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Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'll Let You Decide

A Little Bit Funny or Very Cruel?

A friend of mine is taking his family on a Mediterranean cruise. His two children (ages 6 and 9) were showing me a brochure of a layout of the enormous ship they will be taking. There are three or four swimming pools, a bunch of restaurants, a cinema, etc. The brochure is in Spanish but there was some fine print in English that I was pretending to read. I told them that the ship also has three schools and that all children are required to attend.

“¡Mentira!” they screamed (A lie!) as they tried to call me out on my story. However, they were anything but adamant in their stance against the existence of ship-board schools. I told their father and I figure he can use it as a bargaining chip if they act up on the ship.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No Apologies Accepted

*Señor Gusano

I think that I speak for many when I say that I’m sick to death of people begging for forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to say “I’m sorry” but the key is not putting myself into the position of making this a regular part of my life. It’s not really hard to pull this off, this fairly remorseless existence, yet it seems that a day doesn’t go by without some sorry-ass saying how damn sorry he is for being some sort of shit heel.  They usually go on and on about how they have let down their family and friends. Usually the Lord gets brought into it, like bringing along your big brother to a fight so you won’t get stomped, or at least perhaps not as much.

In most cases, saying that you’re sorry doesn’t even remotely begin to repair the damage you’ve done. And besides, there’s a huge difference between admitting to something you’ve done and showing repentance, and getting caught red-fucking-handed in some salacious imbroglio and then expecting people to forgive you for it because you made a lame, post-in flagrante delicto confession.  That’s like asking for a do-over or a mulligan.  It just doesn’t work like that, which is one of the main reasons why we build prisons.  I’m sure that a lot of convicts aren’t really sorry for what they did, but if they could trade their 4 to 8 year stretch in the can for an apology, most would try hard to feel a tinge of remorse for their crimes. They might even cry a bit, but any CSI team knows that you can’t tell the difference between tears of remorse from those of laughter. 

Even the most heart-felt, even the most sincere apology isn’t enough to un-fuck the coworker you were caught with, at least not in the eyes of your spouse—something you should have thought about while you were ordering the next round of apple martinis and making up excuses for why you didn’t need to go home any time soon.  Forgiveness comes from the person doing the forgiving, it’s not the result of the sales job of the person asking for it—no matter how smoothly you think you pulled it off.

And for Pete’s sake, even I know that in the digital age you don’t commit anything to the internet unless you are prepared to share it with the whole world.  It’s kind of ironic that I’m trying my hardest to get some sort of notoriety yet my work remains as obscure as some love-sick teenager’s diary hidden under the mattress.  Meanwhile, some elected official sends a picture of something we usually hide in our pants and he’s having his Andy Warhol 15 minutes.  This is why I have decided to post a picture of my penis* with this essay.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a digital camera which is why I was forced to send a drawing instead.  I’ll let you decide if this is a publicity stunt on my part or a desperate cry for help. I’d settle for either if I can end up on the evening news. I’ll even apologize if that’s what it takes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Give Up on Manhood; I'll Take Decaf

More frightening is what's in the purse.

I want a decaf nonfat no foam carmel mochachino with whipped cream

I tried to be a real man and although I haven’t completely given up, how far off could that be after ordering a cup of coffee that requires more instructions than a kitchen remodeling job? And to think that I used to drink coffee, regular fucking coffee from a pot. Remember that? I used to go to a barber shop for a haircut; now I go to a salon. I have highlights. What the hell is happening to me?

The so-called men’s magazines that I read have articles about how to blow dry your hair and exercises that will make your butt look cute. No wonder Hemingway blew his brains out. Guys who run with the bulls in this day and age probably carry purses and use their free hand to read text messages about hair growth products. Maybe now it’s called “Sauntering” or “sashaying” with the bulls. Maybe the bulls aren’t as tough as they used to be. I hope not, because the old bulls would have eaten wimps like me for breakfast. This whole thing is giving me a headache. I’d take a Xanax, but I’m out of Perrier.

