Christmas in Madrid, our new no-Government and more!

Hey everybody!

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…

And I have a new article over on ¡Vaya Madrid! about some of the Christmas / New Year’s / Epiphany traditions here in Spain:

8 things that might surprise you about the holidays in Madrid

So you can check that out if you want.

About one of the points in the article: years ago, I wrote an article called Blackface and Red Snapper in which I talk about the sorta-annoying tradition they had of painting a local politician black for the Cabalgata de Reyes (the parade they have on January 5th to celebrate the three kings).

Well, not anymore! The leftists are in charge now, and we’ve got a real black guy doing the job. Finally!

Also, it’s not really red snapper that they eat. I just liked the sound of it. It’s red sea bream, or something.

"Attachment is blinding. It lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the object of desire."

A post shared by Daniel Welsch (@danielwelsch) on

Don’t follow me on Instagram. I’m not that good of a photographer.

In other news…

Dude, where’s my country?

Spain held general elections the other day, and for better or for worse, nobody won. Well, the Popular Party technically had the most votes, but they’re going to have a hell of a time actually forming a government. So what’s gonna happen in my beautiful adoptive country?

Well, there’s going to have to be some sort of coalition. And all the different possibilities seem absurd.

Podemos and Ciudadanos, the two new parties, received more than a third of the votes between them, which is pretty impressive. But so far, nobody wants to form coalitions. And it’s not clear if they can form coalitions without pissing off a large number of the people who voted for them.

So… interesting times, as usual.

Who will  govern us? Who will lead us out of the darkness?

Certainly not Mr Chorizo. He’s going to be busy drinking some Rioja and gobbling down massive quantities of turrón. Low carb turrón… to save room for more Rioja.

Have fun out there, kids!

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. What do you think will happen here in Spain? Will we have another 4 years of Mariano Rajoy (who nobody seems to like that much) or will we end up with some new guy? Will that new guy ruin Spain? Is Spain already ruined? Who wants to come over and help me finish this bottle of 3 euro Cava?

P.P.S. No, really… Is there anything you want to see on the Chorizo Chronicles in 2016? I know you must be dying to hear my opinion about… uh… something. Hit me up in the comments. I’m here for ya!

Recent adventures, the Book-a-Week Challenge (and more!)

Well hey!

I haven’t been around much lately. You know. Mr Chorizo’s been doing stuff, and so has Mr Daniel. And anyway, how am I going to top my last post, 32 Reasons Why I Love Spain?

That one really took the Chorizo Chronicles to a new level–now, this little part of the internet’s backwater has been seen by tens of thousands. And it’s all because I sat down and wrote my best attempt at a viral list post.

I was surprised at the response it got. Actually, the best feedback was from multiple Spaniards living abroad who said they started crying from the homesickness and nostalgia they felt while reading it. Wow.

Anyway, a lot of other stuff has happened since then. I went to Holland to do a certification in Progressive Calisthenics, and I celebrated my 11th anniversary here in Spain down in Sevilla. In a couple of days I’m off to new adventures in Ireland.

me and the kavadlo brothers

These two photogenic fellows are the Kavadlo brothers, Danny on the left and Al on the right. The guy in the center got his ass kicked by some real calisthenics ninjas for three whole days–it was great!

All in all, this year has been really amazing. Beyond all expectations. Wonderful. Heartbreaking. And a little weird, too.

So now what? Well, today I’m going to tell you about…

The book-a-week challenge

One thing I’ve been trying to do recently is read more books. As many people have pointed out, reading more is mostly a matter of making time to read more.

A lot of what I read is kind of nerdy or embarrassing. Some of it is less so. Here are a few of the more interesting things I’ve been reading recently:

Captive in the Dark — CJ Roberts

This is part of an effort to become a better writer by reading what people actually do read, not what they probably should read. As a recovering literature snob, it’s a bit entertaining to see what exactly goes on in these “popular” books.

This one, specifically, is free on Kindle, and has more than a thousand reviews! And many many more than that on Goodreads. Take that, Marcel Proust!

So here’s the thing. I thought I knew what I was getting into with “dark romance” and to an extent I did. But damn, this one was shocking in a couple of ways, too.

Here’s the plot: An innocent beautiful young girl is captured by an evil, heatless (yet incredibly handsome) mafioso. His job, apparently is to train her as a “pleasure slave” for later sale to a Russian billionaire. He locks her in a dark room and beats her, forces her to call him Master. Etc.

