Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Espana! A place that can kill you dead.

So Espana del Norte is terrific, and I know it better than I know France. I think if I spoke Spanish (Kindy) instead of French, I would prefer to live in Spain. The people are nicer, the weather is warmer and you can buy ice cubes. Big huge cold ones. French ice cubes are small, they are guarded as preciously as gold, and they smoke. Their ice (Damian) smokes cigarettes.
So I flew into Madrid on July 4th and met up with Antonio, who I know from New York, but who is actually from Vigo, which is in Galicia, which is in Spain at the top left. We were met at the airport by (Tressa) two other Antonios, one an (Devon) older Antonio, and one in girl form. And that is almost all I remember. At Ant's house, his dad had me try all kinds of local ciders and sausages. Ant's dad (also called Antonio), likes me a lot, largely because of my policy of "eat first, ask questions later." I adopted that policy in Africa with chicken heads and what not, and it has served me well ever since. There's nothing people like more than to see you wolf down local cuisine with great relish, real or feigned.

That night we went to the (Kryn) home of The Duke of Spain, called Alberto. He has a terrific house and a terrific grill and a terrific way to do a 4th of July bbq. (Gregan) They use two ingredients: meat and salt. (Keaton) And it is the best meat I have ever gorged on. Then it got late and I thought we would go home. I was so wrong and I would remain wrong for the rest of the trip.
We went to a bar called "Joakim the Drinkin Line." I don't know why it is called that. There is no one called Joakim, there is no line, but there is the other thing. Also the owner is called Kiko and he is a former rugby player and his favorite pastime is hitting me. A lot. And when he can tell I'm about to cry he says, "Kidding! Kidding!" which somehow doesn't soften the blows.
The next day we went to another of the Duke's residences. I met the Duke's sister, who is terrific to behold. She has a boyfriend who is a tool, but hopefully something bad will happen. Not to him, of course, but to their stupid union. (or to him.) (like he falls off a cliff and no one sees it so no one saves him and he floats away to another country) (or drowns).
The next day we got into Alberto's car and started our trip to Pamplona. First we stopped in Madrid. Went to a jazz club that was EEEper-coool (french for "fresh"), and there was this awesome band just improvising the shiz out of their set. But in the background, at first quite faintly, was this whale song. Turns out a "groupie" of sorts (more like group-ER, really(aquatic reference, again), was also freestyling, using the only instrument she knew--her voice. And what a voice it was. If you consider the three best singers of all time to be 1. Sloth from Goonies, 2. Hellen Keller, and 3. A zombie, then this lady would be right up your alley. I took a video, and will try to post it, but I'm not too good at that sort of thing. In this instance, you'll thank me.

The next morning we pressed on toward Pamplona. I tell you, the best way to travel Spain is with some Spaniards. Seems obvious, I know, but if you're just traveling with friends it's easy to forget to pack the Spaniards. Every town we passed is known for some specialty or another, so besides getting free history lessons, I also got to pull over and sample each specialty. If I had a nickle for every time Alberto said, "Eteepical Espaneesh" as he pointed to some ham or some cheese or an octopus on a toothpic, the trip would have paid for itself. Besides foods, towns can also be known for behaviors. We had to stop at Bourgos, because Antonio wanted to demonstrate something he calls "The Bourgos Stare."

He knows people from every town of Spain, sometimes several, and so his stereotypes of each town are based on first hand experience. Apparently the residents of Bourgos have a creepy way of looking past your eyes and into the back of your head. We stopped at a cathedral/bar (gotta love spain) to test the theory. The waitress came with our beverages, and I stared her down as best I could. Antonio didn't dare. I confess, I saw nothing but a waitress with an average stare. Not so much as a lazy eye. But there was a creepy feeling about the town itself. Probably all due to Antonio talking about it for the hour before we got there.

