AKA Abraham Bacoln

Trust me, it was not one twentieth as scary as the Putnam Co. Fair
July 16, 2007, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Spain

Okay, so, without going into details today was pretty much a rotten day all around. I haven’t had any truly bad days since I got here so I suppose it was time for one to come up but still, I wasn’t prepared, and it knocked me sideways.

Anyway, ignoring that, the good news is that I have progressed again, and am in my final class – Advanced I. Hooray for actually being able to learn and retain something! I worry about this class, though – six girls and only one Kevin. It’s going to be hard for me to pay attention to all of them equally. Rrrowr.

Ha ha ha man that’s so out of character it’s making me laugh.

Also this is my third and final class, and again I’m the only American in there. I’m hoping to help change people’s opinions of America one person at a time! Trust me, there’s a guy here who’s working just as hard in the opposite direction.

Lunch was good, but I’m tired and am going to spare you the details. There was a homemade spring roll (rollito primavera if you can dig it) involved so you know it was good.

Anyway I was invited by my girls to go to the celebration of Our Lady the Virgin of Carmen or something along those lines, there weren’t flyers or anything so I kind of missed out on the exact name. Basically most of the neighborhoods around here have their own versions so we chose El Palo since that was the closest to where Yuri lives. We saw the procession of men carrying the … um … whatchacallit. The thing they carry. It’s like a parade float, but smaller, and with a whole lot more goldy shiny, and a figure of the Virgin on top, all carried on human shoulders. Anyway, we saw the procession of the Virgin and then we went and looked at all the kiddie rides because just down the strip it turned into a street fair. They didn’t have any big kid rides other than that boat that goes back and forth which the twins insisted on riding. I had just finished my carnival food – you can’t go to a street fair and not eat street food! – so I was in no shape to ride. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any chili dogs or corn dogs or real hamburgers or funnel cakes. My carnival food was a baked potato. Out of a huge selection of toppings I ordered the ‘patata normal’ which came with cubed ham, tomato puree, olives, mayonnaise (in place of sour cream), corn kernels, and cheese. I’m sure some of you think that odd, but those are the toppings for everything around here, apparently, so I’m used to it by now. I wish they’d had one that was just cheese, olive oil, and some nice Iberico ham but that’s … well, that’s quite literally wishful thinking, innit?

There was a scary clown. Of course.

Anyway, all night we ran around and acted goofy and then I came home, sorted the pics, uploaded, am now in the act of writing, and now I need to go to bed!

So there!

Also during the composition of this post I misspelled virgin (as the Spanish word virgen) no less than three times. Brain broken, may I have another?

this is the hardest part, the title
July 15, 2007, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Spain

So yeah, we went to Nerja today. The 11 bus didn’t go all the way downtown so we had to walk the last dozen blocks or so, and like any city it was very very different early on a Sunday morning. The bus station was exactly as I expected – full of grumpy old men and women, yammering students, weary backpackers, and one old slick-haired man standing at the coffee counter at 9:00 AM chain smoking and drinking straight J&B whisky. In the “cafe” (I use quotes to denote derision) I had both the worst pastry and worst coffee I’ve had since I arrived. It was fitting.

The bus ride wasn’t too bad, just long, clocking in at 1.5 hours. I don’t know how to measure that in metric, sorry. I was left sitting by myself at the beginning because Ludi and Yuri sat together, of course. My seatmate(s) ended up being a tiny British woman and her toddler son. She read aloud to him the whole way, I think. I dunno. I kind of dozed off there for a bit.

Nerja was fantastic, albeit a bit boring in a way. It was even more pretty and pristine than Torremolinos, and felt older, looked older, looked more … I dunno, more Mediterranean. It was nice.

AND BORING. I mean, it was Sunday, and we were there from just before siesta to just after, and therefore there wasn’t much going on. We did have a great meal in a beach restaurant. I got the ‘patatas de las pobres’ which is ridiculous ’cause man if this is how the poor eat then I see no need to be rich. Fried potato slices topped with fried egg and accompanied by two different kinds of sausage on the sides. Greasy as hell but I’ve been eating fairly well so I can take it! I’m tuff!

The beach was pretty, but someone (not me) forgot their bathing suit so we didn’t go in the water. S’alright, I didn’t want to feel saltwater sticky the rest of the day anyway. We walked, and shopped, and talked, and ate ice cream, and goofed off, and saw a bunch of white buildings with red tile roofs and signs in English. Did I mention that a lot of the Costa del Sol is just Britvasion territory? There’s a lot of English going on there, and a lot of vaguely disgruntled waitstaff, so we of course being students at a language school spoke Spanish at all costs.

