The girl standing next to me as I put my shoes back on has to give up her Body Shop bottle.
“But I just bought it,” she complains, and points to the Body Shop store no more than fifteen yards from the security checkpoint.
The TSA guard shrugs. “If you give me your receipt I can get your money back for you. But you can’t take it through security.”
She frowns, disheartened. “I figured because they sold it in the airport it would be okay.”
I try not to smile too much at her distress. I’m not smiling because she has to give up her lotion, or shampoo, or whatever it was. I’m smiling because the security guards were able to detect her completely innocuous moisturizing product while once again completely failing to notice either the knife or screwdriver I’m bringing on-board.
I tell myself I have a good reason for doing this, that I really do need to take the screwdriver with me in order to disassemble my camera while in Madrid (new LCD screen still not working right before I left), that the knife was the most useful traveling tool I’ve ever had. But, really, I probably wouldn’t even think about trying to sneak this stuff on a plane until someone told me I couldn’t. Telling me not to do something inherently underhanded is like telling Casanova he can’t sleep with the Doge’s daughter. We’re both just going to interpret those orders as challenges.
The flight is delayed an hour, which is probably a good thing, since the line to check in at the Air Europa counter took about an hour. I was actually afraid I was going to miss boarding. I rush through the concourse only to find I have all the time I could ask for. With nothing else to do in B concourse, I drink, of course, unable to keep my mind on any of the several work-related documents I brought with me about things such as high-yield debt in Brazil and risk appetite among Canadian banks.
The flight is again delayed. It’s 10 o’clock now, and we were supposed to board at 8. All the snack food places are closed, leaving only one solitary sports bar open. I’m beginning to think the delays are a conspiracy to get me to drop money on freakishly overpriced beer.
When the plane does finally get ready to board, I realize to my horror there’s a gaggle of high school students on my plane. American high school students. And my seat is in the middle of them. I listen with mild horror as one of them reads something aloud very slowly, and I realize he’s trying to translate something into English.
Just as he puts his book away, an incredibly bad light jazz cover of Guys & Dolls comes on over the intercom. Desperately, I jam my headphones in my ear to escape the nightmare, but the stewardess informs me “I WILL NOT BE LISTENING TO MUSIC” until we reach cruising attitude.
I’ve been in this nightmare before. Once, on an Iberair flight from Barcelona to Madrid, I had to listen to about 32 bars of a bad cover of the Cure’s “Close to Me.” Imagine listening to that same marimba line over and over AND OVER again while flying over the Iberian Peninsula. Nobody made it off that flight with their mind intact: we were all changed, changed utterly by the experience.
Fortunately, the music doesn’t keep repeating the first 32 bars and does cut out once we’re off the ground.
It’s raining when we land in Madrid, a contingency I’m not prepared for. As a matter of fact, I’m not prepared for any contingency by design. I packed only a small carry-on for my seven week stay, and most of that consisted of a laptop and some books. My clothing choices are limited to a pair of shorts, underwear, t-shirts, and running gear. Hopefully, this will force me into some delightfully comic situations wherein I try to translate the names of items like “Mach 3 Razor Blades,” “Blackberry Power Cord” and “Weapons Grade Viagra” into Spanish for the benefit of bemused store clerks.
But I’m surprised at how well my Spanish holds up the first day. Enough that, for the first time, when I launch into conversations in Spanish, clerks don’t immediately switch to English with an impatient hand wave. I manage to hail a cab, give directions, ask how long the metro transit strike will continue, and, in a truly amazing linguistic feat, explain to a Mobilstar employee that I’ll be staying in Madrid two months and will need a local SIM card for my Blackberry.
This level of foreign language comprehension is something of a new experience for me, and is deeply weird. But I find myself falling into the familiar rhythms both of Madrid, and of life in a foreign country, where the experience of every action is slightly amplified by its alien nature, its novelty, its difficulty. Unable to walk down the familiar streets of New York in a half-somnolent state, I’m forced to actually pay attention to my surroundings, and find that I enjoy them.
Of course, I’m still without lodgings. I’ve got a hotel room through the weekend, at which point I’ll have to find new digs where I can reliably communicate with my editors via internet. If I can’t manage that by the start of work Tuesday, this trip is going to get cut off prematurely, or life will get extremely interesting. I’m having visions of living in a hostel for the next few weeks while sneaking out to McDonald’s hot spots for hours worth of environmental reporting.
In the meantime, I haven’t had a sit-down meal since lunch Friday. I’m off to find a bocadillo.
I turned down my first freelance assignment yesterday. This is kind of a big, frightening step for me. Part of me is screaming “You asshole! You can’t afford to turn down work!” while the other side is thinking “It takes them at least three months to pay you and they’re always a pain in the ass to deal with. Is it really worth the $500 bucks you stood to make?”
