Tuesday, March 24, 2009

a musical arrangment

In England. When going to, dare I say, a club. The conversation is usually something like:

Friend/Aquaintence: "Char, lets get smashed up tonight"
(usually over the phone)

Me: "Yeah okay"
(whilst contemplating what year the transition from polo to water polo may have occurred)

In Spain, saying one thing and thinking another is a luxury I am incapable of. This is a similar conversation in the land of tapas:

Amigo/Compartido: "Hola Charlie"

Me: "Oh, hola, pasta again? Original"

A/C: "¿Que?"

M: "Um, nada. Nada at all."

A/C: "Vamos asjfhajbefbadhfaufajbsfuea, y tu?

M: "Excuse me what?"

A/C: "¿Que?"

M: "Perdone, pero no comprendo"

A/C: (Adding a more confusing accent, maybe on purpose) "Ah, vale, vamos asjfhajbefbadhfaufajbsfuea, y tu?"
(proceeds to smile, possibly in a mean Cruella Devile like manner)

After about five minutes of clarifying that I can't speak Spanish, I finally understand that asjfhajbefbadhfaufajbsfuea actually is discotecha, standard vocab in any phrasebook or entry-level classroom, and yes, of course I want to come.

Matteo is staying at home, so its just going to be me and Marco. Thats cool, as much as I like going out with both of them, after a few beers it inevitably feels like I'm watching some old Italian art-house film without subtitles. When its just one of them, at least I can try and practice my Spanish. Marco is wearing a shirt and does something with his hair, I put on my hoody that is fading into some kind of aubergine colour.

We go for a swift drink at a pub where each table has its own beer tap. Dangerous.

Standing in the queue is always a good place to check out talent, and probably a good place to chat up girls, always guilty of the first, but never the second. What do you say to someone in a queue?
"I like this queue, its nice and straight. Usually I find queues on the continent rather..."
Some people have a real knack for chatting to anybody about anything, I am not one of these people. So I stick to what I'm good at, casual perving. There is a strong "alternative" theme, a bit like an Avril Lavigne music video with added age. My haunting flashbacks of year 8 are interrupted by the realisation of two things. Firstly, this will not to be a bonding session for me and Marco, we are joined by one of his nice Italian female friends. The key word there being "one". Secondly, there is a band playing tonight. I love music, this is going to be great. Whats the band called? The Fuck? Really? Thats actually their name? The Fuck? As if using the definitive article gives it an edge it might have otherwise lacked. Grammar was soon to be the least of my worries.

After a highly confusing toilet experience that I won't even begin to explain, followed by purchasing some highly overpriced beer, we gravitate towards the stage.

So how were The Fuck? Musically I would say weird metal/rock. What was key about this particular band was how they presented themselves on stage, I will now attempt to describe all four band members to the best of my ability.

Lets start with the drummer, I never saw his face, because he was wearing a bag on his face. Not a deadly plastic bag, but a breathable bag, like one a farmer might put some wheat in. At one point he lifted the lower part of the bag to smoke a ciggarette, all I saw was a piece of chin, I was left wondering who could be under this bag? What man could it be? A man that would have to hide his face in shame? Surely there are only really two candidates? Pat Sharpe or David Cameron. I know for a fact Pat Sharpe is doing a DJ set in Cornwall, and that David Cameron is never doing anything. David Cameron it is then.

Then there was a man who can only be described as a fat fleet fox. He had all the trademarks of a fleet fox, the hair, the beard, even a banjo (do they play banjoes? They look a bit like they should), except he was overweight. I have two theories on this. First, he was a member of the fleet foxes, but was forced out of the group because of his constant whistling, no one likes a whistler. Obviously he was in true pain and fell quite understandably into a glutonous cycle and joined a shit band in Barcelona. Stabbed in the back by his contempories, in a similar fashion to the all mighty Julius Caesar.

Second, he had nothing to do with the fleet foxes and couldn't even whistle, he was just in a shit band in Barcelona. The mere fact that I had been able to conjure up this brilliantly tragic tale was testament to how poor this band actually was, and how perhaps I should be writing a postmodern play of some sort.

The bass guitarist looked like a balding version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He was wearing a dressing gown, a wife beater, pink pants (which would later be revealed as a thong, of course), and some sunglasses. He sang on most of the songs, the only problem was that he had knocked the mic stand over in the first song, probably in an attempt to look 'mental', the stand remained on the floor for the entire gig. He had either; forgotten to pick it up, didn't actually care, or wore sunglasses to hide the fact that he had no eyes and didn't even see the incident.

