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 20minutos.com - 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 20minutos.com:

"¿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...