Friday, July 30, 2010

Clara and Crew Say Goodbye


Estoy muy muy triste. Conocerte y compartir estos dos meses contigo ha sido absolutamente genial. Eres increíble y sólo espero que el tiempo haga que nuestros caminos se vuelvan a cruzar....Ay, que pena más grandeeee!Mucha suerte con todo Brian!! Esta tarde voy a cargar tu cd en el iPhone para escucharlo siempre que venga a trabajar!

Clara Ruipérez
Baker & McKenzie Madrid SLP

Isn't that so nice! You have no idea the benefits that have come from knowing a native madrileña, let alone sit across from one 55 hours a week. She told me about the pools to check out, the bars not to miss, the food to explore and the parks to relax. Yesterday, me, Clara and Javi (the IT genius that has become a good friend of mine) went to a park on our lunch break to eat and decompress before heading back indoors. I finished my sandwich when Clara hands me a toiletry-tote bag that has "Madrid" printed on the front. "A gift for you" they said. I was so taken aback, I don't even get gifts from my friends on my birthday and now I am getting a good-bye present from my co-workers? I opened it up and there were two things.

1. A t-shirt that says, in Spanish, "I, too, saw Spain win the World Cup". So perfect for me. They both signed small messages at the bottom of the t-shirt.

2. A CD of Joaquín Sabina that has a song that Clara and I have been talking about for a while.

You go through this abroad experiences and internalize how much certain locals have touched you throughout your experience because you are unaware as to whether it is a reciprocal feeling. I almost feel as though I am hyper-emotional given my displacement and foreign surroundings, so I almost keep a guard up so as not to impose my "traveler's nostalgia" onto their everyday life. But then I get a gift and a good-bye and it shows me that although we are interacting in this tangential moment in our lives, it meant something for both parties. They, too, met an American who loves hip-hop and is always in for a laugh. We exchanged invitations to stay at one another's respective houses during any consecutive visits to countries. It was really cool.

That night, Clara helped me get some troops together to go out for a beverage as a little going away get-together. I decided to hold it at this very, very American restaurant, Foster's Hollywood. I thought it was a fun take on my leaving party and about 10 people showed up. Clara, Javi, Vanessa (my "let's go to the vending machine buddy"), Ana (my second boss), Gloria (the other IP intern that came a month after me from Cataluña), and three other interns from different departments. Our conversation mostly consisted of making fun of our not-so-sharp waiter, but my Spanish really held up. I was telling jokes, dropping jabs, ordering food; a great way to wrap up the profesional side of this experience.

Later on, we met up with another going away party down the street and we just stayed for another beverage. We were talking pictures and Gloria had me rolling on the floor. She has this dry, stoic sense of humor that is British yet Spanish. For example, in response to my lame email telling them about the American restaurant, she responds, "LET'S SET MADRID ON FIREE!!!" Just so out of nowhere, super wierd, but gets you chuckling.

I went home and burned Javi and Clara mixes of rap that I like and gave it to them this morning. They really enjoyed it and I hope they continue listening to it and remember the loco americano that came like a hurricane and rustled the feathers of their life.

Always leave a footprint.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

GoCar Tours

Hey bloggers,

Charlotte and I went on this crazy tour the other day and I totally forgot to tell you about it. First of all, just picture two grown adults with helmets stepping into a Go Cart. The cart has GPS and you take it around the city and it guides you around and tells you about the sites (something beneficial to someone like me who goes, "Oh that's cool, I wonder what it is", and keeps walking. Anyways, we got it for two hours and drove all over the city, even to the bull fight arena. We got so lost, but luckily I knew my way around to eventually get us back to the rental shop.

The best part: we were the hit of the road. Everyone was honking at us, waving, asking us where to rent the thing. Too bad I looked like I just fell off the retard bus with a helmet or else I would have capitalized on 15 minutes of Madrid fame.

It was super hilarious and they have them all over Europe.

Check out the link and imagine me and Charlotte driving this down the biggest city roads of Madrid.


Confidence vs. Arrogance

Walking down the street, be arrogant. At an interview, be confident. In a relationship, be confident. Dating, be arrogant.

A socially successful person should always struggle between finding the happy medium between confidence and arrogance. People want to associate with other people that are comfortable in their own skin. Nothing is worse than someone who puts himself down or never takes risks. It is more attractive to me to have a mediocre looking person with the personality and confidence, than to have to constantly reaffirm the beauty of a great-looking, self-hating basket case. Internally, you have to exude a sense of confidence, for that is what going to attract a potential mate or friend.

But when does confidence become arrogance and when is arrogance acceptable? To me, casual encounters require sincere arrogance. I am talking off the wall, get out of my way, you bother me, I am so much better than you, etc. That mentality manifests in the way you walk, the way you talk, the way your face sits, the way your brow furls, and for some reason it suits you like a great, new, real tan. Especially, for the everyday casual encounters, there is never enough arrogance to go around. Throw it across the street by peering into a someone attractive's eyes, or jab it at someone walking past you by looking down your knows at them but in a flirtatious way. People subconsciously eat that up and subconsciously want more. They will react, it's funny almost.

