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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Double Feature or Shit Sandwich?


I had a very close call at the movie theater the other evening, too close. After their summer break the little cinema on my corner is back in business again. This week they are showing a double feature of two fairly recent French films dubbed into Spanish. The first film is called Le Code A Changé (The Code Changed) or Cena de Amigos (Dinner with Friends) in Spanish. The other movie is Les Petits Mouchoirs or Pequeñas Mentiras sin Importancia (White Lies).  As much as I criticize Hollywood I have always said that Europeans make a lot, a lot of lousy films. I don’t know which is worse: a formulaic Hollywood paint-by-numbers film or a histrionic French piece of crap.

Seeing that most of their films are about infidelity, and if I am getting their message correctly, French film directors are saying that French people don’t like to get married and then have sex with the same person the rest of their lives. Got it. Message received. Enough said. So please stop making movies about this subject, just like Woody Allen can stop making movies about the neurotic relationships of rich people. The only thing that has changed in Allen’s work is that he has been forced to film outside of New York because of rising costs. He still makes the same story about the same messed-up people but now they live in Europe.

As I have said before, I go to this cinema just to sit in the dark and listen to Spanish for a few hours. I could have never made it through Cena de Amigos had I watched it on TV. There was truly nothing the least bit interesting about this film. Even the original French title was completely corny and contrived. It’s like they were beating a square peg into a round hole just because they thought they were being clever. The code that changed was literally the door code for their apartment block but the code that had really changed was the code to their lives. Get it? To my credit I made it through this tedious film. I walked outside to stretch my legs during the intermission and then sat down again for the second feature.

Pequeñas Mentiras sin Importancia, like the first film, is an ensemble piece in which a group of friends unite to share their lives and loves and blah, blah, blah. I had to get the hell out of the theater at about the 20 minute mark when it looked like I was dangerously close to being subjected a French version of  The Big Chill dubbed into Spanish. Even the music copied the American crap-classic. Does free speech protect someone who screams “shit” in a crowded movie theater?

So what is worse: the American formulaic romantic comedy with a title like My Best Friend’s Late Term Abortion or the pretentious and staggeringly boring French film, with both choices lacking even the faintest shred of originality? Answer: they are both horrible.

Fat Hippie on a Huge Motor Scooter


I hate to be judgmental. OK, that’s not true, not even slightly. I don’t mind being judgmental at all. In fact, I love being judgmental; it’s what separates us from the animals. I would also like to say that I don’t hate motor scooters. I happen to love Vespas and the like. I actually think that they can be quite sexy, if you can say that about something that is made in a factory. What I really hate are the huge motor scooters that you see in Europe that are as big as Harley Davidson Road Glides. And nobody likes hippies so when I see a fat hippie on a huge motor scooter what am I supposed to feel? I’m just asking.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thomas Ripley in Books and Films

I’ve never been a big fan of crime novels. I’ve read my fair share of the detective genre and noir thrillers from Sherlock Holmes to Phillip Marlow to James Elroy. My associations with crime fiction were always intermittent and fleeting…until I met Tom Ripley, or at least when I came upon this character for the second time when I read El Talento de Mr. Ripley in Spanish. I had read the novel in English many, many years ago and I remember that I liked it very much. Perhaps it was the added attention I was forced to give the novel while reading it in Spanish that made me sit up and take better notice.

What I noticed most of all was how much damn fun it was to read this story. The tensions were sometimes so high in the story that I would practically scream at my real life for interrupting my reading whenever I had to stop to attend to lesser matters like work and friendships. I just wanted to be locked in a room somewhere until I finished every last word. I read quite a bit slower in Spanish than in English but apart from looking up a few words here and there my comprehension is total. I gushed about the book to everyone I know and everyone I casually bumped into on the street.

I’m sure that a lot of you have seen the fine movie by Anthony Minghella which shouldn’t keep you from reading the book. There is also a French film version of the novel. And then there are the rest of the books and movies in the series. This is the way the series goes:

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Ripley Under Ground (1970)
Ripley’s Game (1974)
The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980)
Ripley Under Water (1991)

While I was stumbling around Granada I happened upon a great second-hand shop with lots of books. I picked up a copy of Ripley en Peligro (Ripley Under Water). Reading this book out of sequence was a bit confusing at times but my reading regimen is usually dictated by the books I happen upon rather than some conscious effort I make to actually choose what I read. In fact, I really never thought much about reading another book in the Ripley series until I came upon this book in a dusty shop in a back street in Granada. This book wasn’t nearly as fun (or as good) as the first one but I have my hopes up for other books in the series.   

