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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Kill the Poor

From today’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress on Wednesday to deal with the country's escalating budget deficit by cutting benefits for future Social Security retirees. Without action, he warned, long-term interest rates would rise, seriously harming the economy.

Now we are finally getting to the heart of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. To understand this war just remember to replace ‘terror’ with ‘middle class and below’ and it will all become clear to you. Why don’t we just do away with this whole universal public education nuisance? Bush has just given out the biggest tax cut for rich people in the country’s history yet this huge windfall has not resulted in the creation of many good jobs. Maybe it’s the tax cut we need to tear into and not the well-being of working Americans? For starters I say we start balancing the budget by shit-canning Greenspan and replacing him with a living, breathing human being.

A child could have seen what it is the Republicans have been after all along. They WANT the federal government to fail, they NEED local governments to collapse under the weight of under-taxed budgets. This has been their strategy from the beginning. Their vision is an America without taxes and without services for its citizens. Their America is basically a tax haven for the top 1%, a source of cheap and docile labor, and a market for the crappy capital goods that are being manufactured in places with even cheaper and more docile labor.

The problem with this model is that once they have completely destroyed the middle class—and they will—there will no longer be a market for capital goods. Not that Bush and Cheney could really give a shit about that; they already got theirs. We were just asked for $87 billion to prop up his quagmire in Iraq and now Bush is going to tell us we can’t afford to take care of the old people of our own country.

The crazy part of this administration is that a lot of poor people will vote for Bush because they think he is moral. He’s against fags getting married so that makes him a good guy. It will be ironic to see you on your knees giving $2 blow jobs to make ends meet when you are 65 years old because you voted for a guy who hates homosexuals but gutted your retirement.

P.S. Everyone must read John Ralston Saul's essay on the end of globalization in the March issue of Harper's (or for free here). Why is this the first essay published in this country by this brilliant thinker?

MORE COMMENTS

I might add these points to your historical reasons of why Americans hate "Socialism." During the post-populist, post-progressive and post-depression eras in America, conservatives and liberals rightly compromised as the social welfare state was created by FDR. A basic element of these compromises was the vocabulary Americans would use to describe their “Socialist Revolution.” Fearful of words used by Socialists (or worse, Communists), we decided to describe the social safety net by using words like “Unemployment Insurance, The Tennessee Valley Authority, the GI Bill,” et al. These programs were not called the “Tennessee Valley 5-Year Plan,” the “Job-Loss Welfare Subsidy,” or the “Veteran Surplus Job-Rationing Act” because as Capitalists, we had to name the programs with a determined legitimacy. Wage- and salaried-laborers were due the benefits because they had worked to deserve them; therefore, “insurance.” Water damming for rural electrification was a progressive project, therefore “authority.” The GI “Bill” was named with legal distinction, for those who had “earned” training through patriotic service. Of course, other social welfare programs—those that were not earned or deserved—were named “Aid to Families with Dependant Children,” “Food Stamps,” etc. These naming distinctions have a definite gender bias (men deserve insurance benefits; woman and children deserve welfare), but the major difference between American Socialism and most of European Socialism is that we Americans actually differentiate (for good and bad) between social welfare programs that pay for roads, public transportation, public schools, public medicine, unemployment compensation, food subsidies, farm subsidies, corporate subsidies etc., as if there is some division over who rightly deserves it (insurance), and who wrongly receives it (welfare). Americans demonize “dependency” as if it is some vile sickness—therefore, dependant welfare recipients are evil. And while KMPG accountants can quantify the complex value of lease-in/lease out deals for tax shelters, they cannot or will not quantify the value of a non-wage earner’s (stay-at-home-parent) value in monetary terms—for insurance purposes, for vacation benefits, or even for tax subsidies. For most students of Socialism—and for me—it’s ALL Social Welfare—and by definition, good. But for the private bureaucrat—who fancies himself or herself as a Capitalist—it’s public waste, unless it’s that big fat corporate subsidy. Squeal like a pig!

Farmer Ned

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Walking in the Rain

After two weeks in sunny Spain I’m back in cold and rainy Seattle. I like the weather here but I broke my commuter bike a week before my trip and my car is in a friend’s garage and not currently at my disposal. It is ironic that a fitness freak like myself, someone who thinks nothing of riding a bike 18 miles up a very steep mountain, someone who thinks that is fun, this same person balks at having to walk more than about two blocks. I walked my ass off while in Spain but in the 24 hours since touching down in Seattle I have taken about five fucking cab rides. What a big lazy turd I am.

