Like in Jim Crow America, it’s OK to use bizarre 1910s, Al Jolson-in-blackface caricatures as company logos. Below is a sample of the Mammies, minstrels, grinning servants, and nubile, exotic young women I have seen while carrying my camera.
Carioca Oro Coffee, photo taken at a supermarket in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
La Negra Tomasa Café and Restaurant, C/ Barcelona, Madrid.
Café Populart, C/ Huertas, Madrid.
Negrita Rum, photo taken at a corner store on C/ Huertas, Madrid.
The problem with using a dark-skinned person as a logo is that it separates people who look like that from the rest of society. It subliminally increases the unfortunate, prevailing sense of otherness or difference.
One might argue that these are classic icons. Yet, these ‘classic icons’ conjure nostalgia for a time when black people were murdered for voting.
Thankfully, our enlightened American society would never stand for such distasteful, offensive stereotyping.
Just-married profesores get two weeks of vacation for their lunamiels. A clever teacher I work with got married during the week and is off to see the world, leaving me in charge of her sixth-grade class a couple times a week.
I expected her to leave the kids busy work or time to complete various projects. Instead, the vice principal — who does not speak English — delivered the lesson plan and together we opened the text book to pictures of a fetus and a woman receiving a sonogram under the header Reproduction.
'O. Interesante,' I snorted while struggling to set my face into an impassive expression. I like to know beforehand when I will have a unique and lasting memory. As such, I tossed Sham-wows around my brain to best absorb my first sex-ed lecture.
As the kids perused pages of penises, I introduced the new unit with banal questions about the traits that define human beings — we have four limbs, we are viviparous, we have lips to suck and not beaks, etc. Later, I explained the finer points of sonograms and discussed the correct pronunciation of uterus, cervix and ovaries.
The teacher’s directions specifically said to complete all the book activities. So, after finishing each exercise, even the most mundane, we were left with twenty minutes of class and the activity “Role play a sonogram.” Curious to see what would happen, I split the kids into pairs, elected doctors and pregnant women and let them prepare their presentations.
The kids — the same kids who often prod me to say salmón in English because salmon sounds a little like the Spanish pronunciation of semen — behaved very well, laughing more when one kid forgot the word toes and said a baby had twenty fingers than at the abstract idea of sex.
Although the lesson turned out to be more ‘sitcom episode concept’ than script, I wonder two things. First, what did the vice principal — who stayed for crowd control — think as I conducted class in a foreign language with a few breaks to answer questions like Como se dice, rompeagua en Ingles? Second, how would my town back home react to a 23-year-old Spanish teacher lecturing about sex?
According to a number of Spanish and English sources, Spanish forward, former Atletí star and international heartthrob Fernando Torres is on his way out of Liverpool. Chelsea is set to offer the third-highest transfer bid in history (after the fees Real Madrid paid for Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo). Torres is from the Comunidad de Madrid, which qualifies this news for my site.
Although I don’t like Chelsea, I’m an Everton fan — Liverpool’s intracity rival — so this news pleases me. Still, I do love the Torres fan song.
Maybe Chelsea fans will pen a new version. Here’s my submission:
We always knew he’d be a Blue/Torres! Torres!
He told Anfield to go and screw/ Torres! Torres!
We bought the lad from Merseyside/Aims for goal, puts balls inside.
Fernando Torres. Chelsea’s soon-to-be number nine!
When I watched a Subway Series game in a bar, drunk Yankees fans called David Wright gay and mocked the Mets futility.
When I watched the Madrid Derby — Atletico de Madrid v. Real Madrid — in the quarterfinals of Spain’s Copa del Rey tournament at a bar, drunk fans tried to coax me to do the Nazi salute, yelled their support for the Ku Klux Klan and boasted of their fascist bonafides.
But the Ultras at the bar — fellow Atletí fans, in fact — weren’t healthcare reform opponents or stingy soup servers, they were goose-stepping, right-arm-thrusting, unabashed neo-Nazis.
