Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes, or the smoke in Spain falls mainly EVERYWHERE

It's late, I'm tired and tomorrow I'm traveling to Rome by plane, then Florence by train. Hope to make  a train that will get me to Florence by 9.30pm so I can meet up with friends for pizza around 10.30.

And since it's late, I'll finish this in the morning (it's 12.30am now, 3.30 Pacific time). Carlos flies out in the morning, my flight is at 4. So I'll have some time to write while waiting around the hotel to catch my cab about 2.30pm.

The good news is, we actually had a decent lunch today. But more on that soon.

Gotta shoot up my drugs and hit the hay.

It's a few hours later now, and Carlos has gone to the airport. The jackhammers outside the hotel are rolling since it's nearly 9am. They are fixing some stones in the pavement. Not sure why, since each stone is about 12 inches thick and they have to work half a day to get one out of the street. But they do, then mess with it, then put it back. Hmmmm. Shovel-ready projects indeed. Guess stimulus money is hard at work in Santiago.

Regarding the smoke. Spain is the only country I've been to in the last 10 years that still allows smoking everywhere, at least in Santiago. Ten years ago it was disappearing in Italian restaurants, and just recently, the no-smoking thing has taken hold in Rio, maybe in all of Brazil, I'm not sure. But it sure has been nice to go into restaurants in Rome, Florence, Rio, and not have to come out smelling like nicotine-bacon.

Spain, on the other hand, is giving smokers all the liberty they want, plus, since Santiago is a university town (35,000 out of about 130,000), seems like 8 out of 10 people smoke, and smoke a lot. Chain smoking. We have been in only a couple of places that had no smoking signs. But even first thing in the morning, the cafes we go to are filled with smokers. It never fails that, when we search out a table, or place at the bar, where no one is smoking, within a few seconds, someone arrives, takes their place and lights up. My eyes are still burning this morning from an hour in a smoky bar that had live music. I couldn't stand it any longer and had to leave, just as the band really got going...bagpipes, accordion, two fiddles, etc, doing Celtic Galician music. But the smoke beat me, as much as I wanted to hear music.

Smoke sucks. And though every pack here, and every cigarette machine carries a label that says "Fumar Mata": Smoking Kills, they keep sucking on those ciggies.

Now, something I've noticed here, mostly among the students, is that it's very trendy to roll-your-own. Last night at the bar, I saw five or six kids rolling cigs within 10 feet of me. I've seen it every where, every day.

Seems like it must be the cool thing to do, and, it seems to me, that, even more than at home, it is VERY important to be up with the latest trends here. Rolling cigarettes. Michael Jackson. And fashion glasses (a topic I meant to explore from Rio, but never got around to it. Be assured that everything I say here about Santiago hold true for Rio.)

Fashion glasses are everywhere here. Any one worth his weight in coolness factors has 'em. And that means anyone who isn't impoverished. I guess I need to shoot a photo of someone in the glasses I'm referring to, but I'll try to describe the ones I see most often.

They feature somewhat rectangular lenses, not very tall, in which the arms of the frames are as tall as the lens, so it looks a bit like a futuristic space goggle. But not very tall. The arms of the frames taper very slowly, maintaining their width most of the way back. The frames in front, I think, are a bit thicker than they need to be, and so the glasses become much more obvious than they need to be. Maybe that is the idea. "Hey, look at me. I'm a member of the club too...I have fashion glasses. See??????? So, know that I'm hip, with it and with the pack."  There are variations, but this seems to be the most common. And the frames can be in colors, various colors, or black, brown, but I have yet to see white. Every time I see someone with these glasses I have to hold back the chortles. Kinda like the piercings and tattoos in Portland and Austin. All "Look At Me" affectations.

Celtic Galician music? Yes. The Celts were everywhere. They had a strong presence in Galicia, neighboring Asturias and Portugal. We're talking before the Romans were here, back to the Iron Age, and up to the early AD years. I suppose the most obvious link in Galician music to Scottish and Irish musics is the bagpipe. It's heard quite a bit here, and you can often run across pipers playing on the street. I'll try to post a video of one here. video
The bagpipe based music is lively and powerful since it was meant to propel dancers at festas, celebrations and so on. I'll be posting photos, descriptions and videos soon of a fantastic autumn fest Carlos and I attended last Saturday, but that will probably have to wait a day or so.  But the tunes sometimes seem very similar to Irish/Scottish tunes, and the dancing certainly seems familiar as you'll see when I post the party stuff. It's very cool. And since it's so green and rainy here, with the music, I suppose it seems like being in a Spanish-speaking corner of Ireland.

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