Then you have to reel it in when things get a little more intimate. Exude the arrogance that your plans are never dependent on others, but the confidence to let someone else take the lead sometimes. The arrogance to start a new conversation topic, but the confidence to allow other people to speak. The confidence to leave a party early without saying goodbye, but the arrogance to know that you will be missed.

It also comes in different species. For example, in a relationship and dealing with someone's checkered past or ugly ex's. You need to have the confidence that you yourself have not had the cleanest record and should only judge in the way you would want to be judged yourself. But at what point does that mentality become this blind arrogance that harbors your common sense and separates it from this ilusory promise to the world that "it's different with me".

It is a tough battle, and though the Deputy never dates, he constantly struggles with balance. The bottom line is that everyone should be a little arrogant, but just a little.

Ay! Qué Calor!

Walking home last night after a long day at work and having a beverage or two with Clara and Ana, I passed the best Donor Kebab in town. I had already eaten something light (a.k.a. a Spanish dinner) so I just decided to window shop for cured meat. I look inside and see one of Manny and Victor's friends that I had met several times. I go in and tap him on the shoulder and we end up having a typical Madrid night, sipping on a beverage in the park neglecting all references to time or stress. We covered a gamut of material, considering that we didn't know each other too well, and an interesting topic surfaced, the weather. Now slow down faithful followers, I am not about to recount a horrifically boring story about how we superficially commented on weather patterns. He said that Europe is now going to create a unified education system: same credits, same courses, same grades, same exam schedule. It sounded crazy but made sense considering the ultimate goal was to create a seamless transition of human capital. Anyways, he commented on how unfair it was that the exam schedules were similar because they were to take place in the summer because, and I quote,

"It is too hot for exams in the summer".

Bueno, chico, por favor, how are you going to reject a continent-wide campaign just from a little sweat of the brow. Supposedly, this is a thing, it is too hot for these people that they cannot handle it. Then, I started to connect the dots.

The coffee shops stopped putting out milk is too hot.

My entire office leaves in August is too hot.

Everyone leaves Madrid in August is too hot.

Summer vacation is extra-specially long is too hot.

The city just becomes paralyzed because of the heat. Now the Deputy has been to New York in the summer and spent a summer in the Valley of Los Angeles, so I know a thing or two about heat. It's hot here, but not that hot. It is like the entire population is coddled, the entire population "can't handle it". Could you imagine if the someone in a U.S. office said, "Ugh, I just can't work, it's too hot". Umm, ok Mr. Smith, the get the $·%·$" out of my office.

Just when you think you came to a European country, you are back in Latin America. When they say people don't change, cultures are only a stone's throw away.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bye Bye Birdie of Paradise

I came home from work yesterday, to find Ollie with a look of instability. I ask her what is wrong and she tells me she is in a place of instability. She is extremely preoccupied about returning to the States. She said that in the US, you can give and give the love and sympathy that welcomes everyone into your world but it will never be returned. But Madrid, for her, loves you back. There are no friends lists to be too full, no snobby hierarchal attitudes, just a sincere sense of passion. It got a little heavy, so we stepped out onto my Juliette balcony that looks over our street and recounted our times like the ending montage of Set It Off where Jada Pinkett Smith is the only left after the big bank heist. That time when I....when you fell...when we about when...or if we would have...and the stories flowed.

I warned her that she would get a reverse culture shock. That is when you step off the plane and cry at how robotic and fundamental the States can appear. A place where we confuse a "hodge podge" of culture with a "watered down mess". I then said it is very easy to slip back into that life, for it is what we know best. The best thing to do to cope with it and to make sure that this summer experience was not completely in vain, is to take small mannerisms or habits that have developed abroad back to the States.

Coming back from Argentina last summer, I felt the same thing. So incorporated the word "obvio" into my daily vernacular. I bought a bottle of Argentinian liquer to remember the taste. I wear my crotch-drop pants to remember my renegade style. Little things.

Still thinking what to pick to bring back from Madrid. Ideas?

The United States of Fat

I tell Clara that I am going to go to one of the public pools to wash off the summer grime. I tell her the pool I had planned on going to and she furrows her brow and her top lip lifts to one side in an unknown source of disgust. She redirects my route immediately to go to the local University campus and to go to their pool. It costs only about 5 Euro but "worth it". I head there after work (last Friday with Charlotte). We go into the separate changing rooms that end up leading out to the pool deck, and nothing short of an oasis awaited us. We walk out to diving boards over a deep end, an Olympic size pool and the entire complex surrounded by a grassy border. That alone would have sufficed for a relaxing evening by the pool, but that is had it not been for the people in attendance.