Maaaaaaaaaan I’m so tired right now. Abbreviated ending starting now!

Then we came home, the bus ride was much faster on the way back, we slept a lot, I barely woke up in time to catch our stop in El Palo. Then! Then Yuri walked home, Ludi and I took a taxi, and we all met up at the beach later with everyone properly equipped. Then I came home, ate dinner, uploaded pictures (as seen here) and now I’ve written this and my eyes are closing even though I don’t want them to.

To heck with proofreading, I’m going to bed!

Tomorrow I find out if I passed my exam and made it into the Avanced I class. I bet I did. We’ll find out on the next installment of Life of Kevin.

Well that’s that then
July 14, 2007, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Spain

Last night I went out with Yuri and Ludi again. I’m going to have to make up a name for the pair of them. The i-twins or something, I dunno. Anyway, at Yuri’s suggestion we went to get pizza. Ludi asked for a bit more (olive) oil to put on hers. Now, let me just say that I really do try very hard not to be a stereotypical American. We frequently have conversations about how things are different in [ France / Japan / the US ] but that’s not to say that they’re right, just different. You know! Being respectful of others, tolerant and kind. But man, olive oil on pizza? I … I just couldn’t fathom the concept. I told them that it was probably close to an abomination, though I didn’t have a copy of the Constitution with me so I couldn’t be 100% positive. Anyway, the waitress was snotty and responded to Ludi’s request with, “We have hot [spicy, not temperature] oil.” Ludi specified that she was just looking for plain olive oil and the waitress said, “There’s already been oil used in the preparation. Why do you want more?” Fine, fine, no oil. Yuri requested the spicy oil, though, and when it arrived I broke down and tried it and of course it was good, I mean the pizza wasn’t very American anyway, it was all European (*nose in air*) so mixing it up a little with spicy oil instead of red pepper flakes made sense.

If there isn’t an Amendment yet about the whole oil thing I’m going to have to write to my elected officials.

We stayed out late, way too late, doing absolutely nothing because someone (I won’t mention who but it wasn’t me) was being all poor and didn’t want to pay for a bus ride downtown and drinks at a club, which was fine with me, that’s not my scene, man, unless they’ve developed a club where all you do is fiddle with your camera while drinking red wine and playing blackjack and listening to music at a reasonable volume while talking to your friends.

Hold on, I gotta go make a note about a business venture when I return to the states.

As a result of this intense and excessive non-partying I thought I was going to sleep in today, but no, I got up nice and early. Wellllll okay so it wasn’t early, but it sure wasn’t eight hours later. I decided for the seventeenth Saturday in a row that I was going to go out and find Granddad’s house. Hey, side note! I don’t think of him as Granddad, I think of him as Tom, but if I tell you I went to look for Tom’s house I’m sure it would bring up some strange questions. Anyway, I also needed to go to the airport because my return flight is still messed up, and my travel agent said that everything should be good but he can’t reissue the ticket from the States so I needed to go have them do it here in Yerp. Well, the British Airways office said that they’re pretty sure everything’s kosher but the US Airways office in London was closed so they couldn’t call them to confirm the US Airways leg of the trip, so now I have to go BACK to the airport on a non-weekend day.

They call those ‘weekdays’ don’t they? I suppose that’s a bit less cumbersome than non-weekend days.

But this ain’t no big deal, there’s a train straight to the airport, and it’s not like my time is in high demand. Nobody’s calling me every day saying, “OH CRAP KEVIN I JUST REALIZED WE HAVEN’T HUNG OUT TODAY MAN GET OVER HERE WE GOT SOME SERIOUS PARTYING TO DO” which, if you were not aware, is how I spend every single day in Cookeville. I’m very popular.

Granddad’s old place is just past the airport so I was once again trying to figure out the best way to get there. While playing with Google Maps I got to a zoom level that didn’t show as many streets but did show neighborhood names, and right there just south of his house was Los Alamos, which I recognize as a train stop. So hooray! I could get off of the train there, in that little no-horse town, and just walk to his place. In the hot sun. And it’s only … well, I didn’t measure the distance because I didn’t want to get depressed. It was hot today. That’s all I’m saying.

I asked the Sra. if this one particular road on the map would be walkable, as it was rather large and had a number instead of a name. She assured me that while it was a big street it would have stop lights and whatnot, and would probably be okay to walk on.

Well, kind of, not really, no, not at all. Traffic was moving fast and there sure wasn’t a sidewalk, but I gave it a valiant effort. After walking for a ways I realized I was going to have to dodge traffic in two directions and jump a concrete barrier in the middle, so I turned around, walked back to Los Alamos, and got a damn taxi.

