The Lung Brothers
Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Friday, March 25, 2005
Of Blonds and Wasted One-liners.
Matt was a strapping, blond American who lived in Barcelona a few years ago and then finally went home to, you guessed it, go to Law School.
Why is it that half of the Americans that I’ve met in Europe were always contemplating a return home so that they could attend this mythical Law School? Do they all have some sort of judicial migration instinct drilled into them from birth or what? Spain doesn’t have that many lawyers and that’s why it can feel free to release charging bulls onto streets filled with it’s own citizens and not have to worry about litigation. The attitude is ‘Well, if you didn’t want to be trampled by bulls, what the Hell were you doing there in the first place?’ So people generally take responsibility for their own stupidity. Lung the Elder calls it, ‘Grown-up-Land’.
Anyway, back to Matt. We all thought that Matt was secretly a bright enough guy but he was always putting on the act of a dumb, aw-shucks, good-natured hick because that was what seemed to work best with the local señoritas. I guess you could have called him a bit of a bit of a Himbo. The first time I met Matt the conversation went:
LtY: ‘So, which part of the States are you from anyway?’
M: ‘I’m from Des Moines, Iowa. Do you know Des Moines?’
LtY: ‘Sure I do. Des Moines is where the Irish dig for coal.’
LtY: ‘What? You bastard. That was my best one-liner in years and you don’t even GET it?’
LtY: ‘Look, if you pronounce Des Moines in an Irish accent....Oh forget it. Barman, more beer!’
M: ‘Uuh..... yeah. More beer!’
Like I say, a bit of a Himbo. I wonder what type of lawyer he turned out to be?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Another Rogue Thought.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Pity the Rich
The description of the food had been ‘fusion tapas’ and really that should have been warning enough. All the waiting staff wore black and the kitchen staff were dressed as dentists and I couldn’t help thinking that the whole scene would have made a great set up for a massive martial arts fight.
When the headwaiter came over it immediately became evident that he had learned his trade in a Hitler Youth camp. I lived in Paris for two years so it’s not like I’m not used to obnoxious waiting staff, but this guy took the frigging biscuit. We decided not to follow his ordering recommendations so he got into a huff and chided us for not following the restaurant’s ‘concept’. Now I happen to know that pretension is the one thing that gets right up the noses of CS and La Doctora, so when this snotty little twentysomething used the ‘C’ word in that tone, I felt both ladies bristle and thought for a moment they were going to grab the designer knives off the table and do an Elektra all over his poker-occupied ass.
When the food finally came, it occupied the area about the size of a thumbnail was served on plates that resembled large ceramic trays.
LtY: ‘Jesus, this looks like an aerial photograph of a meal’
LtE: ‘Yeah. Ooooh look, I can see my food from here!’
And all during the meal, the Blackshirts kept trying to force more and more wine onto us. You know, it’s really hard to chew when you’re gritting your teeth and contemplating homicide. Most of the astronomical bill was kindly paid for by the visiting friend that actually recommended the venue and it took us five minutes to decide upon a tip that would be sufficiently insulting without being vulgar.
Now don’t get me wrong, the food was well prepared and everything we tried had a fascinating and unique taste. None the less, it certainly wasn’t dinner, it wasn’t even a meal, it was a ‘tasting’ session. Ah, but isn’t that just what tapas are about?
Let’s get something straight about tapas...........................
The word ‘tapa’ in Spanish means cover. Not so long ago, in most regions of Spain, if you ordered a glass of wine in a café, you were served a small plate of something tasty to go with it. This salty chaser served two purposes. Firstly it made you want to drink more and secondly you could put the small plate on top of your wineglass so that flies wouldn’t fall into it. That’s why it’s called a tapa, a cover. Let’s recap, the original tapas were FREE, were served on SMALL plates and doubled as INSECT REPELLANT.
So if that headwaiter is reading this now, I have two golden pieces of advice for you:
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Call me a killjoy if you like.
Fuck it, I’m Irish. We’ll kill anything.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Greg is in his early forties, built like a block of granite and with his short cropped hair and prize-fighter’s jaw line, could easily be taken for a retired marine sergeant or a bodyguard for a trash metal group. That is until he opens his mouth to speak and gives you ‘ten sexy style points’ for your new haircut. This is when you realise that Greg is a big burly man that enjoys the company of other big burly men. He hails originally from a cluster of burbs in some dismal corner of a vaguely mid-western State but if you ask him about it, he’ll foam at the mouth, roll his eyes back into his head like the kid in the Shining and repeat ‘Never going back. Never going back...’ through gritted teeth.
Now among his other talents, Greg speaks three modern languages fluently - English, Spanish and Therapy. Yes, like most people who partake of the occasional session of cranial shrinkage, Greg has picked up the hyper-pragmatic lingo of the professional therapist. This makes him a great guy to talk to when you feel like dumping.