I am happy in my skin and feel that, although not super fit and chiseled, I have been working out here at least three times a week. However, and that is a big however, I would say that 95% of the men and women in attendance (~200) had FAR better corporal structures than I. And, on top of that, as if the spectacle of summer envy was not enough, the bathing suits that the Spaniards get away with further drove the needle into my eye. It was seriously censory overload as man and woman came out of the garden of Eden and into the University pool at Moncloa. I thought back to the United States and cringed at having to compare the anomaly that I was witnessing to a US public pool, or even a country club pool for that matter.

There should be some government intervention into the culture of the US. A calorie cap or a parole type ankle band that everyone has to wear monitoring intake. How is it possible that a random amalgamation of the Spanish public could exude such physical turpitude. I have noticed that my stomach and appetite has become a lot smaller in these few weeks, I cannot gorge my face nor feel the need to. BECAUSE IT IS NOT IS WHAT IS AVAILABLE. I remember going to a restaurant in Barcelona and ordering, and the waitress stopped me and said, "that is going to be too much for you". That would never happen as four teenagers pull up to a McDonald's drive-thru window after a night of partying and order the entire dollar menu, two of each. Could you imagine? Middle America, farmhand after a day on the tractor, rolls his cinnamon buns out of the Cracker Barrell just in time to hit McDonald's breakfast, hits the drive thru window and the employee tells him that he "is ordering too much"!!?? That person would get fired.

And it is not like food is not important to these people, in fact it's the opposite. They prize the time spent around food. Someone eating something to go or on the way will get a look or two. It just so happens that this is coupled with the culture of no one being in a rush. There is no need for fast food because the person waiting for you on the other side of the meal, almost expects you to be a little late. Clara told me that if you are early to a meeting, it is considered rude. Like the fact that you are pressing in on their time, is rude. HOW FANTASTIC IS THAT? I then told her how I showed up 30 minutes early on my first day. Oops!

In coming back to the States, there are certain things I always try to incorporate from abroad. And NOT shoving my face on a super sized something is going to be one of them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'll Trade You a Charlotte for an Ollie

With the World Cup celebrations winding down, one would think that so would the energy of Charlotte and me. But whenever Charlotte and the Deputy are together, there is a defiance of normalcy and physics. Without redundantly accounting a night out on the town of Madrid, I feel it would better suit the loyal reader if I were to just describe how Charlotte and Brian seem to find the most odd situations.

We were in a smaller bar, chatting it up with ourselves and the people around us. We happen to meet a French guy and girl that were passing through Madrid. The onda is positive so we decide to join forces for the next couple of locales. I am not sure if they knew what they were getting themselves into, but Charlotte and I felt it almost incumbent to make their short stay in Madrid a bender for the history books. The Frenchies are walk down a cobble stone street and Charlotte and I bring up the rear. We turn a corner and Charlotte and I find an abandoned shopping cart, hibernating outside a local restaurant. Some people would see that and have a five minute discussion on whether they should get in and ride it, others would walk past it while they commented on the filth of Spanish streets. Charlotte and I, without uttering a single syllable, make eye contact and immediately assume our positions, her pushing as I rode. We speak in unsaid harmonies, for our minds are all too similar to waste time communicating. I think and she reacts, she thinks and I react, for we both know that our thoughts are transparent to one another.

Riding down a side street near the Sol neighborhood, the French toasts have got a little bit ahead of us and end up meeting a local to help them with directions. The French fries turn around to introduce the new companion to their new friends Charlotte and Brian, when swooping down the street comes a Scott pushing an American in a cart. Charlotte loses the handle as fate takes the wheel and steers me into a jutting street pole. The cart crashes, Charlotte approaches, I tuck and roll and get up in an almost choreographed dismount. We jump to our unspoken positions and in unison present ourselves to the local in a sort of flashdance, jazz-hands dance ending. It was all too natural and organic to happen to another pair of people but just indicative of how our short but profound friendship had become.

The week with my Scottish enabler ended wildly and filled with glee. I told her my weekend would have been the same if she had walked into my room, picked me up, spun me around a hundred times, threw me to the floor and left. It felt like Hurricane Chaz had her way with my life and I loved every second.

Sunday morning rolled in and Charlotte was out the door. Ollie came back from two weeks of traveling and she needed a place to crash, so the Deputy was sure to oblige. Ollie slowly saunters up my infernal staircase of no elevator and into my room. I swear there was an air about her, as if her traveling exposed her to so many things that she had come back a different person. Her voice a bit lower with a sporadic raspy tone; her seated posture was such a way that exuded wisdom of the academia of the streets. We shared stories in a two hour fit of laughter as Charlotte and Ollie met on some very unique terms. Charlotte sadly left, but Ollie is here for a couple more days.

It is storm season in the Deputy household, but all will calm as now Hurricane Ollie has only one more day to wreak havoc. Very excited.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Deputy and Dan...WHAT A COMBO!