During the first half, the atmosphere across from Vincente Calderon Stadium was high-spirited and friendly. Fans mingled, bought each other beers and commiserated when Ronaldo scored the game’s only goal for Real Madrid. Not until the break did events trend downward and to the far-right.
While I waited to use the bathroom, the drunk ahead of me called six friends into the bathroom. After a few minutes, I complained to the middle-aged guy behind me that seven men were inside. He shook his head, pantomimed blowing coke and we both left the line.
When the gang finally emerged they were wired and restless.
“Atletí Fans. Hooligans! Atletí Fans. Cloo Cluh Clah!" they chanted, each syllable an indistinct, staccato burst.
Soon, they set up shop next to my friends and me to better demonstrate their salutes, their creepy fascist club membership cards and their regard for the United States.
“Oh Ba Ma. Cloo Cluh Clah.”
“Cloocluhclah?" My friend finally asked.
"Si! Cloocluhclah. Cloocluhclah! KKK!" They responded gleefully, confirming the worst stereotypes of European soccer hooligans. After this, they broke into a chorus of "USA. Maricones!"
After my two friends quickly slipped out the door, a crew of new kids posted up against the doorframe and tried to block my exit. After a couple attempts to leave, I tensed myself and broke my opponents’ defense — something Atletí failed to accomplish that night — by barreling through the crowd. When I reached my buddies outside the door, we immediately speed-walked with swiveling heads to the Metro, all relieved to have escaped our brush with coked-up neo-nazis.
What is more humbling than one’s first pilates class?
One’s primera clase de pilates. An hour ago, my emergency self-confidence reserve was drained as I struggled to survive my first pilates class in my second language.
Most of the instruction was straight forward: Breath. Return to the board position. Round your back. Sit erect. Legs up. Legs to the floor.
There were, however, many confounding moments. Open (?) your ribs. Fortunately, I just learned the word for ribs (costillas) earlier this week. Unfortunately, I don’t know what ‘open your ribs’ means in any language.
But frankly, I doubt I interpreted that direction properly. My failure to adequately do something with my costillas prompted the instructor to glide toward me and ask if this was my primera vez and then the dreaded ¿Hablas Castellano?. The twenty women (including the pretty girl four-feet away from me) chuckled.
Hands on the floor; culo toward el techo; face triply red from exercise, gravity slurping blood into my forehead and mild embarrassment — definitely my least favorite position.
To further add to my displeasure, the middle-aged, stretching-veteran next to me quickly considered me a Spanish Incompetent, channeled her limited English and assumed the role of official translator.
“Otro lado,” the instructor said. Other side, the do-gooder whispered.
Within five minutes, I had attracted both the instructor’s attention and my neighbor’s mildly patronizing comments. During the ensuing fifty-five, I strained to mimic the examples, straighten my back, point my toes (or bend my ankles or point my toes then bend my ankles) and understand the next bit of abdominal torture the teacher spewed.
Finally, I completed my first class without becoming Pontius Pilates and washing my hands of the stress.
In Madrid, unsurprisingly, Christmas cheer is most evident in the late evening -, early morning-hours
Por ejemplo, last night, I went to my friend’s family’s house for la cena de Nochebuena, also known as my first trimester final exam. Yes, I have been here for three months and the five-course, traditional Christmas Eve dinner among septuagenerian madrileños provided an accurate assessment of my language progress. The week’s worth of food also presented a test of my stomach capacity.
As I self consciously document, I’m slowly learning a new language blah blah blah. Who cares?
The most important information from last night: I ate thirteen species of animals, dwarfing my previous record of eight, achieved at the 2008 Knowlton Riverfest.
This total does not include the chicken eggs or cream cheese (from a cow) which I also ingested.
After watching Christmas musical medleys, the super famoso Rafael (seemingly, Spain’s answer to Wayne Newton) croon to los mayores and King Juan Carlos I wish all españoles y extranjeros a Merry Christmas — and with Noah’s Ark floating in a sea of stomach acid — we hit the bars until the pious hit the churches.