For example, you’ll be raving about how much you want to kill your neighbour and Greg will calmly empathise.
”Well, I respect that three o’clock in the morning is an unconventional hour to play samba music at full blast and I understand how that might make you feel somewhat frustrated”.
“Yeah, but Greg I wanted to go down there with a white hot poker and burn his fucking eyes out!”
“Well, that is a perfectly understandable way to feel considering the circumstances and I feel that it is a positive sign that you feel free to express those feelings”.
And Greg would never say that someone has a problem because people don’t have problems, people have ‘issues’ and what an ‘issue’ needs is ‘closure’…but usually not the white-hot-poker type of closure…or so Greg says….
Greg also subscribes to the New Yorker and when he’s finished reading them he unwisely ‘lends’ them all to me. Now like most people I don’t actually read the New Yorker, I just systematically scan it thus;
First scan – cartoons,
Second scan – short snappy articles,
Third scan – medium-sized, vaguely interesting-looking articles,
Fourth scan – how many pages is the Fiction? Sheesh, where is that little black diamond?
Fifth scan – I wonder if there's any beer in the fridge?
As a result of this, I never feel as though I’ve finished with the New Yorkers and have a foot-high pile of them lying in the corner waiting to be returned. Guilt has begun to take hold and finally this weekend I broke down and told Greg that they belong to him and he HAS to take them all back. Naturally, Greg said it was fine and that I shouldn’t worry about it. This made me grab him imploringly by the lapels:
‘You don’t understand, Greg. I HAVE MAGAZINE ISSUES!’
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Disasters Come in Threes......
In Barcelona somebody hadn’t read the geologists report well enough and the tunnel that was being dug to extend a metro line caused a huge cave in. Gaping pits suddenly appeared in a working class neighbourhood called Carmel. (Nothing to do with any recent Oscar winners) This caused several apartment blocks to collapse and some serious damage was caused to many others in the vicinity. Miraculously nobody was killed or injured. There is currently the typical game of fingerpointing going on between political parties and municipal authorities while the poor people who lost their homes and belongings are being pushed well out of the spotlight.
A few nights later, one of the most symbolic skyscrapers in Madrid, the Windsor Tower, went up in flames under what now appear to be highly suspicious circumstances. People had been spotted moving around inside just before the alarm was raised. The building could not be salvaged and is currently being dismantled by a forest of giant cranes.
In both cases the press are having a feeding frenzy of speculation about who might be to blame.
Yesterday I was at an internal office meeting between the various departments of our company. Things were winding down and smalltalk turned to current events. It occurred to me to make a light hearted quip that I had the perfect solution for both of the recent national disasters. Easy, I said, cheerfully digging my own grave, we just use the rubble from the Windsor Tower to fill in the holes in Carmel. Well, that went down like a french kiss at a family reunion. The blank expressions on the faces of everyone else in the room made it quite clear that they were taking me totally seriously. You see the word ‘irony’ in Spain is mostly used to describe something that tastes like iron.
The worst was the look on my boss’s face. He was giving me one of those Vito Corleone looks that make his underlings stutter.
Maybe I won’t be getting that raise this year after all.
Friday, March 04, 2005
The Dyslexics' Potery Corner
His then girlfriend (and now lovely wife) La Doctora, had landed a nifty job over there and he was following suit so that they could be together. Being a contender in the brutal bloodsport of information technology, it took him about half a week to find a better job there than he had over here, so it wasn’t exactly a traumatising Grapes of Wrath scenario or anything. A good Lung always lands on it’s feet.
As a gift for his going away party, yours truly wrote the young lad a farewell epitaph. It was written in a thick Scottish accent for no apparent reason other than to give my already victimised spellchecker another workout. Have your hankies at hand, this is pretty moving stuff:
REQUIEM TO A LUNG
Lung's goon aweee, he can'ne be foond,
Twas no long agoo, that he wis aroond.
He pack't his shurts an' he pack't his shoos,
An' wuth a teer in his eye an' a snuffly noose,
He bugger'd off.
He took a plaine 'cross the see,
Te where they drenk warm beer, an' they sup coold tee,
Twas a lass he wis follwin', bonny an' wee,
Shi's clivver an' all, so that is whee,
He bugger'd off.
Life o'er heer wis gettin' tuff,
Withoot his lassie aroond, thengs got a bit ruff,
Some frends began tae think him a puff,
'Reight!' He sid 'A've had enuff!',
An' he bugger'd off.
He cudda stey'd, but hi did'ne wunt,
Cudda delay'd, but hi knuw he shun't,
He folla'ed his hairt, whech was his wont,
Now he's mekin' a fortoon, the jammy c*nt,
Hi'll soon be glad he bugger'd off.
