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.