Halloween Masquerade 2

So over the years Halloween has crept its way into Spanish society like a green ooze, and now that stores realize they can cash in on the day too, it is present in some of the most unsuspecting shapes and forms: Halloween girdles, pumpkin soap dishes, skeleton sunglasses are just some of the random products you see out there.

         Maty was different, or at least it had a legitimate case to make as it specialized in fairly modest and accessible costumes, and I imagine for quite some time.  Plus you can only sell so many ballet shoes in a month.  You have to come up with something to boost sales.  And it seems to me that they had made the right choice.  Here is how things looked downstairs where the flamenco dresses hung.

No, I didn’t ask the customers to move out of the way for the picture.  They just weren’t there.  But I will take the opportunity to tell you that the store is wonderfully old-style, with lots of room and, high ceilings and walls stocked to the top with products.

But I wasn’t here to see those things.  No was anyone else, apparently.  Here’s where the crowd was instead:

     The place was jumping, as you can see, with customers of all ages clamoring for an outfit to suit their needs.  Children were nearly pinned to the counter.  All of us looked for solutions and quick, because the alternative was making it yourself.

         I have to admit that the creative side of me wanted to eschew these easy-way-out costumes and try to confection my own get-ups for my daughters.  That was until I told them what I had in mind.  Then they suggested I get a MRI. They obviously had even littler faith.

       It can be so tough to compete with those mothers who can whip up Hollywood-quality wardrobes with just a few things hanging around the house.  They say things like: “I just made this witch’s dress with a garbage bag.  I fashioned the hat from two milk cartons, and glued some kitty litter on to make the moons and the stars.   Looks like the real thing, doesn’t it?” or “I just did a workshop on how to make hanging eyeballs with a hardboiled egg and an unraveled condom.  Your father doesn’t need them very often, anyway, so he won’t mind.  It’s going look great.”

       And it does, for the love of God.  It really does.  Had I attempted to do the same, I would have crafted something resembling a physical representation of Total Failure.  Defeat.  They wouldn’t have said it looked like a witch because there would be nothing in common with a great old hag at all.   This is artisanship fro crying out loud, and you are reading from a person who when he draws a pumpkin his students think he is depicting a

        So I accept my limitations and that day resorted to studying the albums with pictures, prices and sizes of all the costumes.  I went to the book which featured versions for grown-ups and I flipped through pages and pages of costumes until it became apparent to me that fear and terror were the last things they were eliciting.  In fact, by the end, images of necrophilia danced in my head.  I thought to myself “Boy, what I could do with the zombie if I got enough caipirinhas in her…” and things like that until I realized it was time I focused on finding the right fangs for my daughter.  It was only fair.

         Handing over the problem to a store does not mean you are necessarily going to get everything done in five minutes.  Halloween sales tend to bring a child’s power of decision down to a near standstill.   They become mesmerized by the whole picture and lose all focus.  That was what nearly happened to my daughters.  But once I was able to stop ogling photos of Little Red Riding Hood in a miniskirt with blood make-up dripping down the corners of her lips and a knife in her hand, we managed to figure out at least one of the choices.   We could move on.

Halloween Masquerade

Ever since Vicente Rico’s closed down a few years ago, the choices available for getting a halfway decent costume in Madrid have been reduced drastically, by about 50%, I’d say.  Now there is only one place that I can think of that offers any serious range of costumes without having to resort to the Chinese 5-and-dime stores, which is where you end up going in the end.  But we will get to them later.  Vicente Rico had a store just off Serrano.  It had been there for as long as I can remember before it suddenly disappeared.  I guess the crisis got the best of it.

         So, now my daughters and I slip down to the center to Maty, another classic in town.  Maty opened its doors in 1943, right smack in the heart of the crude post-Spanish Civil War days.  It originally sold dance slippers, but later expanded into marketing outfits related to dance and ballet as well.  It eventually diversified its offer to include costumes to cater to the growing demand at Carnival and Halloween.

