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.
This country is a true mixed bag of polar opposites Madrid and Barcelona are as fashion forward and culturally elite as you can find anywhere on the planet. However walking down the same streets you will witness some of the worst trends and fads that have been abandoned by the rest of the world decades ago.
The mullet is still alive and kicking here and also reproducing as evidenced by so many 7-14 year old kids sporting a tail. You can still find people wearing disco outfits complete with the headbands actually roller skating down the street. No not roller blading, I said roller skating. One of the biggest trends I’ve seen this year is the old favorite- white patent leather everything, belts, hats, shoes, and jackets. If you’re going leather it’s got to be blanco.
Girls still wear stirrup pants with ankle boots, with my all-time favorite huge hair. I mean Peg Bundy hair. Actually Peg Bundy must be an icon here, and there are many imitators but who can compare to the original? Actually they do come pretty close.
The number one best selling fashion item of all time here though is with out a doubt the blue pant. It’s a virtual right of passage that on your 40th birthday you throw out every trouser of ever other color and material except the blue cotton pant. It’s a way of class identification here. If you’re not a professional then you will don the blue pant for the rest of your life. I’ve lived here almost a full year now and have never seen any of the ‘blue pants people’ wear anything else. EVER. Maybe they are really a lost tribe of Moroccan blue men camel herders awaiting rescue from their Spanish captors. I can’t think of any other explanation. This is where Homer Simpson shops for formal wear. A large majority of the people here are short, and they do favor white hats, so this must be where the creator of the smurfs got the idea.
The old woman in a village, are a lot more open to creativity. They will either chose between a black dress, or a black dress covered with an apron. They are always sure to show off their beautifully visible slip and ankle hose.
You will also see a lot of tee-shirts written in English; unfortunately both the spelling and usage are usually completely wrong. I’ve seen the “See-World Adventure Parcs” “I’m a stallion of Italian” and “don’t worry be smiley”. Like I’ve said before, this is the best bang for your people watching buck anywhere.
One of the first things I had to realize about living in Spain was that a siesta isn’t a nap or a three hour break. The siesta is an entire way of life. It’s a culture of fiesta/siesta or party/rest…..repeat. Work may or may not get thrown into the cycle depending on the mood of the day. The siesta tradition started out as a way to give laborers a mid-day reprieve from the blistering summer sun. It has now evolved into a cultural instinct for relaxation and enjoyment of life.
When you are raised, as I was in a bigger city, especially in the states, you become very acclimated to getting what you want, when you want it, with some dopey adolescent grinning ear to ear at the pure pleasure of serving you. The fast food society of ‘gimme’ has become so entrenched in our collective psyche, that if I can’t have it MY WAY, with cheese, no onions, mayo, and ketchup then I just may have a mental meltdown. Things do not work this way in Spain though. At All.
I received a crash course in this new lifestyle when arriving in Madrid after six full days of very chaotic traveling to find the entire city was shut down for some obscure fiesta. For four days. The entire city! After finally arriving in Cadiar, the quiet, white washed little village in which we now live, I finally inquired about the mail since it had been two weeks without us having received any. I was told that the post office usually does not deliver the mail, not unless one of the three employees has had too much coffee and feels spunky. I was told that I have to go pick up my own mail, but.. and here’s the kicker, only between 10:45 and 11:00am. Any other time and they will just ignore you until you go away. When I asked if it was open on Saturday I was told, and I’m not kidding, that it depends entirely on Paco’s hangover. Paco it seems is usually too hung over on Saturday.
It’s the same with the big companies here as well. If you happen to be on the phone at 2:00pm you will hear a dial tone at 2:01. After ordering and paying for the phone lines and internet, they took an entire month to actually send someone out to do the installation. Ten minutes into what would be a half-hour job, the serviceman took a forty-five minute cigarette break. Tibetan Buddhist monks have nothing on Spanish utility workers in the relaxation and peace department . It’s like the entire country works the midnight shift in a xanax production plant. The average American D.M.V bureaucrat would have to slip into a coma to fit in here.
I’ve been stuck in traffic behind a mule who’s rider has stopped in the middle of the ‘street’ to talk to an old woman leaning over her terrace. Why in the world would he hurry to get out of the way of a line of five cars? He may not get to talk to her for another two or three hours! Nobody in the cars seem to mind either, why would they?
As frustrating as it is at first you quickly begin to understand that it’s the only sane way to live. You begin to realize that 95% of the things that we get all stressed out about have absolutely nothing to do with living. High blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes are almost non existent in this village. So we all need to relax, take a three hour lunch, maybe enjoy a five hour dinner, because as the Jamaican’s say “tomorrow soon come.” As for me I still try to keep busy, still improving my Spanish, still writing my book, still writing a blo…..Oh fuck it, it’s time for a siesta…