Topless Beaches –
Not what you’re thinking. I’m not just talking titties, I’m talking about silently bonding with your fourteen year old son. I’m talking about the one and only thing he’ll remember about this trip twenty years from now.
We were in the beach town of Zohara at the southernmost tip of Spain, where, on a clear day, you can see Africa. It was a little hazy when we were there, so we couldn’t quite make out Africa, but what we could see was a blonde woman in her 20’s idly strolling up and down the beach, wearing a pink bikini sans top.
When we first arrived and were staking out our spot on the sand, my ten year old son Gabriel blurted out: why is that lady naked, dad!? I coolly and dispassionately explained that Europeans were more comfortable with their bodies and sex than we Americans, then put on my sunglasses and tried not to spend the next hour staring: don’t think my wife would’ve appreciated my particular brand of cool dispassion.
But at one point, my fourteen year son Rafael and I caught each other’s glance, just a moment. We both played it, well, cool and dispassionate. I kept looking for Africa while he pretended not to stare at pink bikini.
Let’s just put it this way: he spent the rest of the day lying on his stomach.
Crazy Religious Shit Everywhere –
You can’t throw a rock in this country without hitting a church; or lurid poster of a bleeding Christ; or a Madonna with thick tears rolling down her cheek. I don’t know how genuinely Catholic today’s Spain is (my dad says abortions here are paid for by the state and are as easy to get as buying chorizo at the local supermercado), but culturally and visually, this place is Cath-o-lic.
We stayed on a tiny street only one block long that many cab drivers didn’t know. But all we had to say was that it was near “San Juan de la Palma” church and the driver knew exactly what we were talking about.
Throughout Easter week, each parish church sends a gilt silver and gold float through the narrow cobblestone streets to the main cathedral.
The floats weigh many hundreds of pounds and are carried by twenty or so young men, packed chest to back, moving along in a carefully orchestrated small step shuffle.
Unbelievably Sweet Aunts Who Don’t Speak English But Hook Their Arm In Yours Every Time You Leave The House -
My Tita Andrea is the sweetest woman in the world. She and her brother, my dad, live together in a little condo on the edge of the old town. He does the paperwork and pays the bills, she irons his underwear and fries him bread for breakfast. Only through her dear and constant repetition have I learned the Spanish words for “I love you”, “How handsome you are!”, and “A big kiss” (forgive the spelling, this is phonetic: te quero, que guapo! Beso grande!). When we walk to the bus stop to go to the market, she hooks her arm in mine and pets my hand. She suffers from painful rheumatism, so we walk very slowly. If you don’t instantly like my Tita, you are a defective person.
Crazy Religious Shit Everywhere, Part II -
Just like the Nazis appropriated and tweaked the Buddhist/Hindi/Jainist swastika,
the KKK in America clearly borrowed the spooky pointed hoods – called capirotes – of Spain’s most theatrical Catholics. These figures, in white, red and black, walk slowly through the streets, ahead of the Easter floats, just in case the bleeding Christs everywhere didn’t creep you out enough.
My camera died at the end of the trip, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the lollipop version of the Capirote which was for sale at the airport (marzipan, I’m guessing?). Seriously, this is Borat material.
Combination Washer/Dryers -
Space is at such a premium in Europe that they’ve figured out how to combine a clothes washer and dryer in the same machine. Do you understand? One machine, two functions. It’s pure magic: the water leaves and then hot air comes in. This is crazy NASA science fiction shit. We should catch a clue here: install one of these and that’s one more chair or shelf or desk you can fit into an overpriced shoebox studio apartment in San Francisco or New York.
The big takeaway here: insist that your relatives retire in Spain.