FOOD, FOOTBALL, AND LAUGHTER
Trip Start Jan 31, 2007
53Trip End Feb 25, 2008
Gerardo, a sensitive and well-meaning guy, is learned in the fine art of cooking. You always eat well at Gerardo's. But, he told me one day in his kitchen: "Tu puedes dejar de tomar vino, tu puedes dejar de hacer qualquier cosa, pero el dia en que dejas de comer carne, en mi casa tu vas a pasar hambre." (You can stop drinking wine, you can stop doing any other thing, but the day you stop eating meat you're going to go hungry in my house.) Fortunately, I eat meat; as many animals that die, I'll eat 'em.
During my stay, Gerardo or his girlfriend cooked: a simple but delicious sandwish in fresh, grilled bread, with mayonnaise, Spain's packaged flimsy bacon cubes, and lettuce; a lunch with those same bacon cubes - well, not the SAME ones - in an alfredo pasta, with a salad containing shrimp and huge tomato and onion chunks and black olives, with fried plantain circles; fish and rice; and Venezuelan "cachapas", which are hardy corn pancake frisbees eaten with butter and ham and cheese. I wish I could wear cachapas on my head!
Another highlight came at a small Madrid plaza, where I watched this homeless soccer player with wonder. He was about twenty-nine, not bad-looking, like a Leonardo Dicaprio, with shaggy and unclean hair, dirt-colored boots, and pants with two torn slits on one leg so the leg bottom flapped. At first, he juggled the ball with his feet approximately one thousand times with ease without letting it touch the ground. Then, he dribbled slowly around the plaza, making pedestrians carrying shopping bags yield before his path, occasionally shooting rapid strikes past unsuspecting people towards the plaza's borders or its monument.
He never interacted with people until the worn-out ball spilled into the road or down the subway steps, when he yelled "Ball!" and desperately, unthankfully waited for pedestrians to throw it to him - which they always obligingly did. A moustachioed, alcoholic-looking, English-countryside-looking man, whose bed was a bench, who could've been the other's father bum, sporadically yelled out unintelligible somethings. I think they were Irish.
The last memorable moment came - of all places - in the Madrid airport, during a slow, long night of waiting.
Nice, but serious, thirty-year-old Alessandra from Italy began to tell me of a six-foot-shark that lay on the sea-floor and scooped up prey with its vacuum mouth. I'd never heard of this. I accused Alessandra, who wasn't a kidder at all, of prefabricating the whole thing. No, really, I said, you're making it up. But, she'd swam with it in Belize. Then, I asked her any question I could think of - though she wasn't a scientist - that could help me identify it. (I knew I knew my sharks!) What does it eat? What color is it? Does it swim ...
And I laughed. A clumsily big, gum-showing smile swallowed my long face turning red, and I laughed. I couldn't ask the questions (thought I wanted to know what that shark was!), and I laughed so wonderfully hard that tears left my eyes. Maybe I was just hysterical, maybe the seriousness with which Alessandra regarded my questions was too funny, maybe I just needed a laugh. Alessandra uneasily joined my best laugh in years.
I couldn't converse anymore. Alessandra let me borrow her booklet of mindless entertainment, and I understood some of its comics. One showed a basketball coach holding a microphone, speaking to his googly-eyed team, which was running away from him, terrified: (translated) "I said 'destiny'! Not 'dentist'; 'destiny'! Our team has an appointment with 'destiny'!" I laughed so hard.
Alessandra, in her fluent Spanish, said there was one comic she didn't get:
The first panel showed a gigantic, bloated, cartoonishly peacefully happy fish in an aquarium, and a man entered the picture. In the second panel, the man was doing some unseen work on the tank. In the last panel, the man walked away from the fish, wiping his hands of a job well-done.
But, the fish was facing the opposite way in the last panel. ... the poor, stupid fish was so big for its tank that it couldn't turn around on its own! Ah ha ha! Ah ha ha!
When I calmed down enough to explain it, Alessandra laughed a bit.
And thanks to Carmen; Antonio; and Jose for the rides!
And much thanks to Gerardo, Mairin, & their Ecuadorian landlady & her son for the place to stay!