But the girl, with her feisty Californian attitude and beautiful tits, starts to get into his head. Soon he’s not sure what’s what–he loves her, but his duty is to the mafia boss and he can’t fall in love with a pleasure slave. At the same time, she’s developing some complicated feelings for him, and, um… Well, the book ends at a moment of tension that would hypothetically make some want to buy the rest of the trilogy.

Yeah, it’s a trilogy. Isn’t everything these days?

I could have basically predicted the beautiful innocent girl + tortured bad boy = complicated feelings formula before reading it. The interesting thing for me is how much whipping can go on in something like this. I guess it’s erotica, but honestly it was about 90% whipping and psychology, and 10% sex. I was surprised. Also, sensory descriptions of absolutely everything.

I’m obviously not the target market for these things, but I can see why people get into it. It pushes the right buttons.

Now, on to something a bit different…

The Deep Blue Goodbye — John D McDonald

I actually read 6 or 7 of the novels in this Travis McGee series during the summer. I had heard they’re addictive, and basically, yeah, they are.

Travis McGee is large, handsome, tanned and lazy. He lives on a houseboat in Florida, and occasionally goes off and retrieves money or other valuables that have been stolen. He keeps half, which allows him to live for extended periods without working. He’s not exactly a detective, just a guy who finds things and gets them back.

There’s a sort of formula these books follow, too, but with significant variation from one to the other. For one, it’s usually a beautiful woman who’s lost something valuable, and Trav reluctantly agrees to go get it back. Often he doesn’t realize how beautiful the damsel-in-distress is until later. If Trav starts having actual feelings for her, she’s certain to be killed at the end of the book. Which leaves him back at square one, brokenhearted on his boat, with a gin in his hand, waiting to run out of money. (I can identify with everything except the boat.)

Prepare yourself for a lot of boating vocabulary, long descriptions of women’s thighs straining to escape from their pants or dresses, and sex scenes that don’t apparently describe actual sex, but some sort of union of souls, or the rising and falling of waves of pleasure.

I can’t help but liking Trav, but one of the things that bothers me about him is that he’s such a sentimental monogamist. He’s always saying no to girls because the feeling isn’t there, or saying yes but then torturing himself about it afterwards. Clearly he’s a lost soul searching for love in all the wrong places.

Also, get ready for a lot of drinking. I guess it was the 70s and anywhere you went, people would offer you a drink from their fully-stocked bar. Or something. It’s made me want to stock up on bottles of liquor one way or another.

Each book contains at least a couple of jaw-droppingly good descriptions and some entertaining social commentary as well.

For example: I sat for nearly fifteen minutes. Odd-looking people came and went, tenants and clients and customers. Underside people. The ones that somehow seem to be clinging to the damp underside of reality. The ones that look as if they could truly astonish a psychiatrist or a bacteriologist.

Or this one: I awoke into suffocating heat, to barbed needles of light which went through my eyes and into my brain, to a mouth dry as sand, clotted teeth, and a headache that seemed to expand and contract my forehead with each heartbeat as though it were a red balloon a child was trying to inflate. Tequila hangover, in a gagging density of perfume, under a tin roof, on the sweat-damp sheets of a village whore.

Or this one: Astrology, health food, flag waving, bible thumping, Zen, nudism, nihilism—all of these are grotesque simplifications which small dreary people adopt in the hope of thereby finding The Answer, because the very concept that maybe there is no answer, never has been, never will be, terrifies them. All that remains for the McGee is an ironic Knighthood, a spavined steed, second class armor, a dubious lance, a bent broadsword, and the chance, now and again, to lift into a galumphing charge against capital E Evil, his brave battle oaths marred by an occasional hysterical giggle… 

Etc. He compares himself to Don Quixote quite a bit, and it’s fun.

My favorite in the series was (I think) the second one, in which McGee is the victim of some evil doctor’s experiments in psychedelic drugs. It’s absolutely insane.

I’m definitely going to read the rest of these books. There are another dozen or so in the series, so I’m going to wait till I have some time and then go for it.

Business Adventures — John Brooks

Recommended to me (somewhere) as being a book that both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett like a lot. It was actually pretty good. Who knew a guy could write 80 pages about a crisis in the value of the pound sterling and still make it fascinating?

