Monday, July 24, 2006


When World Cup 2006 began, I resolved to suspend my lifelong ambivalence toward spectator sports that don’t involve Asian men kicking each other in the heads, and devote my considerable energies toward supporting Spain’s national team. 

The idea struck me as a good one. I am, after all, going to be living here for awhile...and World Cup season—particularly in a football-mad country like this one—is something to behold. The entire nation seems to go through a transformation.

For one thing, it’s the only time that the population pulls its Spanish flags out of the closet and shows a bit of patriotism. For one month every four years, bars, cars and bare-chested drunks are adorned in the red and yellow banner. In this sense, the atmosphere is a lot like in the United States when it’s lobbing large bombs at small nations. The only things missing are beer bellies and pick-up trucks.

Furthermore, productivity comes to a halt during each day that Spain’s national team is scheduled to play. Except in the services sector, where productivity never really caught-on in the first place.

In any event, I wanted to reach out and grab a bit of World Cup fever for myself. And I would do so just as soon as it were clear that the Spanish team would advance to the second round.   After all, each team plays three games in the first round and—at ninety minutes per game—I certainly wasn’t going to make that kind of time investment. You know, based on the team’s history and all.
But alas, Spain played brilliantly in all three of those games—or so I read on the BBC’s website—against teams representing nations in varying states of poverty or dictatorial rule.  So, when the Spanish team easily advanced to the second round and I had surfed enough websites predicting that they were actually good enough to win the whole damn tournament, I was ready to join the party. And the next party would take place on 27 June, when Spain was scheduled to thrash a squad of old age pensioners from France. 

Despite my good intentions, however, I…sort of…forgot about the game when 27 June rolled around. When I finally came to my senses and clicked-on the television, it was nearly half-time—and Spain was leading France 1-0. 

“Woooooohoooo!!!” I shouted in my thick American accent, as I lowered myself into a leather chair.

And at the precise moment that my buttocks touched the cushion, do you know what happened? France scored a goal. They tied the game...just seconds before half-time was called.
I found this a little disturbing. Spain had been thoroughly kicking ass during its prior three hundred fifteen minutes of World Cup play—i.e., three hundred fifteen minutes during which I was either reading a book or mowing the lawn. And now, this! Was it an unfortunate coincidence? Or had I jinxed the team?

It is well-established that Spain is the Chicago Cubs of the World Cup; but could it be that, in addition, I was Spain’s Steve Bartman?
I quickly purged my mind of such silly superstitions, and resolved to cheer-on the team twice as hard during the game’s second half.
But first, there was this small matter of half-time. 
If there is an occupational hazard of being an attorney, it’s that you’re always on the lookout for loopholes.  And I decided that my steely resolve to become a die-hard World Cup football fan need not necessarily apply to half-time.  After all, there technically isn’t any football taking place during half-time.
So I decided  to take advantage of this half-time downtime by firing-up my Mac Mini and initiating a brief webcam video chat with a friend in Amsterdam who had just had his first baby. 

Unfortunately, that “brief” video chat ended roughly two hours later.

Feeling drained after the long ordeal of having to make interesting conversation without the aid of a keyboard, I turned-off my computer and went straight to bed. 

And as I was laying in bed, I suddenly realized something important. I had forgotten to check the score and see who won the game.
But I didn’t need to check.  I had lived in Spain long enough to know the outcome intuitively.
I heard no screaming in my neighborhood. 

I heard no honking horns. 

I heard no endless strings of firecrackers. 

This sort of deafening silence could only be provoked by one thing. And that’s the national team’s elimination from the World Cup tournament.


My scholarly dissertation on the Spanish liquor “Patxarán” is now published in The Spirit World.

Check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Well... Jazzy went home this afternoon.

Her owners are back from vacation, and she left my house happy, well-fattened and very well-exercised.

And as an added bonus, her owners picked up all of this morning's poo from the yard on their way out. That was a nice touch...especially since I didn't have to touch it.

So, what did I learn from the experience? I learned that dogs are more fun to play with than cats; but they also require a LOT more work. As with so many things in life, it's all about yin-yang. Push on this side of the balloon, and the other side will bulge. Have an animal that shows you real love and affection; and it will also show you the mangled reminants of your new leather sandals.

In the final analysis, I think I've walked away with a new respect for dogs. No...I probably won't go out and buy one. But then experience with Jazz will likely dissuade me from eating one should I ever visit Asia.

Now that's what I call "personal growth."

Friday, July 14, 2006


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


It is with a heavy heart that I must inform that the honeymoon for Jasemine and me has ended.

It ended at precisely the moment that she jumped into my daughter’s swimming pool this afternoon—which, I should hasten to add, was the third time this week that she has gone for a swim.