I’m not sure where this long inexorable slide into metrosexuality—or whatever you want to call it—began, but I have a pretty good idea of where it will end. I see the Village People adopting a new character in their act who dresses in Kenneth Cole and has a fresh manicure. He can keep everyone’s schedules straight on his Palm Pilot. I’d rather walk around with a tool belt or a tomahawk any day. America’s new male archetype will be the sissy in the Village People.

In an incident in which a man was beating a woman on a busy street corner in Philadelphia, male witnesses to the assault called police and some even boldly took pictures on their phones. Most dudes probably just turned up the volume on their iPods to drown out the screams and kept walking to the mall. Not exactly knights in shining armor. If I’m ever getting my ass kicked you can forget about the Kodak moment; just split the guy’s head open with a tire iron. They keep those in the trunk of the car for all of you pansies who have never changed a flat. Maybe you’ve been using the tire iron to increase your cell phone’s antenna when you call the towing company.

What’s next for men? Exposed midriffs and thonged asses hanging out of our pants? Are we going to give up our weekends in Las Vegas in favor of shopping vacations in New York? Instead of trying to figure out what to do with the dead hooker in the room, we’ll have to worry about paying for excess baggage on the return flight. Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery, but not in the face. I just put on an exfoliation mask. And wait until after Dr. Phil.

*This is an old bit I wrote that seems to have been deleted. I found it somewhere else.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives

(click on title to follow the link to The New York Times article)

Although fairly hostile towards pedestrians,* this is one of the few articles of this nature that I have seen in an American publication and a message that Americans need beat into their heads every day.  

Zurich’s planners continue their traffic-taming quest, shortening the green-light periods and lengthening the red with the goal that pedestrians wait no more than 20 seconds to cross.
“We would never synchronize green lights for cars with our philosophy,” said Pio Marzolini, a city official. “When I’m in other cities, I feel like I’m always waiting to cross a street. I can’t get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car.”

As far as Valencia has come in the years I have lived here it is still maddening how long pedestrians have to wait at many intersections just to cross the damn street. Often they are also forced to wait two times to cross a single intersection just so cars can keep driving well over the legal limit. More than anything Valencia needs to slow traffic the hell down. As fast as a lot of traffic moves in this city any accident involving pedestrians or cyclists will have a very serious result, to put it mildly.

Of course, because The New York Times is closely monitored by far-right nut cases seeking to turn back the tide of socialism, the first comment to this story comes from a member of their half-witted ranks.

“Lets keep European ideas and implementation of Traffic in Europe where they belongs. Don't import these ideas and plans to this country. I don't want a Nanny government to dictate how I travel and what modes of travel I use.”

So by this logic the government shouldn't be building roads. as the glorious free market  will provide for all our needs.  As if America should ignore any idea simply because Europeans thought of it first. I don’t want a “nanny” (I hate that over-used word) government telling me that the only way that I can get around is by car. I doubt that the person who wrote this semi-literate comment even bothered (or was able) to read the article and they certainly skipped over this part:

“Mr. Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. “So it’s not really fair to everyone else if you take the car,” he said.”

It’s time we made car drivers pay the true societal and environmental costs of the automobile. Highways and streets are horrifically expensive yet people scream bloody murder every time the government spends a dime on rail service, as if Amtrak should make a profit while highways continue to deplete tax dollars. I realize that many people in the USA would find it difficult or impossible to live without cars but this is only because we have made the decision to build our cities to exclude any transportation model besides the personal automobile. 

*Here is just a short inventory of the ways the tone of this article paints pedestrians as basically criminals intruding on the rights of car drivers.

creating environments openly hostile to cars

The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable

Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded by popular bike-sharing programs.

Closely spaced red lights have been added on roads into town, causing delays and angst for commuters.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Much of Anything

Yes, you can be too rich.

