Roof Poopin’

It was a terrace Saturday and maybe we were just basking out there but Savi looked over the kneewall separating us from the neighboring rooftops and there, furtively picking a path between the terra cotta tiles, crept a little orange kitty. Being an experienced kitty rancher on the order of the Bubbles character from Trailer Park Boys, I proved once again the time-honored truth that cats will swallow their fear as long as they can wash it down with delicious, delicious meat.

At first I’d set a strip of jamon serrano on the knee-wall to see a little orange paw flash up and claim it. Maybe I’d dangle a strip of bacon or some chicken skin and let him war with his instincts and lose. Little by little, with constant persuasion-by-protein, the kitty gained the courage to leap onto the terrace. A bowl was set for him and on it the usual meat scraps or else a little white milk puddle for the lapping. Soon his skittishness became persistence and on a fateful day, he stepped through our door.

Last night he wedged himself between us in bed (no doubt the warmest spot in the house). He knows how to open our living room window and worse, the refrigerator door. We once were alerted to his presence by a quiet scratching from inside the fridge; he’d opened the door and under its own weight it’d shut on him, casting him immediately into cold darkness for we don’t know how long. We buy him cat food and give him pens to play with. He disappeared for a week and lately returned sans his male equipment, so he’s got owners several rooftops over who care for him. We’re thinking of buying flea collars in several different colors so as to fuck with his real parents big time. Of course his name is Kitty, the same as all of the cats who’ve leapt in and out of my life. The rooftops are his toilet and hunting ground, and as we’re in an arid climate rather than receive the sort of gifts given by temperate-weather cats (birds, mice, moles, rabbits) we get halves of lizards and bats. The lives of kitties are mysterious and wonderful.

Slippery People

I woke up this morning with “Slippery People” by the Talking Heads in my ears and sure enough, today has begun to take funky turns and shake its booty as if it were as loaded as the backup singers in “Stop Making Sense”. For reference:

On the face of it, no one’s having more fun than those onstage and to be sure, I’d have given anything to up there in some other life. Sometimes when you whip your tail in funky splendor, though, there is shrapnel: we made sounds this morning, the girlfriend and I, which indeed were funky but of the discolored variety which, admittedly, lend relief to the lush sounds we’re capable of. She intends for me a potential disappointment which she’s suffered this year and feels unwilling to suffer next year. It’s about work, about where and what hours, and it’s ugly. Working in a high school and normal hours has jaded her against working again in that capacity in Thailand; rather, she intends to split her time between very tiny children in the late morning and extracurricular work later in the afternoon/early evening, leaving me to work a regular day with 9-11 yr old children at a regular elementary. Maybe not too hard to savor, but for me it is and let me explain why.

Let’s pretend that we’re dancing the night away together at a Talking Heads concert at CBGB’s. Let’s also pretend we’re the same sex, and likewise are attracted to people of a common gender. You turn to shake awhile with someone and after a while, turn back to me a little turned off, with a sour look on your face. You plead with me to dance with that person who, granted, I may have danced with anyway but given your point of view of the situation, knowing that you yourself wouldn’t do it, I’m given to feeling that I’m expected to wear a mantle you would pass up should it appear again before you. You plead with me to dance with that person because if I don’t, you’ll be made to dance with them again.

Thus the funk falls in glops and gloops all over us and jams up our eyes and ears. A good wingman would fall on the grenade, wouldn’t they? What gives me pause is the feeling that I should owe it to her to do it because “it’s my turn”…to do what? To be disappointed? To become jaded? Perhaps had I known we were taking turns being broken on the wheel, I’d feel less suspicious. Perhaps if I could imagine myself asking someone to do something I’d sooner scorn, I’d feel less suspicious.

I sense envy lurking in this argument. I sense it has to do with the cold day, the early rising which runs contrary to her nature, the hostile atmosphere of her teacher’s lounge, the regularity of her dread for the workday…or am I selfish? Do I covet my mornings? Have I become dependent on the schedule I’ve built? Is my mind closed to a new experience? From the bottom to the top, we’re confounded in our towers.

 

The Radio

In an hour I’ll be on my way to Bar Ramirez, a great brown building made of wood, to meet Elena. She’s a ranking teacher at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas next to Suarez Figueroa high school. Each week she does a radio program and this morning, she’s asked me to join her to talk a little bit about the US and Spain, and the whole thing’s going to be given in Spanish. Should they ask me why I’m here, I’ll have to lace some untruths through the facts but of course, to remain undetected is a bit easier as a foreigner who may have (or may not have) misspoke.