Film adaptations of the novels began with Plein Soleil (1960, aka Purple Noon or Blazing Sun) with Alain Delon, whom Highsmith thought was the ideal Ripley. Anthony Minghella’s version came out in 1999 and starred Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Cate Blanchett.

Ripley's Game was filmed twice, once by Wim Wenders as The American Friend (1977) and then under its original title in 2002 and directed by Liliana Cavani with John Malkovich in the title role.  Ripley Under Ground (2005) stars Barry Pepper as Ripley. All of these films are worth watching but they lack the great story of The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Although Minghella took a few liberties with the novel, his film is a masterpiece of crime drama and is, in my opinion, the best of films.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dispatches from Siesta-landia


August is a VERY slow month in Spain. No one works much. Some of my favorite cafes are closed. The little movie theater around the corner has been closed for weeks. It’s a good time to do a lot of cooking.  In order to balance out the eating I’ve been working out like never before. So we have a heaping of heavy exercise mixed with lots of food and also lots of free time. The result of these ingredients has been some howling naps in the afternoon, one hour or sometimes more of unconsciousness. The kind of naps that when you wake up you don’t just look at your watch to get oriented but you also need to consult a calendar.

There is something special about a nap after a big bike ride and a big lunch. You feel like a cartoon character that just got smashed in the head with a big cast-iron frying pan so that the pan takes the shape of your head. After the ride in the hot sun, after the ice-cold shower, and after the big lunch you lie down with your heart still beating fast and hard.  You wake up feeling like your blood is champagne. I don’t know how else to describe it. Your heart-rate isn’t at resting—it won’t be until after a long night’s sleep—but it has kicked down into something resembling a high idle. Your heart recovers much better with a nap than without one. The post-nap euphoria is about as good as you can feel without sex, drugs, or rock and roll. I don’t know if you can duplicate this from running or swimming or any other aerobic fitness because you can cycle for two or three hours every damn day.You get a good aerobic work out and you tax the hell out of your muscles, not only the legs but your back as well if you stand up and sprint as much as I like to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Proposed Fashion Obituaries

Pull your pants up and stop going to church.
·         I should preface this by saying that I think that fashion is just about the silliest human pursuit. Let’s face it, you could get a group of five year olds to design women’s dresses and people in Paris and New York would probably cheer their effort as the models made their way down the runway in Sponge Bob evening gowns. With that said, there were a lot of things in fashion back in the USA when I left that I hope have run their natural course, meaning they died agonizing deaths.

·        •  Exposed underwear for both men and women. If your underwear is hanging out you either need to get more pants or less ass.

·       •  Huge SUVs and pick-up trucks. This is just too obvious to explain in 2011, a time when America is blowing up half of the Middle East.

·         Blaming immigrants for all of our problems. To paraphrase a slogan from the Spanish protests, “America’s problems don’t stem from people wading across the Rio Grande; they are being caused mostly by assholes riding around in limousines in New York and Washington, DC.

·         Reality TV shows. A guy can dream, can’t he?

·         Theme restaurants. The Applebee-ization of vast swaths of the American culinary landscape must end. These places are to food what bad toupees are to hair. You are better off going hungry. The owner of your restaurant should live in your same zip code, or at least the same state. This goes for pretty much everything you consume, if it’s possible. I think that it’s worth it to spend a quarter more for a tube of toothpaste if it means keeping a Wal-Mart out of your community.

·         Religious fanaticism. It’s funny how religious people think that they are all that is right with America. I defy anyone to point to a single societal problem that was fixed by religion. Prayer hasn’t done a damn thing to better the human condition so stop telling us to pray for something. Many of society’s problems are solved by government. So why are we so anti-government in America, especially when we are the government? Anti-government is an anti-democratic philosophy and most religions don’t have much use for true democracy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Win Win 2011

With Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and Alex Shaffer as Kyle

Director Tom McCarthy said in an interview that he can’t stand sports movies in which the actors can’t play the sport, which is why he chose Alex Shaffer, a state champion wrestler, to play the part of Kyle. Win Win is definitely what you would call a character-driven movie, not that it is lacking in story but without the performances of the principal actors it wouldn’t have amounted to much of a film.  Fine acting and some precision dialogue lift this movie well above the formulaic bullshit filling most of the theaters at the mall cineplex.  