The lead guitarist was also the lead vocalist. He was also completely naked for the entire gig. At first I thought he was strategically placing his guitar over his genitals, then I realised that was just an early coincidence, this man was unconcerned with approximately seven hundred people staring at his penis. Imagine this; a naked man singing about lots of morbid stuff, in english, but between songs he says things in a slightly high pitched voice, in Spanish. Fortunately I don't have to imagine that, I was there, that will be with me forever.

Somewhere between the song about how everyone is going to die, and the song about how everyone is already dead, I notice something. Marco and the Italian chick, are dancing a bit close. Do I see a grind? I can't be sure, but it is definitely more than I can handle. I hope that there is some kind of romance between them, and not that Italians just happened to dance a lot more intimately than I am used to and that I have to sample it. Its not that this girl is in anyway repulsive, just that I really don't want some awkward sexy dancing experience with her. An experience that we won't even be able to joke about, seeing as our mutual vocabulary stretches to pizza, pasta, and taxi.

Then I see the lead singer spit into the front row. The front row. Suddenly my sole objective in life is to stay at a hefty distance from this "front row". In my mind I cook up the sordid goings-on of the front row, people urinating on each other and reading communist propaganda. Admittedly all I'd seen was the lead singer project his saliva onto them, but surely it was only the tip of the iceberg? I was definitely much happier making assumptions from my current position, even if I was sure there was about a gherkins worth of smashed glass under my feet, glass I could handle, naked men spitting, I couldn't.

As the gig ended and all the members of the band had successfully spat on each other a good few times, I was slightly relieved. The Dude took all of his clothes off as the lead singer put all of his back on, was that a tactical decision? Like a football substitution in the world of nudity? Yeah, I like to think so. For all the bad stuff about this gig, to their credit they got the crowd "hype" and gave me something interesting to write about.

On the ride home I was compelled to find out what was going on with Marco and this chick. Obviously I had no idea how to say it Spanish, so I tried to say it in English without sounding rude. In the end I just asked "Did you fuck her?", his response "Yes, but I like her friend". Some things are always the same, no matter what language you are speaking.

No puedes aprender nuevas tricks a un perro abuelo or something

Once in a while I poke the back of my head for a bit, in the hope that I will stumble across the Spanish language on/off button. Although I haven't located it yet, I am convinced of its existence, no matter how strange I may look when I'm trying to buy my metro tickets. At this point I'd even settle for a subtitle button.

I don't have a job, so by all accounts I should be spending a lot of time trying to learn Spanish.

The other night I was at a party. Sadly not a middle aged swingers bash, just your average erasmus do. I was speaking to a Portugese guy for ages, I told him I had trouble remembering peoples names, we had a giggle about it. He said he had the same problem. Then after about 30 minutes of chatting of getting along really well, we said we should probably meet up for a drink or something. Nothing gay, just a pal type thing. Then came the bit where he put his number in my phone, I was hoping he would know how to work my vintage samsung flip-phone and put his name in too. He didn't. So I asked his name, he laughed, good joke, a reference to earlier no doubt? Doubt. I couldn't remember his name, and even though I told him I had problems in that department he seemed a bit offended. He knew mine. He knew my name, because we have the same name. He was called Carlos, we had spent a good while joking about the fact we had the same name in the early exchanges. We never met up for that drink. Hopefully I will never see him again.
Anyway the reason I recounted that story was because Carlos advised me that a good way to learn is by listening to Spanish radio. At first I laughed him off, but now I am an avid listener of Huellas Jesus Radio. Anyone who knows me, knows I think Christianity is a bit of a farce. Its responsible for more bloodshed than the menstrual cycle and its more profitable than the tampon industry. But their Latin radio broadcasts are the only talk-radio stations I can find on itunes. And with such clear pronounciation at hand, I am able to look past the messages such ase "you don't need a girlfriend, the church is your girlfriend" and "God is your father". I am fairly sure I can't fornicate with a church, and I know if god was really my father I would have at least gone to private school. So my principle form of learning is by being brainwashed in a different language and it seems that not even that is working. I continue listening to the station, whilst hoping that noone else is. The last thing I need is hot Latin women thinking they don't need lovers. Statistically speaking at least one of them should fancy me.

Some days I'm able to spend almost half an hour at a time doing online verb-drills. Present tense seems to be what I'm best at, so everyone is constantly in the middle of doing something. I am cooking a nachos. We are buying t-shirts for my bed. They are eating plastic. It is tasting bad. You are getting the idea. I have found a couple of cheats (I call them cheats, because it makes the next couple of sentences begin to sound interesting), for example putting voy (=I am going) in front of any verb, makes it in the future. Voy a lavar los platos (I am going to wash the dishes), is much more appropriate for my lifestyle, than lavos los platos (I am washing the dishes). This means I can bypass the whole future tense part of my grammar book and continue to put off the washing up. Which I think is positive.

