together. No need to separate – they do it. So, as suspected, the trash bin is emptier with each passing year.

This is not what is comfortable to contemplate in Europe though. Everyone knows that the U.S. is the evil waster of all energy. Europeans don’t have refrigerators, don’t drive cars, don’t have trash, don’t burn heating oil, don’t have golf courses, don't drive diesels, and don’t have air conditioners. Yeah right.

Spain also has a long way to go in many "green" categories. Organic food is a joke. It's too expensive and delegated only to a few hippie vegetarian establishments that alienate ordinary meat-loving Madrilenos. Recycling is difficult – it’s much easier to throw everything away. Developers in Madrid are building more and more suburbs obligating the work force to drive farther to work (many times alone) from bigger and bigger “chalets”. Sounds like another place I’m familiar with …

I know it is true that modern society and its conveniences were, by and large created (or mass produced) by Americans, and those conveniences caused a lot of unforeseen problems in terms of energy use and pollution. But, and I’m just guessing here based on observations, I’m pretty sure Americans will also be helping on a lot of the next solutions.

Just be prepared though, because just like with everything, these future answers will probably breed yet another bunch of unforeseen circumstances.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brit Bashing

I have to tell you that I kind of secretly enjoy hearing the Spanish talk crap about the British. You know, the typical stuff … that they are drunk, don’t want to learn Spanish, live in isolated expat enclaves, cook rotten food, etc., the whole nine yards.

Why? It’s not because I don’t like the Brits, I actually do. I think most Americans generally have a good opinion of the British. We feel that they are our sophisticated distant cousins or something. Of course they don’t feel the same way about us. To them, we are the rich and crass relatives they love to hate.

I like hearing the Spanish verbally bash Brits because that means they are concentrating on someone other than the Americans. I also have the chance to join in on the fun and be part of an "us vs. them" mentality for a short while, “Yeahh, the food is terrible! And how about those football thugs!” etc… But I don't really believe it.

Conversely, there are those Spanish people who are real Anglophiles, especially in regards to English pronunciation. Any word that is not spoken “British” is just plain wrong. They wouldn’t be caught dead saying "schedule" like “sked-jewel”, no, it has to be ”shed-jul”. To them, American pronunciation is the pinnacle of low-brow tastes and attitudes. I think that’s fine if that's what they want. I understand both languages, British and American, and couldn’t care less. There is one thing I am not too crazy about though … that's when the British try to correct MY English.

This has happened to me on several occasions in England and on British Airways. One time, I asked in perfectly acceptable American-Californian English, for some water. I said “Wah-der”. The lady responded, “You mean some Wah-ta?” Another time I asked for the bathroom and the Brit said, “ You mean the TOILET?” … Well, I was just going to wash my hands but if there is a toilet in there that’s okay too …

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Political Chameleon

Politics. It’s amazing how much it defines everything, now more than ever. It really seems to all boil down to “Left versus Right”, everything is reduced to this. I know that being American (and not being ashamed of it) is very unpopular in Europe. Why? Well, that’s complicated, and I will try to go into that sometime, but one reason is that Europeans assume Americans are “right -leaning” politically, and Europeans of course are not. “Right-leaning” is very unpopular (although I’m not sure they really understand why this is other than some vague “fight the man” feeling). “Pro-American” is also not PC, and uncool.

What is funny is that when I first came to Spain in 1982, I was a very left-leaning individual. I used to have many a discussion during the Reagan years of how I agreed with everything all the Spanish people said about our militaristic and simpleton actor/leader. Back then, my sister was even a bona fide member of the American Communist party (I always got big points for that).

But over the years I changed - due directly to spending time in Spain. I heard so much bullshit about the Jews in control of everything, about how even World War II was a selfish act on our part (my father and his three bothers served), about NATO being a huge war-mongering institution (until even Felipe Gonzalez joined up), about the U.S. being behind anything and everything bad in the world, about the U.S. being cowards for waging an air-battle with no ground forces in Bosnia to stop a war against Muslims, then for being too aggressive in Afghanistan and Iraq with troops on the ground, etc. There was a lot more crap, too much to mention.