Do not fear Tripper, for one Deputy did not forget to compartamentalize our insatiable desire to be rowdy in an 8" computer screen. Luckily, Tripper was able to escape the island of North America and trip over the Atlantic into Madrid for a weekend, but the Deputy was too caught up in World Cup fever to be able to properly document the transgressions.

I run out of the office on Friday afternoon, overwhelmed with the fear of missing out, for Tripper is in Madrid and it is only a boss's glare that keeps me from seeing him. I make it home and, within an hour, I get a buzz at my front door. It almost buzzed, "bzzz...I am Tripper...bzzz" or maybe that's just what I heard. He and his guuurrrrlllfriend make it up my five flights of stairs without an elevator and into my apartment. We have an air conditioning worshipping session and then head out to see my fifth bullfight of the "season". I am excited to just sit with sunflower seeds and a bag of candy while I watch the preparation of half of Madrid's dinner. In an effort to avoid boring the fans, I will say that it was amazing as always with the added bonus of seeing a torrero carried out in the hands of eight of his friends while bleeding from the head and unable to keep his head afloat and numerous head turnings in disgust at the blood lost and the reality of the situation revealed. (What an awful sentence, but the Deputy hates abbreviating unless it is in Greta's living room).

We make it back in time for a great tapas pick-and-choose in my favorite plaza, Plaza Santa Ana. A little bit of everything Spanish and some Sangria is enough to entice any foreigner to stay another day. After filling our stomachs with anything but bull meat (because we are classy as such), we approach Hotel Me at the end of the plaza. Some may know this chain of hotels but the one in Madrid is breathtaking. An amazing façade (see a Spanish keyboard can do that çñºªà and that too) and an uplighting of purple, the hotel boasts the best view of the city. I heard the plan is to pretend that you are a patron of the hotel and just mosey your way upstairs, but the problem comes with the fact you need a keycard to go up. So we come in, Ray-Bans blazing and Rainbows flopping, and make our way to the back. Casually, we file into some forming line and easy as pie make it inside the elevator. A "fellow patron" swipes his card and I, in my best English say, " floor please...terrace". The door opens and David Guetta walks into my ears. We make it to the terrace and it is the BEST VIEW OF THE CITY. With a 180º view of what Madrid has to offer, I sat back and basked in the sea of Good Hosting. What a great experience.

That night we head to Pacha, a chain of clubs that never ceases to please. Deputy heads to the abode of Tripper and GF in order for a pre-fiesta. We head out at an un-motherly-approving hour. Heading inside to further gloat my host-itude, I walk in as if showing my grandchild off to my friends at the retirement home. "Look at her, she's a beauty." We have a dance or two and I decide to make things interesting. I am a fan of putting my head down and dipping it in false ignorance and seeing where it can take me, sometimes letting yourself lead itself without ensuing doubt of consequences can lead to amazing things. I walk up to the stage where there are big, overstuffed couches and other luxurious arrangements. I walk behind a group of girls past a bouncer as each girl raises their right wrist robotically in order to be adorned with some band of sorts. I follow, Tripper and GF in tow, and I mimic the disposition of the girls. Right wrist raised with an air of annoyance at the formalities of having to prove my invitation to the stage party. The three of us receive wristbands and, BAM, we're in folks. We get a personal second floor to view the rest of the peasants on the dance floor that have to, it pains me to say, be, ugh, cramped at a club. We sit on the couches as one would do in the house of a legend, touch everything just to say you touched it. The night ended righteously with chocolate, churros and fun.

Saturday I met Charlotte at the airport, brought her back to my place to "drop off her bags". Just kidding readers, the Deputy and Charlotte are only the best of friends, she did actually come to just drop off her bags. Keeping you on your toes, making sure you are attentively reading. I go to the grocery store to further the Spanish experience, ham and cheese in Retiro park. I pack a blanket, a baguette and some essentials and meet Tripper and GF at the museum, Reina Sofía. We head in to the park and decompress, the best. There is nothing better than a park decompression, no sound, no stress, no expectation of grandeur. You just sit, and relax, and that is your expectation. When we fill ourselves with such expectations, false ones of seeing the best and brightest, we are set up to fail. Not to say that we should not set our sights high, but in terms of our day to day desires and wants and feels, is it so hard to be content with park relaxation? So many Americans these days will complain at the thought of stagnation, I must bring the virtue of standing still back to the States.

Then Kapital, see posts below in order to grasp the absurdity. Charlotte was not let in because she was stumbling, but the hilarious part is that she decided to wear heels for the third time in her life and literally could not walk straight, didn't have a hint of alcohol. Oh clubs, how I HATE YOU SO.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Language Update

A old co-worker from Argentina commented on something of mine on Facebook. I responded with a short paragraph detailing how I missed them, the office and Argentina. She quickly responded, "Brian, those conjugations, haha you forgot our language!"


So I wrote her and said "...umm was it that bad?"