The book is a series of essays from the New Yorker: one is about the initial success (decades ago) of Xerox copiers, one is about a one-day panic on the stock market, one is about the Ford Motor Company’s dismal failure with the Edsel. All surprisingly interesting, as it turns out, when they’re told in detail.

I especially enjoy knowing about technology that was, at the time, state of the art–but that now seems quaintly antique. Stock tickers, for example, play a large part in a few of the essays, and it’s interesting to know that high-level executives were already getting instant information from Wall Street, decades before the internet brought it to everyone.

The Carpetbaggers — Harold Robbins

Why is this book called The Carpetbaggers? No idea!

The main character is a fictionalized version of Howard Hughes (at least the young Howard Hughes) and it’s a fast-paced adventure novel that has everything you could want. Wild West adventures, beautiful women, the early days of Hollywood, businessmen struggling to be top dog in boardrooms and hotel bathrooms, and of course, lots of drinking.

This book is very long but I could barely put it down. All the main characters have an extended back-story, which is very interesting, and they’re mostly likeable despite some of their obvious flaws.

There’s one scene I thought was way too long in which the main character, Jonas, brings in an aircraft engineer to design a new type of bra specifically for his voluptuous Hollywood starlet’s impressive attributes. Ten-page descriptions of heaving bosoms are a bit much, sometimes.

But fortunately, most of the rest is sex, violence and adventure–it’s actually a lot of fun!

Apparently the author was very popular in his day (as well as being quite the playboy himself). I had heard this book was really bad yet highly entertaining, but I didn’t even find it to be bad. Just different than what I usually read.

So that’s it for today!

Have fun out there,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Got any book recommendations for me? Hit me up in the comments…

An open letter: 32 Reasons Why I Love Spain

Dear Spain,

I know our relationship has had its ups and downs.

You have your problems and I have mine. Neither of us is perfect.

And I admit that sometimes I don’t appreciate you like I should. We’ve grown used to each other. Sometimes I take you for granted…

So today I’m writing this letter to tell you how I really feel. It’s been a long time since I’ve told you these things… Have I really lived here for more than 10 years?

Well, here goes:

Spain, I love you.

And I’m sorry about the last couple of weeks.

Let me explain. Recently, I created quite a scandal over on an expat group on Facebook with one of my articles. It was the one about 4 things I learned about American culture while living in Spain.

Good thing I didn’t share part two as well.

Looking closely, most of the comments were positive, but a few people took it the wrong way.

Of course, if they understood irony, or were willing to read between the lines, they would have gotten the main point: I love Spain.

But it’s the internet. So of course someone got angry at me, accused me of being ignorant and of generalizing, probably wrongly, about millions of people (something I fully admit to in the article).

And the main point of the article, sadly, was lost.

Today, I’m going to spell it out for one and all:

I… L-O-V-E … S-P-A-I-N

So, for the irony-impaired, for the unnecessarily defensive, and for those whose reading comprehension is less than ideal, here are, without further ado:

32 Reasons Why I Love Spain

These are, in no particular order, some of the things I love about my beautiful adopted country.

The people

There are 46 million people in Spain, and around 6 million of them (like myself) come from other places. Here are some of the things I love about you all:

1. The beautiful women. If I had to give just one reason for staying in Spain so long… Well, it’s difficult to decide. If I had to give just three reasons, the beautiful women would be one of them. Those feisty females aren’t always easy to deal with, but they’re so stunning and fabulous that you can forgive them anything… usually. (I hear the men are pretty sexy, too, if that’s your thing.)

2. The social life. It might be the abundance of bars and restaurants, it might be the general laid-back attitude. I’m not sure what it is. But if you want to get together for dinner or drinks on a Tuesday night, you can probably find someone to come along. Spanish people are famous for being some of the friendliest in Europe, and they’re usually curious to meet foreigners.

3. Making friends from lots of different countries. In my usual week I deal with people from a couple dozen different countries. Not just Spain and the USA, but also the Philippines, Brazil, Russia, China, Romania, Germany, Colombia, Perú, the Dominican Republic, Chile and many more. Granted, a lot of people have gone home due to the never-ending crisis, but that’s another story. One we’re not telling today.

4. People actually get dressed before leaving the house. In a lot of places in the US it might be acceptable to wander around in your pyjamas all day. In Spain you’d better not try it. Sweats? Maybe if you’re on your way to the gym, AND you look damn good in sweats. Other than that, people actually wear real clothes. This doesn’t have to be expensive or uncomfortable. Actually, there is a word for it: civilized.

