Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ask an American!

Time for another edition of ASK AN AMERICAN!

Dear American,

Why are you people such bible thumpers? It’s always, ”God bless this and God bless that!” And I can’t believe you morons are so stupid that you question Darwin. Everyone knows that evolution is gospel! Umm, I mean … true. God had his day and that day was a long time ago! Now we have science and science is never wrong. Why don’t you people just get with the program?

Signed, Smug with all the Answers

Dear Smug,

Oh Puh-Leeze! No one knows what the F--- is really going on yet! Science is great but they are always telling us, "Er, guys, remember when we said .. Blah, Blah ... well we screwed up and found out it is really like this .... Blah". Of course the world is not 6,000 years old and the theory of evolution seems to be the best answer to how we evolved but no one really knows how life began in the first place! Those Holy Rollers have as much to say, on that subject at least, as Einstein. You Europeans were so screwed by the Church over so many centuries that of course you can’t stand religion. We did not have that problem. To many Americans God is not a four letter word, and it seems to me that the extent of our knowledge still leaves a little mystery left. So, the next time you are so sure of your beliefs … remember that at one time the scientific consensus was - the world is flat!

Signed, American

Dear American,

Living in Germany - the land of whispers - I have noticed that Americans talk rather loudly e.g. while waiting in the check-out, on the sidewalk and wherever else. Private conversations are held loudly as if nobody understood anyway. Again, this is coming from an observation made in Germany. Why do you talk so loudly as if you were the only one around?

Signed, Up-Tight German Whisperer

Dear Up-Tight,

I’ll tell you why … It’s because most Americans are born in, grow up in, and live in ….. HOUSES! We don’t have to worry about neighbors on top of us, to the side of us, below us, etc. listening in to our conversations about our hemorrhoids through the window of the patio. Our nearest neighbor might be 50 meters away. It is simply a function of environment and adaptation. We have to learn to communicate with other loud Americans downstairs, or way in the front yard, etc. It also might be because we are not worried about the Gestapo or the Stasi overhearing us.

Signed, American

Dear American,

How come in the movies if an American is being mistreated or arrested by a policeman in Europe or something they always say, “You can’t do that to me I’m an American!” What’s up with that? Do you people think you are so much better than anyone else that your precious freedom cannot be messed with?

Signed, Takes it Like a Man When Arrested

Dear Takes it Well,

I have three words for you ….IT’S A JOKE! The director of the movie is obviously making fun of Americans who would say something stupid like,” You can’t do that to me I’m an American ….!” Etc. It is funny (to Europeans) to make fun of Americans who think they are somehow above the law. Obviously we are not – so get a sense of humor and laugh at the stereotype of an arrogant American like you’re supposed to! And stop thinking that movies are real life!

Signed, American

Questions for an American:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Think of the Bragging Rights!

I saw this article over at It sums up what I have been noticing. The bottom line? Europe is going to be freaked out if Obama wins. It would fly in the face of all the pre-conceived notions about race in America. The most surprising thing? The European left is less supportive of Obama than the right!

I am just waiting for the Spanish press to come up with a slew a negatives on Obama, let's see what they could say ..... "He's not really that black" ..... "Only the black people in the U.S. voted for him" ...... "It's because it's so screwed up in the U.S. - that's why he was elected"..... etc.

Although it is too early to tell what he really stands for but to tell you the truth, I think I want Obama just for the bragging rights. That would be really fun in Madrid!

Some good quotes from the Article:

"In Europe, one perceives a guilty attitude. The Left-wing, which tends to attribute to the United States imperialist foreign policy and discrimination against Black and Hispanic people, is not welcoming Obama’s ascent as one would expect."

"On sending the message that they are ready to elect an African-American, a part of American society is exhibiting an attitude much less prejudiced than commonly attributed to this country. This lesson proves particularly uncomfortable for socialist Europe."