"It's okay, it has been awhile since you were able to use your Spanish, don't worry!"


I am in Spain right now and have been for a month. Maldición!! I guess I will blame it on my haste with which I wrote the message, but I was a little disheartened. I am nearing the end of my time here and therefore should be at a very solid stage with my Spanish. There are some days where I pile through complex sentence structure and whip out slang vocabulary, but then there are other days where I have trouble even beginning my sentence. I guess take the good with bad. It is hard chasing an almost unreachable goal, but I guess if you shoot for the moon and miss you are still among the stars.
Since my camera fell into a beverage at the World Cup celebration, I had to make sure my pictures were saved to my computer before any more damage was done. That means there is going to be a slew of pictures to be posted on Deputy Furious George.

A Great Dinner

So I found my favorite restaurant in Madrid. I am not really sure of the name because it is a hole in the wall in Chueca. It is very "cutre" as they say here, meaning that it seems tacky, low-quality and of the lower class. But the truth is, "cutre" is in right now in Madrid according to Manny and I will use that or any other excuse to go there. It is authentic, Spanish cuisine. There is no salty paella in some touristic pan or other culinary manifestations of tourist exploitation. You walk into a smoky glass mirror and you see about 10 tables for two. Three waiters are running around, yelling at each other. But the yelling is in a manner that American's think how the Japanese talk, we know it's friendly but we wouldn't be surprised if someone was shot.

Last night I took Charlotte on an accidental walking tour of Chueca as I attempted to relocate a hole-in-the-wall restaurant by sight and vibe. We walk in and they place two mini-loaves of bread directly onto the crate paper table top. With some clear vinagarette and some olive oil, the restaurant starts off seeming a bit "dodgy". They place leather-bound menus on the table as if it were simply a gesture, expecting any person who knew of the restaurant and its location to already know of what the menu consists. Ten different types of tortilla española and chicken offered to suit anyone's liking. Each one only setting your wallet back 6 Euro, which is unheard of in my time here. Oh, and did I mention that a bottle of chilled red can be brought to your table for a measly 5 Euro.

Our food comes (garlic chicken wings with fries for Charlotte and veal with gravy and mash potatoes for myself) and we dig in. It tastes as though it had been cooked a million times, a taste that has come into its own after years of passed down recipes and different execution strategies. Since my walking tour of Chueca left us sitting at around midnight, we finally finished eating around 1. The restaurant usually closes around then, but you will never find a Spanish restaurant asking people to leave. Charlotte and I were joined with two other groups of people to shut the place down. Just left with a bottle of tinto in the company of some locals, the owners of the shop decide to shut the lights off. The couple behind us were still eating but there was oddly no fuss. They bring out Heineken bottles with candles in them to each table. It is a sign to the outside that they are not excepting others, but creating such an ambience for the patrons that I never wanted to leave. We were talking about our pasts, our indiscretions, our futures and the destestation of thinking about it. We had a flow to our conversation, a back and forth but that is typical of Charlotte and I.

Remember when I talked about how I wanted to help Nena and Ollie let their freak flag fly? Well let's just say that Charlotte is the Betsy Ross of my brand of freak flags. Something about her Scottish accent or her deceivingly profound street smarts that make my freak gates swing wide open.

Around a candle lit table, with friendly staff and enjoyable company, Madrid is wooing me. It wines me and dines me and pushes my limits. I do not usually have feelings Madrid, some call me a robot. But you, oh powerful and attentive suitor, I may fall for you, I may fall hard for you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

As If the First Day Wasn't Enough

Clara tells me that I should leave work on time, at 7pm, so as to not miss the welcoming ceremony of the World Cup trophy.

I thought that after last nights incredible spectacle that the city and the people were tired out. I could not have been more wrong. Whereas Sunday was a celebration of reckless abandon and people filling every part of the city, Monday was an organized extravaganza.

I rush home at 7pm to greet Charlotte and change out of my suit. She is wearing a Spanish headband, Spanish wristband, Spanish t-shirt, and Spanish flag as a sarong. She hands me my own arm band and a handkercheif to hang around my neck. I decompress from work and yank myself out of my pereza and ponerme las pilas. (I love that saying because it literally means to put my batteries in, and that is what I had to do).

We walk down three blocks from my apartment and Gran Via is filled with red and yellow as far the eye could see. One is simply taken aback by the sheer size and unity of the masses. Placing ourselves as central as possible to the entire parade of people, we contribute our small offering of red and yellow as we walk to Principe Pío where the team is going to show up and present the trophy to the people. There is a bus with all of the players that does a tour of the whole city, satisfying the insatiable cheers of the madrileños. Charlotte and I plant ourselves on the fence leading towards a tunnel, in our desparate attempt to get close to the path of the bus so as to see the trophy up close. We stand there, getting restless, for close to two hours. The atmosphere distracts our aching feet when all of a sudden a motorcade of about 10 police vehicles. The gneral rumble of the crowd picks up, the typical chants initiate the animus of the people. We see a bus approaching, it comes closer, and just our luck, it halts right in front of us for a solid five minutes. We get smashed by oncoming fans, trying to get as close to the bus as possible. Casillas peaks over the edge of the bus and ends the anticipation by thrusting the gold idol up into the air.

