Thursday, January 02, 2003

Well, now that the Christmas holidays are come and almost gone--we still have Epiphany, the day of the Three Wise Men, or as they're called here, los Reyes Magos, on January 6--it's time to get down and do some serious blogging. On New Year's Eve, I stayed home and Remei went out with her friends Leonie and Elisabeth to this bar called the Sidecar, where what's left of the forty-year-olds who were hip and cool twenty years ago go to do stuff that was hip and cool twenty years ago. Like cocaine, which Remei says the bathroom was full of people snorting up while she had to pee and had to wait like fifteen minutes. You'd be surprised how much cocaine use goes on around here. Then again, maybe you wouldn't.

Parenthetical note: I hate holidays. The only thing I like is not having to work. As for the rest of it, it irritates me to have to get happy just because the calendar says I'm supposed to. Then everybody calls me a party-pooper, and I respond by asking them where they were the other 364 days of the year, when I would be perfectly willing to go out and do anything with anybody. Well, anything not including handcuffs, Crisco, amyl nitrate, and cigarette butts being put out on my bare flesh. You know what I mean. And as for going out to party on holidays, everybody else in Spain is doing it and there are huge crowds of once-a-year drunks who can't handle their liquor smashing empty cava bottles in the Plaza Catalunya. It's amateur night. Vomit, fights, broken glass, high prices, noise--who needs it? Well, if you want to get laid, I see your point, as holiday nights are normally excellent for getting-laid purposes since all the girls are drunk. But those of us who have already been claimed in the free-agent draft aren't looking for any of that.

What you're supposed to do on New Year's Eve is eat twelve grapes for good luck. As the church bells chime twelve times to mark twelve o'clock, you eat one grape per stroke of the bells. I officially gave this custom up at New Year's 2000 as it certainly wasn't bringing me any goddamn luck. Should you be in a Spanish home on New Year's, you will be given a saucer full of green grapes at about 11:45. Do not eat them now. The TV will likely be turned to the Puerta del Sol in Madrid on TV1 as a break from an atrocious holiday special variety show featuring the same loser TV personalities as last year. Do not eat your grapes until other people start, because first they're going to ring four times, the cuartos, to show that the hour is up; at quarter past, they ring once, at half past twice, at quarter to three times, and on the hour, you guessed it, four times. Then you will see people stuffing grapes into their faces. Do not worry, yourself, about doing this right, since nobody will be watching you. There are two schools of thought regarding what you have to do to get the good luck for next year. The first maintains that you must actually have swallowed all the grapes by the end of the twelfth stroke of the bells, which I consider to be physically impossible; the second only obliges you to have all twelve grapes in your mouth at the end of stroke twelve. This is quite doable, especially if you have a big mouth like me. I highly recommend deseeding the grapes first in the minutes leading up to the big moment.

I do not know where this custom comes from. There are those who say it's a traditional Mediterranean thing and it symbolizes the endless cycle of life, since the grapevines come back every spring, and that the grape is an essential part of the Mediterranean culture, and so on. Then there are those who say the alleged custom was invented in the Twenties by some guys who had some grapes to sell.

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