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Wednesday, April 02, 2008



After a very short and painless winter, followed by a few weeks of a pleasant spring, it seems that we are into summer here in Valencia. I have already started putting on sun block for my daily bike rides, I can sit outside and comfortably read in a café until well after dark, laundry dries in less than a day on the line*, and topless women have migrated back to the beaches. Call me sexist but I would rather be distracted by topless women as I ride along the beach bike trail than look at the old, fat, naked perverts who inhabit the dunes during the winter months. By the way, my threat of taking a picture of the public masturbator who haunted a section of the trail seems to have worked. He hasn’t been back since. I think that I will use this trick if the trail gets too cluttered with old, fat nudists. Maybe I’ll start a web site of pictures of these bloated corpses to shame them away from my line of sight.

It’s not like life is without problems. I’ve had a rash of them lately but overall I’d have to say that things are going well. I have been working hard on my Spanish, as always. I just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye in Spanish (El Guardián entre el Centeno) which I found on my roommate’s bookshelf. I probably haven’t read this book since I first read it at 17 but I still know it almost by heart. In case you are wondering “phony” in Spanish is “farsante. I talked with a Spanish friend about this book and he regretted that he didn’t get around to reading El Guardián entre el Centeno until he was 26—a little old for this adolescent classic. He also said that there is no equivalent to this icon of American literature in the Spanish-speaking world. Too bad for them. I learned a lot of very useful vocabulary. “Moron” is “tarado.” I learn useful vocabulary with every book that I read. An Italian friend absolutely insisted that I read a Spanish translation of 1933 Was a Bad Year (Un Año Pésimo) by John Fante, an author unknown to me. I just started it but so far, so good.

Life in Spain is sort of like walking: you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that life is getting routine, but everything just seems to be getting more and more familiar. I suppose that I have reached that point in which trying to adapt to another sort of life would be a problem. Culture shock is what it is called at times. I experienced culture shock only once in my life when my family moved briefly from the Midwest to Hawaii when I was 16. In all of my moves since then I have never really had culture shock. I adapt to the new place and then when I leave I have a bit of a problem getting used to the new experience, but it isn’t anything like a shock to me.

What does shock me is the dollar’s lowly standing against the euro. If George Bush’s goal as president was to reduce the USA to a third world nation, he is off to a good start by deflating the value of our currency some 50% since taking office. I should have converted all of my money into Mexican pesos before I left. Besides the deflating dollar, I am also getting pinched by inflation here in Spain. On top of this, my computer crashed on me. I am working on my old Dell Latitude that I brought along for this sort of eventuality. The keyboard doesn’t work so I plugged in a Spanish keyboard I found in the trash. It works but just barely. I am also without internet at home until my primary machine gets fixed or I decide to buy a new laptop. I haven’t heard back from the fix-it shop and part of me wants to go out and buy something new—damn the expense. My old laptop is perfectly suitable for what I do so if it can be fixed I will stick with it. I feel like someone standing by the bedside of a loved one in a coma while daydreaming about getting another spouse/parent/brother/sister. Does this make me a bad person? Don’t answer that.

I am also thinking about posting some of my humor essays about Spain on the humor website I contribute to occasionally. I am sort of curious as to how my Spanish stuff will be greeted by that audience of mostly knuckleheads. I think most of what makes a writer popular is someone important simply affirming that this person is worth reading. There are a lot of worse writers than I who are insanely popular just because they were anointed by a publisher.

*I never want to use a clothes dryer again. Hanging clothes to dry is something that I find very satisfying on many levels. This is solar and wind power on such a basic level that I can’t believe we ever decided that we needed to dry clothes faster. What a crazy idea!

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