Monday, November 28, 2005


I've been suffering a bit of an energy crisis lately, in that I just haven't had the energy to blog much. The days are, after all, growing shorter (yes, even in Spain!)--and wintertime has been an annual, creativity-draining albatross around my neck since I was a child growing up in the 1950's.

But I desperately wanted to publish something--ANYTHING!--on my blog tonight, so I was forced to break-out the big guns.

Look up! See that photo? It's from the 1963 movie, "King Kong vs. Godzilla." I don't think I'm exagerrating when I say that this movie was the reason that Thomas Edison invented cinema.

I saw KKvs.G no less than *seventeen times* before my tenth birthday. And no...that's not an exagerration, either. I counted.

To briefly summarize the plot, Godzilla was being a group of Japanese guys brought in King Kong to kick his ass.

But the movie was SO much more. There's a drunken orgy featuring hallucinagenic berry juice. There's a giant octopus that sounds like an obese man peeling his sweaty buttocks from a vinyl-covered chaise lounge. And of course...there's incompetently-edited English dubbing; the likes of which the world had not seen since...well, since the previous Godzilla movie.

In case you're wondering...I rooted for Godzilla. All seventeen times. It was nothing personal against King Kong. In fact, I had a splendid brunch with Mr. Kong at Tavern on the Green in 1973, and I found him utterly charming. But for reasons that I can't articulate, my heart belonged to Godzilla--as did it also belong to Dick York, Mary Ann and Jan Brady.

During the movie's final fight scene when Godzilla was playing Jerry Lawler to the King Kong's Andy Kaufmann, the big ape got a quick boost of energy by chawin' on a high-tension power line. I briefly considered this treatment as a tonic for my current meloncoly, but was forced to discard it after reading the fine print on my insurance deductible.

So...I think I'll try to score some of that berry juice, instead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Holidays (i.e., fiestas) in Spain are like vacations in Hawaii.  Why?  Because they seem so appealing beforehand, but once they find yourself sitting around with NOTHING to do.
The last quarter of the year is an especially fertile time for holidays—whether national, provincial or local.  October 12 is Virgin of Pilar Day.  November 1 is All Saints’ Day.  November 9 is La Alumdena (i.e., the patron saint of Madrid) Day.  December 6 is Constitution Day.  December 8 is Immaculate Conception Day.  The list goes on and on.
This usually causes consternation amongst my co-workers in places like Finland and South Africa.  And year after year, the script remains the same.
SAL’S EMAIL TO CO-WORKERS:  “Please be advised that [insert date] is a holiday in Spain, and I will be out of the office and unavailable.  If you need assistance during my absence, then please contact one of my colleagues based in a non-Catholic country.”
CO-WORKER’S EMAIL TO SAL:   “What?!  Another holiday?!!!  Which is it this week?”
SAL’S EMAIL:  “I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the Patron Saint of Peanut Brittle.”
CO-WORKER’S EMAIL:  “Unbelievable!  I’m heading straight to Human Resources and demanding a transfer to Spain.”
Their envy is understandable, but they fail to grasp the important point: a holiday means twenty-four catatonic hours with NOTHING to do.  

Yes, yes, yes…I know that I’m being churlish.  But look at it from my perspective.  I was raised in the US—a country in which the word “holiday” doesn’t mean a day of rest.  It means a day of shopping.  A *glorious* day of shopping!
But in Spain, the only retail establishments that open on holidays are bread stores and bars.  But that’s it!  As soon as I’ve bought a baguette and drunk a café con leche, I find myself pondering the same recurring question:  What the hell am I going to do for the next fifteen hours?
The answer is always the same:  NOTHING!
Now…before my editors start receiving angry letters, let me make one thing clear.  I’m not knocking Spain for any of this.  To the contrary, I believe that Spain has gotten it right.  A holiday *should* involve staying at home and spending a relaxing, rejuvenating day with one’s family and/or satellite dish.  But for me, this scenario is the third ring of hell.  Yes, I admit it.  *I’m* the one with the problem.
That’s not to say that haven’t tried to overcome the problem.  Quite the contrary.  During my first years in Spain, I made diligent attempts to embrace—and yes, even to enjoy—the opportunity for reflection and meditation that each holiday brought. 

