Monthly Archives: July 2015

When the Other Tooth Falls

The overarching theme tying together our recent meander around Spain was the long history of so many of the places we visited. I’m always a little awed at the thought of the thousands of people who had tread the same narrow laneways as I over the course of centuries, making a living the best they could, getting through every day and taking care of their families. The years pass, the clothes change, the technology improves, but the core of life is really the same.

But for all the remarkable history around us, it was one of our own moments in time that will stick with us the most – the falling of the first tooth. Our first lunch in Seville was interrupted when Liam discovered the first of his front teeth to go missing, caught up somewhere in a chunk of calamari. It’s a rite of passage that every child goes through, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable when it’s your kid and the first tooth drops.

There was the look of awe on his face, the mad scramble to figure out if the tooth could be found (it was), just a little blood and a half DSC_0616a dozen confused, middle-aged Spaniards wondering what the foreigners were fussing about. Come to think of it, being stared at by a half dozen confused Spaniards seems to figure prominently in most of our experiences here. They are as much part of our narrative as the the haunting music in a cheap suspense movie.

In short order, Liam was pleased that one of his “wiggily” teeth had made the leap for freedom, leaving about six friends behind to follow another day. The new toothy smile quickly gave birth to talk of what would appear after the tooth found its way under his pillow that night. I don’t think a hour passed before the bar quickly raised from a coin to multiple Lego sets, lollipops and even a piece of gold. I had to get this hunk of calcium under some linen soon or it was going to cost me a small automobile in no time!

As Liam awakened the next morning with a couple of Euros in one hand and a small bag of M&Ms in the other, the world was truly a glorious place in the eyes of this six-year-old. Trading a shaky tooth for this haul was the best deal ever.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and the second “wiggily” tooth on the bottom is on the verge of departing. Liam is excited at another step in the ascension to big boy, although having your teeth moving around and occasionally bleed is clearly freaking him out a little. The novelty of having his teeth wiggle while I drive wore off some time ago.

So as I prepare for the tooth fairy’s second visit, I took a minute to Google just how many teeth a normal kid loses and was surprised to see the number is 20. Somehow I blocked out that part of childhood. That’s a lot of teeth. It appears history will show my wallet a lot lighter at the end of this experience.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: We are about to enter the August “everyone leaves town” zone in Barcelona. We thought it was an exaggeration last year, but it’s far from it. Businesses from restaurants to newsstands shut down entirely while owners head off to the beach. As I found out, the Spanish version of the DMV conducts no driving exams for more than five weeks. Apartment owners don’t even bother taking calls from people interested in renting their empty properties. And even specialized activities for kids like camps and swimming lessons don’t operate at all in August, despite it being one of only two months of the year when kids are not in school. It’s a unique country…

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Heading South for a Scorcher

We are just back from our three-week odyssey through various parts of Spain and France and trying to resume something close to normal life, whatever that means. Normal does seem to be a term that left the building some time ago.

After 20-plus days of exploring, my head is pretty much exploding with fortified cities, ruins, rich restaurants and the ongoing clash of three languages. I love history and this trip had enough of it to bring my tank to overflowing at the overwhelming parade of the past that is still very much evident in the present. Spain really is a remarkable land. I’ll soon fill in more details on the many interesting sights we saw, but today my muddled brain is going to take the easy way out and just hit on a couple of oddball/ironic moments from our travels.

The driving part of our adventure, which covered nearly 3,000 kilometers, came to an end at the airport in Sevilla, which has the honor of being the chart-topper of our scorching swing through southern Spain. How does 46 DSC_0613degrees Celsius grab you? We expected it to be hot, but heading south just in time for a heatwave was an added bonus. Not that I’ve tried it, but the experience seemed to have a lot in common with sticking your face in a blast furnace and breathing deeply. In other words, roll me over and baste me.

As we neared the airport in Sevilla for our flight on to Paris, I rounded a corner on the highway and nearly drove off the road in surprise, uttering the now famous line: “Holy crap, it’s Costco.” It had totally slipped our minds that the famous big box entered the Spanish market a couple of years back, but here were the familiar big red letters beaming back at us across a giant yellow wall.

We swung off the highway for a look. As much as we love Spain, a little glimpse of the familiar is always a welcome sight. After a little negotiating with the staff to clarify that we really are members back in the US, we wandered inside. It was like stepping through a portal – it could have been Cincinnati instead of Seville. It literally looked identical to pretty much every other Costco anywhere.

As we trolled the aisles, I was amazed to see the same giant bundles of products that Costco is so famous for, and mainly US brands. There were French’s mustard bottles big enough to drown every hot dog you could eat in a year. The hefty packages of Snickers bars would single-handily add two inches to the average Spanish waistline. And table after table of Costco’s own knock-off “designer” clothes were silently chanting, “pick me, pick me.” Somewhere behind me, I could hear a chorus humming and see a shining light surrounding the building. Never underestimate what makes you connect with home.

Since we were heading to the airport, we had to resist the stock-up temptation that usually comes with a Costco trip, but it was still a well-spent half hour stepping back across the pond for a taste of America. Unfortunately, the place was empty enough that you could bowl down most aisles without knocking over a single Spaniard, so I have a feeling Costco is having a rough time getting the locals to adopt its brand of shopping. I’d love to see them open in Barcelona, but it doesn’t feel very likely. The giant mustard will have to wait for another day.

Another interesting part of our southern adventure was using a GPS. Apple Maps truly hates this part of the world. Getting around in Spain is rarely easy thanks to the reality that addresses here are rather imprecise, or simply nonexistent in some cases. But our experience in a couple cities this time was a whole new level of confusion. We sat in a café one night in Granada, looking across the street to the restaurant we were awaiting to open, only to have the GPS give us clear directions to take a mile and a half trip in the other direction to eventually get across the street. There should be an IGNORE button on that thing.

For a northern boy, it never ceases to amaze me that lemon and orange trees commonly line the streets in these southern towns. In some places, half the trees along the road will be orange trees. The ironic part is that in places like Seville, they usually are a bitter version of the fruit that is pretty much inedible, but I’m told is perfect for marmalade. The Brits get quite excited about that. Meanwhile, I saw a local cat marking a fallen orange, if you get what I mean. All a matter of taste, I suppose.

Many, many moons ago, while in Paris, I got the brilliant idea that I should go visit Jim Morrison’s DSC_0458grave. It’s one of those pilgrimages on the rock fan checklist. I remember deciphering the metro map, changing trains and rushing to the right cemetery – exactly 10 minutes after it closed for the day. That made it a personal challenge to get back there during open hours during this return to Paris. After all the tales of oddball items left behind and parties and vandalism at the grave, I walked up to it to find – a grave. It’s not like I was expecting dancing bears and a 12-piece band, but it really is just a simple grave and the same slightly creepy, rather empty, might-have-been feeling you get when standing in front of most graves.
Even though we live in Spain, we are obviously not fully connected to society and events. It ends up being commonplace, albeit unsettling, for major events to suddenly pop up without us having a clue they are occurring. In the US, it’s tough to imagine being surprised by the 4th of July, but being in a foreign land means things like this sneak up on you. Case in point, the day we left Madrid, horses and carriages were pouring out of trailers in front of the royal palace for what was clearly an important event. There were enough four-legged critters to rival the Kentucky Derby. As a news junkie, it’s an odd feeling to be so removed that big stuff happens around me and I barely have a clue. I guess I need to spend more time slowly (emphasis on the sloooowly) sounding my way through the local paper to figure out what’s up. How ironic it is that I now have more to read, but I’m even less in tune with what’s going on!

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