Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You guys want to do me a favor? I'm confused about what US states permit what. I've heard in the Spanish media over the last couple of days that a) Massachussetts allows gay marriage and b) California allows gay couples to adopt children. I am embarrassed to say I don't know whether either is true. So I have these questions: Who, if anyone, allows gay marriage? Gay adoption? Medical marijuana? Euthanasia? If so, under what circumstances? Have any states declared English the official language? Do immigrants receive different treatment in different states? What about welfare, disability, pensions, etc? Are there differences in the labor laws?

For you furriners, in the whole US abortion on demand is legal at least through the first trimester. Divorce is easily obtainable in every state. Gambling is legal in some and in different ways--e.g. Kansas has a state lottery, dog racing, and horse racing, but no casinos. Alcohol used to be different in different states, but now it's pretty much the same everywhere. Main thing--gotta be 21.

In Spain this is in the news because people are talking about all this stuff. Right now divorce is a difficult and costly process to go through, so most people who would be divorced in the States are "separated" here. The government wants to legalize gay marriage and gay adoption and that's under debate over here right now, with the usual suspects lined up on each side. Abortion is technically illegal except for rape, incest, danger to mother's health, etc., and so girls get some shrink to say they'll go nuts if they have the kid. No questions asked in London or Amsterdam, though, if you prefer that option. Cannabis and other "soft drugs", which I assume are shrooms and the like, are legal to possess in certain designated quantities and to use in certain designated places (e.g. your house). My impression is that buying and selling soft drugs is illegal, however. It is certainly not too furtive, though. Alcohol and gambling are of course rampant in Spain, and teenage binge drinking is becoming a major problem. It's got its own name, "el botellón".

This teenagers-getting-wasted-till-they-puke stuff is new. They used to drink, but not like this. Teenage drinking used to be five beers on Saturday night. Now it's getting trashed on half a liter of vodka two nights a week and smoking a bunch of dope as well, it's that easy to get and they smoke it openly. There's a major debate right now over euthanasia, especially after the Oscar-winning weeper movie The Sea Inside, based on a real case. Everybody in Spain has seen it.

Comment on drinking. Spain is a country where kids traditionally drank the local wine as part of the diet and so learned young whether they had a taste for it or not. They then learned to control themselves if they did. Enjoying alcohol was great, approved of, celebrated in song and story, but getting drunk was trashy. Half a liter of wine, brandy with your coffee, and if you were pretentious whiskey on the rocks after that, is still not unusual in Spain, and I know several specimens of the middle-aged macho type who can double that easily and only get in one car wreck or so a year. Neither is the morning carajillo or the lunchtime quinto. But you couldn't get loaded, at least more often than at New Year's, San Juan, and the local fiesta mayor, unless you were some hick or bum or town drunk. Now, though, public drunkenness is becoming more and more common. The old Spanish saying, which I subscribe to, is "Bebe poco pero bien." Drink good stuff, but don't drink too much. Enjoy a bottle of quality wine over dinner rather than slamming seven vodka-and-Cokes. Try traditional local prestige products like Mascaró or Torres brandy or Pujol rum, and if you dare, try a copita of Aromas de Montserrat, which tastes to me like eating grass with sugar. Do not try anis.

Careful on cannabis. You're not going to get in trouble with the law for buying the stuff, but you are likely to either get ripped off or robbed if you try to do it at the Plaza Real or on the Ramblas. Don't pay more than €30 for a die-sized chunk. They're making plenty of money on that deal, and it's likely to be wax anyway. It's hard to get them much lower than €30, from what I hear. A better source would be one of the cooler, cheaper discos, the more trashy ones, and the all-night bars. If you're one of that sort of people you'll have no trouble finding one. Just stand around and act fucked up and someone will approach you. But in most other European countries it's as illegal as it is in the States and you can get in real trouble. "Hard drugs", like cocaine, are also as illegal as they are in the US, and if you're idiot enough to be into that stuff you already know the risks you're running.

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