On the way to his house, via the aforementioned taxi, I saw how the return trip wouldn’t be quite so bad since I’d be on the other side of this highway and could use this one street to – you know, it’s not worth describing, you’re not able to see it. The point is that I could walk back to the train. When we pulled up to the house I paid him, got out, and he sat there. It was touching. I guess he wanted to make sure my key would work in the lock or that I was able to get the gate open or something. I didn’t feel like explaining my Creepy American Stalker story so I just stood there for a few seconds until he finally drove off.

And stood there I did, for a while, just looking. It’s partly obscured by a wall, so I couldn’t see much of the house itself. I could see the neighborhood, the abandoned and dilapidated house across the street, could get a general sense of the whole area. It felt interesting, but it didn’t feel strong. A vague curiosity at most.

Two girls a little younger than me walked up as I was standing on the other side of the street staring at the house – their house, as it turned out. I explained my situation, they told me they just started renting there a few months ago. The owners (who apparently live there as well, I’m not sure) bought the place four years ago, so there’s no direct connection between the owners and Granddad. They implied that the owners weren’t home, and I felt that a big strange American shouldn’t ask two younger female renters if he could just “have a look around the place” so I contented myself with the few minutes of conversation and then wandered off.

So then I just stomped all over the place near the house, saw a fantastic run-down building which was being guarded by two hot and obviously worn-out horses, saw a bunch of other houses, saw a ton of snails beating the heat by crawing underneath brick overhangs, saw and smelled a bunch of jasmine, and then braved the highway to walk back to Los Alamos. It wasn’t pleasant but I did survive without getting hit by anything other than a WALL OF PURE HEAT emanating from the asphalt. On the way back to the train I saw lime after lime after lime. They’re everywhere. It’s like a lime conspiracy.

Finally I reached the station, worn out and ugly, having been beaten down by travel, bureaucracy, heat, walking, limespotting, lack of sleep, and everything else. After the train ride I debated doing some shopping (for presents for you, you lovely things) and said to hell with that. My eyes were closing. There’s one bus that runs straight up the horrible hill to my apartment here (as opposed to all the others that stop at the very bottom) and I was fortunate enough to catch it.

I stumbled into the kitchen, sliced up my Fuji apple that was waiting for me in the fridge, and I tell you, it was a miracle. The cold sweet flesh of that beautiful fruit revitalized and energized me to the point that I was able to write to you. And now? Now? Now it’s time to not be awake any more. I’m going to Nerja tomorrow with the i-twins so I have to be up early.

Goodnight, SIR.

July 13, 2007, 10:02 am
Filed under: Spain

Well, I’m about to totally crash. I had my test today, I did well, and I should be moving up to the next class – Advanced I. Also in the next two weeks I have additional conversation classes so instead of the usual 20 hours I’ll be taking 30. I’m excited about this part.

Last night we went back (again) to La Paloma, the Argentinian restaurant on the beach, to celebrate Robert’s departure. Well, celebrate isn’t the right word, but I know you know what I mean. Mourn, maybe. To mourn Robert’s departure. As with every proper Spanish evening meal here we didn’t really start ’till 10:00PM and I ended up at home some time after 2:00AM, having left them there debating what party they were going to attend.

Obviously getting around 5 hours of sleep didn’t really help me on the test, per se, but apparently it didn’t hurt too much.

That’s about all the news I got, really. The past several days haven’t been much more than studying.

Tonight I think we’re going to a pizzaria if you can believe that. I’m not quite sure why. When Ludi and Yuri talk it’s usually in French, so unless I pester them for details I’m left in the dark as to the why of it all. I usually just sigh, ask what time I’m supposed to meet them and where, and get on with it. Sometimes if Robert is around I’ll make him tell me exactly what kind of nefarious plot they’ve hatched but he usually sides with them, I think, because he always relays that it was rather innocuous, really, and not a bit interesting.



Going to sleep.

Tomorrow, depending on when I wake up, Torremolinos.


oh bother
July 10, 2007, 6:09 am
Filed under: Spain

I found out today that my level test is on FRIDAY instead of MONDAY. Yes, Monday is the usual time and that would give me the whole weekend to study but because of a huge influx of students they’re placing the exam on FRIDAY which means I gots no spare time. This level has been far more difficult than the last, and I feel sometimes like I’m not totally getting it, and now I have a test on FRIDAY.