I have to agree with voice number two there. Sometimes, clients just aren’t worth the trouble. True, there’d been a change in management at this particular client which promised to make things a little easier, the truth is I’m doing a crapload of work for other people now and can’t really take the time to dick around with someone who won’t pay me this quarter.
Freelance talk. Thrilling to read about, I know. I spent this morning in a suit and tie listening to risk officers talk about liquidity in Times Square. Aside from the fact that it requires me to put on a suit and tie, I’m pretty pleased with the work, as it pays well and quickly. Sadly, I’ve now got a two thousand words white paper on liquidity risk staring me in the face that has to be written, and fast. I’d much rather be blogging about television.
Speaking of, since my Farscape post seemed oddly successful, I thought I’d move on to other weird television phenomenon. Like Spanish language telenovelas.
My favorite is one called “Donde esta Elisa?” Which sounds like a show about a family waiting to drive home from the mall, but daughter Elisa is off getting a new tattoo on her ass or talking to the cute boy at the Coldstone or running up her dad’s credit card in Hot Topic. The mother is looking at her watch impatiently thinking “Donde esta fucking Elisa?”
Instead, it’s about a kidnapping in Los Angeles. Despite the fact that this takes place in L.A., literally everyone on the show speaks Spanish, all the time, from the family of the kidnapped girl, to the cops investigating the case, to the reporters covering the story. I know reporters. I am a reporter. We’re not actually smart enough to speak two languages.
Anyway, it looks like the show is wrapping up, as we’ve finally seen where the hell Elisa’s been hiding out this whole time, and who kidnapped her. Spoiler alert: her evil uncle.
I’ve fallen hard for this show. It’s got insane amounts of cleavage and overacting, both of which I find vital to the language-learning process. I tried improving my Spanish by watching movies, with their subtle writing and plot twists, and people sitting in a room all day and exchanging witty banter. This is not the way to learn a language. The way to learn a language is to watch people scream the same thing over and over again in outraged tones, while heaving their breasts. Honestly, it makes you completely focused. Even if you don’t understand all the words, there is absolutely no doubt when something funny/tragic/awesome happens because everyone on screen dials their reaction up to 11.
I’m sad the show is coming to its conclusion, as I’ve become completely wrapped up in the daily goings-on of the Altamira clan and their business dealings. I haven’t found another program on Telemundo with the right blend of camp and low budget sets to grab my attention, but if anyone sees one they like, let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll be tuning in at 10pm to see if Commissionario Rivas ever succeeds in getting into Senora Altamira’s pantalones.
I was considering live-blogging the Biggest Loser finale yesterday, but I doubted the three people reading this blog would actually care that much. Here’s everything I have to say about it, in a nutshell:
Melissa: Still a psycho hose beast. Possibly even more psychotic now that she’s buff. Stay away from me, you sociopath. You think calling out your trainers on the finale makes you look like less of a douche-bag? It doesn’t.
Koli: I’d voted for him to be in the final three, but best he lost out anyway, clearing the way for him to win the second place $100,000 prize, which he will no doubt share with Sam.
Daris: Glad you got back on the horse, man.
Michael: Kinda a drama queen, didn’t really like him after trying to set up the teams to be as uneven as possible. But he worked insanely hard, and there’s no way anyone that big who works that hard is not going to win the game.
Stephanie and Sam: Aw. Honestly, I loved that guy, I’m glad he scored on the ranch. Loved watching him kickass every week, punching Jillian’s hands until she got thrown backward. That’s heart. I’d never watched the show before, and honestly expected to hate it. Instead, I found it incredibly motivational this season, probably because I got to watch guys like Sam, Koli and O’Neal tear shit up every week.
O’Neal: You have an awesome action hero name.
Arnold: We have to blow the bridge! O’Neal! Take it out!
O’Neal: You heard the major! Target that bridge.
(Then things explode and Arnold makes a terrible joke)
Also, he served in the military and had awesome pictures of himself with real military hardware and weaponry. YOU ARE A REAL LIFE ACTION HERO. And I’ve never seen a man love a daughter that much. You’re a hero, O’Neal.
Allison: You still annoy me.
Subway: I like your food. Your product placement on this show is so ham-fisted that I want to jab out my eyes with your delicious six-inch Italian Subs. Oh, sure, there just HAPPENED to be a Subway sandwich shop next to Daris the day he forgot his lunch. Gee, let’s take a camera crew over as if this were completely spontaneous. You’re sponsoring the show. Own up to it. Don’t pretend this shit is spontaneous. Own your corporate whoring. OWN IT.