Tuesday night featured my favorite fiesta of the entire year, the Three Kings. Every other fiesta is basically an elaborate excuse for the town to get shit-faced plastered for 2, 3, or even four days straight. They are fun in their own right, but they do get old after awhile. The scientific definition of awhile being…. after having to pick up old men from wherever they’d fallen, yelling at people for pissing on the house, and watching everyone between the ages of 14 and 20 throwing up almost nonstop.
The Three Kings fiesta is unique in the fact that it’s all about the ninos. I’m not saying that no one drinks….or smokes pot….or does ecstasy, that would be anathema here, but for once the partying is not the focal point, the kids are. The children here really only know Santa Clause as the fat, white, alcoholic American that he is. I think that most of them think that he is actually the ghost of Hemmingway. They’re really not that far off the mark, are they? It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that they’ve started receiving a token present on Christmas morning. For them, the mother lode is during the Three Kings (or Los Reyes fiesta.) This is held on either the night of January 5th or 6th. And all the kids and most of the adults become unhinged in the revelry.
The day is also referred to as the Feast of the Epiphany and the festivities start out in the Spanish home with paella and 7 courses of fish dishes. There is also a desert made especially for the occasion called Rosco de reyes which is a ginormous donut shaped cake filled with delicious cream. Unfortunately, they only make it for this occasion or I’d eat it everyday.
The children’s anticipation and excitement continue to build all day until it is finally released in frenetic, ear piercing shrieks of pandemonium. Which surprisingly, the kids can hold for a good 5 hours.
Finally the stretching and very slow procession begins with the youngest of the children who are wearing both costumes of monks and priests as well as slightly dazed expressions. They are each holding either a sparkler or a flaming torch which is about twice the size of them. There is also a man among the first group who is letting off flying M-80’s every 10 seconds or so to ward off evil spirits. It also helps my dog to piss on the floor.
Next is a cache of adolescent girls dressed as…..actually no one that I’ve asked seems to know. But they are wearing some type of cool ass costume and using their spears to drop a beat to their medieval sounding, thunderous chanting of “long live the king.” The girls are the entourage of King Melchor who is riding a jet black horse and who I presume was the king from Arabia, based on the Spanish legend of the story and the girls’ outfits. Some of them had the crescent moon of Islam with two swords crossing it. It’s at this point that you have to start ducking. You see, there are boys on horseback in the middle and back of the procession whose sole purpose is to throw hard candy into the crowd. The thing is, all these little fuckers could close for the Yankees. I’m talking about a 90mph fastball to the grill. If you get hit in the face it hurts… a lot. The old ladies in the crowd are carrying grocery bags and will literally throw you an elbow if you get between them and their free sweets.
Next comes the army of King Gazpar, all dressed as Roman soldiers and beating another rhythm out by slamming their swords against their shield in time with chants of, “The King has come!” King Gazpar is riding a brown horse and if you can get a glimpse of him without getting pelted by molted sugar, you will see that he is tossing small trinket toys into the crowds. Now with a sugar buzz firmly in place by both the infantile and the elderly, the tease of the little presents and the approach of the last king, the place is in a delirious stupor of derangement.
Lastly comes the Moorish King Baltasar on a white horse and with his posse. They are all in full blackface. The PC thing hasn’t really caught on over here, but then again they don’t have as bad of a history regarding these things. His soldiers’ main function is to distract the children so that the parents can covertly load up the king’s saddle bags with the real gifts for their children. This is done every 15 feet…. ad nauseum. King Baltasar then hands out the gifts to the delighted squeals and shrieks of the kids. The procession goes through most of the streets of the town for about 5 hours before stopping in the town hall to continue the festivities until at least daylight.
I’d think that the whole thing would be as intimidating as hell to the younger kids, but I guess not. I didn’t even see any of the babies or toddlers crying. Every one of them was in a perpetual state of awed bliss! There is nothing better in life than seeing children at their happiest, and this was the happiest that I’ve ever seen any group of children. Ever.