After Bourgos, the next stop was Pamplona for the great festival of San Fermin. San Fermin is Spanish for "You will never see your family again." The place is crawling with disaster. Antonio said he feels like it would have been a good place to go if we were ten years younger. I concurred thoroughly, but that didn't stop any of us from trying our darnedest to die. The drink of choice is called Kalimotxo (Kali-MO-cho), and is a mixture of cheap boxed wine and coca-cola.(Kindra) It's like sangria, but more ghetto, and it eats your stomach like Dow scrubbing bubbles. So then, you have a beverage, you are in your nice white clothes with your red belt and scarf, and you are standing around just waiting. (Damian) Waiting for your white clothes to become purple because passers by have leather sacks called Botes, filled with wine and they spray you down as if to say, "Welcome! I hate you! No, just kidding!" It's confusing. Then you dodge pieces of broken glass and projectile vomit and you walk over bodies and tell yourself they're just sleeping. Just sleeping on a comfortable bed of fresh blood, and the bed is growing steadily and their ankle is twitching but that's just the caffeine from the Kalimotxo. And this (Tressa) continues until 8am when the bulls are released. (The Twins) They block off the streets and open the gates. Everyone panicks and runs and then the bulls go past and then they go, "hmm. not that dangerous after all." So they run after the bulls and see if they can't get injured somehow anyway. Then they go home to sleep from about 10am to 5pm, then have chicken broth for breakfast and walk around gingerly until the strength to repeat the process returns. (Keaton)
So, in case you didn't realize, the "they" in that story was me. And Ant and Alberto. Along the way we met up with all sorts of characters, including Jeff, a 60-something englishman who used to be a roadie for some big metal bands. One of the first things he said to us was "Sorry mates, I haven't any cocaine on me, just hash. If you want weed, cocaine or anything else (wink), ask me son there." Don't know what the wink meant. Heroin? Also: parenting fail, anyone? His son looked like he was about 15 and had this look on his face like, "Don't leave me alone with him. You don't know what he's like." Well, we just said no of course, like my mom and the one-boobed first lady always said.

We met all kinds of lovely ladies, and I learned the most useful word in the Spanish language: Piquitos. You say it with a camera in your hand and you instantly get kissed. It's like a spell that no Spaniard can resist.
On one of the nights we went to a bullfight to see what happens to those handsome animals that sometimes kill people on their way to the ring. We got seats up with the season ticket holders, many of which are old ladies. Old, bloodlusting ladies. They sure do appreciate a good kill. Bullfighting is, and here you're getting it from someone widely suspected to be a murderer himself, a barbaric sport that can be pretty hard to watch. First a dude on an armored horse comes out and stabs the bull's hump with a long stick, which gets some applause for some reason. Once in a while the bull will turn the horse over, which is exciting. Then the guy with the little colored pokey things comes out and buries a few in the bull. Pretty cool. Then the matador comes out to finish the job. By this time the bull's pretty weak, so the matador can pull off tricks like dodging a charge on his knees or without looking at the bull. Then he takes his killing sword and tries to stick it into the charging bull's neck. Of the 6 bulls we saw, only 1 was successfully killed that way. To reward the good kill, the matador got an ear of the bull. Apparently if he does really well he gets both ears. A super good kill and he gets the ears and the tail. Such dreams! Maybe if I were rewarded with body parts I would do better at my job too, instead of blogging all day.
Ok, so that's a post for today. I still have to cover the rest of the trip to Spain and Bastille day and Beaune, but this is already too long. I sprinkled your names throughout because I know how you like to skim through and see yourselves. It's the only way to keep you interested. I want you to think about that for a while.


  1. I know what you mean about difficult to watch. A friend sent this link, proffering it as "the height of human and animal cooperation" and it really just made me want to barf:


  2. Thanks for that trip down memory lane. Amy and I loved Spain when we galavanted across Europ in our youth with our backpacks. We thought briefly of moving to Barcelona. Those bull fights are a lot gorier than you prepare yourself. Amy and I were cheering for the bull, which drew pretty hostile glances from the gazillion people we were wedged in with. I never went bull-running, though. Well done, your list is getting pretty short now, isn't it? What's next for you? Mt. Everest? Outer space? Making out with a midget? I'm not jealous...

  3. Now that is some great singing!

  4. Nice. Gracias amigo.

    I will try to post some pictures and videos from the singer.

    To watch real "american" cruelty:




  5. I don't think that second link was what you meant to put up. And for the first one...all I can say is deeeeeelicious!

  6. Ooops, no it wasn't but you get the idea...

  7. Thanks for the explanation of the random naming (of siblings) throughout your story. I ALMOST didn't get to the end without calling for some explanation!
    As always, a great story... :)

  8. Mantonio!

    I love chicken AND steak!

  9. thank goodness spain doesn't produce poultry!

  10. Yeah, thank god all the chickens come from Buffalo...


  11. I was thinking why it's been so long that you haven't posted on your blog, then I realized I hadn't yet commented on this post, and you are clearly waiting for me before continuing! My mistake. I enjoyed very much reading about Spain. I want to go there very much, so we should eat some meat there together sometime. You can visit me at your leh-zure, by the way, I now know oxford quite well (it's a small town). If you want me to have time to frolic about with you (and not be studying), this term ends in exactly 8 weeks, on the 5th of December. But you can come earlier than that if you don't mind my shedule. Thanksgiving would be lovely. I went punting last weekend, it was delightful.

  12. Hi, do u have a pic of Kiko? I´m looking for a former rugby player named kiko... i met him about 20 years ago in a world cup.
    Could you tell me if he is about 35 or a little older?