I used to give a fellow cyclist friend of mine a lot of crap because instead of riding his bike to work he would take a cab. I used to tell him that taking a cab was pretty fruity and had he ever considered figure skating to work? I guess I don’t have anything against figure skating but if I had a kid and that kid was considering a life as a figure skater I would probably discreetly leave a bunch of pamphlets describing career opportunities in the crack whore field lying around his/her bedroom.

So all this means is that until I have some spare time to get my car, and then go replace my new commuter bike, I have only a few grim transportation options. I can ride my mountain bike around as transportation. Although this is a bike that I heap so much abuse upon during the mountain bike season, not thinking twice about riding it down a flight of stairs or totally trashing it on the muddy trails around Washington state, the idea of getting it dirty riding around town is fairly unthinkable. Forget about riding my racing bike for transportation. I would just as soon wipe up a grease spill in the kitchen with my best suit than get my Bianchi dirty just to get from point A to urban point B. That would be about as cruel as me asking a kindergarten kid to give me a piggyback ride around town.

Can someone please call me a cab?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Still in Spain

So almost by accident I went to Toledo. This is pronounced toe-lay-dough for all of us Americans who have mispronounced it our entire lives. Even though I speak fairly fluent Spanish it is difficult, at times, to unlearn things like this just as it is difficult for me to mispronounce English words while speaking Spanish to make it clearer for Spanish speakers. Try saying SEATTLE in Spanish.

I had a lot of really good luck on this trip so I half-expected something to go wrong at some point. I was half-expecting to spend a night sleeping in a train station. It wouldn’t be the first time. In Toledo I just walked around and enjoyed my good fortune of finding a great hotel.

I noticed that the were only going to be three trains out of Toledo the next day so I very wisely decided to check out the bus schedules the night before. I had been told that Spanish buses are really nice and economical. As it turns out there are buses to Madrid leaving every thirty minutes. This was one less thing I had to worry about as I did the tourist thing. If you want to read about Toledo get a guide book; I’m the world’s worst tourist. All I do is walk around, look at crap, and try to find good places to get a drink. I’m more interested in how people live than who lived here over the centuries. I couldn’t think of the name of the hotel I was staying in so I told the driver the name was some dead king or other.

This isn’t to say that I’m a complete incult as they say in French. It’s like the whole thing with the soccer hooligan stance I’ve taken since arriving here. I really don’t want to read about politics while I’m on vacation and I’m sure people don’t want to talk about politics with and American. Soccer has been a common cultural literacy I’ve been able to share with a lot of people here.

I woke up late and got to the bus station at about 11:25. I bought a ticket for 3.89 euros for a bus that left for Madrid at 11:30. It only took 45 minutes to get from Toledo to the bus terminal in the capital and from there we took the metro to our hotel. Transportation here has been incredibly fast, efficient, and economical.

While we were out doing the tapas thing with our Spanish friends we caught the second half of the Real Madrid, Valencia soccer match which was hyped as the game of the year. The outstanding French midfielder, Zidane, was sitting out a game for a bogus red card he was given in Real Madrid’s previous outing against Sevilla. Valencia scored on a corner kick and header at about 77 minutes into the game. In the final minute of the game Raul was fouled in the zone and Madrid was awarded a penalty kick. Figo is pretty automatic on these so the game ended in a very controversial tie.

After the game we took our Spanish hosts to our favorite place in Madrid: La Cerveceria Alemana in the Plaza Santa Ana. There is no German beer at this place, just a friendly staff, good food, and excellent Spanish vermouth on tap.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Public Transportation to the Rescue

There is a big contemporary art show going on in Madrid which is very bad news for an American who did't think to make a hotel reservation for Saturday night. No problem. I threw on my trusty North Face pack, jumped on the metro, and headed to the train station. I figured I would just take the train to Segovia or Toledo and get a room there for the night and return to Madrid the next day. This is Saint Valentine weekend and everybody and their sister decided to take the train for Segovia or Toledo which is very bad news for an American who didn't bother to make a hotel reservation for Saturday night.

I am always impressed about how well European cities hook up their public transport systems. The Madrid Atocha station is truly a marvel. There is a new terminal at the station which is wired directly into the metro system. All of the local trains (cercanias) are right off the metro stop. I bought tickets for Toledo, a one hour and fifteen minute train ride ($8 round trip). The train was completely full on this early Saturday morning. The track is closed in Toledo for repairs so we had to take a bus the last few miles.