There’s a saying in English that you can never be too rich or too skinny.  Unfortunately for the rest of us the reverse isn’t also true. You can definitely be too poor and too fat. Don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself. I would suggest you visit the snack food aisle at any Walmart to back up my statement—and how anyone finds time for a snack between a grand slam breakfast, a super-size lunch, and an all-you-can-eat buffet is a mystery to be explored at a later date. You can also be too stupid and too uneducated.  Come to think of it, while few would say that they are too rich, lots of people would probably admit that they were too skinny—the last time I checked famine was considered a bad thing.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t be too rich; I think the monarchs in revolutionary France learned that lesson the hard way.

“You can never be too rich or too skinny” is a statement only the most immoderate person could force themselves to utter. Those of us with even a shred of common sense know that you can have more than enough of just about anything.  Only a child or a complete fool would believe otherwise yet this reckless saying lives on and seems to be the motto for a good portion of the populace hell bent on getting richer and skinnier. I suppose this is better than striving to be poorer and fatter but not by much.

I’m sure that no one would accuse me of being too funny or too witty. I’d settle for being just a little of either of those qualities.  No one would say "no" to being a little rich except people who are already extremely rich, people for whom Do You Want to Be a Millionaire is some kind of nightmare tale they use to frighten their children into doing their homework. “If you don’t study you could end up like these poor slobs who only have a million dollars.”  As incredible as it may seem, there are a lot of people who feel that only being a millionaire would be an unimaginable horror, akin to being a pitiably destitute character in a Dickens novel.

Probably a minute after someone coined the saying “you can never be too rich or too skinny” people started debating which of these they would choose if it came down to one or the other.  I seem to have come down adamantly on the side of “neither.” As horrible as my status may seem to people who are rich, or skinny, or perhaps even both, most sensible people would believe that this would provide goals for me and other people inhabiting an un-rich and un-skinny universe.  I’d rather be a better cook than wealthier or thinner and striving to become a better cook actually hinders me from being richer or skinnier.

I’ll stop now because even I know that an essay can be too long and too boring.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Me Love You Wordreference

With no disrespect to my other friends, many of whom happen to be human beings, I have to say that my best friend here in Spain continues to be the online dictionary, Wordreference. There are a couple of useful things that one learns while trying to master another language (or languages) as an adult. The first cruel reality is that the process never ends. There is no finish line. You won’t land a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier with a huge banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”  I imagine myself on my deathbed asking the doctor to talk slower because I don’t understand him. “You want to put what in my where?” My online dictionary will hopefully be able to clear up this misunderstanding.

Wordreference is an amazing tool in my study of French and Spanish. I can’t imagine going back to a language dictionary in book form. That would be like going back to an outhouse after years of living with indoor plumbing. This morning I read an article in Le Figaro about Imams in Benghazi preaching revolution, with the French paper in one tab and Wordreference in the next. In the time it would take me to reach over and pick up a dictionary I have an exhaustive list of possible definitions for the word in question.  The time I save means more time for prayer!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hemingway in Translation

I recently reread (in Spanish) Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta, or The Sun Also Rises as it’s called in English. I actually prefer the Spanish title as it is more accurate and much less pretentious.  Hemingway translates well into Spanish, especially his books which take place in Spain. His books can be found everywhere here in Spain and at reasonable prices.  As I have said many times, books translated into Spanish are generally easier to read than those written by Spanish writers. Hemingway is a breeze since his style is so simple. I barely touched a dictionary through this short novel.

I can’t remember exactly when I read this book for the first time, probably sometime during my lost final year of high school when I was a terrible student. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I read a lot on my own. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Dickens, and Vonnegut were my favorites.  Now that I think of it, I read Fiesta earlier, when I was 15 because I remember that I thought that for the first time I had read a book for adults. The theme of this book was simply different than anything I had read before. Just what this theme is still escapes me, however, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this book, horrible anti-Semitism and boorish drunk behavior aside.