I really want to improve, it's just that its going very slowly. Thank god I live with Marco, he is the only person that actually speaks Spanish with me all the time.

In the mean time the dent on the back of my head is getting deeper by the day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just a friendly game

Somewhere between not looking for a job and not looking for my passport, Marco invited me to join Matteo and him in a friendly game of football.

I tried to think of an excuse. My feet were sore from trawling half of Barcelona in my flip-flops. I needed to look for a job. I'd only just washed my hair the previous night, and didn't want to get it sweaty. My excuses were poor and had strong homosexual undertones, knowing none of them would work, I agreed.

As the day went by and 5 o'clock drew inevitably closer, my apprehension turned into a curious excitement. It'd been a while since I'd played football. Surely I couldn't be as bad as I remembered. Surely not. My bubble of excitement was burst around 3pm. I know Marco was saying it only to be helpful, but really I wished he hadn't said it at all, "We shower there". As if worrying about my lack of football skills wasn't enough. Now I had to get naked with ten other men. Being a beta-male has its plus sides, generally you don't participate in many sports, which means you get to miss out on showering with multiple same-sex partners. Not on this day.

I had already faced this fear when I joined the gym about 4 years ago. After finishing a "workout" with some "gym buddies" they got completely naked, obviously I was compelled to do the same and in all honestly it wasn't that big a deal. It became normal. Until one day I went on my own, and spent the usual hour in the gym. After that particular workout, I did the usual thing, got naked and jumped in the shower. Already in the shower were two kids, and they just laughed at me. They could not stop laughing at me. If it was because I had told a particularly good joke, I would have been proud. However, I hadn't told a joke. I was just naked, hence me not being proud, but rather embarrassed. That was possibly my worst ever cleansing experience. I managed to avoid showering naked in public after that incident.

Anyway. We took the metro to someplace an hour away and went into the university. My flatmates had a short conversation with the security guard that I really couldn't understand. They may have said; "watch out, this one is currently fighting four rape convictions", I just smiled innocently. The security guard smiled back, so hopefully they said something a little more in-line with the truth, just two actually. We got changed. I should at this point mention that I failed to bring a football kit (along with many other items) to Spain. Whilst other people were tightening their shin-pads, I was tightening my leather belt.

Whilst waiting for others to turn up, we knocked the ball around for a bit. I quickly identified the weakest passer and compared myself to him, I was better than him, thank god. Too bad for me, he was actually a goalkeeper, a really good goalkeeper. So I was the worst player. If we had been the Champions League winning Liverpool team of 2005, I would be the Djimi Traore.

The game kicked off. I strung together a couple of successful passes. I was beginning to remember why I was captain of the third eleven at school. I pulled off a brilliant piece of skill and almost set up a goal, this was going to be a walk in the park. Obviously not. I made two errors, that lead to conceding two goals, in less than two minutes. I suddenly remembered why I was captain of the third eleven after all. It was because the team only had one fixture in the whole year and it was regarded as a bit of a joke. It wasn't because I could play football particularly well, but because I was the only person who offered to assemble a team.

As the hour went by, I got progressively worse. You can tell when this is happening, because you receive fewer passes, people pretend they can't see you and even the opposition stops marking you. People learn that you are more likely to lose the ball than retain it. People realise that even with the hair of Carlos Valderama, you don't have his skills. Of course it doesn't help to laugh when your own player gets fouled, or for him to see you laughing. No, that was definitely a hindrance to the teambuilding.

I missed a couple of sitters, got confused by people barking at me in Spanish, but generally had a good time. This was cemented by the fact that the last kick of the game was me scoring a goal, on purpose. Marco obviously felt sorry for me, offering me a sympathetic high-five. I wanted to leave him hanging, to make him look like the fool. I know he was being nice, so I reluctantly slapped his palm. Then I remembered what was next, I lingered for as long as I could at the water fountain and then returned to the changing room.

Penises everywhere.

Its funny, in these situations you are meant to try as much as you can, not to check out what other men are packing in penis land. But once you see one, you figure you might as well look at them all. A bit like popping Pringles, but with less salt (at least you hope less salt). I saw a few of the players leave the changing rooms without showering. Maybe I could just slip out with them? Wait for Marco and Matteo outside?

No, I was going to do this. I wasn't going to let those two children haunt me forever. Its always a relief when you see the first penis smaller than yours, then as you begin to ascend the penis ranks your confidence follows suit.

I'd like to take a moment to say that my Italian flatmates wear ridiculous pants.

I bit the bullet and pulled down my boxers, scanning the room to see who was a pervert. Turns out, I was the only one. I had a shower, did not shampoo. I made sure I was the last one to put my clothes back on. Some sort of endurance test or something, I don't really know why I did that actually, its a bit of a weird thing to do.

