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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EXT. CORNER RUE DE LA PÉPINIÈRE AND BOULEVARD MALESHERBES, PARIS — DAY

Pretty much right here.

Pretty much right in front of the yellow awning.

GIRL is in an incredibly good mood. MUSIC blasting through her iPod, she’s strutting down the street, happily thinking of eating her Oops! All Berries when she gets home. GIRL sees a MAN and WOMAN ahead of her. THEY are looking anxiously at a tattered map. MAN is spinning the map in his hands, trying to make it match the corner they’re standing on. GIRL sees these people for what they are: Spaniards lost in Paris. GIRL decides not to be Spanish to these people. Instead, she will be American and offer her services.

GIRL 

Je peux vous aider?

MAN

¡No!

WOMAN elbows MAN in the ribs. THEY are lost and SHE knows it. MAN exhales loudly through his nose, unconsciously mimicking a bull.

MAN

Si — ah — ¿Sant Lazare?

HE pronounces it in Spanish, “San Lathar.” GIRL was totally right about THEM. Her day just got a little more awesome because GIRL loves being unequivocally right.

GIRL (in Spanish)

Yes, it’s straight down this street on the left. Do you see that big pink banner that says “the gallery is open”? It’s right before that.

MAN and WOMAN smile, relieved, pleased.

MAN

We were so confused! There are so many streets here!

GIRL

Yes, these intersections can be complicated, but to get your bearings, just look for the street signs. They usually have the district number on them and you can orient yourself by looking for the sun. As long as it’s daytime, of course.

WOMAN

But, you! Your Spanish is very good, too good!

MAN (to WOMAN)

Don’t you see that she *is* Spanish? It’s obvious!

(to GIRL)

But you have been away a long time, haven’t you?

GIRL (shocked)

Yes . . .

MAN

I can tell because you speak with a little French accent. Not much, your Spanish is perfect, obviously, but I can tell you haven’t been back in a while. There’s just a touch there, just a little French.

GIRL (staring)

. . . It’s been a few years, yes.

MAN is doubly pleased to be right about this. He smiles broadly, rolling forward on the balls of his feet, making himself a little bit taller, just for an instant. WOMAN beams at how clever he is. WOMAN hooks her arm through MAN‘s as they thank GIRL and begin walking east, toward the train station. (Maybe they are going to Burger King?) GIRL continues on her way, even more pleased than before because she was doubly proven right. Only in France is she both 100% Spanish and 100% American. It all depends on who’s asking.


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William Goldman knows what’s what

Until recently, THE PRINCESS BRIDE was my favorite movie. It’s still one of my favorite stories and a favorite soundtrack. I saw the movie twice in the theater in 1987 and have read the book at least half a dozen times. Since its release on home video, I’ve seen it (or been in a room where it was playing) significantly over 100 times. Give me a line of dialogue from the film and I can quote the rest of the movie from that point on with a high degree of accuracy.

And yet, William Goldman somehow managed to elicit a new chuckle from me. I was reading through my new 40th anniversary illustrated edition and the scene just before the epic sword fight atop the Cliffs of Insanity jumped out at me.

The Princess Bride SpaniardsIf you don’t see why this is funny, you haven’t been paying attention.

Apropos of nothing

I had a friend growing up (who’d never left the state) who’s go-to phrase when he didn’t know the answer to a question was, “Lo siento pero no tengo papel” [I’m sorry but I don’t have paper]. I always thought that was really funny.


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Interesting Iberian Information, Vol. IV

medievaltimesAnother feather in the cap of Spaniards: one of my countrymen is responsible for bringing the concept restaurant Medieval Times to America. Here’s an email from my best friend (all punctuation his), breaking this shocking news to me:

apropos of nothing: i went to a surprise party at MEDIEVAL TIMES last night. i kept thinking, “jesus, americans are absurd people.” and then i got to reading the fake bios of all the knights  — and they all had spanish names. i did some research on the way home and learned that the whole medieval times thing is a SPANISH concept. imported to the US by a guy called javier romero who staged jousts on majorca.

There’s even evidence in the paper of record that this is true. Under normal circumstances, I’d be disappointed or embarrassed by what a pathetic claim to fame this is, but I’ve actually met and lived among Spanish people and I’m guessing that if they know this, it’s something they boast about.

Worse still, Hollywood has decided that there needs to be a movie about this chain of “family dinner theater” establishments. As we say in Iberia, ay Dios mío.


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Inside a Spaniard’s mind

Warning: generally speaking, you don’t want to be aware of the inner workings of a Spanish person’s mind because that shit will corrupt you and make you into a bad person. (I’ve mentioned before that they’re assholes, but as a populace, they’re also criminal.)

And yet, it can be instructive, illuminating and interesting to glimpse what the hell is going on in there. One of the most intriguing things I’ve read in a long time is this story about the leaked phonetically written speech given by the mayor of Madrid. I read the transliteration first, keeping in mind the Spanish rules of pronunciation and accessing my memories of how they e-speak the Inglish, and it took me right back to a place I never wanted to be again. But it was still fascinating.

how do you esay?

On a related note, my own mother is always complaining about how poorly [enter name of prominent Spanish person, especially a politician] speaks English and I always have to ask her what damn country she’s been living in for most of her life as Spaniards are habitually among the WORST English speakers in all of Europe.

Another terrifying look into the Spanish mind comes courtesy of a court ruling which was apparently inspired by that one episode of HAPPY DAYS where Potsie and Mouth are living together and get in a fight. Their solution, prompted by advice from Richie, is to draw a line down the apartment so that they don’t have to deal with each other anymore. Well, a judge in Sevilla has ordered a couple to do basically the same thing since they claim they’re too broke to actually file for divorce. (The weirdest thing about this story is that it happened in Sevilla, was reported from Paris and quotes a Catalan lawyer. Something very fishy going on there, but I can’t figure out what.)

Just ’cause three is a magic number, here’s a little Vanity Fair profile about my king’s penchant for women who are not his wife and how his whole family is scandal-bait these days.


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String Bean Arm

My sister was totally grossed out by my dirty distorted foot (um, that was partly the point), so I thought I’d add another pic that makes me look all deformed. (It’s really hard to take pics of one’s own body.)

Attack of the Foot-Long Beans!

Attack of the Foot-Long Beans!

To me, these things are called judías because the only time I ever had reason to call them anything was in Spain. Sometimes I’d help my grandparents’ housekeeper shell a big bunch, but as the task was significantly tedious, I would often “accidentally” send some of the beans flying and would be dismissed from assisting any longer. My sister claims to have done it for hours but I don’t buy that. (We didn’t eat them that often.)

Anyway, my sister’s also the person who pointed out a while ago that a whole continent of people call string beans “Jewesses” (as that’s what judías are, female Jews) and, despite generally thinking that politically correct language has gone way too far and that people should just chill the hell out about a lot of things, even I have a problem with this based solely on the fact that I don’t see any connection. Even the Real Academia Española doesn’t explain anything beyond that the name may have come from Latin iudaeus from the Hebrew yəhūdī [Jew] but I don’t see what’s particulary Jewish about them in any case. Anyone have a clue?