An ‘other time’ view of Spain
1. MY FATHER once worked in a gold mine as an inspector. One morning, a couple of boys fell down an elevator shaft and he was asked to assess the damage, but he had called in sick after a night of poker. 2. The replacement inspector was crushed by a boulder. 3. My father inspected that scene after lunch. 4. Once, during a drunken safari, I almost drowned. 5. It is hard to swim when drunk but it is fun. 6. Later that year, on a train to Barcelona, I read an email explaining the story of my grandfather’s court marshal for getting a donkey drunk and sneaking it on a ship to the UK. 7. “I don’t know why I’ve never told you,” wrote my aunt, “and also don’t know why I feel like telling you now. But that was your grandfather all over.” 8. I have one memory of my grandfather: I was four, or five, or three, at his house, and my older cousin was being chastised by his father for sneaking a beer. (My grandfather had snuck him the beer, but joined in the discipline nevertheless, saving face.) 9. This is what you get for getting caught, he seemed to say, belt in air. “I’ll take care of it — it’s my house.” he said, dragging my cousin to a back room. (There, he flogged a pillow and my cousin yelled in mock pain.) 10. When I finished reading the email, I talked to a young and friendly Spanish couple. Then I returned to a short story by Junot Diaz about a man being robbed in New York. 11. They helped me with my bags and said my Spanish was good, and so I decided that I liked them, and I walked my luggage through the train terminal and realized that I had been robbed. 12. They forgot my passport. 13. A sympathetic or bored taxi driver accepted my remaining Euros. I read him the address of my new residence, written on the back of a train ticket, as instructed by a Swedish friend in Barcelona “in case you just lose everything.” 14. Niclas was a lanky and funny person who was confident enough in his masculinity to admit that he genuinely enjoyed Gossip Girl. 15. One time we were drinking casual beers that we had bought from Afghanis in Placa Catalunya. 16. The square was centered by a two-hundred-foot star. Two police officers on Vespa’s drove over the star and asked us if we were selling beer. 17. They asked us because we were sitting beside the Afghanis, who were sitting on red cases of Estrella Damm. 18. The beer tastes like old pennies, at best. 19. We were asked to drink our beers in order to prove that we weren’t selling them. At that point I think I made a cheers to “This city being way cooler than Ottawa.” 20. In Ottawa, I liked to dress in a suit and take the 4 DOWNTOWN-CENTRE VILLE with other young professionals, making that I was going to get off at Parliament, only to continue on to the Rideau Centre for Subway and somehow spend forty seven dollars at Chapters. 21. The old Afghan and his son, who, by simply owning beer, weren’t breaking any laws, were known by the police, and knew that they were known, and that little could be done. 22. The short officer spoke loudly, like a Chihuahua, and said to the father, “Mi padre me digo que si tengas cerveza, tomalo.” At this the old man reluctantly opened a tall can of the beer. 23. “Tomalo,” repeated the other officer. The old man took a sip. 24. “Other time,” said the officer, for us to understand.