         Halloween has no place in Spanish tradition but it is growing in popularity, and in part English teachers like me are to blame.  It was supposed to be a fun way of incorporating culture from the English-speaking world into the classroom.  But you don’t just mention getting dressed up as a monster and raking in 5lbs. of candy and expect children to passively sit back and accept it as an entertaining curiosity of faraway lands.  Eventually one child stands up and demands in a low voice, “I want that too!  And I want it now!”

         Wearing a witched costume and getting a muffin doesn’t mean the kids get any closer to the true spirit of the day.  Halloween just sort of comes and goes in the psyche of the children here, and they don’t seem to know when or how or why.  That sppoky, eerie, haunting feel you sense in the days leading up to that magical night, doesn’t take hold here.  It’s simply not deeply rooted enough, which is why you get scenes like the following.

         I’ll write a date on the blackboard and ask, “O.K. kids, what does October 31st mean?”

         Most will stare back with blank looks on their faces and three will shout, “Thanksgiving!”

         “All right, let’s try that one again.  October 31st.  October 31st!  Come on!”

         One raises his hand and announces, “My birthday is on the 28th.”

         “Fantastic Pedro.  That wasn’t what I had in mind but God bless you.”

         How could they not know this?  They love the ay but they can never recall when it is.   Back home that date is ingrained in your memory before you even learn the names of brothers and sisters.  It’s simply that important.

          I’ll need to change strategies.  “Let me give you a little hint which I think will help out.  I’ll slowly spell it on the bored and you can guess when you think you know the answer.  Here we go:  H-A-L-…”

         “¡Hala Madrid!”  One screams with delight, proudly under the impression that he has gotten the answer right.  He has just called out Real Madrid’s victory cry, and the class has suddenly been interrupted by an ensuing heated debate about what the best soccer team is.   There tale doesn’t end there.

Excerpt from a new book about Greenwich, 26 (draft)

Still December 31st.

Blue Laws

Now the media were getting all pumped up again because the death took place on a huge backcountry estate in Greenwich and had all the makings of a good scandal.  Details were sketchy, but just from the initial reports, the whole scene sounded good and grisly.  I rubbed my hands with anticipation and grinned, but I would have to wait and see.

         So, I focused my attention on the rest of the day which was being constructed on certain uncertainty, thanks to the current atmospheric conditions.  The storm was moving north which just happened to be the direction we were heading in, so for once I used my noggin a bit and decided to wait a few hours to see if things cleared up.

         In the meantime, I went to buy the Greenwich Time to check out what it had to say about the end of the year.  I walked down to the deli, flipped the bird at dog on the way (mainly because it was inside and out of sight), purchased that day’s edition, bid a happy New Year to the owners and returned.  I got to the doorstep and kicked off as best as I could the snow from the rubber canyons of the soles of my boots and walked in, only to pull them off again, sit down at the dining room table and set the expanse of the newspaper fully on the glass surface.

        Considering it was the last day of the year, the headlines were extraordinarily dull, as if it were the 17th of Boredemder or Tedium Tuesday. Here’s what I laid my eyes upon:

  • UnionReaches Vote Threshold.  Yawn.
  • Brushing Up on Painting Techniques. Yawn and groan.
  • YMCA nears funding goal.  Slap in the face.
  • Man dies after being tasered by police. This was not in Greenwich so it doesn’t count.
  • Lawmakers may consider wine sales in supermarkets. Bingo!

        Now that last one is what I called news!  Good news!  Long overdue news!  It turned out the state would probably give in because it could foresee a long-term revenue advantage built into the whole plan, but the rest of us believed it as something that should have happened long ago.  Then again, this was Connecticut, and things don’t always moved forward that quickly.  For example, alcohol, up until just a few years ago, could not be sold after eight and never on Sundays.  Now the closing time has been raised an hour, and the Lord’s-day thing seems destined to be shelved with all of those other former-sabbath prohibitions.

     But it sure took a while, trust me.  These religiously-based rules were called blue laws and Connecticut was notorious for them.  In fact the first mention of them in written form had to do with the rigid legislation that reigned in this state.   Some laws may have resulted in many a dreary Sunday afternoon watching the game while sipping on a glass of water, but after looking at the way things were run around here back in Colonial times, you definitely get the feeling the state has loosened up over the years.  For example, as a child you could legally be put to death for swearing or refusing to sweep the floor.  To me, that makes staring at a closed sign on the liquor store appear almost refreshing.