"Perceiving that the racial mobility implicit to Obama’s personal history is publicity almost too good for the American society, the Latin American Left-wing has tempered its enthusiasm for the African-American senator."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spanish Restaurant and Bar Survival - 101

One of the most important aspects of hanging out in Madrid is going out to eat or to “tomar algo”, in a restaurant, café, or bar. This experience can be fantastic, due to the great food, drink and people watching available - or it can be stressful if you are a novice. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together a few tips to help out visitors, and maybe even Spain-dwellers alike, negotiate the situation.

1) Go to the right place at the right time – In Madrid, there are very strict schedules for eating and “tomaring algo”. Don’t go looking for lunch at 12:30 PM in a restaurant (or dinner at 7:00 pm). Don’t try to get a vodka martini at American happy hour time of 6:00 PM, etc. Watch and copy the natives to learn the proper times for each “activity”.

2) Learn a Few “Key Phrases” – If you don’t speak Spanish you have to learn a handful of key phrases to get you in the door and to your table. For example, at a restaurant for “la comida”, walk in with confidence (see rule #4) and say, “Dos para comer”, etc. Don’t give them a chance to doubt you.

3) You have to break the Ice – In the U.S., it is up to the staff at the restaurant to make the customer feel comfortable and welcome…not usually so in Madrid. You are the one who has to speak first to the waiter / bar-man to show him you are not a pain in the ass tourist (even though you may be). Use one of your “key phrases” like a simple “Buenas!”

4) Project Calm Assertive Energy – Make sure they can feel your calm assertive energy. Act like you belong where ever you are. Don’t let the wait-staff smell any doubt or fear on you. If they do - you’re dead. Banished to the, “I can definitely screw with this one” pile. They will then make sport of you like a cat with an injured bird. This is essential in the most intimidating of all Spanish eating venues .... the tapas bar. The tapas bar is like a war-zone. You can take no prisoners. No matter the crowds, or the fact that you can’t EVEN IMAGINE fitting in there, you MUST get to as near the bar as you can, and using one of your key phrases, LOUDLY say without fear, “Dos vinos tintos Porfavor!”

5) Be aware of the Spanish “people-categories” – Look around, there are always the same kinds of people at a Spanish restaurant or bar and Spanish waiters must put you into one of these categories to feel comfortable. Take a restaurant for example, there’s the two or three older ladies out eating after shopping, the two businessmen, the young couple with tattoos, the group of late-thirties single women smoking up a storm, the workmen dusty from the nearby obras, etc. Your job is to avoid the dreaded “unknown” category, or worse yet the “obvious tourist”. You do this by following rules #1 thru #4 and by making them doubt – just a little - which category to put you in. You’re shooting for, “Some kind of person, maybe foreign, but obviously seems to belong here”. When I eat alone, I bring a newspaper and I go for the, ”Maybe he is some kind of Business man who comes to Madrid a lot” category. Now days, Madrid is full of so many different nationalities that this should be easy if you follow rules #1 thru #4.

Or, you can forget all the above and just become a regular at one place for breakfast, another place for lunch, and another for afternoon café, then make your own dinner. They will get to know you and they will be nice. Try to pick places run by the owners. Oh, and at the tapas bar, just get a Spanish friend to do the ordering – that’s what I do, those places scare the crap out of me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Response to Anti-Yanquiism

April fools day is coming up in the U.S. (April 1st – OK, maybe I’m a little early). If you want to celebrate in Spain and can’t think of a good gag to play on your Spanish friends – go with the following:

Tell people in Spain that the number one song in the U.S. right now is Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (written in 1972!), I think most people would believe you. (hint: the “big one” is the atomic bomb and just to be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR people, he is MAKING FUN of Americans who would think this way). Of course, the joke is that Spanish people would believe that this song is serious. Lyrics here:

No one likes us
I don't know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful.
They don't respect us so let's surprise them;
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded
And Europe's too old.
Africa's far too hot,
And Canada's too cold.
And South America stole our name.
Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

We'll save Australia;
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.
We'll build an all-American amusement park there;
They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,
And boom Pear-EE
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it'll be;
We'll set everybody free;
You'll wear Japanese kimonos, baby,
There'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow,
So let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now.

