Friday, July 29, 2005


Pasted below is an unedited reproduction of the email that I sent to Weber Barbeque's Customer Support Department last night after, perhaps, one too many glasses of wine.

With all due sincerity, I've been a hard-core fanatic of Weber's products for over twenty years—which makes my current dilemma all the more painful.

Dear Weber Customer Support:

I am an American citizen living in Spain. What does that mean? It means that I understand the importance of smoked brisket, yet live in a country that doesn't.

Still, I wasn't worried. Why? Because I knew that once I had a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, I could simply smoke all the brisket that I needed.

But I was wrong. I contacted A.N.M.I. (Weber's distributor in Spain) and naively asked, "Which of your retailers sells Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers?"

Their response: "We don't sell Smokey Mountain Cookers in Spain."

Let me repeat this so that you fully comprehend the magnitude of my problem: WEBER'S SPANISH DISTRIBUTOR DOESN'T IMPORT SMOKEY MOUNTAIN COOKERS!

As I struggle to control my emotions at this moment, I'd like to ask you for some advice: How can I get my hands on a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker?!!! Is there anything you can do to help? Is there any string that you can pull?! Is there any rule that you can bend?! C'mon! I'm not asking for a case of Cuban cigars sent to Cincinnati! Or a personalized walking tour of Sacramento by Roman Polanski! All I want is to obtain (and PAY for) a Smokey Mountain Cooker for my home in Spain.

Don't help me for commercial reasons. HELP ME FOR HUMANITARIAN REASONS!!!

My fate is in your hands. Save me from a lifetime of baked chicken breast!!!

Any advice on your part would be most appreciated.

Humbly yours,
Sal DeTraglia
I'll keep you posted about any response that I receive.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Dear Sirs:

If you must lose one of the letters of your sign, then I strongly suggest that it not be the first “R.”



I was walking down Paseo Castellano in Madrid last Thursday, when I noticed the bar pictured above.

Now, I have no idea what a “Sauna Bar” is, but I resisted the urge to go in and investigate for fear that my father-in-law might be walking by when exited.

I’m therefore hoping that one of my Finnish readers (Jussi? Hanna?) might shed some light on this mystery.

Call me cynical, but I strongly suspect that the only sweaty, towel-wrapped bodies to be found in this bar are those of the waitresses.


Bernie Ebbers, the 63-year-old founder and former CEO of WorldCom, was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for orchestrating the biggest corporate accounting fraud in US history.

Here’s the irony: Unlike most of his former employees, Mr. Ebbers won’t need to worry about food, shelter or medical care during his retirement years.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Despite causing fifteen deaths and hundreds of fractures, bruises and puncture wounds during the past century, Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls saw no shortage of participants in 2005. These hearty souls were willing to risk life, limb and a high-calcium enema for…for…for—well, to be honest, I’m not sure what for.

The good news is that nobody died during this year’s runs. While I’ll admit that I don’t understand why a person *not* forced at gunpoint would step in front of two sharp-tipped horns mounted onto 1,500 pounds of raw power and ferocity, my strong preference is that such person should nonetheless live to tell his tale. The penultimate death during a Pamplona encierro occurred in 1995, when a kid who had just graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chose to celebrate with a brisk morning run. He was gored through the liver and died shortly thereafter. His death didn’t sit well with me—perhaps because I graduated from the same University that same year. A funeral-free 2005 Festival, therefore, comes as a great relief.

But alas, Pamplona ’05 wasn’t all fun and frolic. There were injuries aplenty; some of which appeared quite—shall we say—“uncomfortable.” I present below an informal (if not 100% accurate) summary of this year’s casualties:

* 30 people were injured running with the bulls; of which 29 were men and only 1 was a woman.

* 24 of the injured were Spanish; 2 were American; 1 was Canadian; 1 was French; 1 was Argentine; and 1 was Colombian.

* 3 of the injuries were bone fractures; 18 were contusions or bruises; 2 were lacerations.