Oor frend Lung, solid an' soond,
Wull be sadly mish'd, now hi's no aroond,
An' greet'd like famly, when hi's back in toon,
For now that hi's looded, hi can buy us a roond,
Befoor hi buggers off agin.
So, do you reckon that Laureate position is still up for grabs?
Turned out that Lung the Elder and La Doctora came back a few years later. He said that when it came to quality of life, he’d rather sweep the streets in Barcelona than be a CEO in London.
Each to their own.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Christmas in Scatalonia
As mentioned before, CS and I spent Christmas in Dublin this year and although it was fun, we did miss out on some of the charming seasonal traditions that are so exclusive to the northeast of Spain. Local traditions can often seem a little bizarre to outsiders, as is well known, but nothing compares to the scatological fun that is to be had in Catalonia around yuletide. When we explain these peculiar rites to visiting friends, they usually refuse to believe us until they go out on the streets and see it for themselves.
In Spain, as in Ireland, it has always been a tradition to put a model of the manger under the Christmas tree, complete with small figurines of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, sundry animals and God Jr. himself, the adoree, lying supine in his crib. We all have childhood memories of taking December walks in order to collect the moss and twigs that are needed to give the little setting a touch of realism. The most impressive mangers (pesebres) I have ever seen were in the centre of Naples where ateliers occupying several small streets were completely dedicated to crafting the most beautiful and elaborate miniature nativity scenes for the discerning local households.
But the Catalans go one better.
There is one extra figurine in the Catalan manger that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, the Caganer, the ‘Shitter’ to be precise. In the corner of the manger you have a model figure dressed in traditional Catalan garb, with his trousers round his ankles, squatting down and taking a dump. He is supposed to represent good health, fortune and fertility although to the untrained eye, he just seems to represent some guy crapping on the ground a few yards away from the newborn son of God.
You can see why nativity plays never really caught on in the schools over here.
But that’s not all. The typical caganer is dressed mostly in white and wears a ‘barretina’ on his head. This is the type of floppy hat that the extras wear in bad Hollywood productions of the French Revolution. However, there is a new trend to collect celebrity caganers, so you can now find squatting little figures of politicians, famous football players, singers, actors and, although it initially caused a huge scandal, members of the Spanish royal family. It is certainly a curious and endearing little custom although I can’t see it ever catching on in Utah.
Now if there were just one defecation-related Christmas accessory over here, you could just about accept it. But what if there were two? Do you believe in coincidences?
The 6th of January is known as the Kings’ Day, when the three wise Magi were supposed to have arrived at the manger having been guided GPS-style by a wandering star. There they regaled the infant Christ with all their duty free shopping, well at least the gold, frankincense and myrrh. The cartons of Lucky Strike and bottles of Johnny Walker they kept for themselves. This is therefore the more traditional day to give gifts over here, not Christmas day as it is in the more Anglo-Saxon cultures.
However there is an exception to this rule. On Christmas Day Catalan children are lucky enough to receive turrón (a delicious bar of solid candy that tastes a little like extruded sweet peanut butter) and small gifties from their favourite uncle. The Cagatío (or ‘Uncle Shit’) is a small log of wood about a foot long. A smiling Thomas-the-Tank-Engine face is painted on one end and two little pegs are inserted underneath it so it looks like it’s propping itself up on it’s forelegs. As a final touch, a barretina is placed above the face and voila. You have yourself a working Cagatío.
On the evenings leading up to the Christmas, children put a plate of food under Cagatío’s face before going up to bed. Why? Because the more Cagatío eats, the more gifts and candy he’ll be able to give you when the time comes, Silly. The parents take the food away before they go to bed and tell the children that the smiling lump of wood gobbled it up overnight. You can probably see where this is going.
Before continuing I should perhaps reiterate that I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.
Then comes Christmas Eve and things really start getting weird. The Cagatío is covered with a dishcloth or towel and the kids are given long sticks. Then on the count of three the children start walloping the log while singing a song that goes something like:
Uncle Shit, good Uncle Shit. Shit out candy for us!
After a few minutes of flaying the bark off their inanimate benefactor and chanting their poop song, the little ones are sent off to bed. The parents take the poor brutalised Uncle out from under the dishcloth and replace it with gifts and sweets. The next day the rug rats wake to find that their Uncle is no longer under the cloth but has skipped town. Nevertheless, thanks to all the plates of food and the sound thrashing that they gave him, he managed leave a bunch of goodies in his wake. Hell the guy’s practically MADE of roughage.
Neither of these traditions belong to a strange bran-eating sect of Christianity, they are in fact standard practices for common or garden local Catholics. So what is it with these people that associate the festive winter season so much with bowel movements? Beats me.
So there you have it. A posting with cultural diversity, seasonal cheer, toilet humour and domestic violence. I think we can safely say that the lowest common denominator of our readership has been catered for.