Perhaps I could forgive the fact that this little, four month old puppy produces enough fertilizer to turn Ethiopia into Kansas. Indeed, we should all rejoice that she possesses such a healthy and vigorous digestive system.

But when a tired man—and in particular, a tired man wearing caqui-colored shorts—opens his front door after a long day of work and is immediately greeted with the smelly, muddy paws of a manic, soaking-wet mongrel...well, something has to give.

And for the past two hours, I’ve been giving my full and undivided attention to my two cats.

Clean, litter box-trained and not the least bit interested in water sports.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Her name is Jasemine.

And she kisses with tongue.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


[Note: This is an essay that was recently published in Expatica Spain.

Yes, yes, yes...I know that I’m going to catch hell for this photo, but it is, in fact, the photo that Expatica published.

And’s not my fault. Do you know whose fault it is? The Big Finn’s. He’s the one who originated the concept of “beefcake blogging”.]

In this week’s essay, I’d like to switch gears a bit. Instead of writing about the expat experience, I’m going to write about the expat blogger experience.

This is a topic that often comes up over cocktails with friends. Inevitably, someone will—midway through their second Cruzcampo—ask, “How in the hell do you come up with a new Expat Blog essay for Expatica every week?” would be a lot harder if the topic were other than life in Spain. In this respect, I feel sorry for the guy that writes Expatica’s Aluminum Can Recycling Blog.

But life in Spain—with its topless beaches and dried pig parts and phallic-shaped, deep-fried breakfast pastries—is a bountiful dumpster from which to scavenge. A lot of quirky things happen here during the course of daily life—especially when viewed through the eyes of a process-driven, efficiency-obsessed, logic-minded American.

That’s not to say, however, that the essays write themselves. No, no, no...there’s a fair amount of work involved in meeting my editors’ Thursday deadline. And that work broadly divides itself into two phases: the creative, and the writing.

The creative phase is often the harder one. This is where I frantically try to generate an idea—and a rough mental outline—for the next essay. I start obsessing about this five minutes after submitting my last essay. And although a trove of worthy material may be sitting right under my nose, that doesn’t necessarily mean that my brain will notice it.

So sometimes the brain needs a little help. And which type of help might that be? The answer surprised me.

When I first started writing for Expatica, I assumed that a wee spot of alcohol would prove itself the great generator of literary creativity. After all, it worked pretty well for Hemingway—you know, that *other* expat who wrote about Spain.

And I quickly learned that alcohol is indeed a great generator. A generator of sleepiness.

After a bit of trial and error, however, I stumbled upon a fail-safe recipe for a creativity cocktail—caffeine and endorphins.

Especially endorphins! How do I know this? Because the ideas for the vast, *vast* majority of my Expatica essays have—almost miraculously—appeared to me while jogging.

That’s right...jogging! An activity that, I’m fairly certain, Hemingway NEVER tried—except, perhaps, when the bar was closing.

Now, I’m aware that many writers boast that their best ideas come to them while in the shower. But to be honest, I’ve never once had a good idea while taking a shower. I don’t know why this is. I can only assume that these other writers are engaging in some type of endorphin-producing shower time activity that I am not.

By the way...that shower joke came to me while jogging, too.

The creative phase may be the difficult phase, but it’s also the more fun of the two. But alas...after the idea is generated and the initial brainstorming is done, there’s no escaping the grunt-work of actually writing the Expatica essay.

So to make that grunt-work a bit less arduous, I break it into a relaxed, three-step process.

The first step is “The Brain Dump.” I set aside an hour of uninterruptible time—usually early in the morning before my day job starts and my coffee buzz dissipates—and bang-out a completely unedited, shockingly awful first draft. So awful, in fact, that even Paris Hilton would toss it aside with the comment, “Dude...even I can, like, do better than that.”

And when that thoroughly embarrassing first draft is finished, I ignore it. Completely ignore it! For the rest of the day and night. I call this step “The Fermentation.” It’s a bit like spitting into a barrel of grape juice and waiting to see if it turns into wine.

Now, I don’t know what happens in my subconscious mind during The Fermentation, but something does indeed happen. How do I know this? Because when I wake up the next morning, my head feels full of wine. And all that wine greatly helps the next step, which is...

...“The Spit and Polish.” This step involves carefully editing the essay so that it reads smoothly and coherently—two characteristics that, I should hasten to add, are wholly absent from The Brain Dump draft. And then, finally, I go through the essay one last time—sentence by sentence and word by word—with only one question in mind: How can I make this funnier?

I am hoping that this last step endears me to Matt Groening the next time he has an opening on the writing staff for The Simpsons. [Hint, hint!]

And that’s it! When the essay is dumped, fermented and spit-polished, I email it to my Expatica editors.

And then I take a shower. A cold one.

Cold one?! Hey, wait a minute! Maybe *that’s* why I never have any good ideas in the shower.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Some topics simply don't need words.