Another thing that strikes me odd is that to my friends who are politically conservative, I am considered a Commie-Pinko. But to my friends and family who are very left-leaning, they would swear that I am a Bush-voting Republican (I’m a registered Democrat by the way). The sad truth is I have never voted for a presidential candidate who actually won. Since, 1980 I have consistently cast a losing vote. Nice record!

So my political sentiments are in flux - depending on what country I am in. I know that I will not apologize anymore for being an American, Fuck ‘em! I know that my opinions on the other Spain related blogs I enjoy are viewed as suspect, as “outside the normal anti-U.S. viewpoint”. But I think I’ve earned my worldview. I have been the American in Spain since 1982! I have heard the same B.S. spewed over and over and I guess it has turned me into a conservative - when I am in Madrid! But in the states, in my natural habitat, I'm still half a Pinko.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

El Roto - El Sucko!

Alright. That title is not too clever. But how much thought did this cartoon take? I think he pulled this one out of the archives (or somewhere else?). Let's see .... A tank with an American flag, a bunch of smoke and a "Mission Accomplished" caption. That works. Get me to the bar. I'm done for the day!

I don't always understand El Roto from El Pais. First off, his drawings are spooky. The people he features look like they are out of some bad horror movie - like demons or something. And of course I am handicapped when it comes to "humor" in Spanish. If I'm at the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd, I know everything they are talking about. But in Spanish I'm screwed. I have to work HARD to figure out the joke.

Of course El Roto's "jokes" are political in nature and are a different story. And what fun it is to simplify everything from the sidelines. It is all so easy from the safety of never having to (or wanting to) make any decisions that matter! Hey, THEY fucked it up again! Good thing I am drawing these cartoons to point it out.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Innocence Lost

Wow! This is going to be tough for Spain. I know all the major events went down in Portugal and the couple are British, but people in Spain really got into this missing (very cute) child thing. As usual, I'm sure other children go missing every year in Spain with no mention, but this one was a big deal. I even received e-mails from Spanish people asking me to forward descriptions of the child to everyone I knew in Los Angeles, just in case she was here!

The first rule in foul play - look at the closest people. The Madeleine McCann disappearance is very sad, whatever happened. The people in Spain - very sweetly I will add - assumed external foul play, some evil nasty bastard and not her mother or father, was responsible. That is nice but unfortunately naive now days, in the U.S. or in Europe.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thin Skin Confessions

The recent posting at Notes From Spain on the topic, ”Can the Spanish take criticism?”, got a lot of interest over there, inspired by my rant here, "Are the Spanish Thin-Skinned?"

But to tell you the truth I have a confession to make, I’m the one who is thin-skinned. You may have noticed that I am a little bit sensitive to topics relating to Americans in Spain, how we are perceived, opinions about us in the print and other media, and of course, in “real-life”. My thin skin has developed over the years - basically due to hearing the same stereotypes over and over, ad nauseum, and by having the same tired discussions in bars, living rooms, and …. where ever.

For the first 15 - 20 years of coming to Spain, and/or living in Spain on and off, I would just do what I always did. Patiently try to convince one person at a time that No, we are not all morons, and No, we are not all fat, and Yes, there actually are political liberals in the U.S., and I actually did not vote for Bush or Reagan, but I will try to explain why many people did, and why I do respect our political system - even flawed as it is, etc…. (Example list of current topics here).

But now I’m tired and it's hard to be nice. I keep hearing and seeing the same misconceptions offered up with glee. Spanish people will argue with ME about how life is in America (when they have never been there) or about our history – while conveniently forgetting their own - and I don't even know them! This I can’t take.

There was this one time when I had to get my air conditioning in Madrid fixed and the guy selling me his services came over to my house (with a stuffy nose). He didn’t know me from Adam but, as usual, he asked me where I was from, and then proceeded to tell me that he had a cold due to, “All the bad things that the Americans bring.” He was a big fat guy and seemed to be living pretty well to me – the Americans weren’t hurting him too much it appeared. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to tell him on the spot that his job exists because an American invented air conditioning!

