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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sin Pijos

(No Douche Bags*)

Something about me that I think has changed irrevocably since living in Spain is my attitude about bars and restaurants and status and being “seen,” or whatever the hell you call it. I mean, there are a few trendy bars and restaurants in Valencia, at least I think that I have seen places like that. I just go to the places that 99% of Spanish people go for a drink or a cup of coffee. As I have mentioned many times before, Spain has more bars per capita than any country in the world, and they are all sort of exactly the same. The Spanish bar is probably the most easily recognizable modern cultural icon of this country and plays a much more important role in daily life here than does its American counterpart which probably explains the lack of pretension in the vast majority of Spanish watering holes. Bars in Spain are the moral equivalent of the proletarian worker´s smock in China—its functionality far outweighs its aesthetic importance.

This isn't to say that Spanish bars are dreary or unattractive, they are simply stamped from the one-size-fits-all mold like a Chinese worker´s garment. I think that the Spanish have the attitude that “if it's not broke, don't fix it” when it comes to bars. The sort of bar you find on just about every street corner in Spain (and often another one in the middle of the block) is perfectly acceptable in the minds of the people who matter the most in this equation: the folks who flow in and out of these places throughout the day. The bar as an institution is too important in daily life here to allow it to become some sort of exclusive enclave of yuppies, hipsters, sportos, beautiful people, or whatever stupid subculture is all the rage this week. One of my biggest complaints about modern American culture is that we feel the need to obsequiously cater to ever single group of douche bags under the sun, creating a sort of apartheid of trendiness, instead of just forcing everyone to mix with with others outside of their own ilk.

It´s not like there aren't places in Spain that are subculture specific but the vast majority of bars are there to serve the needs of everyone. I mean, everyone drinks coffee, beer, and wine, right? And everyone needs to get a bite to eat, watch the news on TV, read the paper, bullshit with their neighbors , take a load off their feet, and do all of the other things that people do in bars, so why should anyone try to turn these mundane pursuits into some sort of stupid status game? I suppose the homogeneity of Spanish bars has a lot to do with the fact that not too long ago this was a poor country. I just hope that this aspect of Spanish culture doesn't feel the need to change now that the country is quickly becoming wealthy.

After all, isn't it to be around other people the reason we go to public places in the first place? If the bar you go to is too subculture-specific you are never going to talk to anyone other than people just like you, people your age with your interests and dislikes. When you think about it, that sounds pretty awful. When you think about it, your little hipster-haven bar or restaurant is like the douche bag country club in Caddy Shack (so many of life´s important lessons can be found in that movie) which makes you Judge Smails, and no one wants to be Judge Smails. I'd rather go to the bar where the caddies hang out.

*A very loose translation

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