School’s Out

Damn you, Siberia. Of all the days to hit Europe with your stupid cold wave, you choose particularly those in which I had planned to go “somewhere warm” during my Uni break. What an icy bitch you are. At least Madrid was sunny, cold and ridiculously windy but sunny and full of friends I hadn’t seen for a while, all pretty keen to get me drunk on cheap beer and rum, so to be honest I can’t really complain.

As I only had 4 days to meet more than a dozen friends, my time in Madrid was pretty hectic. My friend Curro picked me up at the airport at 11:30am, went to his place, slept for a few hours, had a very well cooked lunch and headed to the city centre to meet my friend Javier for a couple of beers. At 8:30pm I said goodbye to him and checked in at Mr. Rafa Gil’s gorgeous flat, probably the coolest place I’ve ever stayed in my life. Dropped my bags, had a quick beer with Rafa and some of his friends, and then we all went to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Antikaraoke. Now, for all of you who have no idea what the Antikaraoke is, I only have one thing to tell you: unless you’re giving CPR to an accident victim, get a cheap flight to Spain and find out for yourself, it’s absolutely crazy!

This was my third Antikaraoke and I really wanted to get up there and be part of it for the first time but to be honest, I wasn’t at my best. Just one day before flying to Madrid, I woke up with a weird cold and my voice was so fucked up I could have only been able to sing Tom Waits songs and there were none of them on the set list, so I just gave up my musical dreams and got a rum  and coke to ease the pain. Soon I was joined by my friend Nikki and Jan, a long-time friend from Venezuela who’s been living in Madrid for ages now. As Jan and I were picking songs to sing (he eventually convinced me to give it a try), Rafa took the stage to deliver a powerful version of “Enter Sandman” and not long after, Nikki went up to sing “Respect”, which is probably one of her best numbers. I can’t find any videos from that particular night BUT fortunately enough, there’s one in which both of them sing “Killing in the Name”, easily the most praised track of the Antikaraoke, that serves perfectly to illustrate the atmosphere of the whole thing. Hold tight, fellas.

Four rum and cokes after, Jan and I were still on hold waiting for the DJ to call us onstage but he never did, there was a long cue of people wanting to sing too, I guess. Oh well, I always sing out of tune anyway, never get the tempo right and that night was a tad drunk so in the end it would have been absolutely awful. Madrid deserved better. I went home with Rafa at around 2am and hit the sack shortly after.

Next day I woke up, got a shower, brushed my teeth and went to Dunkin’ Donuts, the place in which I have breakfast every day I get to spend in Madrid. I tell you, that’s all I care about in the morning when I’m there; all I want to know is if there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby and, luckly for me, there was one only 5 minutes away from Rafa’s. Fuckin’ beautiful. Had a Boston Chocolate with a small cappuccino and then wandered for a while around the city centre until I met with my mate Alan for beers and tapas. Later on that night we went to this bizarre book launch with some of his friends and I must say, I didn’t understand a thing of what was going on in that place. The book is called “Desnudando a Google” (Undressing Google) but for some reason, it has the face of Darth Vader on the cover (which I don’t understand why, maybe I’ll need to read the book to get it) and during the book launch they had these guys dressed as Storm Troopers dancing some terrible electronic music, half naked Princess Leia kind of flirting with a guy dressed like Darth Vader and they were also giving away Darth Vader plastic masks to the audience along with the book (I’ve put mine to good use, as you can see). The whole event made no sense to me at all but hey, the drinks were free, and if there’s free drinks then everything starts to fit. At 2:30am, I decided it was time to leave the dark side so I bid my friends goodnight and went home feeling somewhat drunk.

Next day I had an interview at Leo Burnett Madrid (went down well, I think) then early in the evening I met with my friend Fran, who gave me a kick arse portable turntable as a present and took me to Naturbier, the only place where you can find natural brewed beer in Madrid (according to them anyway). After a huge pint, I was off to meet Nikki, who had invited me to see some really nice short films and later on I met with Curro and Manolo for a beer in a place they have kindly named “Shemalia” as a tribute to all the trans women with male genitalia that pop in the bar every now and then to have a wee. They work around the corner so I guess that’s the only place they have to do their thing. I thought it was all very bizarre until Rafa pointed out that having one of those dudes walking into the place as you’re having a beer feels like being at KFC and having Colonel Sanders himself walk past you while you munch away a full bucket of fried chicken. I found that very funny. Anyway, I was there with Curro and Manolo not for the shemales but for the drinks. Cheap drinks, to be precise. Cheap as in 2 rum and cokes for 5 euros. Yes, you heard that right, two well-served rum and cokes for the price of a single pint of beer in London. No wonder why millions of people fall in love with Madrid every year.