This afternoon, with the Madrid Zoo Aquarium still crammed in my colon, I cleaned my apartment, played basketball and ate Chinese food, or what I consider having myself a Jewish little Christmas — by the way, is it possible to “have yourself” anything other than a good Christmas? And what, exactly, is a little Christmas?.
If this was the year 1 BC, my day would have been totally acceptable, but this evening, I got into the birthday spirit and decorated my room in preparation for my family’s arrival tomorrow morning.
Above: El arbol con los regalos.
Below: Each year, my Grandma gave my brother and me handmade ornaments with our photos on them. I include my depictions, designed to make Madrid feel a little more like home.
Below: In memory of those who couldn’t be with us this Christmas.
Below: Ghosts of Christmas Past.
And finally, below: Part of the Christmas card I made for mi familia
I am so excited to see my family that it will be hard for me to sleep. So, in solidarity with my loved ones on their overnight flight, I will sit in my plastic desk chair with a thin blanket covering only my knees.
I got robbed at about 3:30 in the morning as I walked home from a bar yesterday. Alas, first-world problems.
The ladron snatched my wallet. Inconvenient, yes, but I like to imagine him impatiently rifling through each compartment only to find two crinkled American dollars (~1,50€), my brother’s first grade photo and a Spanish health insurance card. My blonde hair (hard to overstate the novelty of my towhead here) may mark me as a target, but I am not an idiot. I keep cash and cards in a money clip I made from a baseball card case and one of these.
My wallet also held my December Metro pass, known as an Abono. When I first bought my Abono in October, I mistakenly paid for access to a zone far outside Madrid that I have never visited. I was too lazy to get a new pass the last two months so I ended up paying about 27€ more than I should have. Well, thanks to the thief, I now have the incentive to buy a new Abono and thereby save 9€ each of the next seven months.
Although I may be the first person to ever benefit from a pickpocket (beyond the whole wisdom-gained-through-setbacks, character-building angle), I felt pretty low when I woke up. So, following a mid-morning conference and breakfast buffet attended by many concerned citizens, los amables de Madrid pledged to redeem their compatriot’s mistake and lift my spirits.
I first noticed their joint agreement this afternoon when I went to the basketball courts near my house for some solitary, self reflective hoop-shooting. Once there, however, a nine-year-old rollerblader wearing green jeans and turtleneck stuck to me like a pickpocket in training. No matter where I jogged or which basket I shot at, my shadow on wheels was close behind. Excited to have stepped across the baseline and into 1997, during which I too rollerbladed in a green turtleneck (though with ripped blue jeans — what I imagined was my cool look), I schooled junior in the city game.
A little while later, a group of high schoolers asked me to play dos para dos with them. We talked and played for about two hours and I learned some vital Spanish phrases, such as bloqueo y continuacion, extremely useful for when I meet Juan Stockton or Carlos Malone. The three kids — one wearing a t-shirt with all 30 NBA logos, another in a Dwayne Wade jersey and the most skilled representing Chris Paul — had many questions about the NBA and American sports. Each time I spoke, they were rapt, eager to receive knowledge (or, alternately read: struggling to understand my Spanish). “Te gustan los Mets, Nets y Atletí? Que sufres!”
After baloncesto, I came home where my roommate Mamadou was in the kitchen. I watched him delicately prepare a huge plate of food before he handed it to me. Estaba rico.
Entonces, I met with profesoras y compañeras de mi colegio to go to our English-language coordinator’s Christmas choir concert at an ancient church. Estaba bonita.
Yet, despite these three terrific events, the unfortunate theft continued to weigh on me. I don’t care about the objects, though I will miss some of the keepsakes I received from residents at the nursing home where I used to work, but the violation and my inability to prevent it are troubling. So, when my American buddies went home for the night at 1 am, I was ready to join them. But, I thought, retreating home mopey before the Metro closes the night after a frustrating mishap? The terrorists win,.
Valiantly, I trooped to a discoteca with my Spanish amigas and danced to rumba and Rihanna until the place closed at 4 (curious why españoles are generally thin? consider the inexpensive all night baile sessions).
Afterward, I astutely shared a cab home, thus avoiding the sneaky banditos. Estoy aprendiendo.