justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pro Idiots

Last Friday Sarah and I went to see a clown show, performed by Stefano Iamboloni who also bills himself as "Idiota Profesional.1" We had no idea what to expect other than the fact that an alt-monthly said the show "promises to sketch a soul into the darkness, do hula hoop dancing, and put things in tu boca," so I braced myself for hula hoops and the possibility that the hoops might end up in my mouth.

We walked the couple blocks to the venue El Colmado, which resembled a Williamsburg event space that's purposely only been 20% renovated from its original state of shambles because A) it looks more vintage chic that way, and more importantly B) their budget does not allow for more than a shitty bar and shittier table and chairs. In an effort to one up Billyburg (and prevent death) the ceiling was suspended by brightly painted metal tension rods, which provided that special "this could all fall in on us" mystique — the same quality that makes Chilean mining so sexy2.

After taking in the scene for 15 minutes, Sarah, myself and the other 10 people in the crowd were introduced to Sr. Idiota Profesional, a guy in a fancy cheap suit. He began with a monologue about how the company that was supposed to perform the night's Shakespearean play was in a plane accident3 so he would be performing the entire play himself, by trumpet. He said this in a serious tone three times over, for a comedic effect, which also helped Sarah and I understand what he was saying.

His entire performance was divided into acts, one was about "funky" music, which involved him dancing/lip-syncing to several different genres of music. There was a bit on childhood, where he dramatically reminisced about the joys of playing with friends as a kid, before breaking into "If You're Happy and You Know it" with all 12 of us singing along. After this, he got to the topic of love and called a girl from the audience to engage in an intense pillow fight with him, a battle so intense that for a moment I thought the girl might have been planted in the crowd. But she was not, she was a just a damn good pillow fighter.

One of his other moments involved him singing "We Are the World" and walking out into the street to sing at random people walking by. Each bit was broken up by him acting like he was going to play his trumpet, before promptly putting the trumpet down before he'd blow a note. Then he triumphantly raised an all-important "caja de misterio (mystery box)" that's contents he could not reveal until the end.

For his final act, he ripped off his suit to reveal a superhero costume of neon green tights with gold accents4. He called himself "Super Bello Man" or something like that. I can't remember, but it was all vastly entertaining.

Afterward we hung out, complimented his act, and learned that the Pro Idiot spoke fluent English, as well as Italian, so I guess I'm the barely bilingual idiot now. He talked about the art of contemporary clowning and how it's much different in Spain than it is in the United States. He also told me he doesn't do stand-up comedy because he thinks stand-up comics feel superior to the crowd, if only I better understood Catalan socialism, I'm sure I could easily string the two together. He also told us his goals were to make the show "much stupider" and use less words. Interesting goals.

Despite the fact that I've made this sound like a shitty show that would be performed on a cruise ship5, for kids, or for kids on a cruise ship6, Sarah and I actually really, really enjoyed the whole thing. I was happy watching the entire thing. I was happy afterward. I was happy with my 5€ investment in the performance. The only thing that pissed me off was that the big reveal at the end of the "caja de misterio" opened up to a sign that said "The End," and I was mainly pissed that it did not say "El Fin."

However, looking back on it, I wonder if I really only enjoyed it because it was all in Spanish and I took pride in understanding it. This is a phenomena that I'm starting to pay attention to more and more as I think I get way too much fun out of translating things. I wonder if the tens of millions of English-as-a-second-language Americans get that much pleasure from every single thing they do in the States. Then again, perhaps in a month's time I've became such a progressive European that I don't care about missing the NFL conference finals, as I can only find amusement in the haute-comedy of clowning.

1. Until this show the dumbest-named act I had ever seen was "My Robot Friend," who actually was far worse than Idiota Professional, in that MRF wore a really shitty robot costume that was loaded with strobe lights. At one point in the show he pantomimed masturbating while ejaculating ping pong balls at the crowd. Later in his performance, his nose started bleeding uncontrollably — a result of either rocking out too hard or being blown out of his mind, most likely a combination of both.

2. Probably waayyyy too late to make a Chilean miners joke. I'm sorry.

3. Thankfully this has nothing to do with a plane crash, but I find the whole Spanair abrupt shutdown very interesting.

4. I was really glad it was not an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "Green Man" suit, because I fucking hate anyone outside of Charlie Kelly who wears that suit.

5. If anybody else heard NPR's initial story about the Italian coast guard commander Gregorio De Falco becoming a hero for telling the captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to "Get back onboard dammit." Then read that "De Falco's Italian expletive is actually much harsher than "damn it" — but the line has become a national catchphrase and is Italy's top trending hashtag, or keyword on Twitter."

Then wondered what really was that profanity and poorly Googled and could not find it because you're an idiot. Well, after two weeks I finally figured it out: "The Italian word De Falco used, "cazzo" in Italian, literally is slang for penis but it is also commonly used to emphasize something." Now I can sleep.