I probably won’t be writing again before then. The good news is that my entire weekend is now free, hooray, and I may actually enjoy it if I’m not spending the entire time worrying that I’ve failed the test. Ugh.

oh man oh man … stop it, Kevin!
July 8, 2007, 10:05 am
Filed under: Spain

I don’t know why but right now I’m practically … wait, no, literally salivating at the thought of sweet junk food like donuts and Little Debbie Cakes and other things with gross processed sugar. It’s horrible! I can’t control it!

I may have to walk to the grocery store. Fortunately the neighborhood grocery store is closed on Sunday which means I have to walk even farther. Maybe I can convince myself not to do it by the time I get there.


Oh yeah I also saw a statue of Hans Christian Andersen
July 7, 2007, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Spain

I looked in the mirror the other day and was pleased to see that I have lost weight, as desired and expected. I was by no means fat but my abs weren’t as well-defined as they used to be. Now I’m a little bit back towards the shape I prefer. Perhaps – just perhaps – walking more than usual and eating less junk food has something to do with it. More on that in a minute!

This place is crawling with scooters and Vespas and little waspy-sounding two-stroke motorcycles, dirt bikes, and even the occasional 4-wheeler. It makes me sad almost every time I see one of them. I want Mark and Matt to be here with their real bikes and their leather jackets. I want to have the best parts of American culture here with me.

I got a haircut yesterday. It was a strange and wonderful experience. I have never had my hair cut in a foreign country. Normally it’s the kind of thing one takes care of before departure – which I did, kind of, but it was too early and I like to keep my hair short. There’s precious little I can do to defend against the uglies, and haircuts are one of them. Without haircuts I’m lost. I scouted out a location … let me interrupt myself here and say that Málaga is just smothered in peluquerías (hair salons) but an honest barbershop is hard to come by. I mean I can’t throw a rock without hitting a salon or a pharmacy but a place where real men can show up and just sit in an empty chair and read the newspaper while other men in white coats with immaculate hair take care of the earlier patrons (all men) with just the right amount of small talk … that’s a rare thing. A rare thing indeed.

It was with great pleasure I spotted this barbershop downtown. I even wrote the address down in my notebook, that’s how sure I was that I’d be back. The time came the other day and I was of course apprehensive – we’ve not been studying words related to haircuts in class, ha ha. Anyway, I sat down and apologized for not speaking perfect Spanish. It was hot in there, no air conditioning, and in the still air I felt like I could smell everything in the room. It didn’t take long to describe what I wanted done. It made me realize that with all the pantomime involved I didn’t even need to try to speak. Because of this when I next get my hair cut in the States I’m going to speak to my stylist only in Spanish and see what kind of cut I get.

The electric clippers on the sides and back of my head were first, of course, and then that’s when things diverged from normal. He picked up a pair of old scissors, ones that went klik-klik-klik and he became a machine. His hand never stopped opening and closing the scissors. Even when he would stop actually cutting my hair to look at what he’d done and make sure it was right the scissors kept going – klik-klik-klik – almost as if he wasn’t able to stop. Then the scissors got switched out for some with a much older, more metallic klik-klik-klik. He asked me if I wanted my sideburns shortened – sure, why not. Klik-klik-klik. The best part, hands-down, was the point in time in which everything else was done except for the trimming of the neck. I hadn’t noticed any very tiny electric clippers sitting on his counter. I realized why after I saw him open up a straight razor (with a disposable blade, but a hand-held single-blade razor nonetheless) and start in on the neck. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the desire to sit more still in my life. It wasn’t even that I was afraid – it just felt like if I moved and got cut it would be disrespectful to this artist of a man. I would have felt completely at fault.

Snnnch-snnnch-snnnch went the razor all over my neckline, around my ears, and even taking care of what was left of my sideburns. When it was all done I stood up, admired the amazing job he’d done, and paid him his well-earned money. It took no longer than a usual haircut – maybe even a little bit faster than Tommy Trisdale (God rest his soul) used to do. But it was the best haircut of my life. I only wish I were here long enough to do it all over again.

Last night I once again ate dinner with my friends Ludivine and Yuri. The restaurant was a disappointment so I won’t bother with its name. We decided to return to La Paloma for dessert and I managed to get my hands on my panqueque with dulce de leche. It was everything I wanted it to be.

Today was going to be my excursion to Granddad’s house. Once again I woke up and consulted the maps, checked the route (but not schedule, as I have no timetable) for the No. 10 bus out of Málaga towards the airport. I got downtown and walked to the block where there was supposed to be a stop for the 10, and it just didn’t exist. At all. All the other buses that were supposed to stop in that block, or the next, or the next – they all had their stops. The 10 just wasn’t there. I eventually went a block or two over to the buses that number in the 100s, the non-standard buses. There is a bus 110 that goes to a similar area, but no one had a detailed map that could tell me if it’s the same streets or not. I decided I was not about to take a one-hour (more or less) bus ride to a neighborhood that I don’t have a paper map for, on a bus that may not even go to the same area of the neighborhood that I have researched, and try to find my way another kilometer or two off the bus line to Granddad’s house.