At first Kyle seems like a typical maladjusted, teenage misfit but we quickly see that there is a lot more to him than his rough exterior of monosyllabic speech, dyed hair, and cigarettes. “He’s probably on drugs,” one character remarks.  Before we see that Kyle is some sort of prodigy on the wrestling mat we see that he is basically a fine boy: polite, sweet, honest, etc. This is a child who probably had every right to become a juvenile delinquent.


There is a human element starkly absent from the run-of-the-mill Hollywood crap. Plenty of that humanity stuff here. The mother is a woman sensible in ways that only a mother can be. His best friend exhibits all of the qualities required for this position.  A taciturn daughter who says random shit that only kids can say. Writers, even the best of them, can’t make this stuff up but need to be like the best journalists and listen to children.  At the dinner table the daughter asks Kyle with the utmost seriousness, “Do you want to play croquet?” A question completely out-of-the-blue like children ask all the time.  

The movie is billed as a comedy and it is, but what drew me in was that it’s also incredibly sweet. Kyle is just such a great kid. He’s is what you would want your kids to be like. He’s who I would have wanted to be more like in high school, a better version of myself, a better version of most people. This is all apart from the fact that the kid happens to be a bad-ass grappler.  Although not really a sports movie, there are enough scenes of wrestling to probably qualify it for the genre, and there are certainly a lot of laughs to file it under comedy, Win Win is more sweet than anything.  Add that to its other qualities and you have a pretty good little movie in my book.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When in Andalucía: Travel Advice from Across the Bar

Plaza Nueva, Grananda
A Donde Fueres, Haz Lo Que Vieres
(Wherever you are, do what you see, or When in Rome, do as the Romans do*)

I was in Restaurante Boabdil in Granada sitting next to a couple of girls from Korea. They didn’t speak Spanish and their English was very limited. The very helpful bartender, Carolina, was trying to take their drink order. One of the girls mentioned that she wanted a mojito but the bartender explained that they had no mint. Now I know that mojitos are very popular all over the world but a Spanish drink they are not. I tried to explain to the two travelers that they should try something more typical of Granada or at least Spain. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I wasn’t able to get this point across to the two young women but we did at least convince them to order a tinto de verano. Mission Accomplished!

*Which reminds me of this great song by Cy Coleman and  Carolyn Leigh, and best performed by Tony Bennett and Bill Evans

When in Spain for reasons I don't explain
I remain enjoying a brew
Don't deplore my fondness for fundador
You know how a fundador can lead to a few

And baby when in Rome I do as the Romans do

If per chance I'm saying farewell to France
And romance drops in from the blue
Cher amour I beg of you please endure
My taking a brief detour with somebody new

It's just that when in Rome I do as the Romans do

And though from Italy I lie to you prettily
Oh don't think of me bitterly
But know that I'm through

Except now and then in Rome
I get that old yen in Rome
And naturally when in Rome
I do as the Romans do

If I write happily
Best wishes from Napoli
Don't cable me snappily
To tell me we're through

Cause I'm once again in Rome
In somebody's den in Rome
Well pussy cat, when in Rome
I do as the Romans do

So just disregard the signs and the omens
When in Rome I do as the Romans do

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out


"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful"
Seneca the Younger

So the Pope took his show on the road after a brief and fervent gallop through Madrid. The press and the politicians in Spain spent all of their time bending over backwards to accommodate the King from Vatican City while the Pope exhorted his flock to be more Catholic and criticized those who aren’t Catholic. The Pope and the Church would love nothing better than to have Spain return from its tenure as a secular nation to once again embrace Catholicism as the official, state-recognized religion.  You would have never known that Spain is a secular nation this past week as Pope-fever ran rampant through television and print media as well as in the halls of government. This is in a country where only 12% of the citizens bother going to mass. Old habits die hard and although most Spaniards aren’t really Catholic, they cling to the traditions of the Church much like they restore old buildings and retain ancient festivals; it’s just seen as part of their culture even if many people are now unapologetically atheist.  

There have been a flood of news reports about the violent protests against the Pope. I suppose this is half-true if you consider that all of the violence was done by the police against the mostly peaceful protesters. The protesters weren’t even lashing out against the Pope so much as at their democratically-elected, secular government’s support of a religious leader at a time when austerity measures are having a negative impact on many citizens.

