Wednesday, October 13, 1999



Bon dia! Howdy!

I hope everybody's doing great. After almost six months here, I finally got out of Spain for a day. Some friends and I drove into Andorra, which is a country so small that it usually gets mistaken for a dog hair or something when you're looking at it on a map. It sits between France and Spain in the Pyranees, and is the seat of the Association of Ridiculously Small Countries (which includes Luxembourg, The Vatican, Rush Limbaugh's Butt...)

A few facts: No one knows anything about the history of Andorra. Every article I looked up started with a statement like "The history of Andorra is obscured by the fogs of the past" or something. They do have a charter called the Carta de Fundacio d'Andorra signed by Charlemagne (conveniently locked away, and commonly believed to be a forgery with the sole purpose of giving the Andorrans claim against France and Spain). In 1933 a Russian declared himself King Boris of Andorra (I'm not making this up) but was escorted out of the country by several burly guardsmen.

Anyway, sometime in the last hundred years some genius decided to remove sales tax in Andorra, making it the Delaware of Europe. Every weekend, zillions of Spaniards from the south west and Frenchmen (Frenchiards? Froggians?) from the north east invade to buy watches and cheese. This weekend was no different, or maybe a little different. This weekend there was a Texan, too.

The French drive like hell. The Spaniards drive like hell, too. My friend Sònia was driving, and I got to see a side of her that I'd never seen: the brutal, French-hating, goddam-it-this-is-my-lane- so-go-back-to-France side of her. It was cool.

We looked at watches and violins and bought groceries. It really was a lot cheaper (eight yogurts for 500 Pesetas: ¡Guay, tio!). We saved about 3000 Pesetas ($19.38US). We filled the tank twice, for 5000 Pesetas. You do the math.

Woof, what scenery! The drive from Barcelona into Andorra was breathtaking. We kept passing shimmering reservoirs to bring tears to your eyes, followed by winding switchbacks up undulating hillsides to put lumps in your throat, and vast herds of sheep to put plugs in your nose. The city of Vella d'Andorra itself is a single street, and unfortunately, by the time you get there, you're so cranky at everybody that you want to punch anyone who has a French accent (or Spanish or Catalan). But it's pretty, in a little bit too modern way.

One thing that really is worth buying there is cigarettes, but I stopped smoking 16 days, 7 hours and 11 minutes ago. Thank god for one thing: The day after I stopped, Oracle Spain instituted a new rule saying that you could no longer smoke at your desk (did you American folks get that?). As you can imagine, this did not go over big with the locals. I don't like to generalize about the Spaniards, but as a people, they do not like rules that restrict their personal freedom (you wouldn't either if you had had Franco for 40 years). This extends just about to the ridiculous, with laws prohibiting smoking in Elevators only taking effect a couple of years ago.

As part of my campaign not to smoke, I started working my Rubik's cube again. I can do it in like three minutes now. I do it on the metro. I do it at work. The other day I was going to meet some friends for the opening of a club called "The Wild West", which is a Texas theme bar, basically. So of course I wore my Stetson and my Cowboy boots, and my Lumberton High School letter jacket. I looked real Texan (cuz ah am). I was standing in the metro, in my cowboy hat, working my cube. When I got off the train, I heard the kid behind me say to his girlfriend, in Spanish, "man, these tourists sure dress weird" (tia, estos guiris se visten gillipollas). I turned around, looked at the kid, and just smiled. "Um, um, except for you, sir" he said (Excepto que usted). Tim: 1 Spain: 0. Cool.

My friends Allie and Bibette came from Seychelles a couple of weeks ago. It was great, I got to see a lot of my city that I hadn't seen. I also got to play translator (fun, fun, fun). I kept looking at my Catalan friends and speaking English and looking at Allie and Bibette and speaking Spanish. We went to Sitges for a day and met an older Indian lady who tagged around the city with us. We didn't see a single dang Transvestite, which is kind of the whole point of going to Sitges. We had a blast.

Well, really no more to report. Drop me a line, I'll probably write again in a week or two. -Tim

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