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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Real World, Valencia, Spain

I don’t need to turn on the television where I live to get a glimpse into the private lives of complete strangers; I just have to look out the window. In the narrow canyon of buildings separated by a strip of asphalt barely wide enough for a Mini Cooper to squeeze through, I can practically reach out and shake hands with people living on the other side of the street. I sometimes feel like I’m living in a fish bowl, but everyone else lives in one, too, so it all works out. Before I open the shades in my room in the morning I just have to make sure that I am decent. Opening the shutters is like raising the curtain on a stage. I try diligently to mind my own business but not becoming a peeping Tom is almost a full-time vocation.

Most of the time it is pretty easy to avoid looking into the apartments facing mine; I’ve got a lot of other distractions—we are in the middle of a very heated football season here in Valencia. This becomes a little more of a problem when I am at my kitchen sink because it looks directly towards the neighbors across the street, and what the hell else am I supposed to do when I’m washing the dishes? I can’t think of a stronger term than "captive audience" but that’s what I feel like. Unfortunately, what I see is as boring as the view the neighbors get of Borat here washing his dishes.

I should keep this a secret but the following is a brief inventory of what goes on across the street. A couple of floors below me on the other side I see an old guy with his back to me reading a newspaper. I doesn’t matter when I look over, he’ll be there reading the paper. I can’t make out the date on the paper he is reading but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is April 23, 1979. I have considered calling emergency services to kick in the door and make sure that he isn’t decomposing. I’m sure the neighbors probably say the same thing about me sitting here at my desk on my computer so I make an effort to wave an arm every so often to prove that I’m alive. Give me a sign, old man!

One thing that I have noticed from peeking into other people’s lives is that Spanish people seem to eat a lot, although if anyone is looking into my apartment they must think that I never stop eating. I’ll spend the entire night making one dish at a time, eating it, and then moving on to the next course. Sometimes I'll use up to four pans for a single menu item. I sometimes don’t call it quits until one in the morning. I usually sample so much of a dish as I’m cooking that when I finish I immediately throw it in the refrigerator for leftovers. This was the case last night with the mashed yucca that I made. Besides being the world’s densest starch, I made this dish even heavier by adding about three heart attacks of butter. Remember that in the metric system one heart attack equals ten blocked arteries. Wasn’t that easy?

Seeing so many strangers going about their daily tasks I could say something about people living lives of quiet desperation but “quiet” and “Spain” go together like “President Bush” and “statesman.” When my neighbors aren’t making noise themselves they have probably exiled the dog to the balcony where little barfo will try to imitate the howls of a trapped coyote. No, the Spanish lead lives that are anything but quiet and desperate. I can practically hear their hand gestures as they talk to each other across the street.

It isn’t summer yet so people don’t spend much time on their balconies except to hang clothes out to dry or to smoke a cigarette. Most of my neighbors have balconies that are too small to do much else besides that. Mine, on the other hand, is big enough to live on when the weather changes for the better. I can hang laundry, smoke cigars, drink, eat, host an orgy, broker a huge drug deal, perform a human sacrifice, and play badminton on my balcony, but I don’t play badminton anymore so I’ll keep to the other vices.

On the fourth floor directly across from me live two beautiful young women. I think that they are twins, actually, and they must be models or something because they are always trying on stuff from Victoria’s Secret or whatever they call it here in Spain. From the looks of things, they don’t seem to get along very well together because they are always wrestling around on the bed. I realize that Spain is very liberal and way ahead of the U.S. on social matters, but what these two do to each other can’t possibly be legal between blood relatives.

OK, this last thing isn’t true, it’s reason #435 of why I am an atheist. I’m sure that someone, somewhere in this world lives across the street from twin, incestuous lingerie models who are incredibly immodest, but it isn’t me. I give you this question, Mister Fundamentalist Christian: If you were me would this seem like a world that is “intelligently designed?” Hardly.

Those twins really wore me out. I’ll just have a cigarette, or do whatever it is that people who don't smoke do after sex, and nod off for a few minutes. Sorry neighbors, the show’s over. I’m closing the shutters.

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