       The good thing about living in Greenwich, though, was that you could always cross the border into Port Chester, New York and buy booze basically at any time you want, then run it back.  Our neighboring state is generous and more flexible in that sense.  In fact, it seems to me that there was little that you couldn’t do around the clock there.  Some call it shameless, others reckless, and even others opportunistic;  we just called it lucky.

     The big place to buy at was this dumpy-looking but effective warehouse called WestConn, which still exists by the way.  The second choice was Cumberland Farms, one of the first true convenience stores in the area.  The Farms was a last resort because it jacked up its prices in standard screw-you-because-we-can-do-it-since-we’re-the-only-ones-open fashion.  It also purveyed all of those hazardous frozen cooked foods from the 1970s and 1980s that most likely have been responsible for the death of a generation or two since.

     WestConn was the main aim, though, and also where you got your kegs for the parties when getting kegs for teenagers was not so frowned upon.  Families actually supported it.  Hell, parents practically pumped the taps for the guests. I remember my older sisters and brothers throwing some of the biggest shindigs in town.  It was the kind of status that, back in the 1970s, made you proud to be a Murdock.  The police would sometimes come and politely but firmly ask us to tone things down, turn a blind eye to the dozens of wasted teens stumbling off to their cars, and when all was settled down, go back to the public school parking lots and hang out…or whatever else they did at night in those days.  In fact, having the local authorities sweep in to break up the crowd was a unquestionable sign of success.  It meant we would be the talk of school on Monday.

      They often came because one of our neighbors would always complain.  He was a self-contained kind of person who owned two nasty German Shepherds called Lothar and Himmler, or some name like that.  Most balls that floated onto their property were left there forever as acknowledgement that no toy was worth getting neutered for.

       By the time I was of the age to have my own parties, drinking laws had changed fairly radically, with the brunt of responsibility falling heavily on the owner of the home, namely my parents; that curtailed almost all activity on a legal level.  Which doesn’t mean we didn’t have parties; we just had to go underground.  I authored two major clandestine events.  One was in winter when snow covered the lawn.  The side of the driveway was full of incriminating tire tracks.  Some even curved around trees.  The morning after, as I gazed out the front yard, I pondered the situation calmly but with a degree of desperation stirring inside.  This was not going to be easy to explain.  I gave it some thought and came up with one of those unsound Grinchy ideas.   That was it!  What if…

        On paper it was a risky and last-ditch effort to salvage a lost cause.  I went to the garage and returned with a shovel and, this is the honest to God truth, started to fill in dozens of wheel tracks.  The finished product looked like, well, a lot of wheel tracks sloppily filled in with snow.   I leaned on the handle of my shovel and surveyed the results of my endeavors.  It looked like crap and there was no way in hell my parents weren’t going to nab me.  In fact, had they arrived at that moment I most certainly would have been writing these lines from a jail cell as my father, being a lawyer, would have dug up some old blue law which entailed a life sentence.

          It was hopeless, unless I got lucky and my parents return flight got delayed two weeks.  Other than that, I just couldn’t see myself pulling it off.  In fact, as I drove off to a friend’s house, I made tentative plans to seek adoption should the need arise.  It didn’t.  You see, it could not have been a sunnier day, but it was also very windy, and the blustery weather effectively swept the tracks clean, like a desert.  By afternoon, no easily detectable evidence could be found.  Only the most experienced manhunter would have possibly noticed something, and, even then, maybe not.  Mother Nature had saved my ass.

        Years later when we lived up in Darien and I tried it again, she would kick it.  This time it was summer and it was raining all day.  I even considered calling it off, but we were all in the mood, so we said what the hell.  Well, muddy soil is a far more difficult terrain to control, and I awoke the next day to go to work, I knew I was a challenge because the backyard looked like one of those battlefields in France during World War I.  It was as if Mother Nature was telling me, “You know, Brian, you are one big dumb fuck.  And this time I’m going to make you pay for it.”