I apologize for the quality of the video. It was taken with a normal camera which was also very low on battery to boot. Next year, I’ll have and use a proper video camera. But honestly, this is one fiesta that you really do have to experience for yourself if you ever get the opportunity.
I don’t usually use my blog as an outlet to complain….actually I do, but it’s not usually personal to me. It’s usually about the Rapture Ready freaks or some other fringe group of nut jobs that got my panties in a bunch by flying onto my radar. But this time I have to, otherwise the built up pressure in my brain will likely be unleashed with an obscenity laced tirade against some poor, innocent 87 year old drunk guy who I find casually pissing on my house. That happens at least once or twice a week, by the way.
See, I had the four-day weekend From Hell. I went out on Friday night and had my fill of Spanish beer. Alhambra Reserva 1925 which boosts an alcohol content of 6.4% and goes down like water. You do realize what you’ve done the next day though when the LSU marching band is doing a halftime show within your head, and Pyrotechnico is doing the Fourth of July show behind your eyes. It was in this deplorable condition that I was awoken on Saturday morning to the execrable, ungodly sound of screaming pigs. After I drug myself from the peaceful bliss of unconsciousness to the real world of swine massacre, I went out onto my terrace to find my wife crying her eyes out. It was really upsetting, listening to the sheer terror that the two stressed, dying pigs were eloquently communicating.
I’m sure that they cut their throats, but I don’t know if whoever did it really sucked at cutting throats or used a butter knife to do the job. It lasted a full half hour and that’s way too long of a time for an animal to know that it’s dying. I made the mistake of looking over the edge of my terrace to find a literal river of blood flowing down out of the back alley. The air soon became thick with flies. I should’ve gotten a photo of the blood river, but I didn’t until it was mostly dried up and rinsed away. After they gutted the animals they threw the entrails on the street for the dogs. Our dog became so nervous/upset about the commotion that he decided to count to three all over our kitchen floor.
I also somehow managed to forget that there was some obscure fiesta both Monday and Tuesday which means that EVERY business in Spain was shut down. There are no convenience stores here. Because it is a short, beautiful walk into town, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying my food fresh, daily. I always go to the panderia and get just baked integral ‘loafy’ bread; I don’t buy a loaf of bread. They don’t really have frozen or caned goods here like they do back home so what else could I do but pick up my food daily? I get my chicken breast, and fruit and veggies daily as well. So arriving in town on Monday morning to find a ghost town was a real bummer.
I’m not saying that we starved, I would’ve begged some bacon off of my butchering neighbors before that, but I had to get really creative in the kitchen. We ended up having to eat some really odd combinations of food. Lucky I’m a decent cook, or it really would’ve really sucked. That was the first time I ever made chick pea (garbanzo) and egg patties and they were great. Even without a God damned bun. I had to eat my nightly PB&J on about 48 crackers. If I made a list of all we had to go without for 3 days it would seem meaningless, but when you are actually going without a few minor necessities like bread, it fucks up your day.
Then to top it all off my cat decided to go full tard. It’s fine to go half tard, but you never, ever go full tard. Every night at around 9:30 he gets a bug up his ass and goes completely ape shit crazy. His tail puffs out like a squirrel on crack, he starts doing this insane, sideways bouncy trot and he goes nuclear (the way Bush pronounces nuclear) on the hapless dog. They then chase each other around the cement floors all over the house bouncing into furniture left and right.
This Sunday night during spastic time, Corky the cat leaps onto our Ben Franklin style fireplace. For two years we’ve had the cat and the fireplace. He didn’t do it when he was Corky the kitten so why in the hell would he do it now? He let out an eardrum shattering meowl before diving back off. I tried to run his paws under cold water but he wasn’t having too much of that. No vet in the whole country was open, even if only to give him a pain shot. Now after three days the pads of his feet are a lot less red, but he’s still walking gingerly and slinking around looking pissed off. I think he’s just embarrassed that he made the mistake of going full tard.
