Class for the classless, food for the assless

The fourth installment of my abandoned Granadino memoir, Flawed Abroad: Useless editorializing from an ignorant, close-minded American on his semester overseas.

12 Ene. ’05, 14.00

I would be something akin to astounded if my mattress were longer than five-and-a-half feet. This morning when I awoke, I found my head wedged into the corner of the Murphy style cabinet where my bed usually resides, whilst my feet dangled freely off the other end. (Dios only knows where the rest of my body had gotten off to.) I suppose 6′ 3″ is an uncommon height amongst the Granadinos, which is why I’m grateful that I’ve only walked into the living room chandelier on three separate occasions thus far, while also knocking over the shelf in the shower no more than once.

Returning to my favorite subject: Breakfast this morning was more toast and Cola Cao, along with a couple of pre-packaged muffins that I slipped into my bag for later but ended up giving to an old woman on my way to El Centro when she asked me to buy her something to eat. Less disheartening—though no less memorable—was my brief encounter with the sharply attired businessman in the well-shined shoes who passed me in the opposite direction on his unicycle which I was walking to school. Suffice it to say, this seemed perfectly unremarkable at the time.1

My first class of the day was Gramática y Composición, and despite the insipid title, all signs point to it becoming my favorite of the semester. The teacher, Fermín, is a stout Arab-looking fellow with a dumbfoundingly dry sense of humor and a penchant for bizarre non sequiturs whose lesson plans seem entirely unrelated to the subject of grammar or composition. To wit: Fermín spent the fist half of the class today asking us metaphysical questions about grammar’s personality (e.g., “If grammar were a celebrity, who would it be? If it were a car, what model would it be? If it were venereal disease, how itchy would it be?” etc.).

My second—and, in this case, final—class of the day was Modern Spanish Lit. with Juan Carlos, a youngish, glasses-sporting type whose decidedly unprofessorial wardrobe that first day consisted of a well-worn Adidas sweatshirt and ripped, acid-wash jeans. Despite his 80s’ fashion predilections, however, Juan Carlos still managed to resemble an Iberian Rivers Cuomo—if the Weezer front man had been blessed with some seriously gnarly muttonchops, that is. (Close friends and acquaintances will note that, coming from me, this is a rather significant compliment, as I am nothing if not a man who knows his chops of mutton.) As far as commenting on Juan Carlos’ teaching abilities is concerned…well, I hesitate to pass judgment this early in the semester, especially since I’m not used to his accent yet and have no idea what he’s saying half the time.

"El Corte Ingles" -- which translates to "The Exorbitantly Priced"

"El Corte Ingles" -- which translates to "The Corte Ingles"

After class, I decided to wander around downtown Granada for awhile, eventually winding up at the local retail behemoth, Corte Ingles. Corte Ingles is probably best described as an upscale Walmart which, instead of specializing in low low prices, specializes in ripping you off. I, for one, find it refreshing. For example, after striking up a relationship with a friendly deck of cards whose backs were eye-catchingly adorned with the phrase “Poker Español,” I turned the box over and discovered to my horror that it cost 4,50 Euros. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s more than six bucks for 54 friggin’ pieces of flimsy cardboard. Pricing concerns aside, I will admit that I was impressed by the racial diversity of the store’s mannequins, which made a pointed effort to represent peoples from such diverse locales as Asia, North America, Africa, and The Land of the Obnoxiously Fluorescent.

Speaking of segues, I feel obligated to tout the technological merits of Granada’s various movie theaters. So far, both of the cinematic establishments I’ve happened past in my daily travels have featured not one but multiple flyers on the front door proudly proclaiming their theater to be equipped with the latest in Dolby Digital Stereo Sound. Believe me, you have not had a legitimate movie experiencia until you’ve heard sound coming from both sides of the room!

15.00 – Lunch today was some sort of soup with a distinct resemblance to pig’s vomit. [Present-day editorial: In addition to chops of mutton, I am apparently also a man who knows his porcine emesis.] Fortunately, thanks to the weak flavoring of it’s various, err…”components,” it managed to stay just this side of nauseating. Following that was a large slab of fried fish which, for me, was simply the icing on the disgusting fried fish cake.

21.30 – I’d have to rate dinner tonight as an unqualified success—un éxito rotundo, as someone who was actually Spanish and not just faking it like I am might say. My señora served me a melted cheese sandwich the size of your average repugnantly large goiter, another garden-sized portion of lechuga, a little yogurt thing, and some sort of orange citrus fruit. (They all taste the same to me.) It may not have been high cuisine in the absolute sense, but on a relative scale, it was heaven on toast. (Oh, and just FYI, I don’t intend to keep harping on la comida during my entire stay here in Granda, but it is my first week in a strange land—a strange land with a plethora of unappetizing comestibles, I might add—so you’ll forgive me this early excess.)

Miscellaneous Note: I have recently discovered in my bedroom the Spanish translations of two of my all-time favorite books: El Señor de los Anillos (Lord of the Rings), and La conjura de los necios (Confederacy of Dunces). I’m taking this as a sign.2

1. On my way home from El Centro that same afternoon, I actually passed a second man with a unicycle. Rather than using it for his own personal transportation, however, he seemed to be in the midst of an extremely hands-on unicycling lesson with some giggling coed. I tried to engage him in conversation but was, unfortunately, rebuffed, as he more or less ignored my unicycle-related inquiries in favor of a far more interesting subject: namely, undulating bosom. Can’t say that I blame him, frankly.
2. Though not as a sign pointing to the Alhambra, because I wouldn’t trust one of those misleading metalloid fiascos any farther than I could throw it. And I’m a very weak man, so that’s like a meter, at best.

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