And it worked! It worked beautifully! But, unfortunately, it only worked until I had bought a baguette and drunk a café con leche--after which point, my lower lip would begin sagging to floor until it finally came to rest within an expanding puddle of drool.

But with age comes acceptance—and I’ve now accepted the fact that the Spanish concept of holidays is…well…is unacceptable.  So I’ve adopted a different approach. Whenever there’s a holiday, I wake up early...put on a tie...sit at my desk...and write threatening letters to imaginary customers demanding that they pay imaginary invoices or else I’ll be forced to contact my imaginary Legal Department.

I know it’s silly. I know it’s pathetic. But it’s the only way I can cope with the tedium. That’s me. That’s the way I am. And there’s NOTHING that I can do about it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


No, I'm not talking about "chat" as in Indian street snacks (although I'd love a bag of 'em right now). I'm talking about video chat.

If you are a Mac user and have an iChat account, or are a Windows user and have an AIM account, then feel free to "invite" me for a video chat. If I'm on-line, not fighting a crisis and my hair looks reasonably OK, then I'll "accept."

My address for chat purposes is the following:

Friday, November 18, 2005


Flower pots be damned!

Christmas arrived early in Spain this year (Thanks Mom and Dad!), and the result is pictured above. It’’’s a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Here! In Spain! In my own living room!

I still can't believe. I feel so emotional right now. I...I just can’t write anymore at this moment. I need to be alone. I need to compose myself. I need...I need...I need a BIG hunka pork butt and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon!

Monday, November 14, 2005


I lived in Pennsylvania from 1977 till 1983. So when I stumbled across this article earlier today, I thought to myself, “Only in Pennsylvania!”

Honestly! If you're so anxious to prove that you're tougher than the average modern man, then go into the woods and try killing a deer with your bare hands.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


For those of you who haven’t visited the WALTnow! blog (see sidebar) this week, you must...absolutely MUST...check out this.

Just be sure that you're not sipping a Diet Coke, or it's liable to squirt out your nose.

Trivia Tidbit: WALTnow! is the spiritual godfather of this Virtual Tapas Bar. Way back in June 2004, I was perusing WALTnow! (which, at the time, was called “My Life as a Walt”) and thought to myself, “So THAT'S a blog, eh? Hmm...that kinda looks like fun.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


All this talk about Halloween has gotten me thinking about candy lately. In particular, the Halloweeen candy that I used to snarf en masse during in the 1970’s--a simpler, gentler time when children were neither clinically obese nor allergic to peanuts.

So...for lack of any better ideas at the moment, I’ve listed below my five favorite Halloween candies from the KC & the Sunshine Band era.

1. Mallo Cups: These were my favorite of favorites. They looked like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but contained a creamy, marshmallow and coconut filling. Then--as if to elevate this most perfect of candies to even greater heights--the cup’s top layer of chocolate was embedded with coconut flakes. Chocolate, coconut, and no peanut butter breath! What more could you ask for? The best thing about Mallo Cups, however, was that my friends hated them as passionately as I loved them. This meant that on each November 1, I’d enjoy a buyer’s market for Mallo Cups on the candy-trading floor.

2. Mounds: What could be better than a candy bar that’s 98% coconut?

3. Almond Joy: These should’ve been even better than Mounds, because they used milk (rather than dark) chocolate. But then some marketing knuckle-head decided to desecrate the coconut by slapping a whole almond on top of it. Fortunately, that pesky nut was easily bitten-off and spit-out.

4. Brach’s Sundaes--Neopolitan Coconut: You probably don’t recognize the name, but you’ve all tasted it. These are those pink, white and brown-striped coconut cubes that came individually-wrapped in cellophane. A pure hit of coconut, sugar and food coloring! Loved ‘em. LOVED ‘EM!