The language(s)

5. The linguistic diversity. Not only do they speak Spanish with a wide variety of accents, there are also several regional languages. Galician, Asturian, Catalonian, Valencian, Aranese, and even a whistling language called Silbo Gomero that’s spoken on one of the Canary Islands. And of course, Basque, which I learned a bit of and talked about on Anthony Metivier’s podcast.

6. The expressiveness of Spanish. I love how absolutely obscene you can be in Spanish without anybody batting and eyelash. ¡Me cago en la leche! ¡No me toques los cojones! Even Spanish proverbs are wonderfully expressive, and much much sexier than our overly-puritanical Anglo-American folk wisdom.

7. The literature. Spain has some very good writers, and they treat authors as sort of celebrities. Some of my favorite Spanish books: La voz dormida by Dulce Chacón, La Reina del Sur by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and El Mundo (or anything else) by Juan José Millás. And if you can make it to a theatre, see a production of La casa de Bernarda Alba or Don Juan Tenorio someday. They’re good on the page, but better on stage.

Madrid

A lot of times when I write about Spain, I’m sort of generalizing about Madrid. Yeah, I know, generalizing is awful and I’m a terrible person. But Madrid is where I live, and it’s the Spain I know. If you’re reading this in a small town in Asturias or Andalucía, I’m sorry. But honestly, I’ve been to a lot of small towns, too, and they’re pretty cool.

Mr Daniel, at sunset, in front of Madrid's Royal Palace

Mr Daniel, at sunset, in front of Madrid’s Royal Palace. Photo by Gloria Atanmo.

8. The city. It’s not the greatest city to visit, but it’s certainly a great place to live. Once I’ve shown visitors around the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, and Gran Via, it’s not really clear what to do next–it’s not really a city for tourists. It’s not as spectacular and monumental as some other places in Europe. But once you’ve settled in, the lifestyle is good.

9. There’s always something happening. I work on the computer a lot, and so I sometimes lose touch with humanity. But then as soon as I walk out the door, I find that the streets are teeming with people going about their (offline) days. Want a real trip? Head down to Gran Via at 2 AM someday to check out the traffic jam. Yeah, that’s right. The 2AM traffic jam!

10. If you’ve been here for over a year, you’re not a foreigner anymore. When I go to the provinces, a lot of times people treat me sort of strangely. They look me up and down (Wow, never seen a guy with a red beard before!) or talk extra slow because they assume I won’t understand them otherwise. In Madrid, nobody gives a shit. Got a metro pass? You’re a local! Welcome to the club. Since everybody (except for cuatro gatos) is from somewhere else, it really doesn’t matter.

11. The weather. They have a saying about weather in Madrid (well, actually a lot of sayings). My favorite is 3 meses de infierno y 9 meses de invierno. And yeah. It gets cold, and it gets hot. But neither is too extreme. Except for a few days brushing freezing in winter, and a few days over 40 degrees (that’s around 100 for you fahrenheit people) in summer, it’s pretty good.

12. Museo del Prado y Reina Sofia. For some reason, two of the world’s best art museums are right here, in Madrid. And they’re free for a couple of hours every afternoon. El Prado has thousands of works by Velázquez (including Las Meninas), Goya, Rubens, Titian, and many more, as well as several masterpieces like The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, The Triumph of Death by Peter Bruegel. Reina Sofia has Guernica by Picasso, a bunch of paintings by Salvador Dalí, and more.

13. The parks. Retiro park is a beautiful formal garden, with everything laid out according to a plan, full of people relaxing, doing sports or having a drink on one of the terrazas at any time of the year. Casa de Campo is one of the largest urban parks in Europe – 5 times larger than Central Park in New York. And Madrid’s newest major park, Madrid Río, goes along the Manzanares River for several kilometers, with all kinds of fountains, walking paths, playgrounds and bridges. 

The food and wine

Spanish food is great. Even some magazine in Australia thinks it’s the best country in the world for food. And while I’d have to visit a lot more countries to make that call, here I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite culinary delights:

14. Rioja. I seriously think Spanish wine is the best. I’ve had wine in some other Mediterranean countries and was unimpressed. Maybe they do have great wine in France, Italy and Portugal, but it’s certainly not as good a value for your money as in Spain. I dare you to compare a 6 euro bottle of Rioja with a 6 euro bottle of anything else in the world. C’mon punk. Make my day.