I can’t help but marvel a bit at how far my Spanish has come in just over a year. I went from stabbing blindly at vague memories of odd vocabulary words to giving a Spanish radio interview in what feels like very little time. Immersion is the only way to learn a foreign language.

Here in the full swell of winter the clouds have cleared off and the laundry’s drying well on the line. It’s colder in the apartment than it is outside, and the baked potato soup is on the stove.

Orange Warmth in Winter

(Preface: In addition to writing on my own, count this as post one in an endeavor to to talk about the scattered ends of life here, once daily, in digestible bits. These are time capsules for future me.)

They sit outside in the depths of winter which, granted, aren’t deep but keep us in coats and scarves and when it comes to eating out, eating inside. Particularly striking is the new Cafeteria España. The waiters in the morning set the tables outside on the sidewalk, against the building, under little iron arms bolted some eight or nine feet up onto the brick façade. These little arms indeed are heaters, their long twin elements feeding from the restaurant’s power and so much that the smokers below benefit enough to enjoy their morning papers in seeming comfort. All day this warmth rolls out from beneath the café’s great brown awning and at night, the customers sit bathed like metalworkers in an intense orange light.

Tits

We were invited out to the country this weekend by a friend of ours and what a lovely day for an outing. This activity, this heading out to the country for a day is an activity typical to this part of Spain; folks all have their spots and everyone returns to the same place each time for a picnic, a barbecue on an open flame, and time with their family. Savi agreed to this invitation before she knew what the outing was to be, and later learned it was going to be a convening of a coven of breastfeeding mothers. We were apprehensive that perhaps a table would be set up and milk-heavy tetas slung down in a buffet line and indeed, there were only three women but immediately, before we even left town udders had found their way in open air into tiny mouths.

I am not scandalized by breastfeeding. On the contrary, I was breastfed and I haven’t any beef with women who let it all hang out in public; that’s their choice, it’s their body, and good on them. What was surreal about this trip was the concentration of women at the same work. To me, they were machines; fit infant mouth to left tit and go for a bit, remove mouth, recapture left tit and wipe mouth, place infant in carrier, address toddler and ask if they’d like some tit, release right tit and fit toothy mouth onto nipple, pulse until toddler’s happy, recapture right tit and wipe mouth, notice infant in carrier, pick up and hold, release left tit…ad infinitum, the math never failing, the factory never slowing, three at once with their index fingers hooked under the hem of their t-shirts, sore nipples always playing at bulging through the sewn-on pocket and children thinking about soccer balls and the husbands hovering with mild headaches…no-one ever arrives at a point of rest. They’ve redefined for themselves what “feeling good” means to accommodate for the dearth of energy.

For us it was a lesson on paths and tits. When you’re pregnant your tits bloat and when they’re under assault every day, your nipples enlarge and their natural color is tinged red. When you choose to procreate you give up, to some extent, your freedom of will and choice. You must always account for a passenger in your car, which I’m not ready for. Savi is totally turned off to the very idea of this and for that I’m happy. The last thing we need is her joining some lactation group which for hours talks about tits and baby names. Lactation; it’s a focus here. In the religious museum here there’s a painting of a lactating Madonna with haloed baby pulled off-tit, and leche spilling down her underside, just above her lower ribs. I don’t know what it is with Catholics and their “sacred” fluids.

Speaking of udders, there were a small herd of cows out in the country which were a bit curious and fearful of us. They approached our campsite en masse but were too skittish to investigate, only stand some twenty yards off and give nervous looks. Their aim, finally, was to get through a closed cowpath gate. Fine; we opened the gate and after they’d all passed through, humping each other on the way, a solitary cow approached the way the others had come. It ran full-tilt and stopped at the barbed wire fence, confused as how to get to its mates. A young boy was holding the gate open, up along the fence line a ways. The cow ran at the gate, but when it saw the boy it stuttered, pitched forward once more, stuttered again, and just as it was getting to the gate gave up the ghost and threw itself through the barbed wire. It squeezed through the top and second string, somehow, and ruined the fence in doing it. A seven year-old boy filled it with so much fear that it was ready to risk it all on a potentially fatal chance. Amazing.