SE VOLVIERON LOCA!!!! The people basically died at the sight of it. You could sense the struggle, the heartache, the blood, sweat and tears of the trophy. The motorcade picked up and so did the parade of people. I pride myself in 3 talents: the ability to always get a bartender's attention, the ability to pick a place on the metro platform so that the doors land right in front of me, and the ability to quickly maneuver through large crowds. I grab Charlotte's hand, duck my head, and bolt. We make it up to the fence, and the site that I saw, you have no idea. You have no idea. None. Not one. It was out of a movie what I saw. Probably a couple million people, all in red and yellow, all screaming, all waving flags. We shove ourselves against the fence as our tardiness from waiting for the cup had left us on the outskirts of it all. There was no way I was going to sit and watch without being exactly in the middle of it.

Again, I duck my head, grab Charlotte's hand and bolt. In Charlotte's infinite wisdom she wears sandals to a multi-million person party. We are ankle-deep in mud and trash as we trudge ahead to get a good spot, to be surrounded by mania and mayhem. In between a group of line-dancing girls and rambunctious boys we found our place to settle. The players are all anounced individually as the crowd grunts in support. Then, David Bisbal comes out to sing the World Cup anthem and the crowd goes insane. We are in the middle of the biggest crowd of people I have ever seen. You almost get dizzy in glancing around, trying to see an end to a horizon of bobbing heads and pumping fists. Charlotte and I are yelling indecipherable nonsense, throwing our voices to the air to sustain the momentum of the crowd's spirit.

At 12:30am, the concert ends as tear-filled players exit the stage and a mass of millions attempt to exit out of any direction possible. Shaking cars and shooting fireworks into the ground, the people never tire. We end up getting tapas and a beverage afterwards before calling it a night. But I tell you my friends and loyal followers, this had to have been the most mental two nights I have and probably will ever witness.

I ran all around the streets asking, "Eres campeón?" YO TAMBIÉN!! VAMOS!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

10 Memories from the World Cup

1. When I ran like a bull, placing my fingers as horns and kicking back sand, towards Spain flags all down Gran Via.

2. Hugging the stranger next to me as the one and only goal went in for Spain.

3. Having someone spill beer all over my camera, rendering it useless and leaving me in my office waiting in anticipation to go home and see if all my pictures from my trip are destroyed. And I am surprisingly indifferent to the outcome.

4. Waiting below balconies as we, along with a group of thirty, beg for water to be poured on us.

5. Leaving the game and turning around to see the biggest crowd of people in one place I have EVER seen.

6. High-fiving a baby in a stroller at 4am.

7. Shaking my body in a epileptic type seizure in front of traffic as they flash their headlights in a strobe-like sequence.

8. A transvestite flashes me. I almost vomit.

9. Taking a picture with a group of people in front of a torn down street light.

10. Looking behind me at a mass of thousands and thousands of people, their eyes filled with indescribable glee, cheering without a care in the world. For our lady Spain has won, everything else is trivial.

Yo soy español, español, español. Yo soy español, español, español. A por ellos oe, a por ellos oe, a por ellos oeeee, a por ellos e oe!!!

A letter to the person who allowed me the chance to see Spain win the world cup...


As I walk behind an elderly woman, dressed in an ironed suit, with a Spanish scarf hanging from her purse, I could only think that I must write you an email accounting for last nights events of epic proportions. I never use superlatives to describe an event in fear of sounding overly dramatic, but this had to be one of the best celebrations I have ever attended.

My friend and I get off a couple stops past where we needed to in order to walk into the crowd in a suspenseful fashion. The game was to be displayed in the middle of the biggest street in the city and we wanted to be directly in the middle. We approach the front gates of the sectioned off area and see a sea of red and yellow. Flags waving, children cheering, it was an amalgamation of spirit and pride. We watch the first half of the game in front of the giant screen, pretending to know the words as we join in on every Spanish cheer. It was odd though, we thought there would have been more people in support of the national soccer team in the biggest match they may ever witness. We get a small sandwich at half-time to ease our hunger before the second half. We get back to our original spots and then we realize, we had just been grazing the surface of the crowd that had turned out for the game. Behind the screen we had been watching were four more screens, each projecting the game to thousands upon thousands of people.

