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runswithscissors


Sunday, December 28, 2003

[Continued from yesterday's entry]

And flow the conversation did, at least among the Spanish speakers. The Romanians mostly listened, though I suspect that would have changed if he'd had some facility with Castellano. He had a tendency to mutter comments to himself as his eyes followed the conversation around the table, the two of them occasionally whispered commentary to each other after one of her translations, sometimes laughing quietly as they leaned together to confer.

Conversation turned to the subject of machismo. I can't tell you how we wound up there, I can only report that all three South American males made it clear they considered the women who lived in machista cultures to be responsible for a full 50% of that social dynamic. Maybe more than 50%. Could have been a pre-emptive thing, setting that opinion forth as strongly as they did -- getting the boot in before any females took it upon themselves to begin dumping responsibility on the guys. Teté accepted it diplomatically, acknowledging some of the guys' argument before using that as a stepping-off point. A smart cookie.

Tracy looked unhappy with the general tenor of the South American male position, though everyone's stance softened some with further talk. The Romanian guy became noticeably restive until I gave him an opening to speak up in English. Environment trumps genetics/gender in determining who we all are, what we all do, he said. The rest of the table listened to a translation of that, agreed in a shoulder-shrugging way, the conversation immediately reverted to Spanish, galloping off to topics like politics, the holidays, the state of our respective countries, critiques of Spain/the Spaniards (there being no Spaniards present to defend themselves).

And so it went. Midnight arrived, cheeks were kissed, wishes of Feliz Navidad exchanged. Food, cider, champagne got inhaled. Dessert appeared, disappeared amid good-natured struggles over who got to wield the knife and distribute which kind of cake to whom. The Romanians retired to their bedroom around 1 a.m., I began to lose steam around 1:30. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the Venezuelans excused themselves, I said good-night, found myself heading out of the building with Juan and Henry, riding downstairs in what may be the single most cramped elevator I've ever sidled into (resulting in brief, unexpected physical intimacy with my fellow crampees).

Needless to say, all the conversation spoken in all the various accents (with varying intelligibility to my ears, depending on the speaker) gave my Spanish a serious workout. The quality of my comprehension fluctuated, depending on the speaker, my ability to respond came and went, as if I needed to withdraw at times before I could re-engage without making too much of a mess with my middle-level Castellano. I was ready to go home when I got out of there, and for the first time in a while felt glad to get away from having to speak Spanish.

The 25th found me in bed until noon, as decadent a Christmas morning as I've ever spent. Dozing, reading, dozing some more. At two o'clock, I stood outside la Estación Príncipe Pio over on Madrid's west side, waiting to board a bus that would take me out to Villa Viciosa, one of the city's many 'burbs. Where my landlords, John and Pat, live. Where we would rendezvous at their son's home for Christmas dinner (me hauling the now customary bottles of cider and champagne). 'Get there around 2:30,' John told me when we spoke a day or two earlier. The bus dropped me off in the town center just after 2:30. Bobby, the son, had offered to come pick me up. I pulled out my cellphone, dialed. He answered, we had a brief, almost terse exchange. I said I was there, he said he'd be along to get me, we hung up.

The temperature had slid up into the 40s, sunlight poured down in abundance. A sizeable fountain not far up the road did its thing with joyous abandon. Couples walked by arm in arm, some pushing baby carriages. A beautiful Christmas afternoon. My bladder decided right then that it needed to be relieved, refused to take no for an answer. I had to shuffle off, find a secluded spot near a row of stores, between cars, to take an embarrassed, slightly shamefaced yuletide whiz. Got back to where I said I'd be waiting just in time for Bobby's arrival.

I mounted up, we shook hands, exchanged Feliz Navidads, he turned the car around, headed back toward home. I filled him on the previous night's dinner, we did small talk until arriving at his place. Which turned out to be the local equivalent of a townhouse in a sprawling, brand spanking new development. A small but nice place that he and his Spanish sweetie moved into a few months back.

