It’s My Milk in a Box (y más)

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

Viernes, 21 Ene. ’05, 14.15 (Friday, January 21, 2005, 2:15 pm)

Sobriety update: I made another half-assed attempt to get drunk last night, downing two pints of tinto verano, a shot of lima con vodka, a glass of sangria, and one last shot of lima con who-the-hell-knows-what between the hours of 22.30 and 1.00, but to no avail. However, my cartera was far more appreciative of last night’s efforts since I only spent 5,30 € on the night.

Moving on: This morning, mis hermanas españolas asked me what I normally liked for breakfast. I told them that, back home, I usually just had a bowl of cereal to tide me over until lunchtime. They considerately offered to pick some up for me in the near future if I wanted, so I had to explain that, although the milk here was okay when mixed with copious amounts of chocolate cocaine (I assume that’s what Cola Cao is), it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea when it came to cereal. However, I probably shouldn’t have translated the Anglican idiom into Spanish (copa de té), because that prompted them to ask what kind of tea I would prefer on my cereal. I told them to forget about the tea, the real problem is the milk.

I mean, who DOESN'T like milk at room temperature!

Because who DOESN'T like milk at room temperature!

I went on to condescendingly explain that, in the States, we had to refrigerate our dairy products at all times, and even then they had to be consumed within a few weeks. They nodded in understanding and explained in turn that, even though they bought their milk in aluminum-lined cardboard cartons and kept them stored indefinitely at room temperature on a shelf in the pantry, once they opened the container, they most certainly put the milk into the refrigerator. Thus, it was pretty much the same thing. I didn’t have the time, inclination, or vocabulary required to correct the sheer wrongness of their comparison, so I pretended to receive a call on my cell phone from my primary care physician who, coincidentally, had just finished running the blood tests confirming that I did, indeed, have an extremely rare case of Iberian lactose intolerance. After giving mis hermanas my doctor’s various medical credentials and reciting the atomic weights of all the elements up to, and including, Lawrencium, they accepted my claims.

Spaniards: Can’t live with ’em, can’t drink their gross, disgusting milk.

On an unrelated (though equally irrelevant) note, I was also ambushed earlier this afternoon by the cleaning lady after arriving home from school. She began verbally accosting me the moment I entered the lobby, shrilly denouncing all the Americans in residence for the mess they always made that apparently never existed back when it was just good, hardworking Spanish citizens living in the building. I resisted the urge to kiss her on the mouth and, instead, began spouting the few German phrases I could remember from sixth grade. Her confusion was palpable, so I capped off my guttural barrage of Wo ist die Toilette?‘s and Ich bin verloren. Bitte helfen Sie mir.‘s with an old Swahili proverb my dad had once taught me (beer ni bora badda ya kazi—”beer is best after work”), then sauntered upstairs without another glance in her direction.I imagine she’ll think twice before messing with Germany again.  Sieg heil!

Miscellaneous Observation 1 (less irreverent than usual): Every morning on my way to school, I pass a man begging for money on the sidewalk. He stands in front of the same store at the same time every day, always vanishing before I return a few hours later. I’ve come to think of him as El Capitán, in recognition of the ubiquitous captain’s hat perched atop his unkempt tangle of white hair. He never insists on your charity, never physically impedes your passage, never even leaves the shade of his awning, but he is always there, quietly proffering his chapped and gnarled hand and mumbling unintelligibly to himself. I can’t understand what he’s saying, but I like to think he’s relating fantastic tales of his past adventures, fraught with ingenious escapes from harrowing shipwrecks, perilous acts of personal fortitude on deserted islands, and desperate battles with legendary sea creatures. In any case, he certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “man overboard.”

Miscellaneous Observation 2 (also less irreverent than usual): Every afternoon on my way back from school, I pass a man begging for money on the sidewalk. He is never there in the morning, materializing instead at some indeterminate point in the mid-afternoon hours. I’ve come to think of him as El Penitente because he is always on bended knee. His gaze appears to rest permanently on some point three inches in front of his face, but if you watch him for more than a few seconds, you get the feeling that simply kneeling in his place on the sidewalk will not be enough to see what he sees. He never speaks, never acknowledges your presence—he is simply there, crouching in silent supplication with a piece of folded cardboard nestled gently in his quivering palms. I would like to hear his story, but I could never ask him to tell it; I wouldn’t want to break his concentration.

22.15 (10:15 pm)

Well, lunch today was a fun and not-at-all-awkward affair. I learned that my señora was moving in September to un piso nuevo just around the block after having lived in this particular flat for the past 29 years. Her daughters and one of their friends were joking and laughing about the pains of moving when all of a sudden my señora let out a small moan and began to cry. It was right around this time that I became intensely fascinated with the contents of my stew. As her sobs percolated quietly in the background, I ruminated unselfconsciously on the relative merits of Garbanzo beans versus Chick peas, finally deciding that, since they were actually the same legume, I couldn’t very well discriminate against one and not the other. I also decided that “Garbanzo” would be a good name for my first child, regardless of sex, and then realized that I couldn’t actually disregard sex as it would probably be necessary in the child making process. This in turn suggested that I probably would not be having a child at any time in the near or distant future. However, after further consideration, I also decided that “Garbanzo” would prove an equally apt name for a dog. Since owning a dog doesn’t require that someone of the female persuasion ever find me attractive, I concluded that this was a far more likely scenario to plan for and set about choosing what color bandanna I should make him or her wear each day of the week. I got as far as blue and white checkers on Wednesdays before my señora finally recovered from her mini breakdown, at which point I circumspectly[1] excused myself from the table and went to play dominoes in the park with my new friend José Olé, a loveable street urchin with only nine toes but 11 fingers. (He was awesome at dominoes.)

[1] Not to be confused with “circumcisionally,” which—while not actually a word—is still quite painful after a certain age.

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