What got me on all this .... John at Iberian Notes was posting some reader’s comments from a favorite newspaper that he loves to hate – La Vanguardia based in Barcelona. Now, comments on the internet can be pretty nasty and very hateful to Americans, etc. They usually blame the U.S. for pretty much everything under the sun – in outrageous ways. These particular ones weren't as bad as some I've seen on John was asked if he thought that many Spanish people think like the La Vanguardia readers. So he answered that Yes, he thinks that many people DO think this way in Spain. This set off a round of comments – some very angry, on this topic (the angry ones disagreed – and were shocked that he would come to this conclusion!). I tried to put my meager two cents in (very poorly, I’m afraid).

What I was trying to say in my lousy comment on Iberian Notes, is that if you are not American, you are not going to experience the kind of interactions that we (Americans) experience in Madrid/Spain. If you are British, the air conditioning repair-man is not going to start giving you crap about the rotten Americans. If you are meeting Spanish friends of friends, and there is that guy with the group who wants to give you shit about Bush and anything else he can think of, he would not be doing that if you were from Bangladesh. Also, as Americans, our ears prick up when we hear nonsense about the U.S., and yes, my own personal thin-skin comes into play due to hearing knock after knock about Americans over the last 24 years.

O.K., I really have to work on this. Hey! That’s what the blog is all about.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where the Boys Are

You know, it seems like there are a lot of gay men in Madrid, and maybe even Spain, in general. I wonder … are there more gays per capita here than in other countries of Europe? The way things are going, Madrid might turn into Spain’s San Francisco.

Through the years, it has always perplexed me to see the gay population grow. I had a Spanish roommate and friend who came out while I was visiting Madrid one year (of course I already knew he was gay - not because of how he acted, only because he never had a girlfriend). He was a tall, educated, good-looking guy that had a bunch of way-hot girls basically throwing themselves at him all the time. I would ask him, “Are you sure you don’t want to just try out Marisol, or Eva, or (fill-in the blank), before really deciding on this?

My own very scientific theory on why there are so many gay men in Madrid is the simple fact that they just have too much of a good thing. There are great looking woman all over the place! It almost seems like the men are bored with the beautiful chicks and want to try something different. Or maybe they want to become some kind of “Anti Macho-Iberico”, in order to rebel against a Spanish stereotype of a woman-chasing player.

Whatever it is, and in typical post-Franco Spain style, they sure seem to be going overboard in sharing their new found “freedoms". Gay people are really expressing themselves all over the place and everyone else is bending over backwards to show how "normal" they think this is. It has to be frustrating for the women looking for guys - but they wouldn't admit it..

I know that when the guiris / Americanos come to Madrid, we are always impressed with the quality (and quantity) of Spanish women, and confused as to why there are so many gay men …. but then again kind of thankful too … just being straight means you're way ahead of half the room in the girls' eyes - no matter what you look like.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Big Surprise! Another "Dumb Yankee" Article

I was just wondering - again.... Does anybody ever spend time and money to find out what other people in the world don't know? Or is El Pais just interested in what Americans don't know?

I am sure that the average Fulan@ in Spain is a foreign affairs expert. If you started calling Espanoles at home, found a housewife in Fuenlabrada, tore her away from the latest corazon babble, and then proceeded to ask her about the evil doers in Darfur, she would know all about it, right? Or maybe she knows about the latest developments in the political situation in Turkey? Doubt it.... But that is not interesting (or gratifying) to El Pais. They couldn't care less about what Spanish people don't know. That's no fun.

I searched around for who wanted to find out what we don't know. "Zogby International "is just a company that will harass people by phone and ask what they are told to ask - for money. The "Inter-American Dialogue" is some kind of political / business group from South America. I wonder what their agenda is?

