Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


The Postman Rang Twice (with the loot)

Because I am an experienced traveler and have developed a keen sense of when a suitcase is overweight, I took the precaution of sending myself some things from the US. As usual in such cases, I chose wisely as the package in question weighed 13.25 lbs. (6k) and my luggage allowance was 50 lbs. (23 k).

Here’s what the mailman came twice to deliver (really! He left a note the first time and the package the second):

2013 Loot from USA

→ Envelopes filled with the few actual photographs I still have. Many of them will be scanned and then shredded because I don’t believe in keeping lots of stuff.

→ The only love letter I probably won’t ever throw out. In keeping with my own twisted logic, it’s not from anyone I actually dated, nor does it contain any declaration of love but that’s why it’s my favorite.

→ A whole stack of my original Super López comics, including my favorite issue! You can tell they’re the real deal because they cost 395 pesetas! (That was just over 3 bucks back in the day.) These books have traveled more than many people.

→ An Italian phrasebook I bought in 2003 as my one defense against the rudest people on earth. It didn’t make them any nicer to me, but at least I knew I was being polite to their asshole faces.

→ On Writing Well, William Zinnser. I’m gonna master this whole expressing-with-words-on-pages thing.

→ The Big Screen, David Thomson. Books about movies are two of my favorite things in one! The only way to make them better was if they were edible.

→ Mythologies, Roland Barthes (2012 translation). I will most likely not understand anything, but I’ll try.

→ Complete Works, William Shakespeare. It is possible I have three different versions of this but I won’t know for sure until I finally unpack all my belongings and take stock.

→ My name tag from college when the locally owned video store I worked for got bought out by a chain. A friend of mine called me Brain and that’s his crappy writing on the tag.

One night, a young guy and his girlfriend came up to the counter and he looked at me, then my name tag, then to his companion and finally back at me and smirked, “Hi, ‘Brian.’ Do you have [some stupid movie I didn’t bother to register in my memory]?” To which I had to say, “Actually, it’s Brain,” and I very condescendingly ran my finger under each letter so that he could see how un-Brain he was. “And we currently have multiple copies of [whatever Hollywood crap fest] on the New Release wall. It’s that huge wall that runs the length of the store. With a neon sign. That says ‘New Releases.'” And then I smirked right back at him. God, that was the best job.


Word Mystery: comic book / bande dessinée / tebeo

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

I didn’t read a comic book until well after college which is really weird because I read tebeos all the time growing up. Weirder still, comics and tebeos are the same thing but I never thought it was odd to have different reading material in different countries. See, I had two childhoods which existed independently of one another, something I didn’t realize until this past year.

In the US, I was a kid who rode bikes and went to movies and got hot lunch on pizza day. In Spain, I knew no children my own age, ate chocolate sandwiches for breakfast and spent long days talking to animals without another human in sight. In the former, I read books and MAD Magazine. In the latter, I read books and Zipi y Zape and Superlópez.

This is by far my favorite issue. I didn't realize until 2000 that it was a parody of The Fantastic Four and the Justice League because I had never heard of either of those things.

This is by far my favorite issue. I didn’t realize until 2005 that it was a parody of The Fantastic Four and the Justice League because I had never heard of either of those things.

EN → comic book — comics art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. ORIGIN late 16th cent. Greek kōmikos, from kōmos [revel].

ES → tebeoRevista infantil de historietas cuyo asunto se desarrolla en series de dibujos. [Children’s magazine wherein the stories are told through illustrations.] ORIGIN TBO, the name of a Spanish magazine founded in 1917.

FR → bande dessinéehistoire racontée par une série de dessins généralement accompagnés de textes. [A story told through a series of drawings, generally accompanied by text.] ORIGIN basic compound construction, drawn + strip.

→ Spanish wins today for being the most bonkers.

→ It’s interesting to me that bandes dessinées in France have always been culturally relevant and weren’t second class literary citizens like they were in the US for a long time. I think Watchmen (1987) ushered in the era of people talking about “graphic novels” which are things that grownups can read without shame. Here in France, that has never been the case and there is a lot of respect and demand for quality stories that are told in pictures.