       The first to nail us was Mary Jones, the housekeeper, who had no reason to be up at that time or day, or even that day at all, but had lived with us far too long to know what was going on.  She went through the roof and I took a shellacking as a result.  But that was just the beginning of it.  Luckily for me I had to go to work and missed the arrival of my parents whose irate eruption, from what I understand, would have triggered a tsunami had it taken place on the shore.  I got my share when I got home, and a well-deserved one.  That party would end up being the final full-fledged Murdock party in history…the end of an era.

Images of Spain: the village café

It’s Saturday around two o’clock and though te international press, especially the British and the New York Times, would like the world to think that much of this population is picking its food out of the trash bins or killing dogs for meals, much of the country looks like this.  This must be such a disappointment to the foreign correspondent in search of misery and despair. Oh weel, their problem.  You see, this is not just a typical sight in the cities and large towns, but even the smallest villages.  This place, Guadalix de la Sierra, is somewhere inbetween, but what is clear is that, come midday on almost any given weekend, and you will be hard pressed to find an empty table.  It’s been like that for as long as I can recall.  Just people hanging out and enjoying themselves over the weekend.  There is something essential to it.  Something very Spanish, highly Spanish, immensely Spanish.  No matter where you go, you can find this scene, especially since the smoking law has pushed much of the clientele outdoors regardless of the weather or climate or both.  Life goes on.

Images of Spain: The Spanish Flag

 If you look at the balcony of the building, just any ordinary building in this city, you will spot an unusual sight.  Part of this has to do with my poor photographyship, but also part of the blame can be placed on my mobile phone’s flash, which is about the size of Smint candy.  Even though the camera itself is not bad, the lack of proper lighting makes night shots look about as crappy as this one.  But it served me well, because just as it is a task for you to discern the elements of the Spanish flag in the center of the picture, so is it equally a challenge to find that kind of banner in the center of the country, let alone other parts of the country where strong independent movements are taking greater hold. Here, the absence of national symbols is even more notable since the day I took the gem, last October 12th, Spain was celebrating its “National Holiday”.  No one in Madrid calls it that, it goes by the Puente de Pilar, and there are about half a dozen other names for the day.  Inexplicably, reference to Columbus is all but nonexistent.

    The point is, though, and I think my artistic eye has succinctly captured that, is that pride in Spain as a unified sovereign nation is waning a bit these days.  In Madrid most Spaniards are naturally pro-Spain.  They just don’t go for the flag thing.  Some because it still reminds them of Franco, or so I am told.  Or so I am told.

    The Spanish flag is a symbol of Spain.  Within Spain, it is a symbol of many facets of this nation.  Perched up on the iron rail of balcony in that nameless building on a tired Saturday evening, it is a symbol of loneliness and of being alone in that loneliness, like when you stop to think about how large the universe in comparison to your cell phone camera flash.

      My daughter told me it was time to go home.  “It’s just a flag, Dad.  And in a ridiculous spot.”

Imágenes de España: La Caña

Esta, amigos míos, es una caña, la unidad básica de consumo de cerveza en España. ¿A que tiene buena pinta, verdad? Que no os engañe la foto, como bien sabéis, constituye poco más que un sorbo, pero también sabemos que es el tamaño estándar de este país…con perdón y sin mala idea. A partir de ahí, se puede aumentar la cantidad a una caña doble, una jarra, una copa, una pinta, etc.  Pero, si lo que buscas es un traguito de birra fresquita, ésta es tu solución. Puedes disfrutar de una láger sin caer bajos los efectos del alcohol…a no ser que bebas diez, por supuesto.

     La caña se ha convertido en un tema de conversación últimamente porque cada vez son más los bares que las ofertan a precios de escándalo…en general a 1 euro. Hace poco vi un sitio que las servían a 0,60 €.  Eso es, 60 céntimos.  No os miento.  Y con una tapita incluida.

     Naturalmente, esto es una manera inteligente de conservar la clientela en estos tiempos de crisis.   Es su manera de decir, “No tienes mucho dinero porque estás en el paro,”  así que ven a mi garito a beber por casi nada.

