Sunday, May 9, 2010


Spain is a country on the Iberian peninsula bordering France and Portugal. It has a total population of about 46 million people, and the official language is Broken English.

Some people will try to tell you it's Spanish, but they're deeply mistaken. I went up and down that country, and could not get a soul to speak Spanish to me. That normally wouldn't be a big deal, but since I was traveling with an individual to whom I claimed I spoke Spanish, it was a little deflating to start conversations in pretty decent Argentinian-style Spanish, only to end the conversation speaking English nouns and making rapid hand gestures.1

Actually, I lie. The official language of Spanish is Whatever Language Your Ancestors Spoke. This is frustrating to me on a few levels.

First, as an anal retentive person, I want worldwide efficiency. Speaking multiple languages is not efficient. My ancestors gave up their language and names and any sense of native culture when they homogenized themselves at Ellis Island. Do you see me trying to re-learn Danish or Swedish or French? No siree. I live in the suburbs, my idea of a museum are the different exhibits at Disneyland, and fine cuisine comes in two forms: Little Caesar's Hot and Ready $5 pizza, or a box of twinkies washed down with some kool-aid. Just stop trying to maintain your cultural identity already, and turn on the TV.

Second, here I thought Spain imparted its language to South America. This is simply not the case. There are twelve people in the whole of Spain whose main language is Spanish, not Catalan, not Basque, and not Broken English. These twelve must have subjected the New World themselves, because you don't see anybody trying to bust out Catalan over there.

Speaking of Catalan, Catalan is the official language of Barcelona. Actually, I'm not sure it's official, but I'm going to call it official, because when your bathroom signs are written purely in Catalan, you're serious about your language. As the foremost expert in Catalan within the five square meters of this bed on which I am writing,2 let me tell you all about Catalan. That it's a mixture of French and Spanish is easy to see. For example, in French, exit is translated as sortie. In Spanish, it's salida. In Catalan, it's sortida.

Thus, you see conclusively it is just the mixture of the two languages.

The other great thing about Barcelona is their attention to detail. Not a lot of cities in Europe took the trouble to read my posts expressing concern at the moments in which I am subjected to views of the male body, but Barcelona did a good job of collating that information beforehand, and was able to produce a fully naked man walking in the downtown area in broad daylight.3 This was more disconcerting than my usual interactions in the locker room.

However, the best thing about Barcelona is a dude named Gaudí. This is an architect who lived some years ago, and appears to have had my same capacity of drawing straight lines. Somehow, instead of being shunned into math class by his laughing kindergarten art teachers, he managed to turn this weakness into a strength, and you'll find buildings designed by him dotting the city. However, for the record, his buildings may be decent, but if they wanted Cathedrals without nary a straight line in sight, they would have done much better coming to me.

Spain is a wonderful country populated by wonderful people. It's the only country in the world where I've asked for directions at a gas station, and had one of the customers offer to drive me to where I was going. I figure if I did that pretty much anywhere in the states I'd end up dead in a ditch, but these Spaniards will hook you up.

1. This does remind me of the time I lived in Argentina, and a buddy of mine (volunteering for the church as well), tried to talk to someone on the streets. The man walked an entire city block waving his hands, claiming he didn't speak English, until my friend was able to calm him down enough to convince him that a) he was speaking Spanish, and b) my friend was an Argentine himself.
2. Those five square meters are occupied solely by myself, and this really annoying dog next door that is yapping its head off.
3. And this reminds me of another buddy in Argentina, who, one evening, realized as he walked home that he had not seen, for the first time in weeks, the sight of a woman nursing her child. As he thought this, a nursing mother walked by him on the sidewalk. I'm not even sure that's possible, but he swore she managed it somehow.

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