When we visited Spain on vacation several years ago we thought “Que Fatal!” everytime we had to eat. We went from one restaurant to the next after being disgusted by unattractive pictures of questionable meat. We weren’t even vegetarians then. Why would restaurants advertise food with photos that portray the food as inedible? Why not just describe the food like in America?

Now, after months of searching, we have found many wonderful Spanish dishes. There is a cafe near our apartment that makes a pincho de tortilla with cheese that oozes out of it. I would eat it 7 days a week if I could. I guess at 3 euros I probably could but then I would need to expand my conversation skills in order to talk to the people behind the counter. Probably isn’t going to happen.

Despite our expanded restaurant options there are a few food items that I miss from the US. Danny was able to help in this area. He paid us a visit last week and brought with him: Tom’s toothpaste (x2), Baking powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and dental floss. What a doll! We made chocolate chip cookies today, with a strange kind of brown sugar that is super granulated and has a strong molasses scent. They actually turned out quite well, they weren’t Megan’s mother-in-law’s cookies or anything but they were still pretty good. I was even able to make Sean angry by telling him I threw them in the trash. That’s the best way to make Sean angry. He loves chocolate chip cookies. He rejoiced when I told him I was kidding. Thanks for the supplies and company DG! bl



January 29, 2011

The third part of an ongoing series on how we’re learning the language.

You pick up certain things while you’re watching programs in Spanish.

You tend to watch shows you would never otherwise.  For instance, there’s this show on Nick with one chubby high-school kid and his friend who’s not as chubby and thus more popular.   There’s a lot of physical comedy and overacting and plots ripped from Saved by the Bell.

In English, I would only watch it with my brother Dan, the connoisseur of bad films and television.

In Spanish, it’s a learning tool.   We watched five episodes over the course of three days in Cordoba.   The plot doesn’t necessarily advance as much as it dizzies itself, but we did learn a few expressions. ‘Es mejor que me vaya.’

There’s also a popular show called Glee.  For those who don’t know, it follows two teenagers from Chicago’s west side over a period of four years in their quest for glory on the court.  It’s difficult to watch at times.  They are gifted players- one preternaturally so- and their smooth and uninhibited play is tragically paralleled by brutal trauma in their private lives.   For anyone who wants a look at urban America- without the unforgivable moralizing of that Hillary Swank movie where she’s white and the students are black- watch Glee.

Just joking that’s Hoop Dreams.

Glee exists in an alternate universe where Justin Timberlake becomes a high school Spanish teacher and coaches the most gifted glee club ever.  Its cast is diverse in a way that appeases Huffington Post liberals, but subtly condescending in a way that upsets The Nation liberals.  The students can sing for real though.  I don’t think my dad watches it, but if he did: ‘Sue can you believe it? These kids have effin’ pipes.’

It’s pretty fun to watch in dubbed Spanish.  On good days, you understand fifteen percent of it.


I just ate pork skin and it was very strange. I was at a cafe across the street from my Spanish class and the bartender gave me free tapas. I thought the tapa was some sort of fried seafood, like calamari. As I put a piece into my mouth I smelled bacon immediately.  I experienced a mixture of disgust and delight. I use to love bacon. I guess I probably still do. I couldn´t bring myself to eat anymore of it and I spent about 15 minutes strategizing about how to discard the skins without hurting the barkeeps feelings. I eventually slipped the pork into the trash when the man went into the back. B

TV Phone Home

November 7, 2010

Recently we’ve watched a few network and non-network television programs.  Keeps us in the loop.

For anyone who can stomach amateur criticism:

1.  I’ve joined a fringe part of society that watches and enjoys Grey’s Anatomy.  They hooked me where this dude had a medical condition that made him look like a tree.  That was the funniest thing I’d ever seen on network television.

-We got a patient.

-What’s wrong with him?

-His arms are growing branches.

-gurgle hahaha spit milk gahhhh-  I started dying, only calming down when told that’s it’s a real condition.

Props to all people afflicted.

I have been hooked ever since. How about when Karev saved a little girl’s life, growing a homegrown trachea like it was 11th grade AP Biology. Who knew that a trachea looked a strawberry shortcake from Chelo’s?