I will tell you one thing. I have never answered a poll, I’m busy ... at work, or whatever. And if they ever did manage to get me on the phone somehow, I would fake a heart attack to get off. There is no way I would spend my time to put a dime in a pollster's pocket. So who are they talking to? Answer: Morons with nothing better to do. Of course the pollsters don't care - as long as they can write something down for their clients.

Another thing about polls … your agenda, whatever it is, can easily be fulfilled. Tailor the questions, call only the people you want to reach, etc. You can always get the results you are looking for.

I'll start holding my breath now until a survey comes out in El Pais on what the Spanish public doesn't know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are the Spanish Thin-Skinned?

Ben over at Notes From Spain has a post expounding on something he brought up earlier in several versions, “Are the Spanish Rude”? This kind of post never ceases to elicit tons of responses. Am I alone in noticing that posts that are even remotely critical of the Spanish – just drives them crazy?

Ben is the most diplomatic dude writing about Spanish stuff in blog-land. He is running a site that is trying to make a buck – so he HAS to be nice. Couple that with the fact that he is married to a Spanish gal (got to keep her happy), and that he clearly loves his adopted country, and yet Spanish people still get nuts, offended, pissed off, etc.

I have noticed this phenomenon many times reading around the web. I remember when The New York Times featured some travel article that stated something like, “ Madrid is no longer the provincial sleepy town, blah, blahh”. How innocuous can you get! It was a throw away line in some stupid travel piece – and people (Spanish) were pissed! There were comentarios galore on about how dare those Sons of Bitches talk shit about us! And there was this other filler NPR radio piece on the Madrid Barajas parking lot bombings. The poor NPR reporter got reamed for saying something negative about the fact that he couldn’t get his car out of the lot or something .... nothing really important. Or the time Notes From Spain linked to a pretty funny piece on “A Day in the Life of a Spaniard” that humorously skewered a fictitious daily routine of a typical Spaniard. Man, were some pissed off!

Why is this? I know that when I am in Madrid or some region of Spain, the people there want to hear that their food is the best, their women the best looking, and that it is much better than in my sorry-ass country. I am happy to oblige. I have been trained to respond along the “anti-Ugly American” line. I say that they are great and we are clearly lacking in many respects… Just to keep them happy.

I wonder if the Spanish have any clue what it is like being an American in Spain. How would they like to hear constantly that your food sucks, you really have no culture (as they head off to an American Movie), that most of you are stupid, etc. etc…. We listen to this, read this, watch TV with this, and yes, even agree to it - so as not to seem like “rude pushy arrogant Americans”.

I’m afraid I don’t think they would last “Twenty Minutos” hearing this stuff like we do - with their thin skins...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

L.A. Earthquake - 1994, Madrid - ?

The last pretty big one in Los Angeles was the Northridge earthquake of January 1994. This is a shot of a parking structure at the local University after that temblor. It looks very bad and if you listened to the news without seeing it for yourself it would have seemed liked the whole city was in ruins. Of course, this was very far from the case. Although the magnitude on the Richter scale was moderately high (about 6.8), damage, and I mean the devastating kind, was only scattered around at best. There were two or three collapses of freeway overpasses, a couple of apartment buildings at the epicenter that had their first floors pancake, and maybe four or five other really bad building partial-collapses. The rest of the damage was a lot of cracks and tossed around furniture and dishes - nothing like the thousands and thousands dead you would see in India or South America.

The reason for this low damage tally is we are continually trying to build better buildings in California because we know earthquakes are going to come. Another reason is most of our houses and buildings are made out of wood - which is very light and strong, or steel. Not much brick and stone, etc.

But, on the other hand we have Madrid. In Madrid, the older buildings are built with a timber framework that are in-filled with brick or stone to make the walls. These walls are virtual ruble walls with very little value in resisting earthquakes. What's more, each brick is a deadly projectile waiting to clock somebody on the head.

The modern apartment buildings basically have the exact same construction method but they use a (too-thin) framework of steel columns and beams, in-filled with bricks to make the walls and floors. They still are not made to resist earthquakes.