I saw exactly the same response from the government and the press during the recent British “royal” wedding. At no time did I hear a newscaster question the role of a monarchy in modern society. They were all too busy gushing about dresses, the Cinderella princess, and other dangerously obsequious fawnings over the royalty.  I guess that you can just call me a republican. Of course that’s not the American version but someone who is in favor of a republic without clergy or monarchs. I have the same contempt for the Church as I do for the royals and generally find them all to be the enemy of the people.

The Pope’s message or messages were more of the same sort of moronic homilies we have come to expect from the Vatican decrees and encyclicals (can I trade those for a set of steak knives?) through the ages. “Pray for peace” has always been one of my favorite exhortations from Rome—as if praying is some sort of substitute for actually fucking doing something about the conditions resulting in violence and war.

Nowhere is the message passed down by the Catholic Church over the centuries more apparent than in the streets of Granada where you can’t spit without hitting some huge structure built to honor the glory of the Church. I would love to go back in time to see if there wasn’t at least a single cleric who looked around and asked, “Do we really need to build another fucking church in this city?” The Catholics had their run at running our lives and they did a completely shitty job of it. The Pope defines the current era in Spain as “a society which is increasingly confused and unstable.” Sorry to break the news to you, your Pope-liness, but things have never been better for the people of Spain, no thanks at all to Catholicism.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Few Thoughts from Granada

The sun in Andalucía is so intense that leaving the house in the afternoon you have to dodge the sun like former residents of Sarajevo dodging sniper bullets. I’ve been getting picked off by the sun too much on this trip even though I respect the siesta as if it were Sharia law. 

Granada is a truly incredible town. A fraction of the size of Valencia yet packed with all kinds of cool neighborhoods, interesting architecture, and it's just seems so vibrant and prosperous. I'm giving my legs a break today so I'm limiting the hill climbing to the bare  minimum. It's the going down that kills me as this is completely the opposite muscle use as cycling. A group of tourists saw me walking down a VERY steep grade yesterday backwards as this is much more natural and easier on the legs. Soon the whole group was giving it a try. I may have started a new fad.

I don't know how anyone could ever get drunk in this town when they shovel so much food in front of you every time you order a damn beer. They should try this approach with cocaine abusers to see if it slows down their consumption. Give out a free pizza with every 8 Ball.

Someone please let me know if there is a better place on earth than the Alhambra to wander around at 1 am while smoking a great cigar and drinking a cold beer.It's completely quiet up there except for the strains of flamenco music drifting up from the cafes below. It's crazy that they basically leave the place wide open all night long. They aren't big on rules here in Spain, god bless them.  Last night I saw only about a dozen people all total including a security guard who looked at my beer and smoke with murderous envy. 

I watched the Madrid-Barça game on Sunday night and it was strange to be in a place that was so fervently pro-Real Madrid, the total opposite of Valencia. I hate them both but love great football and Sunday's game was a fucking douzy.

Even without the Alhambra Granada would be one of the more impressive towns in Spain. I was a bit worried when I arrived that I had perhaps set aside too much time for my visit here. I could easily fill a few more weeks here. 


One of my philosophies of travel and tourism is that there is no substitute for just getting around, either on foot or on a bike. I haven't really missed not having a bike here which is very rare for me. There is so much to see in such a relatively small area that a bike would be a bit of over-kill. Shoe leather needs to burned if you really want to get to know Granada.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet a Real White Trash American!

{LIKE TARZAN WITH A GUT}

Ever since my first trip to Europe I’ve always wanted to be a street musician, but even if dragging a piano down to the street were an option I’m too shitty at playing the damn thing for anyone to pay me for it, even out of sympathy. I’ve been thinking of other ways to busk and I thought I’d go with what I’m best at: Being Me! All I need is someone to be my barker and some sort of wire mess cage for them to drag me around in to create more of an atmosphere of fear and wonder.  I think Europeans would get a big kick out of seeing a raw, untamed American, especially one locked in a cage.

Step right up, folks. See with your own eyes this beast from the other side of the world.

From the wild, uncharted vast expanses of Middle America!

Only able to speak one language without an accent and evidently profanity is his mother tongue!

Pure Unadulterated Vulgarity!

Someone whose idea of a fashion accessory is a Slim Jim hanging from his lower lip!