     Mucha gente me ha comentado sobre estos chollos. Dicen que no es normal que los precios se hayan bajado tanto. Pero creo que es mi deber recordarles que no deberíamos sentirnos tan contentos. Después de todo, lo único que hacen es cobrarnos ahora lo que deberían cobrar por una caña. Lo que no era normal era pagar 1,50€ por una y recibir poco más que un par de patatas fritas de tapa…y sin una sonrisa.

     Dejad que os recuerde: los precios han subido un 82% desde la entrada del euro en tan solo diez años.  Diez años macho.  Y nuestros salarios…más o menos un 16%.

     Una caña, es decir, la caña clásica, constituye unos 150 ml de cerveza, y menos si te la ponen con mucha espuma. Lo sé porque lo he medido con mi vaso para medir cosas que tengo en la cocina. Es bueno saber que lo saco algún provecho. Y eso que estamos hablando de cerveza de barril, que es más barato.   Hace cinco años decíamos que sí a todo, como unas frescas cerveceras, y creíamos que los buenos tiempos no se acabarían nunca.   Toleramos lo intolerable.

     La caña es una imagen de España. Es una imagen de su vida social. Es una imagen de lo que España ha vivido en estos años. Lo mismo se puede decir de varios sectores. No es que los precios se hayan caído para salvar la economía.   Son más bajos porque han vuelto a los niveles donde tendrían que estar en primer lugar…de acuerdo con nuestro auténtico poder adquisitivo y no con el de Alemania. Así que, bebed, y mucho, y aprovecha de la crisis mientras dure.

Images of Spain: The caña

     This, my friends, is a caña, the basic unit of beer consumption in Spain.  Looks good, doesn’t it?  Do not be  duped by the picture, as  it is hardly enough beer to constitute a sip, but it is the standard size in this country.  From there you can go upwards to a caña doble, una jarra, una copa, una pinta, etc.  But if what you are looking for is just a nip of cold beer with a tapa, this is your ticket.  You can enjoy an icy lager without being hampered by the effects…unless, of course, you drink ten.

      The caña has become a topic of conversation of late because more and more bars are promoting them at enticing prices…generally in the vicinity of 1€ a glass.  I recently saw one offering them for as low as 0.60€!  And a tapita to boot.

       Naturally this is a clever way of keeping the clientele coming back in these times of crisis.  It’s a way of saying, “You don’t have much money because you don’t have work,” so come a drink at my place for next to nothing.

       Many people have remarked on these great deals.  They say it is not normal how low they have gone.  But I feel that it has been my duty to tell them that we should not be that impressed.  After all, all these places are doing is charging what they should for a caña.  What was not normal was paying 1.50€ for a caña and getting a couple of wafers of potato chips to snack on…and with no smile.

      Let me remind you…prices have gone up about 82% since the conversion to the euro ten years ago.  Salaries, around 16%.

      A caña, the real kind in the form of a small glass, is about 150 ml, less if you get served with a lot of foam.  That’s a little over 5 oz. in the English system.  I know that because I actually checked it with my measuring cup in my own kitchen.  Good to see I am putting it to some use.  And that’s draft beer.  Five years ago we said yes to everything assuming the good days would never end.  And we put up with the unputupable.

      The caña is an image of Spain.  It is an image of Spanish social life.  It is an image of what Spain has gone through.  The same can be said of dozens of sectors.   It’s not that prices have gone down to save the economy.  They are lower because they have returned to what they should be in the first place…in accordance with our true buying power.  So drink up and take advantage of the crisis while it lasts.


Sábado por la Mañana en Madrid

Me he dado cuenta…y lo reconozco.  Soy un sujeto de un experimento.  Me costó al principio pillar lo que estaba pasando pero está claro.  Mis cobayas me controlan,   Son mis dueños.  Ellas dictan mis acciones.  Y, lo que es peor, lo saben.  Durante meses pensaba que ellas hacían sus ruiditos de llamadas cuando oían el sonido de una bolsa de plástico porque lo asociaban con las tiernas hojas de las espinacas.  Los perros de Pavlov en forma de una bola de pelo.  Pero parece ser que no.  Ellas mismas saben que sí hacen ese numerito de “squi-squi-squi”, que yo voy a dejar de hacer lo que estoy realizando e ir a la cocina a solucionar el problema.