Lots of other stuff happened to make it the worst weekend ever, including power cuts which always happen the second before I hit save, my wife broke a mirror Tuesday, our house is now overrun with flies…………………… but I’m done venting. I’ll be funnier next post…..I hope.
Sultry women and dancing horses.
If you missed the first part of this post, you can read it here. After the old men miraculously got the three statues inside the second church, the fiesta kicked into high gear once again. The marching band went all stationary on our asses and played a long, kinda painful two hour concert at the second town square.
I was a lot more sympathetic to their musical ineptitude until I found out that they each get paid 300 Euros, plus food and lodging to travel around southern Spain playing gigs. That’s more money than most of the adults make around here at their full time jobs. It’s at least enough money to keep the kids in weed and I-Phones, because every break they’d fire one up and play with their apps.
The town does then provide another late dinner for the party-goers; a fine selection of paella and sausage from earlier. As tempting as this was, I just couldn’t stay up until 5:00am when it was finally served. Apparently most of the elderly men can drink me under the plastic folding table, because they were still staggering home when I got up at 8:00am.
The highlight of the fiesta came for me on Sunday night. There was an almost palpable change in atmosphere and energy. The entire town seemed to take a deep breath, sober up, and focus on the last event of the season; the flamenco dancers and horse show.
I begrudgingly allowed my wife to drag me away from the NFL updates, to what I was sure was going to be an alcohol infused donkey party. What I saw blew my doors off! Arriving at the soccer field, I saw more people than I’ve ever seen in Cadiar. Many of the children in the crowd were dressed as performers, the boys’ costumes resembling bull-fighting suits, and the girls in beautiful flamenco dresses. This alone was worth the price of admission considering that this was a free show. The entire place looked like a Normanello Rockwelli painting.
Then the action began with a flamenco dancer in the middle of the soccer field. If you’ve never seen this mainstay of Spanish culture, you are missing one of the most emotionally charged and powerful art forms in the world. For this occasion the woman was stunningly beautiful and sultry, with an aura of mystery and magic. The dance itself starts slow and methodically builds pace until she is moving in a frenetic blur of hands, feet, hair, and red dress. In the beginning of the first routine, four horses came barreling in from the four corners of the field. They were ridden by men with long fiery torches propped in front of them, as if on attack. The horses came to a screeching halt just as they reached the dancer.
Unfortunately my camera batteries had died before the first act, so I had to run home at full speed myself to replace them. So I wasn’t able to catch any of the coolest part of the show. There were four other performances which I was able to get small clips from. This video was the best I could do with a camera recorder and a quick edit. It does not do the show justice. At all.
The skilled riders and horses performed moves and stunts that I never thought possible. There were times that you believed the horses were seducing the dancers and other times that the dancers seemed to be hypnotizing the horses. The show was an unparalleled display of the animals’ natural power and grace. It reminded me of an equine Cirque du Soleil. This show was the most amazing experience I’ve enjoyed since moving here. If you ever get the opportunity, this is something that you really do have to see for yourself!!
Officially the fiesta starts on Thursday afternoon with a church service, but none of the real action heats up until pre-dawn on Friday. It’s at this point that you know you’re in a fiesta. It begins much like how retarded people have sex; abruptly at 5:00am, violently, with eardrum shattering explosions, and bright flashes of light, followed by 6 hours of utter silence. Okay I admit that I’ve never actually seen retarded people having sex, but that’s how I imagine it would be when I fantasize think about it.
A vociferous marching band complete with all of the accessories that a college football halftime show would include, begins in the center of town and winds its way through the narrow, echoing, white-washed streets. Every fifty feet they come to a screeching halt and a man in a fireproof suit begins setting off fifty shooting M-80’s. They are like bottle rockets on steroids. This is a tradition done to ward off evil spirits, because they can’t have the evil spirits screwing up the drunken revelry and debauchery of the three day party. Having nowhere else to go, the spirits flee into the body of our mini-dachshund who immediately begins shaking, howling, and hiding until deciding to shit on the floor.