I found myself in a living/dining area with sliding glass doors, afternoon light filling the room. The yard outside those doors: teeny, bounded by a slatted fence, which gave off onto a little bit of land that gave off, in turn, to a highway, and more land off beyond that. And right outside the teeny yard, right on the other side of the fence, stood one of those huge honking towers that carry high-tension wires, the kind that look like a stylized version of a metal giant holding electrical lines. I'm not sure I'd ever seen one so close up. Impressive. And fortunately, the locality had agreed to move the lines away from the housing development in the not-too-distant future, off to the other side of the highway where they would join other big metal giants, holding other high-voltage lines. Man, talk about a stroke of good fortune.

So there we were. Me, hovering around the living room, Bobby and his sweetie Sandra at work in the kitchen, getting things ready for the arrival of the rest of the family. I knew Bobby least of anyone in his family, after a few minutes small talk seemed to dwindle. I hovered, they worked. 3 o'clock passed, then 3:15. No sign of the 'rents. Bobby and Sandra got out a bunch of tins, began pouring finger food into bowls, immediately cheering me up. Most of it turned out to be unidentifiable fish/shellfish stuff, the kind of chow around which I maintain a prudent distance. But still. Olives, some with pits, others stuffed with blue cheese. Peanuts. Those few items enough to keep me content while some other brave soul digs into unidentifiable fish parts.

And finally the rest of the family materialized -- John, Pat, their daughter Anna -- armed with the meal: turkey, mashed potatoes/turnips, stuffing. Vegetables of some sort, too, undoubtedly, though I'm damned if I could tell you what they were. Not my main focus of attention, apparently.

[Continued in entry of Dec. 30]

rws 1:47 PM [+]

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BLATHERINGS

August 2001
September 2001
October 2001
November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
June 2009
July 2009

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MORE FOCUSED BLATHERINGS


Travels:
London '01
Pamplona
Italy '03
U.K. '03
Sevilla
Casablanca
Stoke-on-Trent
Barcelona
Québec/Ottawa
Boston/Lisbon/Madrid
Italy '04
Montréal
La Sierra

Events:
Madrid -- arrival
9/11
Emergency Room I
Holidays 2001
Holidays 2002
Holidays 2003
Holidays 2004
Holidays 2005
A neighbor's passing
Madrid -- March 11 bombings
  and aftermath
Emergency Room II
Israeli friend/Madrid Marathon
Madrid -- Royal Wedding
The DELE exam

GONE, a novel:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

THE BASTARD CHILDREN OF
JOE ROCCO, a novella:
-- Part 1
-- Part 2
-- Part 3

BURBANK SHRUGGED,
a screenplay:
-- Part 1
-- Part 2
-- Part 3
-- Part 4

Short stories:
Murphy's Wife
Another Autumn
La Queja de Una
  Hermanastra Muy Conocida

Autobiography
-- Personal History
-- Hormones On Parade
-- Accidents, Random Mishaps,
    Personal Problems

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .


OTHER SOURCES OF WHOLESOME ENTERTAINMENT

People/Weblogs:
dooce
foxvox
fudge it
fear not
rebekka
bookslut
802online
idle words
madhaiku
wockerjabby
grow-a-brain
rebel market
letting me be
out and about
kung fu grippe
fanatical apathy
baghdad burning
wfuv's music blog
kexp's music blog
mimi smartypants
between the miles
just a hippie gypsy
the impossible cool
tomato can brushes
vermont homestead
sugar mountain farm

Good Clean Fun:
gizmodo
futurismic
postsecret
dave barry
human clock
mcsweeney's
spaceweather
book-a-minute
internet archive
self-portrait day
my cat hates you
out of context quotes
surrealist compliment
  generator
strindberg and helium

Makin' Musical Whoopee:
last fm
stereo8
pandora
soma fm

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ABOUT RWS/CONTACT





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