Randy Newman is a friggin genius, depressed, but a genius. He's a unique kind of a songwriter. His songs are like little novels narrated by the characters he creates – they are not “him” talking. This one is narrated by some nameless American idiot (but a funny and kind of insightful idiot) who can’t understand why the world doesn’t like us. Oddly enough, sometimes I am that idiot….

Of course this is funny, terrifying, hilarious, crazy, and believable that an American would feel this way (… hmm, let’s see.. do I think? ….… NAHHH!).

This song has cracked me up for years. My favorite line? "We'll set everybody free!"

Hear it here:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Ask an American" Update

Thank you Ben Curtis for rocking my world. I was happy over here .. all alone ... with my 15 visitors a day then you linked to my "Ask an American" feature and suddenly - 150 a day! You are a stud!

Some of the global citizens are humor-challenged when the subject is Americans. I understand. People are pissed off about stuff (had to delete a few comments for the first time - but most were positive). "Ask an American" is meant to be humorous and irreverent, a way to point out our similarities, more than our differences, and to poke fun at Americans and non-Americans alike. If I answer any more questions I am determined to keep it fun.

So stand by to see if we get some good questions - got a few. There were a lot of visits but not sure if the global citizens want to play along yet. (Hell, I may ask my own questions again - I have a million of them for myself) And remember, think funny .... insulting - fine, but funny. And also don't forget the clever sign-off name. Questions to an American:

In the mean time, L.A.-Madrid Files will return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ask an American!

We are starting a new copyrighted feature hear at L.A.-Madrid Files. It is a public service of sorts in the format of a write-in answer column that I know will be useful to the Spain dwellers. It's called ASK AN AMERICAN!

Sometimes people have questions about Americans that they really don't know how to answer - or whom to ask. They can't ask their friends and risk having them know that they are interested in Americans. Well, worry no more! I will answer your questions about Americans!

Since nobody really wrote in to ask me any questions, I will start you off ....

Dear American,

I am a waiter in a restaurant “tipico” here in Madrid. Why is it that when Americans come in they are all smiley and everything? I treat them like crap as much as possible ... You know the usual, I make them wait a real long time to take their order, I forget to bring them one meal for awhile, make them do feeble hand waving gestures trying to get the check, etc. And then, when they pay the bill, they STILL leave an EXTRA amount of money on the table. What gives?

Signed, Confused Camarero

Dear CC,

Well, in the land of the Yanquis, people actually try to treat the waiters like humans. They believe that being polite and nice helps them get good service, and it is also just good manners. In addition, you may have noticed that the Yanquis are foreigners and therefore are on vacation. People on vacation are usually happy (at least when they came in to your restaurant). The extra money they left on the table is called a “tip”. It is a way of thanking a Cabron such as yourself for serving them. The Americans probably over-compensated, since they know you hate them simply for who they are, so they didn’t dare give you what you deserved – which was NADA!

Signed, American

Dear American,

Why do you guys love war so much? It seems that every time I turn around there are bombs dropping on brown people somewhere in the world, what’s the deal?

Signed, Little Pinko Pacifist

Dear Little PP,

Who’s going to make war if not us? The European Union? Don’t make me spit up my hamburger and freedom fries! Those guys would be afraid of offending the people they have to drop bombs on. You know that the Americans are the only ones with the Nads big enough (and maybe the brains small enough) to start a bunch of trouble and then end it. If it wasn’t for us fighting your wars for you .. well ... then YOU would have to do it.... Is that what you want? I didn't think so.

Signed, American

Dear American,

I am a Spanish university student at the Complutense in Madrid. I read El Pais and 20minutos daily and of course I believe everything I read. Whenever those papers talk about the “typical” American, they say that they are fat, stupid, racist, greedy, no-soul capitalist scumbags. But whenever I meet an American student, they look and act pretty much like me. There are even a few Rubia-Yanquis I would totally like to bang, is that wrong?

Signed, Meter Mano Traitor?