I’m learning what it means to be a doctor.  Sandra Oh, in particular, has taught me so much: Be in a relationship with as many colleagues as possible, don’t be likable, and if your best friend’s husband gets shot, operate on him at gunpoint.   Also don’t be a good actress and make people wish your character didn’t survive.

2.  Avon Barksdale is the best.

B’s friend Courtney was in town for a week, with nine episodes of Season 3 of the Wire on the IPod Touch.   It can be sickening to read takes on The Wire.  ‘It’s so real’ I say, with no proof that it is, having never set foot on the west Baltimore beat.  It seems like the less dialogue I understand, the more authentic it becomes.

Still, its greatness inspires, especially when re-watching.  Heartbreaking in retrospect: when McNulty and Keema realize Avon it back on the streets after just a couple years.

‘Big f-ing joke,’ McNulty says. Cut to Keema throwing a trash can across the room, closing the episode.

‘Big f-ing joke.’  Who working in a (school, hospital, police station, government agency, non-profit, etc.) hasn’t heard or said that?

Also: the scene when String admits to Avon that he had D’Angelo killed is the least ‘real’ scene in a series predicated upon verisimilitude.  The sequence actually belongs in a museum.  It’s too beautiful.   The dialogue (‘I look at you and see a man without a country’) is better than anything in The Social Network, a film with handcuffs on the zeitgeist for reasons I don’t understand.

Watch that three minute scene and see the 135 minutes of The Social Network swallowed whole.  David Simon, pathological about remaining true to the street, lets himself go here.  There is nothing less real and more perfect, taking the hardened poetry of thug-life and making it sing.  Stringer saying that the detective ‘is not wrong about that.’  Kills me.

At its core is that longtime friendships and business partnerships are probably mutually exclusive.  Also that Avon’s minions are crafty with sutures.

3.  Mad Men did it this season.  Criticism for the impulsivity of Don’s marriage proposal seems warranted, but wasn’t it the best?  I mean, he proposed to Megan while he was still in the middle of a much more serious relationship with another woman.  It was an unhinged man doing something transcendently unhinged.

What made him do it?  I think the scene in the restaurant.  Don’s daughter spills a milkshake and Megan doesn’t flip out.  Don has never looked more impressed with anyone in his life.   Everyone knew his old wife Betty would’ve held her daughter at knifepoint if she’d been there.  So as wild and irrational as it was, maybe the man was just looking for something different.

Cue the hilarious engagement ring scene with Don at his sentimental best and Megan speaking French to her mother.

This season – and the series – had a much more cinematic feel than say, cinema.  I loved every part of that finale, including Joanie keeping it ‘Avon’ with the pregnancy.

Country for Old Men

September 20, 2010

A few months back, Dan G. introduced me to a necessary art: not caring when taking someone’s photograph.  In our family it’s understood that if he feels like snapping your picture, your objections are irrelevant.  His longtime girlfriend Soph bears most of this burden.  He just kind of walks up to you and starts at it: click, click, click.

And it’s not just family: strangers receive less mercy.  He injects himself into situations as they’re unfolding.  He pretends that what he’s doing is perfectly natural.  Once it was a family trying to enjoy a ride at Navy Pier in Chicago.  Dan loved how absurdly unhappy they looked on the (admittedly awful) ride.  Adding to their gloom was the tall, skinny photographer stoically capturing it.

He’s a punk but you need to respect that.

He also plays aggressive full court man-to-man defense.  Great ball pressure.


I’ve seen some subjects react in unflattering ways.  I think one dude threatened to jack his camera.  Another cursed him out.  Danny boy just walks along, neither confirming nor denying he’s doing anything wrong.

Madrid would be a perfect city for him.  There are always scores of people out, many of them older.  Couples in their seventies having a little stroll in Sol, hand in hand.  Geriatric girlfriends shopping in a chic clothing store.  Groups of them out for a drink at 2 in the morning, dressed with style and verve.

But, alas, older Madrilenos do not exactly love being photographed, either.

Some of these guys look angry.

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