Heh, Metallica. Boy that takes me back.
In seventh grade I tried slow dancing with the prettiest girl in school (who was very pretty indeed) to this song. Have you ever tried dancing to Metallica? I mean, with a girl? What idiot DJ puts Metallica on at a Bar Mitzah, anyway? Jack McKaid’s older brother, that’s who.
Boy, those were heady days. It’s hard to describe now just how different the world was in 1991. The U.S. was involved in a terrible war in Iraq. A man named George Bush was president. The nation was in the midst of a painful recession. And Metallica came out with the Black Album.
Never did get to kiss that girl.
I’ve got Metallica on the mind today, clearly.
There’s a story behind that.
I’m minding my own business at the Enforex Language school, reading the posts on excursions to Sevilla for the weekend, when something hits me on the back of the head.
Let me back up.
I’ve been in school for about three days now. It’s the same program I used last year, and I swagger in to take the test with much more confidence than I felt a year ago. I’m nursing a wicked hangover and can hardly spell my own name after a Sunday spent watching Spain win the world cup. I’m confident I’m going to test horribly, which means getting placed in a class several levels below my actual comprehension. Which would mean six weeks of nice, relaxing review as I wow my fellow students with my stunning command of the subjunctive.
Instead, I get slapped with a notice telling me to report to level B2. I can’t be in B2. I only got about halfway through B1. I’m a month of intensive study away from B2, at best.
“Look, Carlos,” I say to Carlos, who runs student placement. Except in Spanish, so “Mira, Carlos.”
Carlos looks sort of like Javier Bardem. A perpetually hungover, put-upon version of Javier Bardem, who always wears two day’s worth of stubble.
“Carlos, you don’t know me very well yet, but I’m an idiot. Really. I can barely find my way around a correct sentence with two hands and a…what’s the word for ‘flashlight?’”
“Flashlight,” he says, except in Spanish, so “Linterna.”
“Right,” I say. “Two hands and a linterna. Is that an expression here, by the way? Two hands and a linterna?”
“Oh. It’s an expression in the U.S. It means-“
“I get what it means.”
“Cool. So you can put me in a lower-level class?”
Carlos rubs his stubble dubiously. “Well, you’ve certainly convinced me you’re an idiot.”
“But we’re completely booked up right now. I can’t move you until at least next week. Why don’t you try the class we’ve put you in, and see if you can’t make it work for now?”
They’re halfway through an exercise on the subjunctive voicing of the imperfect tense. “The who what with the where now?” I ask the teacher. It goes on like this for a few days.
I introduce myself. One of my classmates, a Chinese guy named Tony, snaps his fingers when he hears my name. “Like that guy on ‘Community!’”
I scowl. “No, not like that guy on…” I realize I really like that character on ‘Community’. “Yes, Tony. Exactly like that guy on ‘Community.’ In fact, don’t tell anyone, but they based that character on me.”
“Really? Are you a lawyer?”
“No. I’m a writer.”
Suddenly, I’ve got everyone’s attention. “Oooh, a writer!” I’ve got to stop telling people that. The reaction is always the same, and somewhat embarrassing, because I’m not that kind of writer. It’s not like being a writer means you get to spend your life drinking ouzo in the Greek Isles while swing dancing with girls.
Okay, it’s kinda like that. But that’s like five percent of what I do, and not the five percent I get paid for. Mostly it’s writing summaries of round table discussions on subjects as interesting as the value of VAR as a metric for measuring risk in your investment portfolio, or how much of a bump to CAGR Google’s likely to see as the result of implementing more energy efficient server farms.
By the way, if you understood any of that, you understand why I get paid as much as I do to write about this stuff. Fortunately, it pays well enough that I can spend about five percent of my time writing about other stuff.
Like getting hit on the back of the head after class.
Madrilenas are a sneaky bunch, with ninja-like stealth and a mean right hook. You don’t want to piss one off, not even accidentally, and by the look on her face, I’d pissed Sara off something fierce.
“Nice to see you, too,” I said and rubbed the back of my head.
This didn’t make her any happier. “Muthafucka,” she said, except in Spanish, so “Hijo de Puta. You realize it’s been three hundred days exactly since I got drunk?”
I do the arithmetic and snap my fingers. “Your birthday. September 11. How could I forget.”
“Three hundred days,” Sara says while glaring at me. “I’ve been good for three hundred days. Now you’re here and it’s all fucked.”
“You don’t have to drink just ‘cause I’m back in town,” I point out, which makes her laugh.
“Yeah, right. The teachers are meeting Friday at San Miguel’s after school.”
I really love San Miguel’s, which is a cozy bar around the corner from my school with agreeable bartenders, a foosball table, and which still serves ‘Duff’ branded Budweiser two years after ‘The Simpsons’ movie has been out of theaters. Duff seems to be a big thing in Madrid.
I try to be a good boy, keep myself in check and go home at the reasonable hour of 12:30, but my attempt just solicit laughter from my companions.
“Oooh, look at the giri! Going home at 12:30!”
“Look, I haven’t even eaten dinner yet.”
“You’re in a bar, yanki. Eat some tapas and be a man.”
It’s hard to argue with Sara when she tells you to man up.
So it’s later, much later, when I finally walk home after four hours of what I’ve almost managed to convince myself counted as an intensive language lab, but was really just a lot of Sara plying me with whiskey.
At least, that’s my version of events. Sara tells a somewhat different story in which the J&B was my idea, and apparently she’s got photographic evidence to back her up but, hell, it’s my blog and my version that’s going to get told here.
I strolled past the Palacio Real on my way back to the apartment, enjoying the cool night air and the ability to wear jeans without sweating my balls off for a change. That’s when I notice the sounds of a harp player to my right, with a small crowd gathered around.
Street harpist. I admit, that’s one I’d never seen before. What is more amazing, and I am in no way making this up, is that the harpist is a full on goth.
Not a partial goth, either. I mean he’s at least a Level 12 Goth with a +2 against Chromatic Damage. Long brown hair, a soul patch, huge fucking army boots, sleeveless shirt, leather wrist guards and a kilt. He could be a roadie for Trent Reznor. Come to think of it, he looks kinda like Reznor, too.
The thing is, he’s a really good harpist, and I stop to listen for a while. At first I think he’s playing some High Renaissance madrigal. When I realize he’s actually playing Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” I break out into a laugh loud enough to turn the tourists heads.
Heh. Haven’t been able to get Metallica outta my head since.
A group of skater punks were grouped a few feet away from the harpists. One of them, with his shirt off, was doing tricks with what appeared to be a set of nunchucks, twirling them around his body with increasing rapidity and style.
In the darkness it was a little tell if they were, in fact, nunchucks, because my eyes were blinded by the fact that the things were FUCKING ON FIRE.
FLAMING NUNCHUCKS. I swear I’m not making this up. Why on earth has the US Army not invested in training everyone of its soldiers in flaming nunchucks? The element of surprise would surely be worth it.
Random Taliban: The American convoy is approaching!
Taliban 2: Very good, ready the Stinger miss-wait. Is…are they twirling a bunch of flaming fucking nunchucks?
Taliban 1: It’s hard to tell in the dark.
Taliban 2: They are! Dude, they totally are! Those are flaming fucking nunchucks those guys are playing with! Oh man, that’s awesome. We’ve got to get some of those. Ooh, ooh, or no, we could get some AK-47’s with, like, a chainsaw attachment. And the chainsaw could be on fire too! Sweet! Or we could-
And then an airstrike would come in or something.
So…yeah, that was my Friday. Flaming nunchucks and Metallica on the harp. Next time I’m taking my camera.