15. The meat. Go to the mountains around Madrid, or really anywhere else in Spain, and you’ll find that they’re full of free-range cows. Well, guess what! Those cows can later be grilled and served a la piedra–and they’re delicious! Some even consider a place called El Capricho out in León to be the best restaurant for meat in the world.

16. Morcilla, in all it’s forms and manifestations. Call it black pudding or call it blood sausage: I call it wonderful and full of energy! A bit of morcilla achorizada in the morning with some black coffee and you’ll be ready to conquer the world like a viking warrior. Or, try scrambled eggs with morcilla de Burgos and a bit of paprika on top. Heaven!

17. Chorizo. Occasionally I get some email about job offers in Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates or something. The salaries are jaw-dropping, compared to what I’d earn around here. But then I think: “And just what would I do in a country without pork?” Life would lose its meaning! I didn’t call this blog The Chorizo Chronicles for nothing. Give me chorizo, sir, or give me death! (Actually, nevermind, I’ll just take the chorizo.)

18. Albariño. Rioja reds are great, but so are Galician whites. So cold and fruity and refreshing, especially if you get a good one in a restaurant overlooking the beach. I recommend anything in the port in Vigo, around sunset. Just trust me.

bocadillo de calamares madrid plaza mayor

My favorite place to have a bocadillo de calamares, right on Plaza Mayor.

19. Bocadillo de calamares. Don’t like eating things with tentacles? It’s probably because you’ve never tried battered and fried squid. Go to one of those places on Plaza Mayor and have a drink and a squid sandwich. Ask them for extra tentacle. Better yet, go to two or three places. Real madrileños (like me) have tried several of them and have a favorite.

20. Cocido montañés and fabada. These two are technically quite similar white bean and pork stews. The first time I had cocido montañés was in a tiny slate village (about 14 people in winter) with some friends from Cantabria. Fabada is the Asturian version which uses a bigger type of bean. Fatty and delicious.

21. Sherry — fino, manzanilla, oloroso. You haven’t lived till you’ve drunk half a bottle of ice-cold sherry on a summer afternoon, and then stumbled home (ideally with someone attractive and of the gender of your preference) to “sleep the siesta” for a couple of hours. Trust me, you haven’t. Go to Almendro 13 or to La Venencia… bottoms up!

22. Campo Real olives. Cured with thyme and garlic, these make a perfect acompaniment to that half bottle of sherry, or a great tapa to go along with a beer anytime. And it turns out they’re from Madrid! I don’t care if you don’t like the olives your mom used to buy WalMart back home, these are different. They have denominación de calidad and everything.

The country

23. Like Italy, but better. I’ve been to Italy several times. My opinion? It’s overrated. Beaches in Spain are better. Italian food is good, but Spanish food is great (and a lot cheaper). And the idea that Italian people have fashion sense is quite exaggerated. Which leads us to our next point…

24. Want Roman ruins? We got Roman ruins! Italy isn’t the only country with archaeological finds. Check out the aqueduct in Segovia; the Roman amphitheater, National Museum of Roman Art and a dozen other things in Mérida; and then take a look at this whole long list of other ruins. Apparently, even 2000 years ago the Italians were jumping all over themselves to GTFO of Italy and come to Spain.

25. A bar on every corner. You know you’re in the middle of nowhere when you find a town with only one bar–but in fact, it almost never happens. You can find bars in the most random places: on mountaintops, in the middle of the forest. Really anywhere. In Spain, a lot of your social life takes place in a bar, and there’s nothing weird about it at all–just don’t tell your mom back on the farm that you’ve started drinking before lunch.

26. A great lifestyle, even if you’re not rich. I spent several years here living well below what would be considered the poverty line in the US. And guess what? They were some of the happiest, most exciting years of my life. I could do all kinds of cool things, travel, eat good food, and have a lot of fun–and all with nobody telling me I was a loser for not earning more money.

27. Some of the best transport in the world. Have you ever taken a Greyhound bus back in the US? What about an Amtrak? I have. No comparison. Spain has one of the best transport systems in the world. I know, I know, if you want to split hairs, a lot of it was paid for by government corruption and porkbarrel politics, and a lot of those high speed train stations and international airports have no real raison d’etre, but damn is it nice being able to use them! 