The reason that brick is not good in an earthquake is that it is very heavy. And the amount of force an earthquake imparts on a building is in proportion to the weight of the building. More weight, more force. Reinforced brick is another matter, but the walls of Madrid apartment buildings are generally not reinforced with steel.

This shot below is what happens to unreinforced brick buildings in an earthquake:

I will tell you truthfully that I am not crazy to hear about earthquakes in Madrid. The buildings are not built for them. A not-very-big earthquake in Madrid could do A LOT of damage. It is really unfathomable to think how bad a bigger one could be. Fortunately, Madrid is not (supposed to be) earthquake country.

Monday, August 6, 2007

For Once - Glad I'm Not in Madrid

I got nothing ... but this picture of Betty the dog jumping into Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho. Looks nice huh? The water is amazing, clear and cool. I am spending a week here doing the summer thing.

I hear it's pretty hot in Madrid. I think I'll wait until fall / winter to go back. Of course, Spain is known and loved for it's summers (or at least for the warm weather) but I really prefer winter in Madrid. There is nothing like coming from a place where the weather is temperate (L.A.) and being able to wear some winter clothes for a change.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Crime and Punishment?

Let's see, 190 dead, 1500 wounded, many permanently... let's ask for 40,000 years in prison (you know, just as a symbolic gesture - like those symbolic dead people) and then give them 7 years. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea! Wouldn't want to give unduly harsh prison sentences. These guys have things to do when they get out. They have led such productive lives so far ...

God, I hope it doesn't turn out like it seems it's going too.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Madrid - L.A. Beckham

In celebrity news, we now have David Beckham in L.A. I'm afraid I'm a typical American in the sense that I don't know Jack Squat about Soccer. When I was in Madrid and Beckham arrived, I thought it was great that Madrid was getting a big star - it was good for my adopted town, but nothing more was stirred within.

Here in L.A., I am even less stirred because I don't really follow all the celebrity stuff. It is a odd being from Los Angeles when you travel around the world. When I am in Madrid, I hear so much about L.A. - the actors, the movies, music, TV shows filmed here, the distorted information. It is strange to see the place I know so well from a totally different, and often twisted perspective (kind of like reading biased European correspondents writing about the U.S.). From Madrid, L.A. looks exotic and unknown. But to me it's just home. Madrid is much more exotic.

Back to Beckham. I have to say that L.A. is a perfect town for him. What took him so long to come? The top "industry" echelons seem to be excited too. I guess because he is different. He's British, which is always a plus here with the accent and all (we think they are sophisticated if they have the accent - god help us), he's a sports guy and not an actor (all the Brit actors are already here) - but he photographs like an actor, so that's good. His wife is ridiculously thin with a fake rack - that fits. We speak English - so they have to like that, and it's really easy to spend a lot of money on expensive houses and cars. All perfect!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Just Say Thank You" to Limpieza

I am starting a new public relations campaign in Madrid. I am sure it will be a big success. The new campaign is "Just Say Thank You" to the Limpieza crews.

Gone will be the days when people walk past and ignore these stalwart beacons of cleaning, tirelessly clearing away all your cigarette butts, botellon bottles, and your dog's shit because you won't pick it up. Just stop and say "Thank You" guys and gals of the fluorescent green suits, I always do (and it freaks them out). I know Madrilenos toss shit all over the place because they know Limpieza will pick it up. In L.A., no one cleans up after us. If we throw something in the street - there it will stay until it is washed into the sea at Santa Monica beach for the dolphins to eat - Nice! But in Madrid, you can be a guarro, no problem. People will barely look askance when you toss crap into the street. In L.A., you will get major dirty looks (and a fine!) and you deserve it.

Actually, I think the Limpieza crews are enabling Madrid to continue with it's nasty habits. How about if they stopped cleaning up after everyone and their dogs? What if no fresh clean water was cascading down dirty streets from high powered hoses? Would people use the papeleros? I wonder. The least we can do is thank them. I know it is a good job (I guess) in Spain land but wow, how do they get job satisfaction when no one tries to help out. People just immediately throw their crap in the street right after Limpieza has swept it up - day in and day out. There is even trash pick up every night! You would think they could get the trash into the bins.