         En alguna parte, lo estarán anotando, estoy seguro.

         Con eso en mente, salí a la calle a ver el centro de Madrid por la mañana, un sábado, cuando todo está en crisis, cuando nadie tiene un duro, donde la gente come de la basura, según el New York Times, con mi nueva cuenta de Twitter, dispuesto a iluminar el mundo sobre la vida de aquí.  En Estados Unidos, la gente encuentra empleo, pero aquí se ha pintado todo negro.

         La prensa extranjera sigue diciendo lo mismo de España.  Lo mismo que hace seis meses, que hace un año, que hace una semana.  En todos lo artículos ponen lo mismo, como si salieran del mismo patrón.  Debe de haber un super potente reportero más allá que ha creado el molde de esta información, y los demás periodistas simplemente invierten sus mezclas allí para hornear la misma pieza:

         Un desempleo de un 25%

         Un paro de un 50% entre los jóvenes

         Protestas en las calles

         El gobierno está haciendo todo mal.

         Los recortes no hacen nada

         El euro se va

         El mundo se acaba.

         No se habla de otra cosa.

         No es que no existan estos problemas.  Pero tengo la sensación irritante de que pocos relamente pisan tierra española, o como mucho saben con profundidad este país.

         No twitié nada.  Ni una sola vez, hasta después.  Sobre todo porque apenas encontré nada reseñable.  Madrid está como está.  El centro estaba vivo y alegre, ágil y activo.  El Retiro parecía el parque central de siempre.  Gente haciendo su ejercicio matutino o savando a sus mascotas.  Los patinadores invadían el Paseo de Coches.  Un saxofón soltaba una larga serpiente de notas que se movía sinuosamente en el aire, entre los árboles y alredador de la gente y las fuentes, de la carne y la piedra.

       Los castaños ya lideran la marcha hacia el otoño.  El resto de la vegetación aguarda el final del ciclo con circunpección.

        El Prado estaba sitiado por autocares y la Plaza de Neptuno acogía alguna furgoneta de la policía por si hubiera algún manifestante por allí, pero estaba todo muy tranquilo.  Hubo más gente en la cola de Starbucks de Hotel Palace.

        Había quedado a las 11.00 y pico.

       Me dejé llevar por el resto de la mañana.  Descubrí que detrás de la Puerta del Sol hay tiendas que venden telas para hacer ropa por metros.  Estábamos buscando seda.  También descubrí que allí no se vende tanta seda en esas tiendas.  Más bien diferentes tipos de tela de algodón.

         La seda buena se encuentra en la Gran Vía, en una tienda que se llama Julián López, cerca de Telefónica.  Allí hay tela de alta costura. También hay una escalera de hierro forjado impresionante.

        Como soy un esclavo de mis cobayas, hablo poco en una tienda así porque no sé nada de esas cosas.  Me limito mis observaciones a “¡Qué bonito!” o “Eso está bien” incluso, “Tiene mucho color.”

         Y luego repito lo que dice el dependiente.  “Esto es muy original, la verdad es que sí.”

         Pauso, analizo y afirmo, “Sí señor.  Muy original.”

        Y luego miro a los demás y digo, “Si señor.  Muy original.”  Pincho la superficie con mis dedos y asiento la cabeza.

       Las cosas finas merecen una actitud fina, y eso se consigue hablando poco y estudiando el material con miradas analíticas que dicen todo pero no revelan nada.

Don’t Become an Importer…Just say you are…

        What does that tell you?  I’m outsourcing to my own country and saving a bundle.  That was my plan at least. The issue was whether or not I would be able to bring in such a large number of volumes.  In essence, I would be importing! The very sound of the word turned heads, straightened backs, tightened fists.  You can teach, you can write, you can mend kitchen tables, but none of these compare to calling yourself an importer.

        I go up to people and tell them, “Do you know what?  I import.”

        “What?”  They ask.

        “Books.  That’s what.”

        That adds an element of culture to it.