I asked at the first hotel outside the station for a room and the woman told me that it would probably be a problem getting a room in Toledo. Not what I wanted to hear. It was now noon and there were only two returning trains: one at 1600 and another at 1800. We ditched our bags in a locker at the station and climbed up the hill to the historic section of Toledo to look for a room in earnest. I wasn't too stressed about the room thing--it isn't like I haven't slept in a train station before. Besides, it was a beautiful day and Toledo is an amazing city.

We walked across the Puente Alcántaro and through the Moorish gate into the city. In the second hotel I went to I asked the guy for a room for two. He said he didn't have a double. I said I was desperate and would take anything. The guy was apologizing to me about the room as he opened the door. I don't know what he was talking about because the room was beautiful and the hotel was in the heart of town. I would have taken a mop closet at this point.

Toledo was definitely worth the trip and now I'm very glad to have been forced to leave Madrid for the night. Its streets are incredibly narrow and a historic wonder is around each corner. The city is built on the shoulders of several civilizations including the Romans, the early Spanish, the Moors, the reconquering Spanish, and the present occupants.

Friday, February 13, 2004

España

These Spanish keyboards are kicking my ass which kind of cramps my writing since I have been over here.

Spain is a great country. It has been over 15 years since I have last visited and in that time it has prospered and improved on so many levels. This country is further proof that a social democracy can work to raise the level of ALL of its citizens—not just a few lucky rich. I haven’t seen anything remotely approaching a bad neighborhood. Universal public health care is guaranteed in the constitution. Where is the downside of this? Any of you right-wing, free market blow holes care to explain?

Probably the most remarkable thing about Spain is the fact that people spend so much of their lives in the street. From Thursday to Saturday everyone in the city of Madrid is out walking around from 8-2 in the morning. People are out shopping until 8 and then they start hitting the tapas bars in earnest. Saturday nights are truly something to see. The streets in the area of my hotels are completely packed with people. I could get used to this place. I am used to this place. Can someone sell everything I own back home and send me the check?

There is a bunch of stuff going on in Madrid this weekend so I still don't have a room for Saturday. I'm not worried about it because in the worst case scenario I can always go to the train station and go somewhere for the night like Toledo or Segovia--places I had planned on seeing before I went to Seville instead. And why do we call Sevilla Seville in English? It's not like it's difficult to pronounce in Spanish. I blame it on the xenophobic Brits but maybe I'm wrong.

The soccer match Wednesday night between Seville and Real Madrid was pretty crazy. Every bar in Seville that had the game on the TV was packed to the rafters. Seville won in an upset that had a few very controversial calls by the refs. It's not like they need much excuse to hype a soccer game here so we won't hear the end of this. Some other time I'll give more of my thoughts on soccer.

It was a blast going to se Real Madrid play at their home stadium of Santiago Bernabéu. We got free tickets from our Spanish friends. We took the metro to the stadium. We left a little early and when we walked up out of the metro tunnel the area was packed with fans. All of the area bars and restaurants were selling beer and food to people passing on the street. We got a couple of huge beers (3.5 euros) and tried to fit in with the Madrileños. It is tough to be from Madrid, what with all of the countless stops for beer and tapas, late night carousing, all preceded by late afternoon siestas. I'm trying my best to blend in.

The game was super. Ronaldo had his almost obligatory goal and Roberto Carlos had an awesome penalty kick goal. Their opponent, Málaga, is a pretty crappy team but we had fun. It also gave us better credentials with the locals as we were now official Real Madrid fans. They have another big game on Sunday night we will catch in some bar somewhere.

Madrid rivals Paris when it comes to art museums. I went to the Reina Sofia museum today which houses Spanish art from the 20th century. Lots of Picasso, Dali, Miro, and Gris. The building it is in interests me more than the collection. There is a big contemporary art fair going on this weekend which is making a mess of our hotel plans. If we don't get a room for tomorrow night we will take the train to Toledo for a day and come back to Madrid on Sunday. That eventuality doesn't bother me.