I managed to play football, even though I was the worst by a mile, as well as do a naked man-shower again. Not a bad day at the office. I guess I'll go back next week.

Now if only I could put as much effort into getting a job of some sort...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Peter and I...

Living with Jude Law's dad simply is not as glamorous as one would imagine.

Peter and Jude haven't spoken in years, due to an argument about self-tan during the shooting of Talented Mr Ripley. As a consequence, Peter's allowance has been cut off completely.

At the time Peter came into my life, I was on a massive come-down from a tour de force pitting me against Judas and Goebbels. I had just lost a handstand competition and was sulking on the beach when I saw Peter building sand-castles. Rather than using a conventional plastic bucket to build his grainy empire, he was using a vintage human skull. I should have known something was up.

We were kicked out of the squat after only one night. Apparently they frown upon heavy man-on-man petting. I wasn't even aware one could get kicked out of a squat. Considering they don't even own the place it does seem rather harsh.

For a moment the future seemed rather bleak. However, Peter surprised me. He found a place for us to stay for a week. Every day, we lay spooning in bed until the early afternoon, our hearts merging into one. I would rise early and make him English pancakes, always over saturating them in the juice of a lemon, much to his disapproval. He cooked beef for me, even though it does not tickle his palette. We spent afternoons exhibiting our foxtrot related skills on the beach and evenings reading the works of Tolstoy and Proust, together by the fire.

Of course physical attraction alone cannot maintain a relationship, Peter and I were destined to fall out eventually, and I guess odds were on it to being over his hobby of taxidermia.

I first found out about his passion by accidently overhearing one of his infamous bathroom soliloquies, the walls are thin. I thought little of it. A couple days later I returned back from an out-of-town industrial farming conference, to find Maude (a local cat that I had quickly grown fond of) murdered, stuffed, and lying on my pillow. Peter worsened the situation when he managed to convince me that by putting ketchup into the stuffed animal, there was a small chance of its revival. Peter was wrong. This would be the final straw.

Peter has since returned back to Paris to try and work things out with his wife. My existence continues.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weeks gone by...

So the major development is that I now live in a flat and not a hostel. Which is good for my wallet. I live in the area called Glories, which I'm sure means nothing to anyone reading this. Its a step-up from the actual ghetto of last year, that was Stratford, I miss the bloods. Not really. Glories is not actually that nice an area, but whatever it sounds quite nice.

I live with five others. Two Italian guys (Marco & Matteo), one French girl (Fanny), one Belgian girl (Odile) , and one Austrian girl (Sabrina). Everyone is nice and friendly. None of the girls walk around the house naked, as one would imagine continental woman to do. Four of them study and the other works. I am the sole layabout. We are all a similar age, and it is easy to talk to them all. Smoking hash seems to be the household sport, which is fine with me.

I pay €280 a month. Which is very cheap. The price however reflects the shitness of my bedroom, my bed is the most uncomfortable thing since paedophilia, and it squeaks more than that annoying character with the long neck in the muppets (probably also a paedophile). The mattress is about as thick as two crisps on top of each other. So I have bought three duvets to add to the mix. Still casual sex seems like a distant dream with the current bed situation, however I guess it has always seemed a distant dream. On the plus side we have a (small) balcony, (small) kitchen, and nice dining/living area. We also have a psychopath living below us, who apparently pulled a knife on someone who used to live in the flat. Nice.

So far I have avoided any mockery in the kitchen, but I am confident this will be shortlived. Everyone cooks proper food, but I eat salami sandwiches, occassionaly with cucumber. I am also averaging three hundred grams of Milka chocolate daily, seriously, I am. I can't find Marmite anywhere, bovril and quaker, but no fucking marmite.

My learning of the language is a work in progress. Language school seems like a waste of money to me though, so I probably won't bother with that. I'd rather use the money for two months rent. Sorry mum.

On a social front, I go out with my Italian flatmates some times, I have been to a couple of erasmus parties. One was in a facking gorgeous flat, proper nice old building with a glass elevator and sexy high ceilings, and lots of hot French people. The other one was just off La Rambla, and it was a sweat pit, where I spent the whole evening talking with two guys, drinking sangria, and subsequently feeling a bit gay afterwards.
I also have a few friends from staying at the hostel, who I'm going for a drink with in a couple of hours.

On the job front, there does seem to be a couple opportunities here and there. However I have lost my passport and until I sort that out I can't sort out my work papers. Nice one Charlie, you are a pro. Seriously Charlie, you should actually go proffessional, you are really that good.

To give you a full idea of my lifestyle, it is 6:26pm. I am still in my pyjamas. I had a list of things to do today and have done none of them, apart from this blog post. I have placed a ban on online poker during weekdays, in an attempt to stifle my inactivity. The fictional version will hit shelves in the next couple of days.