Saturday, September 30, 2023

Spain Part 2

I'm the legacy of immigrants. I'm one of a couple hundred descendants of a strong resilient man and woman who could only imagine the risks and hardships they embarked upon. They crossed an ocean and dug earth to feed the brood. 

Aleja doesn't know her lineage, but to some degree, our stories began here on this continent; Europe. We are from the new world returning to the old world. 

In Spain, it's driven home for one of us more than the other. Her stories have been mine for so many years that I take extra interest in it all. Speaking the language, she augments the day with subtle layers of insight that shade the pastels of the church bricks and color the gray stone castle walls. 

Spain sits atop Africa; so close you can see one from the other. It should come as no surprise that the oldest human habitations in Europe have been found here in Spain. Cave paintings that date back 40,000+ years prove the tenacity of man and straddle a timeline we can all tie ourselves to. The DNA is common to us all: from northern Spain to Northern Ireland, it really isn't that different. As we'll learn, they are Celtic one and all. The truth is... The totality of mankind just wants to gorge ourselves on satisfying food, drink cider until our shoes are soaked, listen to the music that makes us grind our teeth and pretend we'll live forever. Let the party begin. Welcome to Spain my friends.

Leaving Africa

The south of Spain was a blast furnace when we returned on the ferry from Morocco in June. (But you read about southern Spain in one of my previous dispatches. This one is about the 4 comunidades at the top) We sprinted north as fast as we could. Once we got on the other side of Madrid it started to cool a bit. 

The Edifices and Landscapes

We were taken by the soaring architecture punctuated with the grandeur of nature that extends to the horizon. The north is more interesting to the eye than the summer scorched south. We left the cities behind and repeatedly stabbed pins in a map as we hopped amongst charming Roman villages, built over the centuries into medieval cities, and then frozen in time. I can t say we had an authentic experience, but the route north swelled our hearts with the promises ahead.

The Change of Languages

Spanish sounds like a cement mixer. The low rumble of gravel mixed with the garbled growl of a combustion engine. It s mostly trilled Rs, with over pronounced Ps and Bs. However, in the north of Spain we found other languages. 

The Galician language is close to Portuguese. The Asturian language, according to Aleja doesn't vary much from traditional Spanish (Castellano)  a few words here and there; she found it easy to understand. Cantabrian is only a slightly divergent dialect from traditional Spanish, not its own language. Then there is Basque, which is unrelated to any other language on earth. Franco tried to outlaw them from putting  Ts and  Xs next to each other but it didn't stick and still exists today. 

Spanish Terrorists?

Everyone wants to be acknowledged and given their due respect. The Basque wanted a bit more. They actually wanted to secede from Spain entirely. The ETA Killed 829 and injured 22,000. Founded in 1959 it rose from the frustration of the fascist Franco regime. After Spain returned to democracy following his death in 1975 the ETA began losing favor with the populace. It slowly petered out and was completely disbanded in 2018. Sometimes nightmares do end.

Spain Will Jack You Up!

I'm staying up past midnight because, well, the sun doesn't set until 10 o'clock and we eat dinner so late now that our sleep schedules are askew. The other point of derailment is the bottle of wine they gift you for the  "menu del dia"  lunch. So, of course, I'm getting loaded in the day. I love day drinking but it confuses my night drinking.

I loved slurping my wine from a soup bowl

Ah... The Lusty Food Choices

It's that lip licking moment... Like when Sting hits you with the falsetto. Knees go weak, you feel it in your diaphragm, and the arrow on the meter takes a hard right.  Oh god that's delicious!  The menus of Spain are written with hearty honest food that is so deeply satisfying I wonder why they needed so much religion with sustenance like that on their plate. 

The squid alone makes me drool. Add to that the octopus and those fire roasted green peppers and now I m conspiring how to get a Spanish passport. Then there's the ham. 100% Jamon Iberico is free ranging pork raised on nothing but acorns. The tenderloin cut is pure heaven with a mouth feel that forces you to conjure brand new adjectives never before used to describe food. 

So valuable they have to lock it up

The Museums

When the Egyptians decided to build the Aswan dam they knew that they were going to flood thousands and thousands of archaeological treasures and so they invited different countries in to help with the excavations. Part of the payment was free looting. I certainly didn't expect to see Egyptian antiquities in Spain but there they are and I count it as an added bonus. 