28. So many beautiful places to see. Here in Madrid, we’re spitting distance from Toledo, Ávila, Segovia, Salamanca, and some kick-ass mountains. If you want to spend a couple hours on the bus or the train, you can get to other awesome places like Cuenca, Trujillo, Cáceres, Burgos and León. And if you have more time, the coast isn’t much further (depending on which way you’re going).

29. The beaches. I’m not a huge fan of beaches, but Spain has some of the best in the world. Islas Cíes have actually been voted best beach in the world and there are a ton of other beaches all around the country that are amazing.

landscape in galicia spain

It doesn’t get much more bucolic than Galicia. Outside Pontedeume.

30. Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria. I have friends in the north, and most of the time I’ve spent travelling in Spain has been in that direction. And there are a few cities up there that are jockeying for the coveted position of my favorite Spanish city: Vigo, A Coruña, Gijón and Santander are my big four. All beautiful places, with great food, reasonable prices, and nice scenery.

31. Walking paths all over the country. I’m a big walker, and I love finding GR and PR walking paths anywhere I go. The Camino de Santiago is just the beginning–there are (more or less) well-marked paths connecting every town across the Iberian Peninsula, and the population density means you’re usually not more than a few kilometers from the next town.

32. It’s close to everywhere else in Europe. Want to take a special someone for a romantic weekend in Paris? It’s right around the corner. London? Just a little bit past Paris. Actually, there are a few dozen countries you can fly to in just a couple of hours. And since Spain is a major tourist hub, flights aren’t that expensive.

So that’s 32 reasons, but I could keep going. For the sake of brevity (and to leave myself the option of writing a part two) I’ll stop there.

But before I go, here’s the brutal truth: I’ve thought about leaving you many times, but no other country I’ve been to can do what you do for me. No other country comes close to you in beauty, in friendliness, and in making me feel… all fuzzy inside.

Love you, Spain! Thanks for everything you’ve given me, over all these years.

Yours,

Daniel.

P.S. Like this article? Hate this article? Please share it with your friends, and be sure to leave me a comment!

An update from your overseas political correspondent

What a time to be alive!

In case you haven’t been following the news recently, Spain is in the middle of quite a political shakeup.

Specifically, there’s a new leftist party that’s got the political establishment running for cover.

The party (or more accurately collection of parties) grew out of the 15-M protest movement several years ago. Yep, I’m talking about Podemos.

Yes, we can. Or can we?

The most interesting development of the year so far is that both Madrid and Barcelona elected new mayors from the far left. Not exactly Podemos, but associated parties.

They both made big promises, especially about stopping the evictions of families who could no longer pay their mortgages. And now we wait to see if they’ll come through.

So far, it’s not looking good…

Manuela Carmena, the new mayor of Madrid, was barely in office a few hours when she had to deal with a scandal involving some wildly offensive holocaust jokes made on Twitter by a member of her new local government. She moved him to another position, and life goes on.

Soon after, another member of the new government was charged with “offending religious sentiments” for her role in a topless protest in a church back in 2011.

Since then, it’s not really clear what the local government has been up to. We’re all here waiting for some big change–and so far, it looks like we’re going to have to keep waiting.

manuela carmena and felipe vi

Manuela Carmena and the new king, Felipe VI. Photo via vozpopuli.com

Meanwhile, up in Barcelona, the new mayor Ada Colau had what was probably the top national news story this week when she had the bust of Juan Carlos I, our beloved ex-monarch, removed from City Hall.

She’s also made the rather strange move of putting a moratorium on licenses for new hotels in the city. Tourism, of course, is the main industry driving Spain’s economy. But apparently people in Catalonia get a bit annoyed with us guiris from time to time.

Oh well.

I’m sure if Barcelona makes things too difficult for investors, they’ll just move down the coast a bit. Barcelona’s not that cool anyway (cue the whole internet hating me).

In any case, the record-breaking tourist season we’re having so far has already contributed to the best quarter for job creation since 2005. Yes, unemployment is down to only–only–22%.

And in other news…

And if that weren’t good news enough, starting just a few days ago, the age of consent (and marriage) was raised from 13 to 16 all over the country.

Yes, up till now, 13-year-olds were fair game on the dating market.

I suppose it was a part of Spain’s former reality–large, impoverished Catholic families wanting nothing more than to get rid of a couple of their teenage daughters by marrying them off as soon as possible.