Madrid is a fantastic city, filled with great architecture and pleasant plazas. It must take God's permission to tear down a building here. I have observed construction techniques since I have arrived and I have seen lots of buildings that have been gutted completely except for the outer, older shell. Spaniards realize how important it is to hold on to their past no matter what the price.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Más Noticias

Screw cell phones, keep your laptop computer, put your palm pilot where the sun don’t shine; for 21rst century technology I’ll take this high speed train over anything. I take the train back to Madrid today. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to ride on one of the world’s best trains. I think it is so cool how all the Spanish people I have talked to have spoken of this train with so much pride—they should be proud. We Americans should really start looking to the future as far as tranportation goes—and the future leaves Seville every hour for Madrid. The future for me leaves at one o'clock.

The station in Madrid ‘es una maravilla’ as they say. It is a huge atrium full of plants, like a tropical island in the middle of the city. The station here in Seville is completely new. It is a little odd because it isn’t wired into the downtown like most train stations both in Europe and in the U.S. It was probably built to accommodate this high speed line from the capital.

The train is called the ‘Ave’ which means bird in Spanish. ‘Ave’ is the acronym for Alta Velocidad or high speed. As I mentioned before this thing really hauls. This train is so beautiful and modern that it makes me feel like some sort of country bumpkin. I have never been on any of the other European high speed lines. Did I mention that it was only 104 euros round trip?

Speaking of transportation I have noticed that Spanish drivers are very considerate of pedestrians. People are pretty courteous overall I would have to say.

The weather has been great every day that I have been here. It has been warm enough to sit outside here in Seville. I can’t imagine how many more tourists are here in the summer months. It isn’t too crowded this time of year.

Even with the dollar in the toilet this trip has been fairly inexpensive. I’ll list some prices that need to be converted into dollars. 1 Euro = $1.30 (Thanks George W. Bush for turning the dollar into the former Italian Lira)

Coffee .80€
Beer 1.20€
Wine 1.20-2.00€
Tapas 2.50-4.00€
Hotel  58€
Spanish Soccer Hooligan Newspaper (Marca) .90€

That is about all I have spent money on so far. I’ve never been much of a shopper when I travel. I have bought some books in Spanish and that is it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Cafés of Spain

: A VEGETARIAN´S WORST NIGHTMARE
Or
HOW MUCH IS THAT DEAD PIG LEG IN THE WINDOW?


It seems that I have spent most of my time here going from cafe to cafe, from bar to bar, and from restaurant to restaurant. They are pretty much all the same thing whether they are called cafe, taverno, or restaurante. Most of the time I stand at the bar like the Spanish people do. In Madrid I was puzzled at first because there are very few sit down-type cafes like in France and most of the rest of Europe that I have seen. Whe I got here in Seville I immediately noticed that there are lots of French-style cafes. I also soon realized that these are for the benefit of the foreign tourists.

Not wanting to be too much of a foreign tourist I spend most of my valuable bar time at the bar. It is easier to see what they have to eat because all of the food is laid out behind the bar. If you don't know the name for something you can just point and ask. After more than a week here I am starting to really get the hang of this whole tapas thing.

As the title suggests every bar in the country has at least four cured hams hanging up in the window or behind the bar. The hams are entire pig legs--feet and all--Jamon Iberico as they call it here. Every cafe also has a rack behind the bar to hold the ham so it can be sliced thinly to be served as a tapa. I almost can?t believe I'm saying this but I'm not that big a fan of the ham. I prefer the spiced, cured sausage, or chorizo as they call it in Spanish.

I would like to bring back an entire ham just because they are so cool looking. Customs surely wouldn't allow me to bring one into the country. I told a guy in a cafe last night that I want to be a jamontraficante, a play on words of narcotraficante (drug dealer).

I have gradually been getting my legs as far as speaking Spanish goes and now I am at the point where I have been able to joke in the language. I paraphrased Homer Simpson last night when I told a guy that wine is the answer and the cause of any problem. He asked if we cared for another glass of wine and I said no, we were out to search for more answers. Corny? Perhaps, but it made him laugh.

There is a big soccer match tonight between the local team here in Seville and our home boys of Real Madrid. One thing about being a sports knucklehead is that I always have something to talk about with the dudes behind the bar. Last night at the charmiong Los Coloniales cafe I put on a clinic in the art of bullshitting. Because we went to the match in Madrid on Saturday, we are like some sort of honorary soccer hooligans here in Spain.

There are a couple of soccer daily newspapers and the match tonight has been hyped fairly excessively. On the cover of today's AS paper they is a picture of David Beckham in full gladiator regalia under the title "The Battle of Hispalis." While I´m on vacation I would rather obsess about soccer news than read about our fucked-up situation in Iraq or how the primaries are going. That will all be there when I get back I suppose.