        The thing is, it’s not really true.  I’m not an importer because ever since I learned what it takes to be one, I decided that giving seven-year-olds permission to go to the bathroom continuously for the next twenty seven years of my working career suddenly had a catchy ring to it.  This is why people don’t accept the normal channels, because the minute you do, you feel that you are the only idiot in the world doing it, and that you should be placed before a tribunal to explain yourself in front of a national audience.  “Ladies and Gentelmen, behold, a complete idiot.  An utter fool.  A dimwit, knucklehead and moron.  What is his crime?  Let’s ask him, ‘Tell the audience what you have done.”

        “I’ve tried to, uh, be an importer.”

        “There you have it.  Need he a defense lawyer?”

        You see, the minute I delved into the matter, I realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy.  I don’t know wy I ever thought it would.  Plus, the minute you ask an official about your intentions, they use all of their know-how to prove just how complicate life can be when you make an effort.  My good friend Rafa did his utmost to assist me in making the process run more smoothly:

      This was what he suggested:

 1)  Go to the IRS of Spain, the ones who have no money, and fill out the  KJ992930 Form which signs me up as an importer, and allows the state to have a close look at what I’m doing.

2)  Go to the Customs Office and fill out the AB65634b Form which tells the state that I will be bringing merchandise into the country.

3)   Provide the Customs Officials with the number of boxes, the exact weight of the cargo (I like using that word because it gives certain prestige to my product and business, the dimensions of my boxes, all of which I had no idea about.

4)    Pay.  Pay a lot.  Pay for the total value of the object being shipped…including the shipping!  Somehow, and the logic behind this eludes me, how much I pay for the books to be sent here is added to the total value of the product.  Then they would add the sales tax, the VAT for the British folk out there, the import tariff, some other tax added to the rest, just to make the experience that much more painful.

          “And that’s it.”

         “That’s it?”

         “Yeap.  If you want to do it by yourself, of course.  You can also have a professional importer do it for you and it will come to about 200 euros for the service with everything included.”

         Hmm.  Tough choice.

         Not.  There had to be a different route.  And there was…

         I contacted Amazon and told them to send over a whole bunch via UPS.  The books were in my apartment within a week.  The courier took care of everything and the extra cost was a joke.

         What is going on here?

Filing Your Toenails on a Park Bench in Madrid

The title has nothing to do with the subject whatsoever…but then again, you said it had to.

There are ways of getting ahead in Spain, you just have to be extra patient when it comes to finding what you want, since it rarely comes to you the first time around.  I have a book presentation coming up in a couple of weeks, and the first thing I needed for this to happen was to have the books available  I had always planned on it being in October, with the quirk being that I had2011 inmind.  So some 365 days behind schedule, I was comforted by the fact that the new gym at my school was conceived in the early 90s, and is just now being opened, or that the library next door which was due to receive the local readership six months ago is built but still hollow, with not a single volume within, and nothing in sight.    I feel the warmth of a soul blanket when I see that a new wing at the Niño Jesús Children’s Hospital has been left but a worthless shell for the last, God knows, ten years, and it would seem that completing the structure doesn’t fit the annual calendar for the next decade.  Some might observe that a human with my sensitivity should not harbor such thoughts about a medical center for society’s littlest ones, but they are wrong.  I relish its failures.  They tack on another twenty minutes of sleep at night.

         Yeap.  I could proudly say that by sitting down to sign some books a solar year later I was actually proving to many that things could be done expeditiously when you put your mind to it.

         One factor inhibiting progress was actually making my work available to the general public.  A physical version of it.  Not the digital dumpy formats that no one wants.  I don’t blame them.  Ever see a Kindle.  It’ll drive you mad.  Plus the Spanish just like to have that volume in their hand, even if they have no intention of reading your book.

         So, I decided to get a whole bunch of books from theUnited Statesand market them here.  Why the big shipping?  Easy, it was more inexpensive to have them printed inSouth Carolina, and somewhere around there, and ship them over here than actually have them printed inSpain.  By a long shot.  Consider this:

         If I want to buy my own book, without the royalties, obviously, Bubok inSpainoffers it to me for something horrendous like 10 euros.  If I decided to do the same in the States, it comes to $3.40.  Yes, that’s less than three euros when the conversion is carried out.  Then I can dump another ton into two-day express service to my doorstep, and it still comes to a little over 4 euros per unit.

    To be continued.