Clad only in cut-off jeans! (I don’t have any but I could probably make that happen for the sake of show business)

Raised completely on McDonald’s and Burger King, watch him eat almost anything you put in front of him as long as it’s lathered in ketchup.

Watch him drink beer directly from the bottle! Amazing!

For an extra 1€ you can poke him with a stick through the bars of his cage! Be careful, folks. He may throw feces at you. Might I remind you again that he’s an American.

(This is pretty much what a lot of people here probably think so why disappoint them by telling them that I’m reading Don Quijote in the original.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Potato Salad With Garlic & Chile Mayonnaise

I may have said this before but I will never buy mayonnaise again. It's too easy to make and the made-at-home variety is amazingly good. I used two cloves of garlic, a small chili pepper, about 3/4 cup of sunflower seed oil, 1/4 olive oil, two eggs, and a dash of salt. Zip this with a hand blender for about 10 seconds and that's it. I chopped the potatoes into cubes before I boiled them. I marinated some diced onions in vinegar to mellow them a bit. I also added some roasted red pepper that I made yesterday because my verdurería had a sale on them. This picture doesn't do the dish justice; lots of great food doesn't photograph well and lots food that looks great in pictures probably tastes like shit.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hollywood and Rich Assholes: A Love Story

Normal Folks: House from Home Alone

It’s blatantly obvious that Hollywood doesn’t think that normal, middle class people and below are capable of anything remotely resembling a meaningful life, let alone relationships. I can’t limit my critique to only Hollywood because independent filmmaker Woody Allen is the most class-conscious asshole in the entire world of cinema, so I'll target my criticism to include almost all American filmmakers.

A movie industry which exclusively features rich assholes isn’t a Spanish tradition, at least not yet, thank god.When we peak into the lives of Spanish people in movies we see people who live pretty much like all of us, or the vast majority of us.This in itself doesn't mean that the movies are better but at least they down sow the seeds that brainwash people into thinking that being rich is the only way to live. Even in many American movies that are supposed to be about working people the filmmakers can't seem to get the lifestyle quite right. In Pedro Almodóvar's Volver (my favorite of his films) the protagonist lives in an apartment that any middle class Spaniard can relate to, dirty dishes and all.

I think that a big part of the political problems America faces today has to do with the way movies portray rich people as being superior to folks who don’t have multiple dwellings and travel by private jet. “All men are created equal” isn’t exactly the message Hollywood is out to sell to the American public. Instead the rich are seen as what we all should aspire to be.  Ask 100 young kids today if they will be rich someday and I would imagine that 100% will answer “Hell yes!”  The current myth is that Hollywood is a hotbed of liberals much like we have a "liberal" press.  There may be a few outspoken liberal celebrities and there are many fine liberal journalists but they don’t make a liberal film industry and we sure as shit don’t have a liberal press in America.

I recently saw the film Last Night (dubbed into Spanish as Sólo una Noche) which was pretty terrible as far as the story and writing are concerned, but even more disturbing—at least for me—was that the only way the filmmakers could see to reveal their artistic vision was to have the characters inhabit the world of the wealthy. As if people who don’t live in designer apartments in Manhattan simply aren’t capable of having personal lives worthy of attention.  

I’m not saying that they need to make every movie about desperately poor people but would it kill these bourgeois pricks to portray the middle class as an honorable station in life? Sex and the City made it perfectly clear that women couldn’t achieve orgasm unless they had a Gucci bag clasped firmly in one hand.  The four harpies on the show practically masturbated to fashion symbols that will be Goodwill fodder in six months. Yet this frivolous, consumerist bullshit doesn’t seem to anger many among those of us who shop off the rack. Why is this? Why is there almost zero class resentment among the lower middle class and the poor towards the ruling elite? Hollywood and the “liberal” media have done a great job of making everyone believe that they, too, can make it into this stratosphere of wealth and privilege—this at a time when upward mobility has been stagnant for a great portion of the populace and wages a re falling.

I’m sure that all of the prol slobs who make up the Tea Party think that they are one lotto ticket or one tax break away from entering the halls of the true Republican policy makers.  What they never seem to realize is that the only way they can rub elbows with the true Republicans is if they strap a leaf-blower on their back and do Dick Cheney’s yard work.  Despite what Ronald Reagan implied, we can’t all be millionaires. The pie ain’t that big nor will it ever be.

