Friday, August 27, 1999

My Own Private Lumberton

The Weakly Tim

Hola, Bon Dit!

Hi again! Well, okay, it's been a lot more than a week since my last installment. I have to admit that a) I got busy, b) nothing all that funny has happened recently. The trouble with living in an exotic, exciting place like Barcelona is that after a while you realize that it has stopped being so exotic and exciting and has turned itself into your boring old hometown. You end up yearning for other, more exotic places, like Lumberton. For more on this, see "The Weakly Tim, Washington DC edition".

I lived in DC for like 8 years. When I first got there, I was a 23 year old hayseed from Texas. I still had shoes with, well, stuff on them, really (sorry, Mom). On my first trip back home, one of my aunts asked me if I thought I was old enough to live in DC. Which made me laugh at the time, but, heck, maybe she was right. Anyway, When I first arrived in DC, I was going down to the mall to look at monuments, staring morosely at the Vietnam memorial (too dang big), and generally being a tourist. By the time I left, I was travelling entirely in a radius of about five miles. The mall had become an annoyance, Pennsylvania avenue had been closed between 15th and E to accomodate terrorist attacks, and I was begging my boss to send me out of town. Which he did.

So I ended up in Spain. Hey, I painted my apartment (yippee). Well, one of the hallways (orange). But I'm doing the whole place (not in orange, that would be too... too). The thing is that when I rented the flat, there had been a wardrobe against one of the walls in the living room. They removed the wardrobe when I moved in, to reveal-- Jimmy Hoffa! No, but there was a huge patch of non-standard wallpaper from when Janice Joplin was alive behind it, with big avocado colored ovals from when avocado was a color. This made me morose every time I walked into my living room (too dang big). So after watching "The Birdcage" in Spanish fifteen times, I decided to do up the entire apartment South Beach style. We'll see what the council or the board or the generalitat or whatever it is this week has to say when I'm done.

I ran into my busking pal from Mexico, Hector, again, walking around Las Ramblas with a guitar. We ended up busking in a cafe right next to the birthplace of Joan Miro. This time I'm positive: no one has ever done "I wanna be just like you" from "The Jungle Book" on Las Ramblas before. We even did a little scat singing (you know, zaba daba zee etc). You'd think that Barcelona would be too big to just bump into people on the street, but I really do see the same folks all the time. There's a guy here who plays guitar and panpipe, who built a little stage for his tiny little dog, who wears little glasses and a hat (the dog, not the guy). The dog sits there and howls. My god how the money rolls in.

Work is so boring right now that it's hardly worth mentioning. The reason for this is that the entire country of Spain has gone on vacation for the entire month of August. These people (me included now) get 25 days off a year, plus a handful of holidays, and the entire week of Easter. For those of us unfortunate slobs who do have to work, the schedule is cut back so I only have to work until 3pm. Is this civilized or what? Imagine asking for 25 days a year off in an interview in the US. The interviewer would have you doing a drug test in no time flat.

I realized three days ago that I had been in Barcelona for four months. I was reckoning on speaking like Cervantes by now. I'm not going to lie to you: I can speak Spanish now. It's far from perfect, I'm sure I sound like a four year old, but I'm getting by. I've started learning Catalan by osmosis. I was watching a soap opera the other day in Catalan (yup, they do their own shows here) about a salesman with Tourettes syndrome who loses a sale because he says something off-color to the client, then shows up for work in shorts and a Hawaiian luau shirt. They cribbed most of the story from Kurt Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions", I think. At least that's what I understood of the story.

Anyway, I can say stupid little Catalan things that make the locals smile, like "Molt be" (that's great) and "Bon Cap d'Setmana" (nice weekend). This is like watching a dog dance, it's not so important that he does it well, but that he does it at all. The next step will be the swear words... the great thing about the very first part of learning a language is that you can say wonderfully off-color things ("Is being a great day, I'll be damned!") and everyone just smiles, smiles, smiles. As you can see, I'm doing my best to change the idea of the "Ugly American".

The trouble is that my English is getting bad. I really didn't expect this. I had to address a group of folks from London about our product the other day, and I was reeeeeaching for words. There was a Glasgoweegian or something in the group, and I absolutely couldn't understand him (I'll be damned!).

I know what you're thinking. This is like when you're standing in line at the airport and some guy in a Jimmy Buffett shirt ahead of you in line is saying, loudly, "well, the trouble is that now I've got all this currency from Nepal and Pago Pago..." and you're thinking, stick it bud, they've all but chained me to my laptop. Ha ha.

Well, enough. Anybody coming to visit? Drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you. I miss the states, less, but I miss it. Oh, hey, I registered with the US Embassy, finally, which was great, because the entire transaction took place in Spanish, there wasn't any fooling around in English just because we were, oh, in the Embassy of the USA. Anyway, take care... -Tim

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