Chapter 12 was my favorite then and now. It was also probably about 100% responsible for the fact that I now speak French and Spanish and live in Spain. When I first read this I was living in the Midwest and had never traveled anywhere. The Paris and Spain described in the book were, to me, like Disneyland must be for some (spoiled) children, or Mecca for Muslims. These were places that I just had to see with my own eyes. The only other time that I have been so totally consumed by a place in books was for the Low Country of South Carolina described in Pat Conroy’s novels.

I never much cared for fishing, both as a kid and as an adult, but I was thoroughly mesmerized by this passage of the trout fishing expedition that Jake and Bill take in the Pyrenees. As a young boy from the center of the USA I hardly knew what wine was, but I knew that a bottle of wine taken from a cold mountain stream and drunk on a warm day must surely be as close to heaven as any liquid can be.  I should write a chapter about mountain biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains of Washington and skinny dipping with a gorgeous woman—it sure beats fishing.     

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer is so Close I Can Feel It.

Un carajillo, un café tocado, un café con brandy; whatever you call it, you have the perfect pick-me-up in the late afternoon when you still have a few meters to go before the finish line of the working day. Of course, you could skip the brandy and just kick back a coffee and—believe it or not—that’s what I do about 99% of the time, but today I thought that I deserved a bit of a reward.

After a fairly productive morning I had a two hour bike ride and workout. I rode down to El Saler beach and did my pull-up routine. Today I did 180 assisted pull-ups where I use one of my feet to help push. I’m having a bit of trouble with my left shoulder after tearing a muscle slightly a couple weeks back. It hurts during a certain range of movement so I have to be careful. Assisted or not, 180 is a fuck of a lot of pull-ups.  I got home, showered, made myself a quick Tortilla francesa (cheese omelet), and ran out the door again.  I got back home again at 4:30 and had a 45 minute nap. I woke up from it completely discombobulated. I had to take a second to remember what day it was—always the sign of a great nap.  I wiped the slobber from my mouth and rode downtown.  Here I sit drinking a coffee with brandy. I feel like a million bucks and it only cost €2.50.

Any sort of nap has been somewhat of a luxury for me lately, at least during the week and 45 minutes is something I’d be willing to pay good money for after such a good day of training. A nap helps my heart rate to settle down after two hours of being spiked. There were a few cyclists on the path today that made me work harder than usual; two of them had much snappier bikes than my fat tire road hog. I’m not making excuses but I would like to get a new bike this autumn, something along the lines of a cyclo-cross but without the drop handle bars. I have a lot of other things to take care of before I can bother about a new bike.

Summer is still about a week off but you’d never know that from the gorgeous weather we have had.  This means that you have to go without a shirt which means dieting and losing the winter flab.  I’m close but no cigar. I have been athletically inspired after reading about an American fitness guru in the New York Times. He is my age and his work outs are insane displays of strength and endurance. I bet that I could give him a run for his money on a bike but his upper body routine is mind bogglingly tough. I am trying to pattern my routine after his, at least somewhat. It’s getting to hot for clothes so you need to look good without them.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


The Other Guys

Is anyone still reading? Is it possible that people will read something that isn’t about vampires? I’ve never understood why women are so enthralled with bloodsuckers who wear more make-up than a 50 year old transvestite hooker.  I suppose the vampire myth has a lot to do with women’s sexual frustration of having to say no to men. The women who have said “no” to me over the course of my life never seemed the least bit bothered by their decision, but in many other cases denying themselves is a point of conflict. With vampires, women have no choice in the matter and can just go with the flow, or whatever you call it.  Men have sat by while women have their little fling with vampires but this has gone on long enough.  It’s sort of like living with a roommate who eats your food and drinks your beer; sooner or later you have to put your foot down.