* 10 gorings (i.e., horn wounds) were reported; of which 8 were in the thighs or buttocks, 1 was in the shoulder and 1 was in the (OH MY GOD!) face.

Careful analysis of this raw data would surely yield a wealth of sociological insight. But I’m certainly not qualified (or motivated!) to do that, so I’ll just offer the following closing thoughts—freshly skimmed from the shallow recesses of my caffeine and tempranillo-soaked brain:

* The vast majority of injured bull runners at this year’s Festival were Spanish, whereas only two were American. There are two possible explanations for this: (a) the Spanish—who, quite honestly, ought to know better—are becoming more reckless as their country becomes richer and more modern; or (b) most American tourists stayed home this year to work on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

* Given the strategic location of many horn wounds this year, there’s arguably a large, untapped market in Spain for Kevlar underwear.

* One of the injured runners was a 69 year old man who suffered a fractured skull. I don’t believe this requires further commentary on my part.

* Wise parents in the Pamplona area will encourage their children to pursue careers in health care—or alcohol counseling.

* The Pamplona city council rejected, by a vote of 14 to 1, a motion that future Festivals of San Fermín shall feature a daily “Running of the Yorkshire Terriers.” Sorry. I made that up.

* Of all the beasts in the animal kingdom, humans are the only one that will risk their lives for something as unnecessary and nonsensical as running with the bulls. We clearly have no business ruling the earth.

* Woman smart; man stupid.

* My only child is female. I can’t tell you what a relief that is!

Damn! I can’t wait for next year’s Festival!


Dear C.F.:

Please be advised that I've changed my "Profile" photo as a result of your taunting. Look to the upper-right to see what I'm talking about.

This is as close to a smile as you're likely to see etched across my aging, emaciated face. You should feel proud. You've achieved what many have attempted and all have failed--except for that Armenian fishmonger with the red mullet wedged into his left ear...but that's another story altogether.

And yes...I AM wearing a pink shirt.


Saturday, July 16, 2005


My internal aggression tank was approaching “full” this afternoon, and I decided that a three-mile jog was both prudent and necessary. So I donned my Nikes and—despite the 35ºC heat—embarked on a trot around town.

As I jogged along our downtown’s main street, I noticed that it had been closed-off to traffic and was lined with red pylons. There were policemen standing along the sidewalks, and they were looking at me in an odd way.

Further down the street was a group of men wearing red nylon vests. As I approached, one of them began waving his arms at me. The following conversation ensued:
Man in red: “You’re going the wrong way!”

Sal [angrily ripping the headphones from his ears]: “What?!”

Man in red [louder]: “You’re going the wrong way!!”

Sal: “What the fricky-frack-ferris-wheel are you talking about?!!!”

Man in red: “The Marchamalo Marathon! You’re supposed to be running in the other direction!”
Can you believe it?! The neighboring town of Marchamalo sponsored a marathon this afternoon, the course cut through the center of my town, and I was unknowingly running it…but in the opposite direction!

Between this incident, the cigarette moocher, and the unending stream of lost drivers in need of directions…I must be the Inspector Clouseau of the jogging world.

I’m beginning to understand why people buy treadmills.


I’ve been working as a contracts lawyer in the Legal Department of a Fortune ?00 company for nearly a decade. I’ve done the job on both sides of the Atlantic—three years in the US, and six in Spain.

Yet despite the differences in negotiating contracts against US lawyers versus their European counterparts (i.e., US lawyers tend to be—how shall I say this gently?—bigger pricks), the work itself is always the same. Day after day…year after year…and regardless of the country in which the other party resides—the same contract clauses always lead to the same issues and are ultimately resolved in the same way.

It should therefore surprise nobody that I spend a portion of each workday lost in fantasy. And the fantasy that’s been most frequent and recurring during the past decade involves…Microsoft®!

Working as a contracts lawyer for Microsoft must be a slice of heaven!

