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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The (my) Last Word on the Spanish Corner Bar

What if I suddenly found myself living somewhere other than Spain? What would I miss about life here? That is the wrong question because I would miss almost everything about living here so I’d need to narrow down the parameters somewhat. What things would absolutely break my heart to live without?

How could I possibly live without the Spanish corner bar? Like fingerprints and snowflakes they’re all alike yet different in subtle ways. Like an FBI fingerprint expert I’ve spent many years studying these differences. I’ve become if not a connoisseur then at least an inspired amateur on the subject. In my exhaustive investigation into Spanish bars I’ve developed my own set of rules and insights which I feel I should share with the world.

Here is a very abridged list of reasons why I go to certain bars.

-       If people are nice to me when go into their bar I feel an overwhelming obligation to return. When I first arrived being “nice” meant listening to my bad Spanish but now means people have to listen to me pontificate on shit like the Catalan independence movement or why they should monitor off-sides electronically and get rid of the line judges.

-           A good terrace is the easiest bait if you want to lure me into your place. Tables with shade in the summer and sun in the winter are always welcome. Sitting outside is something bordering on a basic right among people in Spain no matter the weather. I love reading at a café and I enjoy the hum of the background noise.

-           The clientele can be a deciding factor when choosing a hangout but this rarely is a concern when you’re just popping in for a coffee or a quick beer in the afternoon.

-           A big reason why you may want to stop in for something in a bar is to use the bathroom. Public bathrooms are in short supply so if you find yourself out in the street when nature calls the corner bar is the best alternative to getting arrested for urinating in public.

-           Almost all football matches in Spain are on pay channels that most of us lowly slobs don’t have at home. If it weren’t for football matches in bars I’d never see most of my friends.

-            I use this excuse for going to a bar less than almost every human in Valencia but most bars have wifi. I’m one of the few people who don’t feel compelled to look at the internet when I close the door of my apartment and enter out into the world.

-         Coffee. I have never understood why they have Starbucks here in Valencia when you can get great coffee almost anywhere.

-           Food is way down the list for me when it comes to reasons I go to cafés simply because I don’t eat out much. With that said, a bar with a great looking tortilla de patatas earns my respect.

-            Beer, wine, brandy, gin and tonics, rum, and other alcohol-based beverages are one of my top reasons to go to bars.

-    In Spanish they call it climatización which means heat and air conditioning—two things I don’t have at home. Valencia has beautiful weather where these comforts are rarely needed so this excuse is only valid for about four weeks a year. The good news is—as you have been reading—I have a lot of reasons for going to bars.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Musical Rant?

Setting all hyperbole aside for just a second or two, I have to say that for me this little tune by J.S. Bach is perhaps the crowning achievement of all art on this humble planet of ours. How’s that for praise?

Although far above my pay-grade on the piano (for now!) I love this arrangement for trio.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Calidad de Vida

In any discussion with someone from Spain about lifestyle they will always mention “calidad de vida” or quality of life. The reason that I’ve used the Spanish phrase in the last sentence isn’t to show off my fluency in the language but because it seems to mean something completely different here in Spain than how we define it in the USA—if we even bother to bring it up at all. By “quality of life” people here—both rich and not rich—are talking about things that they feel are absolutely essential for happiness. What the Spanish are talking about are things like spending time with friends and family, sitting on a terrace in the evening having a drink, sharing great food, and mostly having the time to enjoy all of these important activities.

When the Spanish talk about “quality of life” it has nothing—or almost nothing—to do with material things. It’s not as if people here aren’t materialistic but they seem to be able to distinguish pretty well between the things they want to buy and the things that make their lives worth living. People here like nice houses and cars but most people I know have a firm grip on what is non-negotiable when it comes to their personal happiness.

People will say that they work to live, they don’t live to work. I heard this in Spanish my first week in this country from the guy cutting my hair. As much as people may covet material things they aren’t so eager to give up the things they view as crucial for quality of life to get those store-bought pleasures. Most people in Spain will choose taking a vacation over working as time off from work borders on the sacred.

I think the take-away point of this is that it’s extremely important for people to accurately identify the things they need in their road towards their personal pursuit of happiness and those things rarely coincide with the obstacles the folks in marketing place in our way. Our path in this direction isn’t necessarily the road less taken but I’m almost sure it isn’t toll road.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Spectacular Autumn

We've had only one day of rain that I can remember in the last five weeks or so. I'm still wearing shorts and flip-flops and sleeping with a fan.

Friday, October 06, 2017

It's Not the Time to Talk About Gun Control...Again!


Doing absolutely nothing about mass shootings seems to be working so well so why fix something that isn't broken?

Yet another horror committed with legal firearms and another tsunami of propaganda from the NRA and their many minions about how guns aren’t the problem. I'd call this routine a broken record but you can only break a record so many times before it would turn to dust yet mass shootings occur every few days in the U.S. NRA, your message has been received, loud and very clear. None of our politicians can even mention the word “gun” without surrounding it with stories of their families, or their childhoods, or their adult lives that are filled with these wonderful killing tools. 

I love how American conservatives always say after some horrific outrage like the Las Vegas massacre that we shouldn’t politicize the issue of gun control and how we need to wait, how we need to “honor the dead,” how it’s just not the right time. That’s like saying we shouldn’t patch a leaky roof when it’s raining even though it’s suppose to rain constantly for eternity.

So gun control doesn’t work…except when it does work. I happen to live in a country that sees almost nothing in the way of gun violence. “If guns are illegal only criminals will have guns.” Sorry, not true. Crimes in Europe rarely have guns as a component. I live in a city of over 800,000 and I’ve never heard of a gun-related crime. But if gun control doesn’t work there must be some other reason why guns aren’t an issue here.

I wouldn’t waste a second of my time arguing over gun control in the USA because it’s gone way beyond rational discussion. Gun ownership has become some sort of creepy sacred right. Don’t believe me, just look around on YouTube to see all of the fetishizing of guns. For the last 20 years in America we have been losing our minds over guns and are completely unable to legislate any sort of restrictions on guns and ammunition. Can someone please explain to me how a man can buy dozens of firearms in a year without raising some sort of flag to authorities? The gun nut crowd wants to make silencers legal. Because mass shooting are too loud?

I think we should start with movies. All too often guns are seen as a great way to solve a problem. Even the cops in movies abuse guns. Don’t believe me? Name five movies in which the cops arrest the criminals.

Guns and violence should be at least as taboo as sex in movies so it someone dies violently it should be rated XXX. You can’t show a woman’s breast on TV for a split second but families will sit down and watch Terminator together, a movie in which at least 50 people are murdered including a bunch of cops.

The press on all sides are frantic to find “the motives and reasons” for these mass shootings. “99 percent of the cases,” the perpetrator of a drastic killing offers some kind of justification, however twisted,” as reported in a NY Times piece. We seem more comfortable thinking that the murderer was a Muslim terrorist or a racist or a White Power fanatic or whatever. I would say that they all have only one reason for these outrages: they are mentally ill. Motives and reasons shouldn’t preoccupy us for a second. 

The thing is that up until now we’ve only had these lone, dickless morons on killing sprees. What happens when a semi-organized group decides they want to use guns to effect change? If one disgruntled idiot can buy dozens and dozens of high-powered rifles what would happen if some religious cult did the same thing? 

Here is my prophecy. If and when people start targeting rich people in their massacres we’ll see gun legislation enacted so fast it will make you scratch your head and wonder what happened to the Second Amendment. Until that time I suggest running serpentine and, although it’s not my thing, praying.

*I resisted the caption "Viva Las Vegas!"