Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Loot 5, Part Deux: The Winter Soldier

Oh man, am I excited about it getting colder this year. I’m not saying that only because it’s been stupidly hot here, frequently in the 90s, but because I can’t wait to deploy my new leg-warming strategies!

Cutting-edge technology I will be sheathed in for the first time this year includes Spanx (falling down tights are among the worst things), SmartWool® (applied fancy sock science) and tights that have fleece inside them! You read that right — there is FLEECE lining the tights. It is entirely possible that these things will surpass the iPod as the thing which most drastically improved my quality of life because FLEECE! + TIGHTS! could = BLISS.

Winter loot

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Me estoy volviendo loca

The summer of 1982 must have been a rainy one on the farm. It was the only year that I remember watching any TV while visiting my grandparents and something must have driven me to the sewing room where the TV was mounted on a high shelf in the corner by the door, much too high to make for comfortable viewing. The house was located between the sea and a forest in a low valley off the coast so the reception wasn’t good. Not that it mattered; there was only one channel, TVE.

The best Spanish album of all time, imho.

The best Spanish album of all time, imho.

The weather really must have been dire as I spent many days, possibly a few weeks, watching la Vuelta a España, the Spanish version of the Tour de France. It’s the premier cycling competition in Spain and I might have forgotten all about it if it hadn’t been that TVE had chosen Azul y Negro’s “Me estoy volviendo loco” [I’m driving myself crazy] as the theme for that year’s race. It was used as the bumper music in and out of commercial breaks, was frequently the bed music under shots of cyclists riding and accompanied the commentators while they spoke. It was my first ear worm and I had to have it for myself.

That was why 1982 is also the only year that I remember making multiple trips to towns and cities. Normally, I would settle into my routine of running around in the woods with the dogs and taunting the pigs or the chickens and would ride in a car maybe six times total. Two of those trips being to and from the airport. But that year, I went along whenever anyone was going to a town big enough to have a record shop because only I could scat the tune well enough to hope that someone would recognize it, know what it was and put a copy of it in my hot little hands.

In retrospect, it’s good that I was both so young and am a sinvergüenza [shameless] because it’s not the easiest song to replicate with just your voice. It’s all electronic and TVE never used any of the parts that had lyrics so I would stand in front of people and launch into my imitation:

“do, do, do, do, do, do-do, PSH! do, do, do, do, do, do-do, PSH! do, do, do, do, do, do-do, do-do, do-do, do-do!”

Finally, one amused guy knew exactly what I was talking about and handed over a cassette of DIGITAL, the first (of two) Spanish albums I would ever buy in my life.

[I just watched the “official” video for the first time today and it’s so 80s, so Spanish and so bad that I won’t subject you to it. Instead, watch this version, oddly scoring scenes from Woody Allen’s SLEEPER for reasons I do not understand.]

Decades later, my mother sent me the double CD set reissue of Azul y Negro’s greatest hits and I finally retired the tape I’d lugged around with me almost my whole life. As soon as I got the CDs, I ripped the tracks and threw the whole thing onto my first iPod and hit the DC trails, riding to the best biking music that ever existed. Seriously. If you or someone you know loves to clear their heads while riding at a punishing pace, this is the soundtrack for them.


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Word Mystery: aboyer / bark / ladrar

This dog is in my family.

This dog is in my family.

Word mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

Today’s inspiration comes from my new iPhone’s alarm tone, aboiement. (My phone and iPod are set to French so I’m obligé de penser en français.)

EN → bark — the sharp explosive cry of certain animals, esp. a dog, fox, or seal. ORIGIN Old English beorc (noun), beorcan (verb), of Germanic origin.

ES → ladrar [lah-drahr] — Dicho de un perro. [Sound a dog makes.] ORIGIN Latin latrāre.

FR → aboyer [ah-bwah-yea] — Pousser son cri, en parlant du chien, spécialement d’un chien de grande taille. [Release of a dog’s cry, especially a large one.]

Aboyer appears to have evolved from the 12th century Roman word abaia. “Roman” here denoting the colloquial language spoken in the Roman Empire. Latin was for fancy educated folk. In Italian bark is abbaiare which seems to support this theory.

An abaia is also a “huge, magical eel” which is just one of the worst combinations of things I can imagine.

Finally, the perfect excuse to post an annoying yet catchy video. It’s of the French version of a novelty song about the sounds animals make. If you want more, there are a whole bunch in other languages.

Check back to this space for the next exciting Word Mystery! (Which may come to you every Wednesday because I love symmetry and inversion. It’d be WMW!)


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Tightening it up in Paris

This is the album art we tighten it up with

The iPod is the single greatest thing I’ve even gotten myself. By far. It’s improved my general quality of life immensely every day.

This isn’t a love letter to the iPod, just a statement of fact. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to tighten it up down Avenue de l’Opéra on a bright winter day, seeing my breath cloud slightly in front of my face. ‘What?’ you say. ‘You did what down the street?”

I was tightening it up, man. You can do it, too. I don’t think the French boogie down sidewalks judging by the looks I got, but that’s how I roll. Get behind it, man.