So just fucking stop it, Hollywood. Stop rubbing our noses in the sports cars, vacation homes in the Hamptons, private jets, hyper-expensive restaurants, and all of the other life-style porn you shove down our throats with every shitty movie you crank out. Besides being artistically mediocre—for the most part—you are damaging the psyche of the American public when you brainwash people into thinking that rich is the only way to live.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Slide Whistles Comfort Victims of Horrific Misfortune

I’m sitting in my corner café and the TV is tuned to some retarded show of home videos, most of which depict acts of sheer horror: smashed crotches, bull gorings (this is Spain, after all), nasty falls, car wrecks, etc. As the videos are of the amateur variety, they are without sound or the audio was of poor quality and therefore not able to be reproduced on television. Don’t worry, though, the show has conveniently dubbed in screams, cries of agony, a feline screech as we see a cat fall from a very high branch, police sirens, cars braking, and various crash noises. In the “One man’s tragedy is another man’s biggest laugh of the day” department, they use one of those slide whistle things as sound effects for most of the more gruesome accidents which probably end in a trip to the hospital, if not the morgue. All of the victims of these shows please remember: we aren’t laughing at you; we’re laughing at pieces of you.

If only in real life we could have slide whistle noises to soften the blows of unspeakable calamities! I’m sure that the victims of some of history’s greatest catastrophes would have been comforted in their final moments if they could have heard slide whistles and that funny Benny Hill tune*.  After all, if we can’t laugh at the most gruesome of life’s disasters then we have failed to understand that the punchline for all of us in life is death.

So I’ve started carrying around a slide whistle so as to be prepared if I ever bear witness to some disastrous event. I’m even going to get a little holster for the whistle so that I can pull it out really quickly just in case someone drops a piano on me from the fifth floor. I figure that if I’m going to be squashed like a cockroach by a large musical instrument I may as well provide a little last-second entertainment for the people around me on the sidewalk (it makes me happy to think of someone frantically trying to get a slide whistle out of a holster to add a bit of humor to their own demise instead of, oh I don't know, stepping out of the way). I’m also going to market a keychain MP3 player that instantly queues the Benny Hill theme song in the off chance you’re ever involved in a plane crash or a mining cave-in. If we’re going to make television entertainment out of the tragedy of others we may as well get a few last-second laughs at our own expense.  And if anyone is filming us they won’t have to dub in sound effects.

*The song is called “Yakety Sax” and was written by James Q. “Spider” Rich and Boots Randolph. The version on Benny Hill is by Ronnie Aldrich.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Gazpacho Andaluz


It’s not really that hot but I made gazpacho today. I prefer it on the most blisteringly hot days of the year but at this rate that ain’t gonna happen this summer. Today’s high is predicted to be an anemic 32° which isn’t my idea of hot, that’s more like the old lady standing behind you in the supermarket hot. I'm not saying that the old lady is good-looking hot; I mean the old gals like to say how hot it is. It may not even be hot for the old gal and perhaps she’s just making polite conversation about the weather so I'll ease up on her. And it’s not like I’m any great shakes as far as conversation goes. When football is out of season I’m practically a mute.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Pesto Garbanzos with Stuffed Piquillo Pepper


I think this dish actually looked better when I plated it up yesterday for a lunch at my new apartment than it does in this photo taken this morning (no battery yesterday). I stuffed the piquillos* with chorizo and soft cheese and pan sautéed them in olive oil (of course!).  I made the pesto with hazelnuts just because pine nuts are horribly expensive and I don’t want to support the pine nut industrial complex. I need to start harvesting my basil plant in earnest now because I think it has reached its peak. This recipe is a keeper and will be on the menu of my restaurant.

*Piquillos are peppers grown in northern Spain, roasted and canned. They are sweet and spicy and amazing. The name means little beak because they are triangular when processed and look like a bird’s beak, sort of.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Laundry Fatality?

I'm not trying to jinx myself; all that I'm saying is that it wouldn't be completely unthinkable for a person to fall out of the window while reaching out to hang clothes on the last line. I'm not talking about me, of course.  I'm talking about someone without my cat-like reflexes and uncanny sense of balance, although it wouldn't have to be the clumsiest person in the world to have a nice fall from the fourth floor. Note to self: never fucking hang clothes out or retrieve clothes after drinking! This leaves me a failry short part of my day to do this bit of housework but I'll make do.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

My So-Called Facebook Friends

Just so that you aren’t the last ones to know, when I talk about my friends on Facebook I do that ironic thing with my fingers so as to put the word “friends” in quotations. I don’t mean to insult anyone, and certainly not anyone who lives, let’s say, close enough to come over and kick my ass, but I think we need to separate the Facebook friends from real friends. So what constitutes a “real” friend?