We plant ourselves in the middle of it all, where strangers become friends as together you suffer each missed attempt on the opponents goal. As it fell into overtime, the suspense was tangible. You would never think a crowd of almost a million people could fall silent all at the same time. Then, the ball heads to the middle of the field, a shot, and GOAL! I hugged the person next to me as if we had grew up together for the past 25 years. Tears falling from young girls cheeks, and grown men jumping like young girls. They pan the audience in an aerial shot and I realize what I had become a part of. This massive manifestation of pride and hope, an unprecedented gathering towards one objective. The whistle blows and, simultaneously, red fireworks line the sky. Balconies are filled with people pouring water on the crazy fans below. Whereas before the Spanish flag was a symbol of Franco and the dictatorship, now it had become an icon of victory.

The crowd moves robotically from the outdoor viewing to the center of downtown on Gran Via. People flood the streets, and you have no choice but to take a step back and take it all in. Fountains emiting people instead of water. A big statue of a horse in the middle of Puerta del Sol now has three fans sitting on its back as if to ride the horse into victory. The celebration continued into the morning, soccer fans bumping into the morning commuters. I find myself behind an elderly woman, dressed in an ironed suit, with a Spanish scarf hanging from her purse, and I could only think that I must write you an email accounting for last nights events of epic proportions.

Thank you for this opportunity and all of the fringe benefits it has presented. This job, and entire experience, has been nothing short of amazing. See you soon in the States, hope all is well.


Friday, July 9, 2010

"When He takes me, I will be dancing"

My friends have left and I am alone and there is a soccer game. Quick poll: Did I stay in? NO WAY! I went to my favorite bar that gives you mounds of tapas for free if you order a drink. I was introduced to it by Manu and Victor and I have gone for every game since. The people are great and lively, the staff is so nice, the drinks are generous and the food is free! So I post-up, smashed against a countertop, "enjoying" the game. I have a couple of beverages and some good eats and the score is still 0-0. I take a break at half-time to gander outside to see if I could get a good story to answer the all-annoying question, " crazy was Madrid during the World Cup?...duhh". It's like coming back from your first year of college and asking, "so how was the first year". I tended to always stare blankly at the inquistor's eyes, trying to pierce into their head through their pupils and take a look around to see if they indeed possessed a brain.

Anyways, the streets were empty and so I panicked. Will I have a story to tell? I head back in and man my post. I keep bumping into these group of girls monitored by one guy. During a close call and a scream from everyone's mouth, I look to the group and one girl says, "you cannot suffer alone, what's your name?" Their names are Leo, Yvette, Boris and Belen and we are now Facebook friends. We have a chat, but one eye always on the game. Back and forth, tapas and a beverage, back and forth...


As if my new friends had attended my briss, we all embrace and high-five and dance around. Screaming, "español, español, español, yo soy español, español, español". Horns erupting, kids screaming (almost child-services like), smiles and cheers! The old-man bartender that has less teeth then I do grandparents, stands up on the bar and rings the bells. Champagne bottles pop as free cups are served around the bar. We wait in anticipation for the remaining minutes to inch by, biting our nails and praying for a victory. The three minutes of injury time pass by like the last minutes of class before graduation. But we did it! VICTORY!

I turn to Leo to bid her and the others adeiu and thank them for their hospitality, when she beats me to it. "Hey, Yvette and Boris are playing a concert down the street, she's a cellist and he sings and plays guitar". Umm...SOLD! We walk outside, and the previously barren street become inundated with what looks like pygmy monkeys that have just come outside for the first time since their 6-month hibernation. The streets were alive, but the concert I mustn't miss.

It turns out to be this little spot but packed tightly and it was amazing. Yvette was classically trained and Boris is the braun of the duo. Together they pack a mean punch. Sing-alongs and dancing and cheersing and more. The vibe was so right and so giving and so encouraging. For every risk, there is reward. Though some might find themselves shut in at the thought of their first night without their group of friends, the Deputy took a chance to put himself out there and watch the game, and the reward was priceless.

When in doubt, go out!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How's Your Spanish

Spanish Update! Spoiler: Snape kills Dumbledore. Anyways, my Spanish has improved so much. I catch myself in the middle of quick sentences and able to think to myself while I finsh the rant, "OK, BK, get it kid!" But I may have hit another plateau. I have found myself amongst a couple of conversations with miscommunication problems and my abhorred reversion to English. It is similar to learning everything I guess, at some point you plateau until the next series of growth occurs. But at the same time, it is a little frustrating since I am here to complete a few tasks, one of which is to gain better fluency. Don't get me wrong I do feel that my linguistic longitude is expanding but now my expectations of myself and my performance are higher with less of a forgivable net below. I love when I misunderstand or get mad for no reason, I can blame it on the language but sometimes they won't fall for that one.