 

Fat Rain on the Fronds

Only grudgingly will the pensioners pick up their umbrellas and strap on their shoes today for the old “café-stroll-café-stroll-bar-stroll-bar-bar-bar” routine. Something like 45°F or less today, and pissing. Our Czech couch-surfers have decided now to stay an extra two days…for to ride in this is to re-invite bronchial malady in one and misery for both the duration of their 45km strike for Monasterio. Last night they whipped up Knedliky, a Czech supper dish which featuring dumplings, fruit, powdered sugar, and melted butter reads more like dessert. For dessert, we had jamon, pan, y queso.

 

Intercambio’s great. I like tutoring because I walk the town, entering homes and gathering notes on how people live here, and perhaps what they expect of their neighbors. Everyone knows Savi and I are here; the bartenders are a community, the teachers are a community, and those people interested in escaping this lovely bubble are a sub-community within the larger frame of the town’s population and they all talk, are all accomplices. Waiting has been my method of advertising my services. People we don’t know call our phone, having taken our number third- or fifth-hand, and are now my students. In a lot of cases, I don’t even know my students’ names until I get to their respective houses.

The borrachos are good borrachos. 400 years, 400 years, ah ah ah ahhhhhh~

We four drank two bottles of wine and half a bottle of good Portuguese port last night, from Porto herself. It’s cheap the way seafood’s cheap on the coast, or oranges are cheap in Florida. We two were gifted a set of shot glasses for the slamming of slivovice and to keep us from drowning in the port.

My omelette skills have become worthy of professional criticism. Normally I don’t puff up, but god damn. For example:

4 eggs

1/2 onion

3 big, fresh mushrooms

3/4″ of a stick of butter, or more if you don’t fear for your arteries

some olive oil

a splash of balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

some great cheese for grating

 

Preheat the oven to 325. Dice up the onion. Drizzle some olive oil on a cookie tray and splash some balsamic onto it. Dump the onions on and mix them well, so that they’re all stained brown; add salt and pepper. Melt the butter in the pan and crack all four eggs in. Take off the heat and scramble the hell out of them until they’re more or less an even color and consistency. Shake in salt and pepper, grate in some cheese, and splash in some milk; whip it good. Now, once all of the extras are mixed in, leave the pan on medium heat for a healthy five minutes.

Take the onions out of the oven. They should just be beginning to caramelize, or brown a bit about the edges. Scrape the mushrooms onto the cookie sheet and mix them well with the onions. Add salt and pepper and place them back in the oven for about ten more minutes.

Once the top of the eggs begins to look solid, run a spatula under them to make sure they aren’t sticking to the pan. When you can slide the whole “egg patty” around in the pan a bit, remove them from heat. Remove the veggies from the oven and scrape them into the egg pan. Grate a fresh dusting of lovely cheese over the steaming heart of your masterpiece and then, when you’re ready, fold it into the “calzone” position. If the pan looks dry when you fold the omelette over, add a bit more butter for the greasing.

After a few minutes the cheese will have melted enough that the egg-labials will have bonded together. Pluck courage and flip the delicious fucker over. Wait another two anxious minutes and cleave her in twain with the spatula and serve with juice, or home fries…and coffee with chocolate shavings and steamed milk. HA!

 

Really, this is a paradisaical place. Our boarders all say they will stay only for a night and on the third night we drink and laugh and wave them off in the morning. The mire is thick what with the zero crime, the cheap everything, and the commonly held favor of relationships over careers. I swear it is the El Dorado I’ve expected to one day find; it is the end, the clearing in the woods where the sun warms the grasses and the berries are the fattest. For little effort everything a person can be well provided-for and live out their days here in relative peace. To stoke folks’ sensibilities  there are regular futbol matches, annual bull fights, and inexorable telenovelas (if the severity of one’s piety can only be ameliorated in a wash of daily scandal ). People revere the elderly (“ustedes” in its right place) and the elderly suffer gambling addiction and the softened Spanish of the youth. The neatest example I can point to with some ease is the difference between the Spanish spoken by the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth and that spoken by all of the other characters in the film. That old Spanish is almost decadent in its enunciation of each letter; the tongue swirls around the “s” and hisses, clucks consonants and – I feel – the warm, airy essence of Spain breathes in the spaces between syllables. This space, if you speak Spanish in Europe, is endangered. The new Spanish is rapido, and for that slushy such that more people may be understood and understand one another. That sweet air has flooded into the noses and tails of words, leavening them further and perhaps, homogenizing them. So be it, yes, so be it but I know what I like.

We will go now for Spanish gazpacho and later, dine on Czech potato salad. We have a personal keg (5L) of Heineken and secretly, at the bitter end of the night and hunched over myself, I will be alone for a moment with a Kit Kat bar.