Now I’m torn on what to do. I guess I’m just going to have to take the train to Torremolinos and get a taxi. That seems ludicrous as the conversation would have to be something like, “Can you drive me out here so I can take a picture of this one place, but wait for me, because I don’t know where there’s a bus to find my way back?”

And man, I know I’m studying Spanish here, but I can’t find any decent information online about buses and trains. So much of interpreting search results is the ability to scan information, and I simply can’t just scan in Spanish. I have to read every word, and check every link, and there’s the damn good possibility that there’s not even a site for the train from Málaga to Fuengirola, and if there is a site there may not be a detailed map, nothing that’ll show me if there’s a closer stop where I can walk, blah blah blah. It’s all very frustrating considering all I want to do is see the house where he lived. At times I think, “I only met this man a handful of times in my life – why am I obsessing about this? I hardly even remember what he looked like.”

But I’m here. And it’s here. So I think it must be done.

So instead I spent my day walking around downtown. All told from the time I left home to the time I got home was 5.5 hours on my feet which explains why I’m so tired.

I finally went to the Cathedral today. It’s very big and very ornate inside, as is to be expected. It’s unique in that it has only one tower though its floor plan is a two-tower design. During construction they couldn’t raise the funds for the other tower. Later the town took a vote, or so I hear, and they decided they like it the way it is. Its nickname is La Manquita, which translates more or less to one-armed woman. As is to be expected it was built on the site of a mosque. That was a very hip thing to do back then, don’tcha know?. Work started in 1528 and finished in either 1719 or 1782, depending on what online source you want to quote. For 3.50 € I was able to spend as much time as I wanted inside, taking the following photos: (my photos tagged with Málaga Cathedral). I didn’t really want to edit the photos like I usually edit things. I figured I’d rather present them as they were, so (most of) those pictures are rather raw with the exception of straightening and sharpening. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that I did some color correction on one.

After the cathedral a homeless man mistook me for a Belgian. I don’t really know what that means or how I should feel about it.

I needed something else to do so I walked over to El Corte Inglés which is the only actual department store around here s’far as I know. I strolled through there for an hour and a half mainly because it had air conditioning. I looked for gifts for all of you and found gifts for none of you. I’m so sorry. Also, speaking of sorry, they had a camera section with lenses and everything but it was really heavy on Nikon, and if that ain’t sorry I don’t know what is.

Okay so here’s where we get back to the food and weight and all that from the very opening of this post. Every time I take the No. 11 bus into town it goes past the only McDonald’s I’ve seen here. Every day I’m tempted to be an utter tourist and eat there. Today I gave in.

MIND YOU this was done under the guise of Science, wherein I perform an experiment and compare the taste of the Spanish Big Mac to to the American Big Mac. Consider it quality control for the ghost of Ray Kroc, I dunno.

Short answer: uncanny. Exactly the same. Even the ketchup (delivered in packets) tasted the same, which is odd, because the ketchup in the fridge here sure doesn’t taste like home. Okay, so the Coke was different but I think that’s ’cause all the Coke here is different. I’m assuming they’re still using cane sugar instead of corn syrup, because it’s different in the “sure tastes better” kind of way.

McDonald’s here serves beer too, which almost messed up my experiment. In the end I decided to stay true to the American vision of Mickey D’s and not let the prospect of beer tempt me. ‘Course they serve San Miguel products, so it was a lot easier not to be swayed.

Afterwards I felt like an exploded toad, and realized that McDonald’s food may actually be poison or assembled out of styrofoam, take your pic. It sure wasn’t a pleasant kind of full.

To help myself help myself I took a walk through the kilometer-long park that runs by the beach. It’s full of a blue million trees and is spotted with fountains and flowers and people making out. If you walk slowly enough and stare very hard in the opposite direction of the action there’s one of those three things (fountains, flowers, people making out) that you can make uncomfortable.

Finally I ended up at the bus stop beside the bullring. I decided to walk around the ring before catching the bus, just to make sure I couldn’t find entrance. I didn’t, but I did find a lime tree and I picked and cut open a lime just to have something to smell. It was fascinating, wild and intense, halfway like citrus and halfway like black walnut. It made me almost indescribably happy.

Now I’m home. Tired. Ready to sleep.