The orange harvest is in full swing here in downtown Seville. Guys are going around shaking the hell out of the trees and picking up the fallen fruit. I noticed that they call orange juice Zumo here (the Latin America word is jugo). I think this is because of the crazy juice machines that you see in all of the restaurants. You load the oranges on the top of these sort of Rube Goldberg contraptions, the fruits goes down a chute where it is cut in half, squeezed, and the rest is kicked out the side. The machines have a German name (I would assume) ZUMMit.

My feet are absolutely killing me today so I don't plan on doing much. I want to work on my Spanish by reading the novel I bought. The good news is that Spain is a great place to goof off and do nothing. I have become quite good at it, if I do say so myself. Perhaps I won't make quite so many stops for tapas tonight, I won't search out quite so many answers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Sevilla

I guess that it's Tuesday. It is around noon; a good time to catch up on this thing. Since my last post we have visited the palace of El Escorial and a huge monument built by Franco to honor those who fell in the Spanish civil war, went to the stadium in Madrid to watch Real Madrid beat Málaga, had a Mexican dinner at Marta and Jacobo?s house, took the bullet train from Madrid to Seville, and walked all over hell and back here in Seville.

This is shaping up into one of the best trips I have ever taken. As soon as Jacobo mentioned that there was a bullet train to Seville I knew that I would have to take it. We mentioned that we were planning to visit either nearby (to Madrid) Segovia or Toledo. Jacobo and Marta said that they were nice but Seville is the true treasure. I am glad for their suggestion because the train ride alone was remarkable. It cost 104 Euros for the round trip. The train covers about 538 kilometers (334 miles) in two hours and twenty minutes with one stop in Cordoba?that is 230-kph average speed. The train is so smooth that there are no ripples in your coffee when you let it sit on the bar.

Our Spanish hosts also scored us tickets to the Real Madrid match. The Madrid team is so stacked it isn't even funny: Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, and David Beckham. Ronaldo had his goal (es una maquina "he is a machine" a barman told me). On a penalty kick Beckham, the usual choice to take it, stepped aside to let Roberto Carlos fire a torpedo that went in the goal. People in Seville are talking about that goal three days later. Madrid plays Seville tomorrow night so it will be fun to watch the game here. Call this my soccer hooligan vacation.

My Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds. Sunday evening at the dinner party I felt relaxed and actually made a lot of jokes in Spanish. I think it is OK to plagiarize myself so I used my joke about Vicente Fernandez, a Mexican folk singer. As I said, the dinner party theme was Mexico so Jacobo was playing a CD of Vicente. I am a huge fan of Vicente and I told the guests that all of his songs are sad. Women are always dying from stray bullets in shootouts defending their honor but an even bigger tragedy is when a guy?s horse dies.

The biggest reason to follow soccer while we are here is that you have something to bullshit about with the restaurant people. I see it all as part of a cultural literacy I have to catch up on when I travel. I have also watched a lot of TV in the hotel when I get in late every night. Last night I watched the very retarded Shallow Hal dubbed into Spanish. I would never watch a dumb ass movie like that in English but I can justify it as a learning aid in Spanish. Just about everything I do here I can justify as a learning experience.

The train has its own magazine and I came across a great article by a wonderful Spanish writer, Susana Fortes. The article, Trenes de Memoria, said that the world is divided between two kinds of people: those who wave back at little kids who wave at trains and those who don?t. The only problem is that when you are going 230-kph you can?t even see little kids waving at you. I picked up Susana?s (a total babe from looking at her picture on the jacket) first novel, Querido Corto Maltes, which I have begun reading.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Spanish Cultural Overdose

I missed a couple of days so I will start from the beginning. The laundromat here has an Internet hook-up so I can kill two birds with one stone.

I won’t say much about the Prado museum, you can read about that in a book. It deserves another visit or two during my stay as about the only paintings I looked at were the Goya works depicting life in Spain in the 16th century. I don’t really care too much about painting except for how it can be a history lesson for those of us looking at it centuries later. I especially like paintings of people playing old musical instruments.

In one painting a Flemish artist had done a portrait of himself and his family, including one of his servants. In the self-portrait he is holding a lute. He seems to be bragging a bit about his stature as an artist (in those days they were considered artisans, like masonry workers or carpenters) and as a musician.  I suppose he’s just putting his best foot forward. He may have been resentful of his status below the aristocracy of the time and just wanted them to know that he was above them.