This is a very exciting beginning, especially to the newcomers of this tradition. The first year we hurriedly dressed, cleaned up the dog shit, and practically jogged into town. When we got there, it was all but deserted. There were only a few drunks sleeping it off on the park benches, and some hippies who had pitched tents on the cement, and were enjoying their daily wake and bake.
It turns out that nothing happens again until 11:30am when they turn on the wine flow into the town’s main fountain. Since nobody on this planet can turn down free booze, this draws a hefty, exuberant crowd. The wine itself is a potent potable, that if examined by a scientist would probably be classified somewhere between ‘red whiskey’ and ‘flotsam.’ It’s about 40 proof, and if you have more than a couple of Dixie cups full, you’re likely to have to fish your lower intestines out of the toilet the following morning. Luckily there are private bar stands conveniently located every 10 feet so you are never out of arms reach of life sustaining, soul-saving alcohol.
The drinking age here is 16, but never enforced. The other day I saw an eight year old who was unable to change his Transformer back into the truck until he had two double vodkas. Anyway, they also have three rides set up for the teen-alkies. All three spin around in a circle with various degrees of violence. I’ve come to believe that these rides are for the sole purpose of sobering them up, by causing them to upchuck. The puking is usually performed while the ride is in full swing, causing a chain reaction puke marathon. It’s all pretty funny until you get hit in the eye with a piece of vomit.
At 3:30pm they serve a free paella dinner with free beer, and nobody misses this event either. Except us. After last year, I figured out that I actually like my own paella better. Especially because I never get sick off of it. It helps that I don’t leave my sausage sitting in the sun for a couple of hours before cooking it. But this is also a must attend event that can not be missed, if only for a glass (or 17) of cervaza.
At 9:00pm the church doors open and three ginormous statues emerge. Each one is carried by six men. Three of four of whom are over eighty years old, and four of five of whom are half in the bag. They then carry these cumbersome statues up and down the narrow, steep, slippery streets to the church at the other end of the village. What makes this even more difficult (and hilarious) are the utility lines which are hung far too low for this procession. So every hundred feet or so, we get to watch St. Peter, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus himself, perform a very drunken, shaky limbo. In the two years that I’ve watched this I’ve seen Jesus (he’s the tallest, with the cross and all) almost wipe out and take a cache of bystanders with him.
I’m going to publish the conclusion to this post on Wednesday, since it’s so long with so many photos, and hopefully video to follow. I’ve saved my favorite part for then, so stay tuned!!
No seriously, there is literally cocaine in the air. Scientists using a new technique for testing air quality have found minute traces of cocaine among several other drugs, present in the air itself within the cities of Barcelona and Madrid. Don’t believe me, here’s the link. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25482049-30417,00.html
Now I understand so much that had been confusing me about Spanish life.
This explains so many things I’ve brought up in other posts. Now I totally get how these tough old ladies can work all day and night without complaint or rest. Most of them clean their house twice in the same day. It also explains the very poor dental care (blow is very bad for teeth).
Now I understand why the fashion in this country is so eclectic and unpredictable. After snorting an 8ball, white patent leather everything seems like a good idea. Stirrup pants, big hair, and disco clothes are still hot when you’re rocking out to ‘Motoring’ by Sister Christian.
Real discos are still extremely popular all around Spain, and some people really do wear roller skates to go dancing. There is only one excuse for this…coke.
I just realized that maybe the name Sierra Nevada (or Snowy Mountain) is actually a double entandra.