Demanding that women stop their affair with the princes of the night (more like queens most of the time) makes us look clingy and needy; something girls hate more than fang-less guys. Instead of pounding a stake through the objects of women’s desires we should fix them up with somebody new and less threatening to men.  There is a lot of money in those bloodsuckers so I see no reason why the new female infatuation can’t also be a cash cow.  I want a piece of this action so I intend to invent the replacement for the vampire and trademark it.

How about Tyrone the Eunuch Personal Shopper™? He’s cute, dresses immaculately, and he’s anatomically incorrect.  Think of a Ken doll who has a superhero instinct for finding clothes that make girls look thin—that certainly beats X-ray vision.  There is nothing to worry about if your girlfriend comes home at 5 am after being out with Tyrone…or is there? What the hell could they possibly have been doing so late? She slept for about 14 hours afterwards so take a guess. You’d kick his ass but the dude is totally buff from all those Tae Bo classes he did with your gal. At least she said she was doing Tae Bo. I was looking for a harmless lap dog but he turned out to be a leg-humper. OK, forget about Tyrone.

If women will cheat on us with Tyrone and vampires then we need a substitute that doesn’t take the male form.  And forget about replacing vampires with a female; men would be out of business completely in a month.  We need the new model in a non-human form. No threat there at all, right? How about something that can take many different, inanimate forms? Forms that women find sexy like credit cards, and lounge chairs by the pool, and yoga mats. We’ll call him Señor Plastico™. Señor Plastico can take human form but only if she needs a lunch date. That little bastard! Turns out Señor Plastico has a vibrate mode and comes standard with a G-Spot GPS. See what happens, guys, when you don’t ask for directions? Señor Plastico has your better half howling like her team just won the Superbowl…five times!

Until men can come up with a better compromise, women will continue sneaking around our backs with vampires.  Either that or men can actually participate in their relationships with women, which would be difficult if we are to continue our current obsessions with sports and online poker.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

To Write

Opening up a blank document can sometimes be about as traumatic as getting hit in the face with a coal shovel, at least on the many occasions when I have absolutely no idea of what I want to do. Modern writers no longer have a garbage can filled with the crumpled results of bad ideas.  Now we have the Delete key.  I usually save even the worst of my efforts with the vain hope that at some later date I may find a morsel or two worth reviving. If I have even a single joke in mind and a vague notion of a theme, I can usually cobble together something that someone may want to read. On other days, I may start with a blank screen and after a few false starts I end up with a decent essay. Often the result is quite simply a turd, but I don’t worry too much about those days as one sure byproduct of all humanity is shit.

Even my worst efforts I can chalk up as writing practice. The stuff I like gives me a boost for the whole day. It certainly isn’t my place to say whether or not I am a good writer but I know one thing about myself: I’m addicted to writing and no amount of negative feedback could get me to quit. I mean no disrespect to the thousands of readers who have pleaded with me to take up a new hobby but I write almost entirely for myself.    

I recently looked into the curious case of the writer H.F. Saint who wrote one of my favorite modern novels, Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I have read the thing at least five times and I would say that it is the most fun I have ever had reading a book. No kidding.  From what I gathered online he wanted to be a writer early on in life but went into business instead. Somewhere in his 40s he decided to quit his job and give writing his full attention. Memoirs was the result and he made a small fortune on the book and movie rights.* I came across an interview he did some time after his good fortune and he mentioned that he was working on a new book.  And then he disappeared, never to be heard from again, at least not in the publishing world.

Barring some immense and unspeakable tragedy I can’t imagine why he would not have followed up on his first huge success. Perhaps he just took the money and ran. It is such a pity for those of us who loved his book that he stopped writing. Succeed or fail I plan on writing until the day I die. Shit, I’ll probably write a dumbass blog post from my death bed; or from the firing squad if I go out like a writer should. Some might say that I am a natural writer but it’s more about being stubborn than anything else.

*The movie sucks and has nothing to do with the book. Considering how bad this version was and advances in special effects the story practically screams out for a remake.