By the anybody noticing a trend here?

5. And finally...Baby Ruth: OK, OK...let’s try to move beyond the “Caddyshack” stigma and judge this candy bar on its merits. I had an odd, illogical, disfunctional relationship with Baby Ruth candy bars. Every Halloween, I would find a few in my sack. I’d eat them and my reaction was always the same: “Goddamn! These are great!” But then, despite the fact that every US candy store and supermarket carried them, I’d go the entire year without buying or eating another. To this day, I can’t explain why. It makes no sense. I should’ve been eating a Baby Ruth with every meal. But just like the movie “Groundhog Day,” the circle repeated itself year after year after year.

And just for the hell of it, my least favorite Halloween candies were the following: Zagnut; Clark Bars; Dum-Dum lollipops; and...most hated of them all...CANDY CORN!

Honestly! Have you ever met anyone who liked Candy Corn?

Friday, November 04, 2005


You've read my synopsis of Halloweens-past in my last post.

Now...if you want to know want happened on Halloween 2005, then click here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


[Note to readers: The following essay was written on October 26, 2005. Why is this important? I'll tell you in a few days.]

Spain doesn’t celebrate Halloween, and I find that very sad. Why? Because Halloween isn’t just my favorite holiday, but it’s also my only opportunity each year for socially-acceptable cross-dressing.

For those of you who are not familiar with Halloween, let me provide a little background. Halloween falls on October 31st, and is much-loved in the US by children and childish adults alike.

During the weeks leading-up to Halloween, trees lose their leaves. Apples come into season. People decorate their homes in a Vincent Price motif. And on one very special night, entire families gather around the television to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”--or at least, they did during the pre-VCR/DVD/TiVO days when I was growing up.

But the best thing about Halloween is “trick or treating.” On Halloween night, children dress in costumes--ranging from scary to silly--and go from house to house ringing doorbells. When the door opens, the children shout, “Trick or treat!”...the homeowner puts a piece of candy in each child’s sack...and then they move on to the next house. By night’s end, the children have accumulated enough candy to last until...well...until November, at least.

I, by the way, trick or treated until I was 22 years old--at which point I decided to stop. Why? Because I noticed that many homeowners were greeting me with a basket of candy in one hand and a canister of pepper spray in the other.

Anyway...Spain, as I said, doesn’t celebrate Halloween. But that hasn’t stopped me from being prepared during each of the five Halloweens that I’ve spent here. I always stock-up on candy *just in case* some enlightened, iconoclastic Spanish youth in full Spiderman or Carmen Miranda regalia should decide to turn the status quo on its ear and ring my doorbell with pillowcase in hand. But alas, my doorbell falls silent each October 31st and I am forced to quell my depression by shovelling a wicker basket full of Conguitos into my mouth throughout the following two weeks.

But this year, my friends, things are going to be different. My Halloween isolation is coming to an end. Why? Because my three year old daughter’s birthday falls on October 29th and we’ve invited her friends and classmates over for a birthday/Halloween bash.

I’ve been preparing for weeks. I spent 50€ on a shopping cart full of plastic skulls, spiders, bats, witches, black cats and other props needed to convert my living room into an Ozzy Ozborne music video. I have an ample supply of make-up on-hand with which to paint the kids’ faces. Sitting beside my front door is a beefy scarecrow sporting a hockey mask and sickle. I’ve even assembled all the ingredients needed to make carmel apples and orange-colored Rice Crispies Treats.

There’s only one thing that I’m missing: Clark Bars!

Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t find any Clark Bars in Spain! Sure, they’re disgusting. Sure, every American kid is disappointed when he empties his sack at night’s end and discovers that his Halloween booty is 75% Clark Bars. But can one properly celebrate Halloween without them?

If the US Ambassador is reading this, I’d like his opinion on the matter. And no, I cannot wait until he has finished watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”