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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Perfect Zeros: Doing Nothing With Style

Perfect Zeros: Doing Nothing With Style

You would have never thought that being a lazy slob was such hard work until you spend a summer in Valencia. Idleness is an absolutely relentless task around here. It starts the minute you get out of bed in the morning, or at least when you decide to open the persianas, the blinds on the windows here that block out every last ray of skin-scorching, house-plant-wrecking, and furnace-like sunshine that beat down on the little corner of the Mediterranean that I call home, or at least it's where I have been keeping my suitcases and doing my laundry. The word “lazy” in Spanish seems to be more of a challenge than an insult so don't worry about offending me.

Yes, summer can be a real chore, a full-time job, and there is still a long way to go before it's over so you just have to dig in and battle it out like everyone else around here—or leave on vacation for the month. My whole life here is pretty much a vacation so I'm staying put for August. Besides that, it's too hot to move.

Wake up late, have a coffee and listen to people in the café bitch about the heat, maybe do a little shopping and stand behind women at the supermarket cooling themselves with hand fans, and then it's back home for a nap. Wake up an hour later in a stupor from which you are only partially revived by an ice coffee, lather up with 50 factor sunscreen, drink a few liters of water, and go out for something remotely resembling a bike ride. Bike rides in the summer are shorter and sweatier than during the other seasons. The dress code changes radically. Instead of cycling clothing, it's flip-flops, surf trunks, and a shirt that goes into my pack as soon as I clear the city limits. I wouldn't actually call my summer bike rides “exercise,” I just sort of go through the pantomime of a bike workout. It's too hot to think about where to go on my rides so I just go to the beach every day on the bike path. 30 minutes after pushing off in front of my building and I am carrying my bike across the sand at the beach at El Saler. I go for a swim, if you can call it that. Some days I just dive in and head directly to the beach shower.

Showering outdoors is one of the biggest treats of summer. In my old bungalow in Florida I had a great outdoor shower that I used when I got home from the beach. I have often thought that outdoor showers could be a lucrative sort of business if everyone knew just how great it feels. I just wish that you could make the water colder at the beach showers.

One of the hardest jobs this time of year is choosing an outdoor café for coffee or a beer. The good thing is that you have lots of occasions to stop for a beer or a coffee. The even better news is that there are countless places to do it. Just about every bar and restaurant has what is called a terraza de verano, or summer terrace. Tables and chairs are placed on the sidewalks and often in the street. If anyone is bothered by this no one seems to have the energy to complain. In summer it seems that no one can make it the two blocks to the supermarket without stopping on the way there for something to drink, and maybe on the way home as well. What the hell else do you have to do?

A lot of people complain about the slow service in cafés during the summer. Have you ever tried to wait on tables while you are in a very deep sleep? And look at how peaceful he looks sacked out in a chair behind the bar. He looks like a little angel, even with his hand stuffed in his pants and a wisp of slobber on his chin. I don't have the heart to wake him up to order a coffee so I just sit at a table on the terrace and try not to disturb him as I read. The bar owner will wake up eventually and it's not like I'm in any sort of hurry. If there is something that can be defined as the exact opposite of being in a hurry then it comes pretty close to describing this place in summer.

Doing nothing becomes something along the lines of an Olympic event during summer in the Mediterranean. Judges give points for style and give lower scores for difficulty. It's not impossible but judges rarely award anyone a score of perfect zeros.

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