I think I drank 4 of them but it could have been 5, I’m not entirely sure. All I remember is being there having a laugh with Curro and Manolo and all of a sudden being handed this sex shop leaflet by this girl who got in the bar with whom I thought was her boyfriend. They were all pretty drunk (just like us) and had just been shopping for sex toys and shit at this shop in which apparently there was also a free strip show, that’s what the girl wanted us to know. In that moment I realized that my love for tits must be pretty evident because the first thing she actually told me when she approached us was that there were girls with nice boobs in that place and that I should check it out sometime. It seems like women do have a sixth sense after all. The girl and his companion sat on the table next to us but soon we invited them over to ours, there was no one else in the bar anyway so we thought it would be better to drink all together. They soon introduced themselves: she was Irene and he was Gonzalo, they were from Las Rozas and contrary to what we thought, they were not girlfriend and boyfriend, they were just neighbours who liked to shag whenever they had the chance. For some reason, Irene was particularly interested to make that clear.

We had more rum coming our way and when the bar had enough of us, we moved somewhere else. During the process, Irene told me she had always wanted to go to London but there were a couple of things she was worried about: first, she didn’t speak any english and second, she was not sure if she would be able to find a job in her field. I told her she could learn english in a few months and that I was sure she would find a job right away, particularly now that the Olympics were coming to town and the city was full of opportunities. She looked at me with a shy smile and told me she didn’t have a regular job, not like everyone else’s. For a second I thought: “fuck, either she’s a stripper or a hooker”. It made sense in a way. I mean, she was tall, pretty, outgoing, she liked leather leashes and ball gags (that’s what she and Gonzalo bought in the sex shop) and was shagging her neighbour. If I had been sober I would have stayed quiet but I was drunk so I didn’t care to ask what did she do for a living. She looked at me and said: “well, I work in thanatopraxy. You know, I prepare the bodies of the deceased so they look natural, etc”. What? You-got-to-be-fuckin-kidding-me. I didn’t know what to say. Actually, I remember being silent for a few seconds, not knowing exactly how to encourage her any further. What was I suppose to tell her? Yeah, go to London, the Olympics are coming and I’m pretty sure some of those athletes will die and as they’re dead, they won’t talk to you, so the language won’t be a problem either, you know? Fuckin’ell, what a weird thing to do for a living. In the end, all I managed to say was: “well, I know a friend that works in a café, in case you wouldn’t mind doing something else in the meantime”. She laughed and so did I. We both knew how fucked up that job she had was, I guess.

Eventually, we all went to this other bar that was around the corner but we didn’t last long there, it was full of odd people dancing latin music like they were in desperate need to copulate so we parted ways and I came back to Rafa’s with Curro, both of us drunk and talking really loud. By the way, before I forget, here’s someone Curro introduced me to during this visit; you probably know him already, I honestly don’t understand why I hadn’t come across him before. His name is Louis CK and he’s fucking hilarious.

What a legend. I remember watching him on Conan a while ago and thinking he was great but I never followed his track. Until now, that is. I have spent the last 3 days watching all of his videos on YouTube and every single time I do so, the guy just cracks me up. God bless him. Anyway, on Saturday I met with my lovely friend Cristina who invited me to Alcalá de Henares, a small town outside Madrid in which you can have a beer and huge tapas for – hold your breath – 2 euros or so. That’s right, you order a 2-euro beer and they give you a full tapas menu for you to choose from and enjoy for free. That day I had a cheesburger with fries, a calamari sandwich, garlic shrimps, potatoes with alioli and something else, along with 5 beers, and then headed back to Madrid to meet Rafa, Curro, Quico, Ara, Ana and Dani for more drinks at the “Shemalia”, where I had 2 rum and cokes and more food to the point in which I started to feel a bit sick. The night ended at 4am, when I bid goodbye to all of them and went back to Curro’s for a couple of hours sleep before heading to the airport to catch my flight to London.

I knew there had been some heavy snowing the day before so I was expecting to get to the Easyjet counter to be informed that my flight had been cancelled but surprisingly, it was on. Actually, it departed on time and by 2pm I was in cold Luton taking a bus back to Baker Street, from where I would later take the Tube to Manor House to finally get on the bus that drops me 4 blocks away from my place.

Now, I love the snow, I think it’s a beautiful thing to look at but I have to say that it’s a complete pain in the arse to walk through, particularly if you’re dragging a small suitcase with little wheels that were not made to deal with such landscape. It took me like 25 minutes to walk 200 meters, trying not to fall and pulling the goddamn thing through ice and water until I was finally home, feeling hungry and as tired as I was when I left, which totally contradicted the whole purpose of going away for a holiday in the first place. I guess all those cheap drinks and late nights with friends have their price… good thing is I’ve always been more than willing to pay.


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