Ostia Tio, Joder!

Madrid has brought on an interesting set of feelings. I’ve been here before for long periods of time and have always just enjoyed the general demeanor of this city and Spain in general, so arriving here felt less like a new foreign place and more, the feeling when I merge onto I-95 on the final leg of the drive into Miami. Accept without the “ugh” feeling of having to activate the turret guns on my car. I spent the first couple of days wandering around and taking care of some of the things I came here for. Finding my grandmother’s birth records is proving more difficult than I had imagined. Other than that, things have been going very well and this city has succeeded in making me feel very much at home.

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I finally linked up with my cousin Adolfo on Friday. We had a couple of drinks and caught up in Sol then we went out to where he lives outside of Madrid proper. He’s in dental school and it’s pretty clear that all the students live in this town around the college. They had this racket going at this one club where everyone pays to get in and your ticket in gets you one drink and a very convenient bus ride to another bar across town. Apparently everyone does it because the bar cleared out after, what I imagine is the time it takes to consume one free drink. But it was pretty clear to me that this guy (or lady, or some consortium) owns 2 bars and happened to own a bus to conveniently milk the students of any spare cash they may have, so we refrained from the bus ride. We went to a couple of house parties where it quickly became clear that wearing camo pants and having the pretty advanced beard that I’m rocking these days, made the first assumption anyone had about me pretty clear: I’m an aspiring dictator. Thank god I speak the language and am able to explain to people that I am merely a humble traveler who happens to have a large beard and have on this particular pair of pants. We got along just great after that. I honestly don’t blame them, exhibit A:


There was a political demonstration of some sort going on which is not exactly rare, especially with the situations in Venezuela and Kiev right now, but I decided to get in close and see what all the commotion was about. The person on the bullhorn was being less than, well, politically correct. Then he passed the mic to a nice looking old lady who promptly shouted into the thing that she shits on the mother’s head of Coca Cola’s CEO. Accept that it obviously doesn’t translate right, she used a far worse word than ‘shit’, it’s a Spanish word that I can only approximate as “shit violently and vulgarly.” Apparently they’re closing the Coke factory here.

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I spend some time clocking a Traveler (Gypsy, Romani, Tinker, whatever the moniker is where you are. Traveler is the accepted term in Ireland, the land where I’ve dealt the most with them, so that’s what I’ll stick to) in the park to really see what was going on. Begging and panhandling is either not against the law in Europe or no one cares. People will come into restaurants and try to sell you flowers or trinkets and the restaurant or bar owners don’t seem to have any problem with it. So I’m watching this woman, whom I avoided, expertly, on my way into the park and saw that she was “giving” some plant to passers by. You learn quickly not to accept anything like that while over here but I wanted to see what went down if someone did, not that I was too surprised. I passed her by and took off down the park, found a nice spot and ordered a scotch. 15 minutes later guess who takes up shop right in the walk way in front of my sitting spot? Yup, this lady was all over the park.

So now I have a vantage point and am not in a hurry. I’ve always wondered how much there really is to be made doing this sort of thing, especially while in Europe since so many people are spending their days and nights participating in similar endeavors. Let the science begin!

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So here’s the game: This lady offers you some rosemary (my cousin solved that mystery) and if you’re dumb enough to accept, you are now in her web. She does a quick assessment of how much of a boob you are then chooses her tactic. I couldn’t get my camera up for the first couple of guys that got hit. They were proper marks, rolling bags in tow, on their way to or from the airport. She didn’t even bother with a dance. She shoved the fig in the dudes hand then immediately holds hers out. He reaches in his pocket and grabs a coin which she snatches out of his hand then she grabbed his wrist and jammed his hand back in his own pocket while still extending the other hand in the international sign of “pay the fuck up.” He gave her another coin… The next marks were less obvious so after the first payment she read the woman’s palm and said some Traveler blessing then kindly asked for more money while calling the woman pretty and the man handsome. I had the pleasure of this live sitcom for approximately half an hour, in which time this woman got at least 6 coins and 2 bills. Making her take by the hour at very least €26 and a practical high of €54 an hour!!!!! What?! €54 euro an hour?! That is a serious amount of cash! I guess I know now that it can be a pretty profitable occupation, more so than working at any fast food place (or doing IT for UF…{sorry boss, but it’s true, that’s $148,000 a year with two weeks unpaid vacation})

A couple more shots of Madrid for good measure…

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Ok, that’s enough for now. I gotta grab some dinner.



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