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Friday, June 08, 2007

Excuses for Stopping in at the Bodega for a Glass of Wine

There is one on every corner of every block. Often there can be two or three in the middle of the block. They are everywhere, these places to stop in for a quick glass of wine, or a not-so-quick glass of wine if there is anything even remotely interesting going on inside—and there usually is. There must be at least 1,000 of these small places in Valencia whether they call themselves a bodega, a cervecería, a sidrería, a café, a bar, or a restaurant. If there are 1,000 places to grab a glass of wine or a beer then you’ll need at least 1,000 excuses to visit. I’m the cautious type so I have more excuses than are legally required in Spain.

-The bodega is right next to the bin where you drop off your recyclable plastics. I drop off my bag of recyclables and I stop in for a glass of wine; it’s called multi-tasking. I also recycle glass and paper separately. The bodega is also near the trash bin so this excuse counts as four which is really multi-tasking. I could take all of my trash out at once but where’s the fun in that?

-Football also encompasses at least a dozen or more excuses. The bodega is the place to watch a game, watch the highlights of a game, watch a funny segment on football bloopers; I think you are getting the point. I can also read one of the several football daily newspapers lying on the bar. Football accounts for at least 90% of the business in most of these joints. I wonder what is going to happen in the short interim when this year’s season ends and next year’s season begins. We are only talking about a week or so, but still. Spain without football? I suppose everyone goes to the bodega for a glass of wine to moan about there being no football.

-I was cooking and I needed to go down to the store to pick up something I needed. This is a great excuse to go to the bodega. I turned the heat on the stove down low so I won’t burn down the apartment. Besides, I think that my kitchen has an automatic sprinkler system. I’ll have one more glass, please.

-I run out of wine at home so I stop in for a quick one before I go to the supermarket to buy another bottle of wine. This may sound redundant to you but I see things differently since I moved here.

-My cable TV is out in the apartment. This probably means that it isn’t working at the bodega either but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

-The bodega is an integral part in the quotidian life of the Spanish people and I need to be there to experience it. While I’m there I need to drink a glass of wine or two or I’ll look like an idiot.

-The bodega recently installed air conditioning. I can stop in to beat the heat. It’s actually kind of chilly this evening so I’ll wear a sweater. I’m not using this excuse tonight but what about in July when it’s really hot, smart guy?

-The bodega is right on the corner so at least I won’t drink and drive. I don’t have a car but there are other consequences of drinking far from home. What if I got drunk somewhere across town and then used the wrong metro card on the way home? I could waste a three-zone fare card on a one-zone ride. Also, friends don’t let friends take cabs drunk. Trying to explain to a cab driver where I live would be a chore for someone who is both sober and completely fluent in Spanish—two things I will probably never be at the same time. Every time that I order a glass of wine at my bodega I feel like I am dodging a bullet.

-I don’t want to bore you with a lot of details concerning balance of payments, international currency fluctuations, and other macroeconomic insights that you wouldn’t understand anyway, but just trust me on this one: America and Spain are both counting on me to prop up our mutual reliance on free trade. Excuse me, I have to get back to work now.

-I hate to use the excuse that the bodega is between the metro stop and my front door because there is a bodega between everything and my front door. I’m surprised that there isn’t a bodega in the lobby of my building or on the elevator. I live on the fifth floor, how long am I supposed to go without a glass of wine? I promise that I will only use this excuse as a last resort.

-The bodega is a good place to practice Spanish. I can also speak Spanish at the market, or the library, or museums, or at home with friends, or just about anywhere. This is Spain and they speak Spanish here (at least when they aren't speaking Valenciano, or Catalan, or Basque, or Gallego like in the movie I saw last night). I think there is something that you aren't fully grasping here and it's kind of important. I can get a glass of wine at the bodega. Seeing that this is Spain, they probably serve wine at the library, I just don't know where to ask.

* I’d like to compliment myself on the sort of Robert Frost title but remember, friends don’t let friends drive sleighs drunk through a snowy wood.

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