So Madrilenos - Just say "Thank You" the next time you see a green suit. Without them, and with your habits, Madrid would be a dump - let's be honest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Map Magazine

I stumbled upon a new (I think) Madrid site in English that I like called Map Magazine. It's run by an Americano. It may be sort of starting out, but it looks good. They also do some pretty good looking video production. Hopefully they keep on going...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Carmelo. Are You Reading My Stuff?

This editorial in the English version of El Pais came out on July 19, 2007. Carmelo thinks just like I do, that the graffiti in Madrid sucks but there was this one guy that was pretty good - Muelle. He also thinks that Madrid should get serious about getting rid of Graffiti. Right-on Carmelo!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hawaii - Bombaii

One day this bar in the Plaza Santa Ana is probably going to rival La Cerveceria Alemana in terms of history. The "Mauna Loa" has been is business since 1972 and it seems to be going strong. I think I know why.

It's because of the Mecano song "Hawaii - Bombaii" ... Who? No, it's because back in the old days (somewhere in the 80's) this was one of the many make-out bars in Madrid, and maybe it still is, check out the line! Back then there was no place to "be alone". You couldn't go to your piso where you lived with 17 people, you couldn't go to her house where her father and brothers would kill you. You didn't have a car like in L.A. ... you were screwed! Or mejor dicho, not screwed. No .. wait .. in Madrid there were/are "Pubs" where you can go .. (pronounced "puffs" - and not the British "beer" types). They are dark and nobody cares what the hell is going on, just buy your drinks and do what you want - more or less.

At the Mauna Loa the drinks were sweet and sticky (hopefully like your date), there is a couple a tu lado not talking much ... and you two have some privacy. Don't get too carried away..

The truth is nothing is hotter than getting too carried away in some club where you really can't do much. Many a frustrated night was spent in places like this - frustrated, but oddly more memorable than many a full blown "private" encounter. Why is that? Us guys would actually concentrate on the kiss, on the touch.. amazing huh? After the pub, I would walk my Spanish date to the bus or metro stop, do some more public grinding before sending her on her way. Then regain composure ... and start the long, lonely walk back to the bunk bed. What a good time!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Is This Absolutely Necessary?

I have a question for Spain I’m not sure anybody has asked lately. Is it absolutely necessary to put complete hardcore porn on broadcast TV at night after 12:00 PM?

I understand that in America we are puritanical and up-tight (although a lot of the porno they show is made 10 minutes from my hometown in Chatsworth, California, hilariously dubbed with Spanish Oohs and Ahhs..), but I think they are pasando. When I say “hardcore”, I mean it. The picture above is the tamest I could find. Everything is on there, nasty group sex scenes, chicks on chicks, "chicks" with extra parts, and just guys and girls - but with every anatomical mechanical connection shown. I know this because I forced myself to do a very thorough review of every channel and every program for this post….

I personally think pornography is fine and great, but you should have to make a little effort to go get your own. At least go on-line, rent a DVD, or something! I also don’t understand the business model either. I can’t figure out what they are selling, some kind of chat service? Why call the chat line when they show you all the nasty stuff so easy.

And what about people with kids? You can’t tell me they will never see it because it is on so late. It is summer in Madrid and it is light until after 10:00 PM. There are kids walking around outside until 1:00 am. I know that when I was 12 years, if this were on TV there would be no way to keep me from it.

Maybe a Spanish argument would be that sex is natural and kids can see it from time to time. I can see that ….. if the movies were showing a couple “making love” with some context of a story. But I’m afraid this is the basest porno made, the kind that always finishes with the money shot in the face. Not exactly how you want your kids to learn about sex.

So Spain …. Franco is gone. You can do what you want now. You make the rules. I know you want to be progressive and modern and more advanced than the backward Americanos. But isn't there some middle ground? And I don't care what they say - this type of program does not do anyone any good. Does it do harm? ..... Probably.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who is the American?