The only real food of note today was A.) the usual awesome sandwich that the Sra. makes for Saturday lunches and B.) my dinner of a few chunks of Manchego cheese topped with a touch of peach marmalade. Can’t beat that.

See you soon. I think about you all the time, all of you. We should go get a drink sometime.

July 6, 2007, 9:00 am
Filed under: Spain

If you’re hungry the words about food are at the end.

I’ve been here three weeks now. It’s Friday. I’m halfway through and I can’t believe it.

My first two weeks here weren’t rough by any stretch but I just didn’t really feel like myself. I told one of the girls (a fellow American) who was staying at this house that I know it didn’t seem probable to her but back home I talk nonstop and joke constantly and make everyone laugh [with / at] me. She looked at me like I was a space alien because I’d been this rather silent and somewhat dejected-looking lump. I didn’t blame her for thinking I was lying.

But now … now! Now my brain is back in gear. That one housemate girl – who quite honestly I didn’t like – is gone, so I’m more relaxed. I’ve made better friends with the other girl and now feel like I have an annoying younger sister here. I tease her mercilessly and she reciprocates just like my last French little sister Marie (a foreign exchange student lo these many years ago). I passed my test and advanced a class so that makes me feel good. I’m in a new class, in a new room that’s not so damned hot, and there are fewer students so everything’s more intimate. In the last room I sat where I could hardly see the professor(s) and therefore felt a little alienated. Now I sit at one end of the table and they at the other, so there’s always a clear view. My Spanish is better so I know how to make jokes. I’m louder and more confident. I’m more outgoing. I make everyone (professors included) laugh during class at least twice a day. I am known in the room as Señor Fantastico because of a conversation a few days back. This all took place in Spanish, of course.

During a team exercise:
Ludivine: Well I think that a good answer to this question is [ whatever ].
Me: Ludi, that’s a fantastic answer. YOU‘re fantastic.
Professor Leopoldo: Oh, so Ludi is fantastic?
Me: Yes, of course, but … you know. Not as fantastic as me.
-Ludivine shoots me a dirty look-
Professor Leopoldo: Is that so?
Yuri: Yeah, you’re really fantastic.
Me: Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is say [loud voice], “I AM FANTASTIC.”

Life is back to normal, and life is good.

What else, what else? Oh yes, on Wednesday I went downtown to take pictures and see about getting my hair cut. I arrived too late for the haircut so I just sat on the main pedestrian street and took pictures of people (some of which, but not all, are here). Then some very kindly old – and I mean old – Spanish lady came over and asked me what I was doing, and so I told her I was taking pictures of interesting people. “Why?” she asked. Well, honestly, because my brain is rotten and I won’t remember any of this in two years so I want to preserve the memories, etc. This slowly but surely devolved into her being very angry with me because she thought I had taken pictures of her and her friend, and I tried to show her I hadn’t, but she just thought I was giving her the runaround, so I had to explain how a telephoto lens worked and point out architectural details that were behind where she was sitting and how in the pictures you could only see this one little bit and not any of the bench where she was, because it’s a zoom / telephoto lens, see, and then she went off about how it’s impolite, no, it’s more than impolite, and she doesn’t want her pictures to travel on a plane back to America, and I promised her that if there was even a hair on her head visible in any of the pictures I would delete them, and she told me she should call the police and have me arrested, and that in this country and my country it’s illegal to take pictures of just anyone you want without consent, and I came sooooooo close to debating her on that but then I realized I don’t truly know the laws for public privacy in Spain, only the US, and what’s the point of telling her it’s legal back home because hey, Kevin, you’re NOT BACK HOME. Finally she settled down and I left.

The point of all this is that I couldn’t be bothered to be annoyed or worried about this conversation because halfway through (before she started getting ugly) I realized I was doing it all in Spanish without any glaring major errors or miscommunications and that made me very happy.

So there’s that.

Afterwards I ate dinner downtown at a place called Klick Wines. It’s a restaurant and bar run by a Californian (is that right word? seems wrong) who owns a winery there and a restaurant here. He couldn’t really tell me why other than, “It was something I wanted to do” which I think is the perfect reason. We talked for a while about the wine regions of Spain, the grapes, the growing of said grapes, the food at his restaurant, and so forth. It was a great diversion. By the time I was done there I had almost forgotten about old yelling lady. My full belly and I rode the bus home in the most contented fashion possible.

