The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Whither Rodriguez

Given that us Lungs shook off the yoke of our blog a few months ago, you’ll no doubt forgive us for backtracking over the summer a bit.

Watching people on the street is fun.
I do enjoy a spot of people watching.

On those Saturday mornings of my wayward youth after a grueling night on the batter and with a hangover much akin to an unanaesthetized lobotomy, my fragile frame was never capable of much activity. So the only thing to do was find a tranquil café on a busy thoroughfare, order a café con leche about the size of a birdbath, put on sunglasses and contemplate the crowd breezing by. Happily settled in the shade, I would let the idle hours drift by like rudderless barges.

It was even more satisfying to indulge in this activity (or lack thereof) with other Friday night casualties. My flatmate and I would often amuse ourselves by making the cruelest comments possible about whatever poor bystander happened to come into our field of vision. Thus, we would burn off our headaches until the munchies arrived and it was time to go and eat something salty in the local greasy spoon. Ah, but a Saturday morning is a wonderful thing to waste.

Now when it comes to people watching in Spanish cities, there’s no other month that can hold a candle to July. There are two basic reasons for this:

Firstly, it is an undeniable fact that young Spanish women, like exotic hothouse flowers, tend to blossom when exposed to direct sunlight. All those city streets that in winter seemed to flow with sludgy, grey masses of populace are suddenly all abloom with slim, olive-skinned, urban beauties. They burst with vitality, they flirt with the very air that surrounds them and they strut with coquettish confidence because they know. They know that between May and September, they own both the city itself and the summer that enchants it.

Oh yes I am in a long-term, loving relationship and deliriously happy to be so. And though CS has sole ownership of practically all my bodily organs, my eyes are still mine. She herself is not averse to copping an occasional glance at a swarthy hunk, so I’ve never felt too guilty about harmlessly admiring the female fauna that grace our sidewalks with their presence. My intentions are never untoward, you understand. I consider them as nothing more than delightful street decoration. Fleshy bunting if you like.

The second reason to go people watching in July is the very Spanish institution of ‘de Rodriguez’. How can one begin to explain this concept, so ancient, so engrained in the Latin psyche? I suppose the closest English translation would be ‘When the cat’s away ..etc.’ but really it goes far deeper than that.

Like almost everywhere else, the Spanish families of a generation ago consisted of a father who worked, a mother who kept house and children who yelled and screamed on busses. Schools generally went on holiday over July and August and this is when the family got out of town. They would often visit the children’s grandparents out in some backwater village or if they could afford it, a second house on the coast. However, holidays for the working man were usually limited to the single month of August. (Yeah, the whole month. Ain’t it great being a European slacker?)

As a consequence of this difference in vacation time, the family patriarch would stay at home, all on his lonesome for the entire month of July. Now if Pop happened to be the type who enjoyed misbehaving then July gave him all the temptation and license that he needed. This, I have been told, is the origin of the expression ‘de Rodriguez’. And its presence can be felt all over the city. Come the seventh month, sure as eggs is eggs, you can see platoons of guys in their thirties and forties, loosening their ties, jaunting along the city footpaths, trying to suppress the mischievous smiles that play so deviously upon their lips.

But as the month comes to a close, these same guys are realizing that they’re not as young as they used to be. They’re now looking a bit jaded from all the philandering and pine for the only woman who really knows how to take care of them. They begin to miss their dear wives, the women they’d married to take the place of their mothers. These Rodriguez boys also make for damn good people watching. You could almost set your calendar by the changing expressions on their faces.

I do remember spotting one in early July while entering my in-laws’ apartment building. (they live uptown in a relatively shi-shi neighborhood) He was a magnificent specimen, short, a tad pudgy, with slicked-back slightly graying hair and that pinched, sucking-on-a-lemon expression that most wealthy Catalans sport. He was furtively carrying a large suitcase into the neighboring building and with him was the exotic creature that was going to eat him alive over the next couple of weeks. A striking, curvaceous Cuban mulatta with a luminescent plastic handbag was pushing her sunglasses high up on her head with her long painted fingernails and looking around with an air of utter boredom. Including her vertiginously high heels, she was about a foot taller than her sweating partner and stuffed into her leopard-skin hot pants was an ass you could have hit with a tuning fork.

As I watched them, there washed over me a wonderful feeling affection for Spanish culture. I’ve always tried to appreciate Spain in the same way one would appreciate a good cheese. And as any connoisseur will tell you, it’s often the mould in cheese that gives it its flavor and character. All the endearingly pokey little institutions like ‘de Rodriguez’ remind me why I could never live in a city like Stockholm. I require seediness, imperfection and grot, all those things that give a place its sense of humanity.

As long as ‘de Rodriguez’ survives, I know in my heart of hearts that they’ll still be letting bulls kill drunken tourists on the streets of Pamplona, you’ll always be able to cut through state bureaucracy by flirting with the civil servant at the counter, you’ll never have to worry too much about political correctness and sexism will never be out of fashion.

Ah Spain. My Spain. Home of the Babe, land of the Freeloader.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mateu said...

and curse you for making me miss it!

adéu,
Mateu

12:31 am  
Anonymous Davezilla said...

I really need to go there.

1:18 pm  

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