Dear Meter Mano,

Thanks to globalization (thank you Yanquis) the chicks – Spanish and American - all dress the same and will take their clothes off equally as fast. Gone are the days when Spanish men had to hunt Suecas or slutty Americanas just to get laid. Since the girls are essentially the same now (don’t believe what El Pais says) go ahead and bang at will. Those girls are global citizens, just like you, and are free game.

Signed, American

Do you have a question for an American?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Gem

Hey El Roto! What if it's a war against Hitler? What if it's a war for the Spanish Republic? Do you still run? What if everyone on this planet doesn't play by your enlightened rules that all wars are wrong - and they come for you?

My father and his three brothers fought in World War II. They signed up - all of them. My father enlisted at nineteen years of age - then went to the Pacific theater.

Here is his picture:

Monday, January 7, 2008

America is Spain's Crystal Ball - Volume II

I said I would make a list of societal trends that have come to Spain AFTER they had already taken hold in the States. I want to do this to remind myself of these things and then try to think of anything new that might be coming to Spain in the future.

First I will remind myself of some of the social trends that are happening now in Spain that came from the States. Here goes:

- Anti-Smoking Laws; I remember when Spaniards loved to give me a hard time about the supposed lack of freedom in California because of anti-smoking laws. I always told them, “Just wait, Chavales. Cigarettes are expensive to governments. It’s not about freedom. It’s about hospital bills”.

- Immigration and "Racism"; Many a time I was chastised for the poor treatment by nasty racist Californians of the Mexican immigrants. They would tell me, “See how racist Americans are? The Mexicans are all dishwashers and nannies…” Of course Spain had NO new-comers. (I’m sick of the term ‘immigrants’)

- 30 Year Mortgages; Spain is still in shock over being in debt for a house for so long. Of course, this is old news in the U.S. My parents had a 30-year mortgage in 1952. These loans made a whole generation of homeowners out of poor farmers and ex-service men.

- Easy Credit and Credit Cards; In 1985 – 87 or so, I had a credit card that no one would accept in Madrid, or hardly anyone. Spanish people are really in the early stages of learning how to deal with the instant gratification of credit cards and easy credit loans. Americans already know how dangerous it is to run up a tab you can’t pay – other than the minimum payments – and how easy it is to get screwed by them.

- Political Correctness; I’m pretty sure we invented this due to the many different peoples we have. We got real sensitive which is a good thing really if it doesn’t get silly and out of hand. It seems that Europe is bringing political correctness to a new high though.

- Getting Fat; Let’s face it, Spanish people are getting fatter. It is true that in the 80’s and 90’s and before, when everyone was walking everywhere, when there were no chalets and people driving into Madrid to work, when stress was low, when there were more “old ways” (which were great – don’t get me wrong), people were thin and trim. But with modern life the Spanish have to join the Americans on the scale and wonder why their ass is so big. Don’t worry, the Spanish will learn about the gym and the Stairmaster….

- Volunteer, Professional Military; It used to be that every young man had to do “the Mili” in Spain – it was basically a draft. Now there are ads in the Metro for the professional military. There are also many Spain new-comers enlisting – maybe not even citizens - people of color ... Sound familiar?

- Spray Can Graffiti; Sorry about that Spain.

OK, now for the crystal ball part. Some of the trends that are, sooner or later, coming to Spain:

- Weakening of Labor Unions; This cleaners strike in the Madrid Metro has to be pissing off the normal citizen. I know people want to be supportive but they are going to reach their limit. People are struggling, they have crappy jobs and these guys have good pay, no skills, tons of days off, major benefits, etc. and they are making the ordinary Madrileno’s life miserable. Watch out unions, there are fifty guys waiting to take your job… for less.

- Separation Between Church and State; This one is actually incredible to an American. The Spanish government actually pays the Catholic church.. Oh, and it’s the Americans who are all religious and wacky? They PAY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH! But no other religion!!! The U.S. has had a separation between the government and ANY RELIGION for HUNDREDS OF YEARS. WTF! This has to end.