Last night I went to an Argentinean restaurant called La Paloma (The Dove) with two of my classmates, the aforementioned Ludivine (Ludi) and Yuri who are from France and Japan, respectively. We met up at 9:30ish or so for dinner and I intentionally didn’t wear my watch because I didn’t want to constantly worry about bedtime, etc. Well, Ludi insisted that we speak only Spanish for the night which was of course a great idea in which I reluctantly participated. We must have been quite a sight (sound?) for the other restaurant patrons, us with our accents and no dictionaries and constantly hunting for the right words in Spanish, French, and English when necessary. After hours of delightful discussion and fantastic food and wine we wrapped it up and checked the time. Suffice to say it was closer to 2:00 AM than 1:00 AM, so we headed home. Now I have officially stayed out way past my bedtime while engaged solely in the act of eating dinner. I feel like I’m doing it right.


And now for the food, which has been separated so that you can ignore it if you so desire, you philistines.

At Klick: pulled pork served on toasted bread (dressed with olive oil) that was covered with a slice of melted brie. The pork had some subtle spices and was seriously some of the most delectable I’ve ever had. It was superbly soft and tasty though not with the somewhat smoky character of barbecued pork. I asked him to describe in brief the method without giving away his culinary secrets and he said it involved a lot of experimentation and a pressure cooker. It was simply fantastic. There was nothing overt, no strange spices or glazes or splashes or sides or anything – just four simple items (pork, brie, bread, oil) that came together for a final dish that far exceeded the sum of its parts.

Dessert was an apple tart that was round with a chewy pastry base. The apples were perfectly soft, no acidity left, and with just the right amount of cinnamon. There was an almost savory flavor somewhere between them and the pastry – I pretended that it was extra butter and that made me happy. The tart itself was surrounded by homemade whipped cream and topped with a tiny bit of a rather standard vanilla ice cream. All of this was given a drizzle of bright yellow lemon syrup, more for appearance than anything as its flavor was immediately drowned out by the whipped cream.

While there I had two glasses of wine – one a rather nakedly un-oaked Rioja Crianza that went well with my pork, and the other from Jumilla was big and exciting in an unfamiliar way. I won’t bore you with the rest of my notes.

Yesterday’s lunch was the first time that I’ve come close to … well, disappointment is far too harsh a word. There have been so many fabulous lunches here at the house that to have a normal or bland one was just unexpected. The salad was as usual, the main lunch was a pile of rice with pimientos del piquillo (rapidly becoming one of my favorite things to eat here – it’s a certain kind of very mild red preserved pepper with a fantastic flavor unlike anything I’ve ever had) and a little bit of fish on the side. Nothing bad by any stretch, just a touch dull. Dessert: fruit. You knew that.

At La Paloma last night I got an empenada (little folded and fried pastry) of cheese and onion, a tasty tiny filet mignon (appropriately rare inside, hooray), some fries on the side which were not shabby at all but hey, they’re still french fries. The best fries I’ve ever had were at Lulu’s in the Garden (district) in New Orleans and those were fried in duck fat and delicious beyond imagination. Compared to those, all other fries are simply a side item to be consumed without much thought.

Desert was GOING to be a panqueque de dulce de leche con nueces. Now I understand dulce de leche as a caramel-like flavor, I know that nueces are nuts (probably hazelnuts) and that a panqueque is most likely – bear with me here – a pancake. I know. It’s a long road, linguistically, from one to the other. Try not to get lost. ANYWAY the kitchen was apparently out of panqueques so I ended up with a brownie and ice cream which was a split-second decision that I later regretted. It was fine, sure, but nothing I couldn’t have had at home. Still, the ladies really liked their brownies so I lived vicariously through them, ha ha.

We’re returning there tonight to meet up before going out, so I’m going to get my panqueque for sure. If not, I’ll do something horrible, mark my words.

Today’s lunch was ajo blanco (literally: white garlic) which is a soup made from ground almonds, breadcrumbs, a little bit of garlic, cream, water, oil, etc. It was tasty yet I couldn’t finish the entire bowl – a bit intense. Main meal was the potato and egg torta (tortilla? for some reason I can’t remember how it’s called) and the skillet-seared green peppers and a few slices of raw tomato dusted dried oregano or basil, couldn’t tell which. I’m a failure. Dessert was fruit splashed with white wine and a little bit of tiramisu ice cream on top.

And now I sleep. Mmm. Sleep.

July 4, 2007, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Spain

I love the city bus here – it’s agressive, it starts and stops and throws people about and fights the traffic because unlike most cities back home there apparently is no law here about giving right of way to the city bus. The driver is constantly muscling aside all these ridiculously tiny cars and a wasp’s nest worth of scooters while breezing past people practically standing in the street. It’s like no bus I’ve ever ridden. It’s a thrill. I swear, I kid you negative, I saw the bus driver use a rolled-up newspaper to hit a scooter kid on the head today. I am not lying one bit.

