Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Closed for Vacation

August is the month when everyone who is anyone closes up shop and heads out of town. There are signs posted on businesses all over town explaining that they are taking the month off and will be back in September. The signs are an interesting mix of apology, exasperation, and things that look like counterfeit absentee excuses written by delinquent children. Some of the notes read like messages found in bottles which vaguely explain the whereabouts of the owners and contain an even more unclear explanation as to when they plan to reappear. Many of the signs I have read say that the closure is so that the employees can rest—as if they are all off to some tuberculosis sanitarium to take the healing waters.

The café that shares the courtyard with my building run by the three brothers didn’t even bother to post a sign. A written notice of their vacation plans would have constituted too much work for them. If they did have a sign it would read something like this:

Are you kidding? We are closed about 50% of the year and you come by here in this month and you think we will be open? We would all laugh at you except it is too pathetic to think that someone actually thought they could get a cup of coffee or a beer at our place IN AUGUST! Go away! We’ll be back when we’re back unless the day we’re supposed to be back falls on a holiday in which case it will be the following day. Don’t hold your breath.

August is the month when people make major renovations to their apartments because they are gone all month. It’s the time when businesses overhaul themselves. Two apartments in my building have been gutted and are being transformed. The bakery in my building is getting a major face lift. There is a new bar going in around the corner. If you left town this month you won’t recognize the place when you return.

I was down in the Plaza de la Virgin last night—one of the more popular sights in Valencia—and it was completely filled with tourists. Even the people speaking Spanish were out-of-towners. The waiters and waitresses all seem to be on loan from other countries. It’s like the locals just handed over the keys to the city and left everything to the Visigoth hordes who have invaded.

I never thought that I would say this after living through the Fallas festival but it is really quiet here in Valencia. It is 8 o’clock in the morning and it is eerily silent. I haven’t heard a car horn yet today and even the dog across the street who howls like a coyote every morning at this time is conspicuous by his absence—or at least his bark is. I am straining my ears but I can’t hear a single jackhammer or any sort of power tool. The people doing all of the renovations in town don’t seem to have bosses looking over their shoulders so they start work at a reasonable hour, usually after noon. There is no doubt about it; things are rather quiet around here. Why would I want to leave now?

Lots of Valencianos have second homes, mostly along the shore somewhere. The quiet little Mediterranean beach towns that I rode my bike past all winter are now filled to the brim with people, cars, dogs, and everything else that people from the city take with them when the exodus begins. I think that if I were now in one of those little beach towns I would be listening to the morning cacophony of car horns, jackhammers, howling dogs, and squawking parrots. It’s a good thing that a lot of these places have bike paths because the traffic there in August is atrocious. The major beaches all look like U.N. refugee camps. Anything providing a bit of shade in these places is swarmed by older Spaniards with card tables and chairs where domino games and impromptu picnics are held. If the shade happens to fall on the bike path then you’ll just have to ride around them; it’s called “summer rules.”

With the sun and the heat my bike rides aren’t as ambitious these days as they were back in the winter and spring. When it is almost 40° a little goes a long way as far as bike rides are concerned. I head to the beach at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and return as late as 9. Even then the sun is strong enough to dry me out before I have completely left the beach behind me as I ride the bike path back into town to the north.

It’s not like I really need a vacation since I really don’t have a job to need a vacation from—if a wannabe writer can even write a sentence like that one. Besides, I like it here in Valencia more than ever. I seem to have the whole neighborhood to myself as well as this three bedroom apartment. If you’re planning to visit me, now is the time.

I almost forgot to add one thing: none of the summer rules seem to apply to the immigrant community. The Chinese mini Wal-Marts are all open for business, the döner kebab places run by the Indian subcontinent guests are on their usual schedule, and the Africans still roam the plazas hawking electronic gadgets and other trinkets. Once again, no one sent them the memo about the vacation hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you can't say something nice, say it here.