But now that Spaniards have small families, people with their parents and wait for their 30s to get married, it was time to bring marriage and age of consent laws into the 21st century.

Of course, in the Vatican City, the age of consent is still 12 years (see linked article above)–a situation about which I have absolutely no comment.

So, that’s the story around here. Will the left create the socialist paradise we’ve all been waiting for? Or will they limit themselves to taking little jabs at the establishment by changing street names and removing statues?

Only time will tell… National elections are coming this fall!

Curiously yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. There are a couple new articles up on ¡Vaya Madrid! by people I like. Check out Embracing the Sprunch–why Spanish brunch isn’t like brunch back home and also Keep the change: what to do when your piggy bank gets out of control.

P.P.S. At least it’s not like last summer, when we had the ebola zombies threatening to take over the city.

My interviews on the Real Fast Spanish podcast

Wow, that Mr Daniel is at it again!

Yes, my hard-working alter-ego has been featured not once but TWICE on the Real Fast Spanish podcast with Andrew Barr.

The first episode (in which we talk about learning Spanish, why I came to Spain, and some of my favorite films) is here:

Real Fast Spanish: Life in Madrid part 1

And the second part (in which we talk about my favorite book, being open-minded about Spanish food, and some travel recommendations) is here:

Real Fast Spanish: Life in Madrid part 2

And in case you care, here’s a photo of Mr Daniel, taken by the very talented Gloria at the Blog Abroad. He looks alright, and he’s not even really sucking in his beer gut. Attention, madrileñas, this guy is single:

daniel at banco de españa

The occasionally-handsome Mr Daniel at Banco de España, here in the center of Madrid.

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to report. Mr Daniel is busy these days making lots of power points and lots of videos–I had thought he was actually planning on retiring, but actually, he’s working as hard as ever. What a weirdo…

Any invitations to beach houses or quiet mountain villages for the month of August? Not that the heat bothers me too much, it’s just that Madrid gets kind of boring at this time of year.

Hit me up!

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Hopefully I’ll have some big news about new projects soon. But I shouldn’t just publish these things for the whole internet to gawk at before they, like, happen. So stay tuned!

Serbs and Croats–an eye-opening journey to the Balkans

Quick, who’s your favorite Croatian painter?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I chose Zagreb as part of my first trip to Eastern Europe because it just seemed like an unlikely place for a guy from Arizona to end up.

And on my first day there, I go to the Modern Gallery, a museum of Croatian painting and sculpture. I corner a girl who works in one of the rooms on the top floor and ask my usual silly questions about the art.

She points to a few paintings by artists who are apparently household names, and I imagine them trying to break into the New York scene, remarking at a gallery opening “Yeah, you’ve probably never heard of me… But I’m big in Croatia!”

Afterwards I ask my impromptu tour guide about the food. “Oh yes, we have great food all over the Balkans!” she says, brightly.

Wait. Am I in the Balkans?

Welcome to the former Yugoslavia

When I was growing up, my parents used to listen to the news on NPR at ungodly hours of the morning. And in the early 90s NPR spent a lot of time talking about Serbs and Croats.

Of course, I understood nothing of Yugoslavia, geopolitics, the fall of the Iron Curtain, etc. I was nine.

But here in the museum, twenty-something years later, I suddenly realize that this girl, with her tongue ring and half-shaved head, was a Croat, and that somehow I had made it to the Balkans.

I guess I had never given these things much serious thought. If you had said “the Balkans”, I would have visualized an old woman in a head scarf, with bundle of sticks on her back, hobbling towards a refugee camp. I don’t know. Call it American ignorance. It just sounded sort of vague, dangerous and war-torn, and somewhere out there to the east.

And the conflict between Serbs and Croats conjured up images of tribespeople dressed in tatters, waving their Kalashnikovs defiantly in the air and ready to fight to the death with anyone from more than three towns over.

Saint Mark's Church, Upper Town, Zagreb

Saint Mark’s Church, Upper Town, Zagreb

Leaving the museum, my eyes are opened–most of these people walking around are those very same tribespeople–those very same Croats I had heard about on NPR as a kid.

Interesting.

The waiter who messes up and then claims that actually, yes I did order the most expensive thing on the menu? Croat.

The surly fat guy grilling burgers across the street from my AirBnb? Croat.

Very, very interesting indeed.

Kalashnikov-waving tribesmen

The next day I go to the mountains. And while waiting outside Tomislavov Dom Hotel for the bus back to town, I strike up a conversation with a couple of guys. The thin one is German, and the fat one says he’s from nearby.