I looked up the word “friend” at an online dictionary to find a concrete definition. Above the actual definition there was an advertisement for a singles site called Gay Latin Friends but that’s not really pertinent here, at least I don’t think it is. Friend is defined as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.  I suppose this is true in a sort of pencil-neck dipshit kind of way.  This word is too personal to allow it to be explained by an online dictionary that puts friends below gay Latin dating. I’ll take a stab at it myself (I mean defining the word “friend” and not that other thing).

To me a friend is someone who is always there to help you. Speaking hypothetically let’s say I came by your house at 4.30 am and needed help getting rid of a body.  A friend won’t bother me with petty recriminations; he or she will just chuckle something like “not again!” as they make their way out to the shed to fire up the wood chipper.  Real friends have sheds and wood chippers, unlike most of you posers on Facebook. Does anyone have a few extra gallons of bleach?

It’s part of what I expect if “friend” is a role that you truly seek in the drama that is my life. And what does it mean for you to be my friend? I can tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I will drive you to the airport even after you have flown thousands of miles to visit me. What we did the night before that made me too morbidly hung-over to drive you the next day to the damn airport is what really makes us friends, even the shit that neither of us can remember. Besides, think of the valuable lesson I taught you on the importance of taking public transportation. You’re welcome! (The preceding is based on a true story. Sorry, Bob.)

I moved recently and I don’t recall having an army of Facebook friends pitching in. Not one dead houseplant, not one box of half-empty bottles of booze, not a single pile of filthy clothes made it from old point A to new point B courtesy of anyone on Facebook. And don’t give me the lame excuse of “But I live in a different hemisphere.” Plan ahead!

I realize that it isn’t your fault. It was Facebook that decided on all of us calling each other friends. You can’t blame them either because they obviously picked that word solely for the sake of expediency. It’s not like instead of “friend” they could have used a more accurate description like “some complete asshole that I barely know but is now the boss of my old college roommate”  or “Man, if Facebook only had a ‘kill’ button instead of a ‘like’ button I could cure all of my problems.” Just keep that in mind the next time someone sends you a message to please be their “friend.”

Monday, August 01, 2011

Summer in Spain Is...


So I defy anyone to try and work in Spain during the month of August.  This doesn’t include people in the tourism and restaurant industry—I work my bartenders like rented mules during August. People in the bar business know that they have to take advantage of August to make up for the month when people like me don’t drink very much, you know, that month that comes every four years at the end of February. That month sucks.  Most people in Spain don’t do a damn thing in August.  Conservatives in America would say that Spain is a socialist hellhole that forces people not to work for an entire month because everyone knows that freedom means working 12 months a year at Wal-Mart. Here are a few things about August in Iberia.

Summer in Spain is…

…the only time I drink sangria.  The truth is that I would prefer a glass of chilled red wine to sangria or tinto de verano (red wine mixed with sprite). Sangria just looks more festive than a boring bottle of wine so I appreciate the esthetics.

…when my feet look like hell. I don’t actually ever wash them, not officially. I mean that I don’t scrub them. They just get wet when I’m in the shower; sort of like collateral damage. I never wear shoes in the summer except when I put on my cycling shoes for my daily ride. The rest of the time I just wear flip flops as evidenced by the tan lines on my feet. I bought a couple pairs of sandals that I thought would be a little dressier for the summer months but I just can’t be bothered to put them on. I need to go to Jo’s new place Kiss My Feet. I’ve never had a manicure or a pedicure. It’s like a friend said when I mentioned that I had never dyed my hair and was thinking about it in order to be a little less gray. “It’s a slippery slope, that first time.” He didn’t say just what I would be sliding into but I got the point.

…better than being stoned to death for adultery in Pakistan by an angry mob. And why do they always say “angry” mob? Is there another kind of mob, especially the kind that is stoning people to death? I can’t think of anything that would motivate me to throw a rock at someone. And it’s insane to think that people in that part of the world stone other people because they catch them fucking. Do America’s military elite think that we can change these people with our army? I’d like to meet just one American general that would admit that we can’t kill our way out of every foreign policy problem.