Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I felt like getting out of the house last night so I went down to Miguel's bar downtown. It's sort of like a speakeasy--it doesn't have a sign, you have to push a button outside that lights up a bulb inside, so they know to let you in. It's all stone inside, what used to be the stable and the basement storage rooms of a large fifteenth-century house. The effect is kind of like that of an opium den with heavy metal on the stereo. It's not like an exclusive place or anything; I've never seen anyone turned away, but you do have to know where it is. Miguel sells, uh, herbacious and other organic substances. He has a code that I think is more of a joke than anything else; you ask for, say, a twenty-five euro ticket to the Al Green concert. This will get you six or seven grams, which is a pretty good deal. You can also ask for tickets to James Brown or Barry White. I don't do Barry White. It's a lot easier to get James Brown around here, since we're so close to Morocco. The Rif is the world's number one producer of hashish, and smoking hash is really very traditional among those social classes along the margin of respectability in Spain. People used to pick up the habit doing military service in old Spanish Morocco, the Spanish Sahara, Ceuta, and Melilla. Al Green is so much more bulky than James Brown that they don't ship Al in from Morocco--it's all locally-grown. When you can find Al, which isn't always, it's available at a better price-per-puff than James since it only passes through one or two hands between the grower and the seller. But you can always find James at reasonable prices. The supply is guaranteed.

Miguel's place is interesting because not only is it an emporium for organic substances, but it's a regular bar that people come to for regular bar reasons. There wasn't much business last night, so I sat down with Miguel, this guy Lluís, and this Dominican guy named Mike who lived in New York for a few years. He likes me because he can speak English with me--he's justifiably proud of his good English, and I understand his English better than his Spanish anyway because his Dominican accent is so thick. Dominicans drop word-final S, among other consonants, and they don't distinguish between the Y and LL; both sound like an English ZH. Mike pronounces the name Lluís "zhoo-EE", while a Catalan would say something like "lyoo-EES". We engaged in mild substance abuse and watched the soccer on TV--Milan beat Real Madrid in Champions' League play, 1-0, and Deportivo tied Juventus 2-2. Both games were very good, and in deference to this blog's 75% American readership, I shall speak of soccer no more today, except for this TV note: All Champions' League games on the same day are played simultaneously, so they show one game live on the main Televisión Española channel, TV1, and don't tell you anything about the other one. Then, when the live game is over, you switch over to TV2 and they show the other game as if it were live, and since you don't know the final score, it might as well be. This is why, when Miguel let somebody into the bar during the second game, the first thing he said was "SSSHHHHTTTT!" just in case the guy was going to spill the beans. It's a great, compressed, three-and-a-half hour sports extravaganza, the best teams with the finest players in the biggest stadiums with the loudest fans, and you can see two whole games in the time it takes you to watch just one NFL game.

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