It’s official. All you Americans out there can rest easy. The French language gods at Le Monde have decided that it is OK to call ourselves “Americans”. After exhaustive study and ponderings, they have systematically gone through many different variations of our possible moniker and finally decided on "Americans". “Cabrones hijos de puta” was ruled out early in the running as being too kind and not French enough.

I think I am going to have to change the name of this Blog to “LA-Paris Files” since so much good S--- comes out of France. I can relate this to Spain though because the same discussion does come up here. The first time I heard the term “Estadounidense” I thought, what? What is that? I guess it really is “United Statesian” but it sounds horrible (did he just call me dense?) – I just chalked it up to some language thing. Little did I know…

Of course the whole Bru-ha-ha comes about because some think we are arrogant S.O.B.’s for calling ourselves “Americans” and not “North Americans”, "USAnians" or something like that. The truth is, no thought went into this – it was just by default. Actually it was the Europeans who first called us “Americans”, just like the condescending article says. The only people thinking about this seems to be Europeans. We don’t give a rat's ass what we're called. Why their obsession with this?

The heart of the argument seems to be that there are other “Americans” with us on those two huge continents and that those people are resentful of the term only pertaining to us. Maybe I’m missing something but I don't think an Argentine is going to say he is “South American”, and he certainly isn’t going to call himself an American! Or a Mexican who says he is anything other than “Mexican”. Canadians – same. Maybe Central Americans might say “Central American”, but I really think it will be Guatamalteco, El Salvadoreno, etc., first.

Everyone knows who the Americans are. No one has to say “North American” or any other silly thing. Please, give it a rest! And no, we are not arrogant bastards because someone gave us a name and it stuck by default. Let's see... arrogant... exactly who is deciding what we can call ourselves? And by the way, that cartoon ..... where you are trying to be snotty with every lame American stereotype in the book? If they live in the U.S., all of those people are Americans!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Three Cheers for the Menu del Dia!

There is an unsung hero in Madrid, a hero taken for granted and not given the proper credit. That hero is the Menu del Dia.

I don’t think Madrilenos really appreciate what an institution this is. The Menu del Dia should exist on every continent on earth. Fresh, almost home-cooked food, (dos platos!) offered daily with pan, vino , y postre! The best part is not so many confusing choices. This just does not happen in other places. If you eat from the Menu del Dia you very rarely can go wrong (unless you are super picky) and if you are super picky just drink the cheap wine with some Casera in it and all will be well.

Of course I could go into the ‘I remember when’ stories. Alright I will… I remember when I ate the Menu del Dia con un companero de pension, Don Luis Carpintero. We would walk around looking for just the right place – cheap but ‘con buena pinta’. We would find places where we would eat – well, (i.e., comer bien) for I think like 350 Pesetas… maybe $3.00, U.S. Don Luis was seventy-four years old and I was twenty-five trying to find work in Madrid. On Sundays the owners of the pension where we lived did not cook so we had to fend for ourselves - so we did, and had a lot of fun in the process.

Today it is a little different (more money of course - about 10 Euros now) but there still is the Menu. I love the freaking Menu del Dia! Sometimes I don’t even know what the Hell I’m eating. I just act like I know, and it’s still good.

So, Madrilenos and all visitors, be proud! You are lucky in Spain. All you have to do is find a place that has a lot of people in it, that has a Menu del Dia, and you are in business. You don’t even need a mother. This comes in handy for those of us who don’t have mothers anymore. And everyone knows that chicks can’t cook now days because their mother’s did everything for them – but that's another story.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"EU Tube" New Exciting Web Destination

Does anyone else think that this new website is a little silly? The EU has announced it's own channel on YouTube. "EU Tube" will publicize EU videos and programs to an anxious Europe dying to get their hands on this information.

Is YouTube the right place to reach out to the world for a government of a block of nations? I guess there was no room on their own website. Sounds like some idea man has run amok in Brusells.