We went to the house of our Spanish friends in the evening. Marta and Jacobo live in the Argüelles area of Madrid which is only a few metro stops from our hotel. We sat in the living room and had Spanish wine and a selection of Spanish foods: tortilla de patatas, cured ham, sausages, cheeses, and a variety of olives. We talked for a few hours (all in Spanish which left my brother struggling a bit but he held his own) and then they had made plans for us to go out.

El Cafe de las Chinitas is walking distance from their apartment. Las Chinitas presents Flamenco artists every evening. The espectáculo starts at 10:30. When Marta first mentioned that we were going to a flamenco show I thought at first that it might be a little touristy. If I have ever been more wrong in my life I can’t remember when. It was one of the most intense performances I have ever seen anywhere. It didn’t hurt that the women were breathtakingly beautiful. It was such an incredibly quintessential Spanish experience that I had nothing to gauge it by while I was watching. As much time as I have spent studying Spanish and travelling in Latin countries I had never made this kind of connection to Spanish culture before. Perhaps I can articulate this better when I’m not sitting in a laundromat. I’ll get back to you.

We walked out of the restaurant a little before two. Marta turned to me and said, ¿Una buena hora, no? I had to agree that it was a good time of night. The streets were completely full of people at this late hour. On the walk back to our hotel we stopped off for a drink and a bite to eat. By the time I got back to the hotel in was after three and things were still going strong outside.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Bajo el Sol de España

The good news is that the warm weather and sunshine here in Madrid have conspired to knock the cold out of my body. The bad news is that it jumped over to my brother.

I wrote an essay a long way back about internet cafes and why we do not have them in the States--at least not many of them. At the airport in Seattle there is a dorky and expensive internet place with private booths--perhaps for viewing internet porn? A block from my hotel here there is a cool internet cafe with about fifty work stations. It is relatively inexpensive (2.5 Euros an hour i.e. about $2.90). You see them all over the place in most countries I have been to except the U.S.

The weather also conspired to keep me out of any museums yesterday. Instead of looking at art I walked about ten miles through various sections of the city. El Parque del Retiro is a huge city park just east of the Prado museum. Every big city should have such a big beautiful place to escape the chaos of the streets. Seattle has no centrally located park, something I notice almost every day.

I could really get used to this whole tapas thing. I have not eaten much else besides the little things you wolf down with a small glass of beer or a little wine. Last night we had a plate of spiced sausage and fried squid in La Cerveceria Alemana which is located in the lovely Plaza Santa Ana. This was our second visit to this place and the barman recognized us. He took good care of us both times. I told him that I wasn´t too familiar with the whole Spanish eating method so he walked us through a few items on the menu. At another spot off of La Plaza Mayor we had a beer and a plate of small fried fish (boquerones) similar to what I remembered from Greece. They are similar to sardines and you eat the whole fish--bones and all.

There is a great little jazz club near La Plaza Santa Ana, La Central, where we saw a jazz trio play their final set of the night. I see lots of jazz in Seattle and I am always amazed at the reverential treatment given jazz artists in Europe. La Central is a bar but everyone in the audience pays complete attention to the stage during the performance. No one talks, no one makes any noise. If you are an American jazz musician you owe it to yourself to get a gig over here.

It?s sunny and warm again today but I need to go to a museum just to give my feet a rest. We are meeting up with some Spanish friends of the family this evening at their house. I want them to take us out in their neighborhood of Madrid and show me how this whole tapas routine should go from start to finish. I will be ready to move here for keeps right about when I?m due back home.

Adios y hasta mañana.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Fútbol Fan

I became a Real Madrid soccer fan last night completely by accident. We took the metro from the Sevilla stop in our neighborhood a bit north to the Canal stop just to check out a new area of town. We walked about two blocks when I noticed a tapas bar that was completely full. As we got closer you could see the TV tuned to a soccer match. It turned out to be a match between Real Madrid and Sevilla. We found a spot at the stand-up bar, ordered a couple of cañas (small glasses of beer) and started screaming at the TV like all of the other Madrileños in the place.