Think about it. Microsoft is—in my workday fantasy, at least—a place where all employees are wealthy from stock options and need never worry about downsizings. It’s a corporate utopia—tempered only by the fact that the majority of those same employees would much prefer to use Apple® computers.

But above all, working as a contracts lawyer for Microsoft must be a dream because…because…because…I can’t imagine that Microsoft is willing to negotiate on ANYTHING!

I’ve even gone so far as to create a fantasy Microsoft contract clause. It goes something like this:

The terms and conditions set forth in this Agreement are non-negotiable. We’re serious, dog-breath! This is no friggin’ joke! We're bigger, stronger and richer than you are, and we'll treat any request for negotiation with the contempt that you'd expect from a corporation of our global stature. If—because you are a naive recent law school grad or because you took one too many anti-depressants during breakfast this morning—you are seriously thinking about altering this Agreement, then we strongly suggest that you haul your simplistic, idealistic ass to the nearest Apple Store and stop interfering with our precious Starbucks® latte breaks.

That felt good!

Now, the question that you’re probably dying to ask me is the following: Is this just a fantasy, Sal? Or do you intend to act on it?

Well! I am going to tell you something that I’ve never admitted in public. The truth is…I am currently in the process of…



Thanks to the editors of the e-zine Marbella Guide (see my sidebar) for publishing one of my essays.

Click here to see it.

Friday, July 15, 2005


A drunken young man from Pamplona.
Whose brainpan was filled with bologna.
Thought it might be great fun.
Leading bulls on a run.
He was last seen sailing over Verona.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Purely for comic relief (and also because today is Friday), I’ve decided to introduce this photo into the public domain.

That jive-turkey mafioso on the left is—or shall I say, was—me in 1986.

It was taken during my sophomore year at Northern Illinois University (GO HUSKIES!) during a Friday night off-campus party. I’ll keep the names of my two companions under wraps, so that they don’t sue me for intentional infliction of public humiliation. But THEY know who they are.

I believe this photo is notable as much for the vast quantity of hair on my head, as for the embarrassing lack thereof on my chest. My-oh-my, how the tables have turned twenty years later.

BTW…the curls weren’t natural. But you’ve probably already figured that out.

Comedy aside, there is an eerie element of foreshadowing in this photo. Isn’t it inevitable that a guy who looked like a flamenco singer in 1986 should be living in Spain in 2005?

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Tomorrow begins Pamplona’s annual Festival of San Fermín. And that means…the Running of the Bulls!

Go to the Expatica Spain website and check out my essay on this annual testament to man’s idiocy.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I once had a coffee table picture-book about gargoyles. Its Foreword was written by Stephen King, and contained a great line: “You don’t see them, but they see you.”

Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to look up whenever walking past old churches and buildings. Quite often, a grotesque beast carved from stone is looking back at me.

Today was no exception. I was walking past the Banco Español de Credito (Spanish Bank of Credit) in downtown Madrid this afternoon and, of course, looked up. Looking back at me was one of the coolest gargoyles I’ve seen in a long time. He is pictured above.

It’s either an elephant, or the Hindu god Ganesh. I suspect the former. Not only because Spain is a predominantly Catholic country, but also because Ganesh would likely refuse to live in a city with so few descent Indian grocery stores.

Then again, it might be Al Molinaro.


Tip #1:

Wait at least twenty-four (24) hours after eating a large plate of Chicken Vindaloo before jogging. This is especially important if you instructed the waiter to make it “extra spicy.”


Tip #1:

If you are driving lost through a town with which you are not familiar, ask directions from one of the 3,000 retired guys sitting on benches doing nothing. Don’t ask the one young guy who is wearing a Sony Walkman and appears to be jogging. If he wanted to stand around and chat, he would’ve stayed home and called his mother.

* * * * * * * * *

[By the way…this has happened to me four times during the past three months. Next time, I’m not going to give directions. I’m going to say, “Follow me!”…then start jogging down the road again.]