There was something terribly fantastically incongruous about riding the 34 tonight while listening to the album ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ by Jane’s Addiction. For me that album belongs in such a specific place and time and it’s not on a bus in Spain where the driver is daydreaming about being the next world-famous toreador and dodging oncoming traffic like a constant stream of angry bulls.

Little song, little dance, Batman’s head on a lance.
July 4, 2007, 9:24 am
Filed under: Spain

I honestly was starting to feel bad about talking so much about food and so little about my other experiences, but I’ve had several people tell me how much they like reading about what I eat (this is what we call culinario-vicarious living) and so I’m gonna keep it up. So there.

Yesterday I went to the beach again. I like to go at nearly 6:00 PM – the sun’s still pretty high at that time, but a little bit weaker so I don’t burn if I’m out there for an hour and I forget my sunscreen. In fact, I almost never wear it to the beach. Maybe a little on my face but nowhere else. Now if I were to go at noon, say, I’d be so covered in that stuff you couldn’t see my body. I’d look like a pupating moth. Mmm. But combine the late hour with the amount of time I spend at the beach (none, really) and I don’t come anywhere near even turning pink. So. That’s good.

Lots of vitamin D for me.

Last night I finished my homework and decided to take a good long walk since it had been two days or so since I’d gone out for exercise. Also it had been two days since I went looking for photo opportunities so I took care of that as well.

And then! Then I went to an ice cream stand and immediately negated all of my exercise with a little cup of cream-flavored ice cream. I swear. I’m going to whomp the owner of one of these joints over the head with a club and take them back to the US and make them open a stand here and I will reap the profits as everyone crowds around to enjoy my superb and superior ice cream.

Or maybe I’m just infatuated with the idea of liking the ice cream here. Both are equally possible, I suppose.

I started a discussion today in class (during the discussion period, of course) about how the tap water here is totally safe to drink. Apparently EVERYONE (who is not a Spaniard) thinks that it is not. This isn’t Mexico, people! I mean … um … no offense, Mexico. Apparently the rationale is that we’re within, oh, shouting distance from Africa. Ridiculous. It’s a municipal water supply! Treated with CHEMICALS! As we all know, chemicals make everything better!

Having mentioned Africa I must bring up and correct a previous bit of information that I have passed on to you. There are seasonal hot and dry winds here called ‘terral’ but those come from the interior of the country – the ‘tierra’ if you will (hence the name terral, get it, see how smart we all feel now?). The winds we’re currently experiencing are from Africa, yes, but aren’t technically the terral. So there’s that. I didn’t want you to show up here thinking one thing and it not being true and having to curse me for lying to you and making you the biggest fool in Málaga.

Um … um … other news. Oh yes, with regards to photography. My 50mm portrait lens has become my absolute lens of choice. If I have to take it off to shoot something I will put it back on when I’m done as opposed to waiting ’till later to switch out. I’m getting a bit obsessive. I still use my 20mm wide-angle with frequency but it’s just not the same. The 80-200 is reserved for very special occasions. NO VOYEUR JOKES ALLOWED.

I bet that made sense to all two of you photo jerks that read this blog.

Okay, wrapping up, here are Words About Food!

Tuesday: starter of a full plate of large white beans and two types of Catalan sausages that you can’t buy here but the Sr. has family there and so they bring back this stuff. One was white, one was black. Chances are the darker one was a blood sausage – in fact I’m certain it was – but by not asking I was able to avoid thinking and instead enjoy the hell out of it. The main meal was a ratatouille with a fried egg on top and a third kind of sausage (pink!) on the side. Mmmmmm. Dessert: yeah. You know.

Today: soup of spinach, pumpkin, carrot, onion, and a bit of soy. Well, she said there was soya in it but I couldn’t find or taste it. Maybe it’s a … um … I dunno. Soy powder. Main meal was a penne pasta with nothing but fresh tomatoes smashed into sauce – not heated, not with oil, just tomatoes – and a bit of chorizo and topped with some shredded cheese of the kind of ‘swiss’ variety. The plate side was boiled green beans and spinach. Des-

I don’t even have to type that part.

Okay! I … oh hey I forgot to mention that there’s a neighbor lady here who is trying to learn English so I went by yesterday for an hour to help her out and am supposed to return today in 45 minutes or so. After that I’m going downtown and if it’s still open I’mo hit up that barber shop and get me a harrrcut.

And then maybe just end up walking aimlessly as usual for an hour or more until I feel properly exercised and then I’ll go home – USING MY BUS CARD GO KEVIN which makes it a whole lot cheaper.

Until next time! Stay classy! I miss you all!