It turned out to be an excellent game, especially for the Real Madrid fans. Their star striker, the brilliant Ronaldo, was out with the flu so their second-tier guy, the Argentine Solari, stepped up and made a spectacular goal to start the scoring. Every time Madrid´s new English sensation, David Beckham, touched tjhe ball the crowd in the bar sent up a shout of encouragement. Real Madrid also employs the services of the Zidane, the French superstar ball handler. We ordered beers and started swearing at the TV like everyone else.

Tapas bars seem perfect for sports viewing. The food is excellent and there is plenty of beer and wine. We had a mixed plate of chorizo (spiced sausage), cheese, olives, and anchovies. This bar specialized in seafood so with every beer you get a couple of mussels and olives. I´m starting to get the hang of this whole tapas culture which is more than I can say for the spanish keyboard I am using.

I was going to look around the Prado Museum yesterday but I didn´t want to squander the beautiful weather. We opted for an epic walk with countless stops for coffee, beer, food, wine, beer, and food. The thing is the weather is even better today--what´s a dilletante to do? I think I´ll look at some art today just to give my feet a rest.

The hotel couldn't be in a better location: a block from the metro, and walking distance to just about everything in old Madrid. Even though the dollar is in the toilet it isn't expensive here. I haven´t been able to use a credit card--or I should say I haven´t tried. I haven´t had a tab big enough to bother charging. Food and drinks are especially cheap. I don´t think we have spent over $20 at any one place.

The metro here is inexpensive, efficient, user-friendly, and clean. It is a lot more than that and I only wish Seattle had a mass transit system this cool. A ten ride ticket is only 5.6 Euros (1 Euro=1.33 Dollars). I have already taken the metro to most corners of the city where I will walk until my feet are ready to fall off. Then I will drop down into the metro and ride back to my station at Sevilla. The buses seem to be a great way to get around although I haven´t bothered with them just yet.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A Letter from Spain

I was going to write the title in Spanish but I can't get the Spanish keyboard to make the characters. I hate it when I am foiled by my own technical incompetence from being a pretentious asshole. I brought along my laptop but in the bonehead of the year award I left the power cord back in Seattle. I'll have a few hours of battery time if I want to use that soon to be dead weight.

First of all, the weather here in Madrid is wonderful. It's sunny and warm which is especially nice since I have a slight cold. I've been fit as a fiddle for the last year but as soon as I got in the cab to go to the airport I felt a cold coming on. On the flight over here I was pretty miserable--congested and restless. Once on the ground I rallied and now, a day later, I feel fine. Nothing that a little Spanish wine can't cure.

The one thing that I have noticed about Madrid is that it is a little less self-explanatory than Paris. In Paris you can't walk three steps without tripping over a cafe. In Madrid, finding a good place to park it and get a cup of coffee has been more of a challenge. It has taken me no time at all to adjust to life here in this great city.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Tech Talk

My computer is two years old. It serves me well but it is now far from state of the art. A friend just got a new computer with a Pentium 4 processor, a 160 gig hard drive, and a lot of other features I don’t understand. I feel obliged to ditch my old technology in favor of this miraculous future. I have started a list of all of the problems this new machine will be able to conquer in nanoseconds flat.

Which would win in a fair fight: A beaver or a muskrat?

What about a fight between two frisky squirrels and a sewer rat?

What’s cuter: a bulldog puppy or a baby in a clown suit?

Is Britney “out of control?”

Will J-Lo ditch Ben?

Does J-Lo’s mom call her J-lo? (I fucking hope not but I’ll go with the computer’s wisdom)

What's dumber: Pete Rose or his haircut?

Who’s hotter: Mary Ann or Ginger from Gilligan’s Island? (And why doesn’t anyone pick the old broad? I would totally hit that.)


If you have any questions for my new computer just ask away.

Neruda

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero quanto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oido.

De otro. Serâ de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque este sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y estos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.

Pablo Neruda

Bravo Neruda! I have never heard anyone call a woman a bitch in such beautiful fashion. What he is really saying is, "You fucked up, you took your love away from a man who is infinitely more capable of feeling and expressing love than any other you will ever know. How does that make you feel?" He will no longer write verses for this lost love. She may never meet another man who will write her beautiful lines of poetry but the Poet will certainly find another woman with whom to share his love. You tell me who the big loser is in that break-up? Forgetting is long, but forgetting is so utterly complete and final when you meet the next love of your life. This woman will come along and instantly no other woman will exist or will have existed.

(This entry was taken from my August 24, 1997 journal entry. Don't really recall the context. Like Neruda's lost love, it's someone I've completely forgotten.