He seems pretty nice, and has lived in the US, so I figure he knows something about American ignorance.

I go out on a limb and confess my shock that he’s not some sort of barefoot Kalashnikov-waving tribesman.

He laughs a big belly laugh, “Oh yeah, Kalashnikov-waving tribesmen… Those are the Serbs!”

I ask him about growing up during the breakup of Yugoslavia and he says, “The strange thing about it is that every few years we would belong to a different country. My village changed countries seven times when I was growing up!”

I assume he’s exaggerating, but I ask, “So what do you identify as?”

“I’m [something long and difficult to pronounce]. Hopefully we’ll have a country of our own soon!”

The bus isn’t coming (transport in that part of Europe is kind of a joke, but that’s another story) and I decide to walk back down the mountain to Zagreb, so I say goodbye.

The Homeland War

The next day, my last in Zagreb, I go to the Homeland War photo exhibition at the Croatian History Museum. 

I’m amused to find that a lot of the Croat heroes fighting for independence look like they stepped right out of an early-90s music video and into a war.

They look cool. Like the kind of guy you wish you had as an older brother.

As an American, especially one from a place with so little history, it’s difficult to imagine yourself as part of a tribe. It’s hard to imagine yourself as part of a story that goes back 2000 years or more. But for a lot of people, that’s the reality they live every day.

And from time to time throughout history, they have to fight to preserve that identity.

Eye-opening, to say the least.

Well, kids, this is sort of a departure in tone from my usual type of wit–if you can even call it that.

But there’s a lot more excitement on the way. Action! Adventure! Yes, it’s another hot and sweaty Spanish summer

I’ll keep you posted.

Yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. If you’re in Zagreb, you should also check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. It’s a bit depressing–you might need a drink afterwards–but for 25 kuna it’s a great deal on a highly original museum.

Guest hosting a new episode of the Magnetic Memory Method podcast

Well, hey, chorizophiles!

Just a quick note: the hard-working and eternally handsome Mr Daniel was invited to guest host a recent episode of the Magnetic Memory Method podcast.

Dr Anthony Metivier himself has mentioned how happy he is with the new episode. Which of course, inflates little Mr Daniel’s ego to enormous proportions. Also, if I may say so, ol’ D-dawg has a pretty sexy radio voice.

The podcast is about a lot of things:

  • How Mr Daniel managed to learn Spanish, despite being unenthusiastic about fill-in-the-blank exercises.
  • How an unusual dialect of Italian led to a teaching breakthrough.
  • How a two hour delay on a RyanAir flight led to the creation of a bestselling book.
  • How Mr Daniel learned a list of words in Euskera (or Basque, if you prefer) using the memory palace technique.
  • The worst problem that Spaniards suffer from when they try to become bilingual.
  • A damning admission about Mr Daniel’s twin hobbies: meeting girls and butchering other people’s languages
  • And much, much more!!!

Check out the podcast here: Memory Techniques for a Language like No Other.

And in the meantime, check out this photo of Mr Daniel:

Mr Daniel, at sunset, in front of Madrid's Royal Palace

Mr Daniel, at sunset, in front of Madrid’s Royal Palace

That photo was taken by the lovely and talented Gloria Atanmo, of The Blog Abroad. If you’re feeling content with your life, you should check out Gloria’s blog and see just how much more exciting things could be… She’s awesome. Plus, she’s the only person in more than 5 years who’s managed to take multiple decent photos of Mr Daniel.

She came to visit last week, you can see some of the photos on her Instagram account: instagram.com/glographics. And incidentally, Mr Daniel is on Instagram these days too.

Anyway, there are several more exciting things going on these days, but they deserve their own post. Which will be on its way soon.

Have fun, y’all.

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. I’ve spent the last few days refreshing ElPais.com about every 20 minutes to see if the euro is over as a currency. This Greek train wreck has been going on (in super-slow motion) for about 5 years now, and there’s no “end” in sight. No good solution, so it only remains to be seen which of the bad solutions will end up being adopted by those feisty European heads of state.

Anyway, Europe has had worse crises, and come out on the other side. And it’s still an awesome place to live or visit, in spite of everything. It’ll come through this one too.

P.P.D. See also: Pink Hippos, Jimi Hendrix, and how to memorize anything, and Sleepwalkers.