The Museo De America is in Madrid and a must see. It contains 25,000 treasured artifacts stolen from the new world. I went to every museum in Central and South America but some of the greatest items weren't there, because they are here. I think my jaw was dragging on the floor the whole time. 

The Bandits

While the world was in lock down, we spent 20 months on the island of Bali. We went 18 months without seeing a plane fly over. Our  do everything buddies  were Dan and Jessie Rae Walker. Collectively we called ourselves the Bali Bandits. We left the island in Dec of 2021 and began our European adventure the next month. The year and a half apart didn t diminish the love. It was really great to catch up and drink too much. 

The Celtic Connection

I alluded to it before and it's true the Celts were spread all over Europe. Everything that follows is hotly debated but it seems the consensus is that the greatest expanse of Celts occurred around 275 BC and spread from Scotland to Spain and as far east as Turkey. There is genetic proof of related clusters, and some archeological evidence as well as some linguistic connections, but as of this date it's still a bit fuzzy. Suffice to say, watching a Spaniard play a bagpipe while loaded on hard cider ...  it's hard not to feel a connection with my Irish half. 

A Constant Commitment To Incompetence

My new mantra is to never attempt mechanical maintenance or repairs south of Brussels. I realize that eliminates half of Germany and all of Austria but I couldn't risk including France.  Sorry Switzerland   I couldn't afford you anyway.

Consistent incompetence. It's like watching someone being pulled toward the lip of Niagara Falls. You try everything you can to arrest it but they are so committed to failure that it can t be prevented. We called to remind them, we sent pictures of the parts in hopes of incrementally improving our odds and it was all to no avail. They refused every life ring we threw to them

We couldn't even get a simple oil change in Spain. Emails go unanswered, phone calls (if ever answered in the first place) are never returned, and the parts department has no idea what is happening with the wrench turners. And before you blame this on lost in translation, please remember that Aleja is a native Spanish speaker. 

"Hi thank you for answering, I've been trying to get Pablo to respond to my email and we are running out of time so I thought I should call again. Can I speak to him please?"

 "He's out. Call back Tuesday after 16:00."

 "Tuesday? But it's Thursday! Can anyone else help me?"


We found a Fiat dealer that could order the airbag module that I need but they wouldn't do it without me first wiring the money. Fine. I get pinched on the exchange rates and the transfer fee but I sent them the 306 Euros. Did they order the part? Of course not.  System not working.  I had to drive to their garage and collect my 306 Euros. Most expensive pain in the ass ATM service ever. We made reservations a week in advance at another place for a simple oil change. Aleja sent them pictures via text with exact amounts and brands, and when we got there, they hadn t even ordered the parts and the price mysteriously doubled. 

Hence my new inner mantra:  "Don't hate them because they are bad people. Empathize with them because they are incompetent."   (They probably aren't bad people. This is what they have grown up with and have never known lubricated convenient commerce.) I'm not even convinced that the mishaps are due to dishonesty, which would be the easy explanation. I still contend they are good people who just have near zero business acumen.

I bought 2 wrenches and I'm now qualified to change oil and filter on a Fiat Ducato

Since I originally wrote the above paragraphs, we have driven through all of France and all of Italy and they are no better. The ever-present capitalist failures of Europe. Missed opportunities and soggy competition make me routinely swear that if I ever went back into business (I won't) I could crush the competition with their entrenched errors. Here's all it would take: 

1. Answer the phone

2. Take a message

3. Return the call

Sounds so simple, and it is, but they refuse under the banner of  "We aren't Americans!"  

"Good! And I love you for it! But you are a for profit business. Just do the bare minimum and win."

Europe is wonderful and we are having the time of our lives but at least in the south they are absolute failures at simple commerce. We drive on.

I'll conclude with my brother's quote describing his intolerable brother: Me

"My way IS the highway..!"

Bob Friedman

(Well I ended that blog on a down note but I think it's important for future historians to note when I soured on humanity). I planted the pretty pic below so you can still see that I haven't given up on everything. Have a nice day!

1 comment:

Eric Dehner said...

Per usual amazing writing. Had me in stitches. Open a business in Spain.. like taking candy from a baby.


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