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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Making a Run on a Bank, Spanish Style

Making a Run on a Bank, Spanish Style
or
Defining Despejarse


I just heard that my U.S. bank, Washington Mutual, has gone belly up. I have heard the rumors for a while now and I did nothing. For someone as obsessed with economics and politics such as I am, I can't seem to get too involved in the actual dealings with anything to do with money. The good news, for me, is that I also don't really like spending it. If I started working for one euro a day, I'd probably save half of it. My cavalier attitude about my personal finances is being challenged by the current financial crisis in America. I may have to start giving a shit about money. But not right now.

I had a rather frustrating call with my two stateside brothers on the crisis—mine and the nation's—yesterday via Skype. I was feeling a bit panicky. I was ready to withdraw every cent I had in WaMu but that isn't really even an option for me at the moment. Not to bore you any further with the details of my private life of money (or lack of it, if that is to be the case) I'll tell you about what I did instead of making a run—1929 style—on my bank.

As I went about carrying out my fiendish plan I couldn't help but think about how my thinking has been so utterly influenced by my last two years (almost) of living here in Spain. I walked over to the corner tobacco* shop and bought a nice puro or Cuban cigar. I use a big pocket knife to cut my cigars. I just stab the end of the cigar with the tip of the knife, and then do it again making an X in the end. As I smoked I went for a walk around my neighborhood. I like the Spanish word for this activity. They say despejarse, a reflexive verb to mean “clear your mind.” That word has become synonymous for “smoking a cigar,” at least in my little book of Spanish grammar.

My walk took me over to the beautiful boulevard of Antiguo Reino which isn't all that beautiful these days due to the new metro line they are putting under my neighborhood. The have had to extirpate some very old and very gorgeous palms to make way for the new line. Sic transit gloria mundi or however the hell you say that in Spanish. I didn't really have a destination in mind other than ditching my financial concerns. Just beyond where the construction on the new metro line turns away from the boulevard I happened upon one of my favorite bars in Valencia.

Bar Canadá was actually the first place I had a beer in Valencia when I came here one year and ten months ago. My brother and I were walking from where we had rented a holiday apartment and were trying to make our way to the city center. That seems like just yesterday or it seems like long, long ago, depending on my mood. If you are ever depressed or if your mind is reeling from personal problems, I suggest that you try smoking a cigar. Granted, I happen to be of the opinion that drugs—in one form or another—are often good for what ails you but I defy you to be gloomy while under the influence of a good cigar—Cuban or otherwise.

I remember walking into Bar Canadá with my brother and ordering two beers. I barely knew what I was doing back then, at least when it concerned the subject of Spanish bars. Let's just say that I have learned a lot since then. I could write a book on the subject. Hell, I have written a book on the subject if you add up all of the essays I have written on this theme alone. I fluently and effortlessly ordered a glass of Spanish brandy (another subject about which I am on very intimate terms) and took a seat on a stool at the end of the bar. On the television there was a sitcom in Valenciano. I was able to follow the show quite well. At one point in the show a man is approached in the hallway of his apartment building by a Romanian cleaning woman. He immediately switches from Valenciano to Spanish. It's just one of those aspects of daily life that you pick up on while living here.

After one brandy I had completely forgotten about my little problem of perhaps losing my life's savings. I guess I'll just have to go make more.

*I can never spell “tobacco” correctly in English. My spellcheck wasn't much help at first because I tried spelling it “tabaco” as it is spelled in Spanish. Does anyone pronounce it “toe-back-o” in English? And what is with the two Cs? It looks Italian. Another word I can never spell is “criticize” (I just spelled it “critisize” fucking idiot that I am). If it weren't for spellcheck I would get beat up after every essay I post by those little snot-nosed spelling bee kids (They were such bullies!).

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