After you finish watching the video of the dog riding the skateboard you can click over and get some important EU info. Hey, why don't we do this too? Yeahh, "You-SA-Tube"!... Uh, maybe not.

Oh well, they are trying to get their name out there I guess. Wouldn't want to forget about them.....

Monday, July 2, 2007

Modern Conveniences

Whenever I lived in Madrid for any long period of time over the last twentyfive-odd years, the piso or Hostal that was my home was always "challenged" shall we say, in regards to modern conveniences. I still loved them and I didn't compare any of the places to the states (at least not out loud) because that's just the way it was in Madrid.

Like when I lived on c/Santa Brigida between Hortaleza and Fuencarral. Not knowing the mysteries of pisos in Madrid, a group of American students (yes, my group) rented a ground floor, interior apartment (Bajo-Interior). It was dark all the time. You could sleep all day and never know that it was sunny outside. The bathroom was OK though, except the water heater broke a few weeks into our stay and there was NO hot water for a long time, so I moved.

To a piso with all Spaniards on c/Hortaleza. Six people in a two-bedroom apartment (one brother and his mother stayed in the living room). Of course there was no heat and brother Jose was very fond of smoking Ducados non-stop.... with the windows closed..... in winter. The water heater was electric and beyond tiny. You had to plug it in 30 minutes before showering. Once in the shower, you would wet yourself down - then you turned off the water - soaped up - then you turned the water back on - and then rinsed off. That's all the time, and all the hot water you had. Next step, freeze your ass off getting dressed.

Or in the Hostal R. Canal on c/Huertas. There, I actually had a very luxurious room with a view of the Plaza del Angel..... but no bathroom. I think we had heat, but since it was Huertas, the disco on the ground floor started thumping around 1:00 am or so, until about 6:00 am - but only on the weekends, so that was good.

Next it was Lavapies, on c/Cabestreros, pretty much all the same conveniences were lacking in this Piso. Couple this with fearing for my life dodging drug dealers any time I stepped out of the Apartment. The neighborhood was pretty dicey back then - but it's getting better.

Between these places there where numerous stays at pensiones and hostales (never a hotel - too broke) where the beds sagged in the middle, the toilet paper was rationed, the tubs were the sizes of buckets, and the streets blared outside. So very early on, I dreamed of my own Piso Madrid where I could do whatever it took to solve these convenience issues. So I did, but I think I may have gone overboard.

These are the modern conveniences of which Piso Madrid now boasts:

- Gas from the city (how did we do without this?)
- Dual-paned windows (this is OK everyone has this now)
- Central heating (everyone has this too)
- A kick-ass German water heater (not too out of line)
- Every light switch on a dimmer (what? - not necessary!)
- A clothes dryer (pushing it ... a little too American)
- Garbage disposer - carried by me on the plane
(This freaks Madrilenos out!)
- Speakers wired through the "falso techo" in Kitchen and salon.
(not necessary - but cool!)

But the COLMO is!.... I am the embarrassed owner of not one, not two, but THREE HUGE air-conditioning compressors hanging in the patio (light well) of my piso for all my neighbors to see. I really don't know how this happened. I sent my L.A. buddy, Agapito, to Madrid for some R & R. I thought that while he was there he could call about putting some AC in the living room? You know, just for those really hot days. Well, I guess the salesman got a hold of him and now I am the poster boy for causing global warming in Madrid! I'm sure the irony does not escape anyone..... An American .... excessive comforts .... everything is our fault.....! It is a little awkward. Talk about living up to a stereotype.

You know, I have improved my surroundings immensely. I have AC, heating, and a freaking garbage disposer, but there was something about the experience of Jose's Ducados and constant cafelitos that will not come again. The electric water heater was a pain, but I will never forget it. And my Spanish rocked back when I lived with five Madrilenos! You can keep the interior piso bajo though.

Like that old rule that always holds true, when you fix one problem you create another. Madrid (like everywhere) is changing, and it's not just my piso with it's modern conveniences. Many of the past charms are no longer. It is just the inevitable improvement (and destruction) of the old Madrid.