- Environmental Sensitivity; I know Spain is a pretty country but it is old Europe. They didn’t have any unspoiled scenery to work with like California did. But they really have to ratchet the "environmental sensitivity" up a notch. They will. Recycling will get easier, people will learn not to throw shit on the ground every two seconds, they will learn not to think that an apartment building is the best use of every piece of land. …

- Organic Foods, Healthy Fast Foods; Some day there will be the Spanish versions of Whole Foods Market or Wild Oats, or at least a section in the supermercados for organic foods, soy, vegetarian stuff, etc. And something other than Burger King and KFC in the fast foods department. Something like Baja Fresh or Asian fast food.

- Death of the Bullfight, Animal Rights; I really don’t want to see this one happen but I can just see the EU coming up with some animal rights law in the future that will penalize Spain for the Bullfight. Couple that with many young people not really being into the fiesta nacional - spells doom I fear.

- The End of the “Permanent” Job Contract; This one will take awhile and is terrifying to the Spanish. The state of California is known as an “at will state” which means you can be fired, or laid-off, at any time for any reason. Of course people can sue their employers if there is some really nasty reason you were let go, and discrimination is illegal. But because there are no “permanent jobs” in California, employers are less afraid of hiring new people when they need them – hence unemployment is lower.

- Two Party Political System; What the hell is the communist party doing in Spain? Answer: making sure no one party has a majority - not even PSOE. Let’s face it, PSOE is moving towards the center from the Left and the PP is moving towards the center from the Right (well, maybe not too fast). There is no room for Fascists or Communists anymore. Ironically, in the U.S. in ten years time, we may have a three party system.

That’s what could be coming to Spain.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

America is Spain's Crystal Ball; The Spanish Education System

I have seen quite a few changes happen in Spain over the years and I have to tell you that a very specific pattern has emerged. That pattern is … every modern societal trend that happens in Spain - happened first in the United States, good and bad.

One of these days I'll make a list, but for right now one of the issues the Spanish media is talking about is the education system. Test scores are low, Johnny (Jose) can’t read or do arithmetic, the kids are mean to their teachers, the kids would rather watch TV and play video games, etc. So a lot of hand-wringing is going on. How do we fix this? Why is this happening? It’s the teachers’ fault! Yeahh that’s it, it can’t be our little angels…

Well, I’m afraid it is your lazy Brats' fault, and your fault (the parents). How do I know? I know because this is old news in the States. Gone are the days when Spain can point to the U.S. and proudly proclaim, “Their test scores are low because the Americans are idiots!” No, just like in the U.S., there are three main reasons test scores are low in Spain.

1) Spain is no longer a poor country. The native born kids are getting fat (literally) and lazy. (Yes, just like the Americans did starting around 1970 - and I say now improving). This is simply due to human nature. People take the path of least resistance and parents don't push their kids to study. The kids now have a sense of entitlement. When they are young they have all the modern gadgets and distractions of a rich country and when they are a little older they think life will always continue being easy. Couple this with a fatalistic attitude about getting a good job and it’s a wonder they get out of bed! Well, there is always the Botellon ...

2) First generation new-comers who test poorly because they are challenged economically and /or have language difficulties … and,

3) Misguided education reforms trying to be enlightened instead of just sticking to teaching the old way.

So here’s the crystal ball part. Spain will go through the process of “reforming” the education system (read: screwing it up to be too politically correct and complicated - this has already started for some time). They will fill racial quotas, they will be afraid of giving failing grades, they will coddle the kids and blame the teachers, and all this will just make it worse. Just like it did here in the U.S.

More crystal ball stuff… There will be groups of students who will consistently kick ass on the native-born students in terms of school performance. These are some of the immigrants … the ones whose parents value education, the ones whose parents are struggling, the ones who will succeed even if it kills them. I will go out on a limb and say this will be the Asians, Africans, and even the South Americans since they will work very hard. These people will know an opportunity when they see one (free education), and hard work will not scare them.

Back to the States; There is a reason they call UCLA the “University of Caucasians Lost among Asians.” We don't have racial quotas anymore and the best students are winning and filling the universities - the Asians!