Barcelona in 24 Hours

The brother of the Deputy was passing through Barcelona, so the I put on my uniform and badge and headed out for a less than 24 hour journey. It was a Saturday-Sunday trip, just enough to breathe in the sinful air of Las Ramblas, maybe put my toes in the sand, and head back to rest up for another work week. My train left offensively early on Saturday morning (11:30) and so a disoriented deputy commandeered two large train seats to support my disastrous demeanor. And I wrote. I prefer to write stream of consciousness for I find it to be more therapeutic but also more cathartic in that my ever-analytical brain is able to think linearly, from the sould out through the right arm, into my plume, down the ballpoint and onto the page, where it stays there for an indeterminate amount of time. I wrote and wrote, about six pages of thoughts. There was no form, no pattern, no requisites, no expectations. It may have said nothing, but I knew where it came from. Monet said that we must abandon form in order to acheive something great, for working within form leaves little room for innovation and creativity. So what did I acheive on those six pages? Piece of mind? An occupation of a couple of minutes? Some perspective? I am not entirely sure.

So I arrive in Barcelona, Cruel Intentioned my brother at the top of the escalator out of the metro stop. We headed back to the hotel to regroup and then to Port Olimpic for a late lunch. We had some paella and sangria, both phenomonal and then I met his traveling bunch. A solid crew but their actions later on in this story will speak louder than...well I'll just go down the line. One girl who was the nuturing, gender-role-aware type, always getting a "water for the group" and never short on smiles. One guy from New Jersey who later on that day commented, "my guns got some sun, right?". The final muskateer said he had a productive morning before leaving for Europe by finishing an assignment, picking up his drycleaning and breaking up with his live-in girlfriend. We had a couple drinks and watched the Argentina massacre and headed home for a quick siesta. When in Rome, right?

That night we headed out to a late dinner before out night out at a beach front club, called Opium. I guess I was not sure the crew I was rolling with but we "needed" a table. Since I was the Spanish speaker of the group, I was put in charge of organizing the table. Problem is, I am soooo not a table person. I hate having manifestations of my ego displayed as bait to normal party goers, it seems unnatural. So I gave it a half-effort only to find that this spot was the Black Eyed Peas concert official after-party and so the price was a little outrageous. We headed inside to "row with the 0ther slaves" and it was a nightmare to get a drink. The place was filling up fast and was about to come on, so we gave the table another try. At a 500 EUR discount, we found ourselves hopping the velvet rope and taking a load off. It was a great night and I ended up seriously befriending the hostess and table bartender. I invited them to Madrid and all of those regretful signs of kindness we tend to express after the appropriate hour that a human should still be awake.

The Deputy and his brother hopped into a cab to which I yelled, "I want your best chocolate and churros!" We get dropped off at an unknown location, to a medium-sized stand. We walk up to the front and are mounted by the odor of fresh dough. It oozed out of a french-fry-potato-peeler type of contraption and into a wok of hot oil. The sound of the sizzle was an alarm clock to my tastebuds, "Wake up my young friends, for tonight we dine in heaven". An order of chocolate and churros and french fries with a myster sauce later, we were ready to head home and escape the peaking yawn of the morning sun. That is when I knew that I indeed liked Barcelona.

The next day was a lazy Sunday, with an amazing breakfast and some good shopping. We hit the beach for a little while and headed home so I could get my life together and catch the train. My train left Reckless Abandon at 8pm and I arrived at Routine Island at 11:30. Manny held on to my keys and let me in upon my arrival.


From Hero to Zero

Sunday Morning: Ollie and Nena leave
Tuesday Morning: Victor leaves
Tuesday Night: Aldo leaves
Saturday Morning: Manny leaves
Saturday Afternoon: I commit suicide

Is this a joke people of Madrid? Granted my social network is as elastic as a horizontal line (math joke), but this is seriously going to be a blow to my routine. I was so accustomed to leaving work, rushing home, seeing my beautiful roommates, cooking a quick dinner, calling Manny and going out for a cocktail. Now I have a family of four next door, who for some reason decided to try a new method of parenting that flourishes on kiddie tears. I have never seen this family, nor do I even know the exact amount of relatives it contains, but I know that I dislike them. Perhaps it has to do with the context with which they moved in; for they were bound to fail when replacing my joy.

The upside of course is that I am able to regroup and refocus. It was so comfortable and became such a routine that I started losing my tenacious famine for adventure. Politics arose and roles were set, too much when living abroad. Then again, it may just be my fine-tuned defense mechanism that shoves negativity down the throat of any experience that rubs against the grain of my wishes.

Luckily this weekend finds me in Aliva, the hometown of Manny. I saw pictures of the city and it is a small metropolis, boasting a castle and a large wall surrounding the entire city. It is just for a day and will be a great escape from the city. I jokingly told Manny that he will probably cry when he leaves, to which he responded that he never cries because he always reflects on the positive. Instead of saying, "I will never see you again!!", you can think "We had a great run!" It is easier said than done but a simple truth all the same.

You can't get mad over what you have no control over because it is exhausting and fruitless. So to that, I say "LEAVE ME EVERYONE!" It was bound to happen and I am glad we crossed paths, the next time I find you may you be blessed with a thousand virgins and a never-ending chocolate fondue. I will continue on, drudge forward (or backward) yet again into the life of anonymity where I shall again reign victorious.