I knew something was funny from the first fiesta I ever attended here in Spain. This is a tiny little village up in the mountains so the fiestas are a lot smaller, maybe around 100 people. The focal point in most of these smaller fiestas is usually a children’s brass band. They actually pay a bunch of 14-18 year old kids to play instruments all night. Now I had always considered myself a partier, but this party had been going on from 5pm and it’s now 3am and they still hadn’t brought out all of the wonderful free food which had been advertised. I should mention that this is one of the main reasons we went since my wife has never been much of a drinker. So after asking we were told that they don’t bring out the paella until around 6am. Most of the people there were either in their teens or late 70’s, and they are drinking steadily (I do mean steadily too) from 5pm till 6 or 7 am. Without eating. What the fuck? Now I understand.
Going over all of this information another thought dawned on me as well. I wonder if we are actually turning Mother Nature into a coke whore. This may explain a lot. The mood swings; first the earth is cooling in the 70’s, now it’s warming. It explains the increase in violent weather; maybe a tornado is really just her way of making a big cocaine straw. Maybe a volcanic eruption is really just a nose bleed. Maybe hurricanes, floods and earthquakes are all really just a cry for help.
I know that somebody better get that bitch into a rehab soon. If she starts hitting the rock we’re all fucking dead!
Spain is the promised land of cheap and plentiful vino. Everyone makes it, everyone sells it, and almost everyone gets completely shit faced falling down drunk on it. The homemade stuff should come with a warning label to the effect of “Please be advised, anyone who uses this product may experience pissing blood, shitting pieces of ones liver, and the melting of one’s eternal soul”. Drinking and smoking rank well above soccer and bullfighting as national pastimes, although most watch the latter while indulging the former.
This is a country that loves to party like no where else, and any excuse will do. You can usually find the local priest tipsy by 11:00am, oh wait, that’s everywhere,…never mind. These guys can make American and British lager louts look downright tame. Whereas we might have some drinks and play pool, darts, or even beer pong, they will start at 6:00am, and going all day proceed to run through the streets of Pamplona being chased by hundreds of 1800lb pissed off beasts with horns. For seven days in a row. On spring break we might party for seven days straight but we’re college age, they do it here until their mid 80′s. It’s no wonder that an old, fat, and tragically alcoholic Hemingway loved it here so much.
I had to take a bus trip (to rent a car) once and never will I do that again. It’s scary enough trying to navigate these steep, serpentine, mountain roads (with out guard rails). Doing it in a huge bus with a reckless and drunken driver is even more fun. One hour into the two hour journey the driver stops for a rest break. Mind you he didn’t announce anything, just stopped, opened the door and got out. Given that I have the continence of a 93 year old woman I hopped out and followed only to find our trusty driver doing two shots of brandy and one of espresso. That’s actually how most people drink all day and night around here. The legal limit for DUI is an intervenes drip of vodka with a cocaine straw hanging out your nose. I did wear my seatbelt the rest of the way.
Every morning when I go to get my daily loaf of crusty bread, the bar is filled with cops, plumbers, teachers, housewives, anybody and everybody. All happily drinking their morning brandy and smoking their cigarettes. Most bakeries are also bars, actually almost everything is also a bar. That’s one of the first, coolest things I noticed coming here three years ago for vacation, was that EVERY supermarcado is also a bar. The wives do not have to nag to get their husbands to go shopping here.
The bars do not shut down here like they do back home. When I first moved here and still drank that really did my head in. When you are subconsciously expecting last call and it never comes, it’s easy to end up staying out until five or six am. Everyone does that here though and then rest,…repeat. Ad Infinitum.
It’s just the same as everywhere else in that after a few too many the real fun starts. Then come the arguments, drama, fights, staggering, puking, and passing out. Going into a town the morning after a major fiesta, it’s not at all uncommon to find several normally respectable men lying in the street after a ‘good’ night. Alcohol does provide us with the wonderful pleasure of slipping down the evolutionary scale a few notches. This allows us to become one with our ever attractive animal underside. Always being ruled by emotion rather than intellect, which always works out so well.
It’s cosmically ironic that a couple months after moving here I decided to do myself a favor and quit drinking and smoking. Oh well, so much for the promised land.