6. I imagine all of those things would pay better than whatever Idiota Profesional made for the gig I saw.

7. I've been reading Grantland too much and I read about 80% of Eating the Dinosaur. This damn footnoting just kinda grew on me. I apologize. I also realize this footnote does not tie into anything above. Again, I apologize.

Also let the Google cache record show that Stefano Iamboloni is a very talented individual and this silly blog is not meant to slight him in any way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It Ain't Half Islamabad

For the month of January I've been living in an apartment in lower El Raval, which is an Arab pocket in Barcelona. Before I got to Spain, I figured I would not blend in with the people as I'm not a tortured painter who wears cool linen button-ups, but by my neighborhood's standards my linen shirt expectations were short by about 24 inches.

I haven't engaged in a conversation with a fellow neighbor that went any deeper than "How much for this zucchini, roll of paper towels, and jug of water?" (note: that's just a small sampling of things I've bought from the local bodega, you can only imagine the other mind-blowing items I've picked up. Also try to imagine how sexy it sounds in a shitty American-faux-Catalan accent). But these encounters have inspired me to chase after even loftier dialogues, and because I have an endless amount of time on my hands, here is my dream scenario:

Me: (Walking by the prayer center on my block) Hey, nice mosque.

Muslim: Thanks a lot.

Me: Did you say thank salat?

Muslim: No, I said, "Thanks a lot."

Me: Oh. Well, aren't you glad I took Middle Eastern Religions as a gen-ed during my freshman year of college and know what salat is?

Muslim: (Looks puzzled, for many reasons: primarily this conversation's subject matter (or lack there of) and secondly because it's at this point he realizes he's been speaking English, which he's never done before. He ends up saying nothing in an effort to abruptly end this terrible talk.)

Me: (Contemplates swinging the subject to what I remember from my Introduction to Meteorology and Climatology course. Decides to save the altostatus chatter for another day. Walks away.)

So there it is, only a couple weeks in, and I'm creating fictional conversations with Spanish Muslims. Perhaps I should get a job soon, but how am I supposed to work when there are still four more pillars of Islam to make terribly lame word puns off.

The picture above is taken in a vacant lot between my apartment and the Muslim prayer center. The chrome handle that's located one story off the ground represents my ever-so-slight grasp on Islam. It also represents that when somebody demolished the building that once stood there, they forgot to scrape the wall of the ceramic tile and handle. I'm not sure what the graffiti of "7AZ+" signifies, but I'm looking into it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

In Sickness

When I get sick I normally believe it’s just a mental thing that I can overcome by using "mind-over-matter" tricks I learned from watching a TV special on Tibetan monks. But in this case my cable-TV-learned voodoo could not defeat the Spanish bacteria tearing apart my stomach.

After ignoring all symptoms for days, I decided I was just a soldier among the ranks of Kellen Winslow and Percy Miller and the best way to remedy this mentally-insane driven illness was to go out to dinner. As I sat there sipping my vino tinto molecule-by-molecule and ghostly staring at my food with full knowledge that whatever I managed to put down would be coming back up momentarily, I realized I was neither a "fucking soldier" or a "soulja," but just a fucking idiot for going out in the first place.

We left dinner early and took a cab back toward our apartment, I got out and promptly began to throw up all over La Rambla de Raval, an oval-shaped plaza near our apartment that's not quite as ideal as a toilet in terms of places I should be throwing up.

I spent the next four days vomiting, diarrhea-ing, and staying couch ridden, which allowed me to re-familiarize myself with the entire blogosphere — essentially doing the same thing I’d be doing if I was working, except for the whole expelling all substances in my body part. And I sat on a purple couch instead of an office chair, that part was nice.

The kind soul that she is, Sarah went to the farmacia to pick me up some medicine, pantomiming all my illnesses to compensate for lack of Spanish-speaking skills. I took the prescribed potion and proceeded to spend a lot more time in the bathroom. Right after I gulped my fourth dose of the mystery Spanish medication, I decided it might be a good idea to Google exactly what I was taking and figure out perhaps if I lost something (other than control of bowels) in translation. I then learned that Primperan stops vomiting, but induces diarrhea. Dammit. I couldn’t believe I fell for the oldest trick in the book: get engaged, move to Barcelona, get really sick, and have your prometida give you medicine that gives you diarrhea.

Then because I’m a complete idiot I took a bunch of medication that Sarah brought home despite the fact that every word on it was in Russian (why the meds were Russian is a post for another day). Like anyone who takes pharmaceutical advice from Yakov Smirnoff, I assumed that in Soviet Russia the drug warning labels read you!... or something to that effect. The Rusky meds didn’t do anything for me either, but they didn't make me sicker.

To combat getting fooled thrice times over, I mustered the energy to go to the farmacia myself, there were two old Spanish men working behind the counter, and if there’s any demographic of people I trust, it’s grey-haired Spanish men that appear to be over 55, them and any Native American who still lives in a tepee.

These wise men gave me some Fortasec, for the low cost €2.70, which allowed me to start eating – and properly digesting – real food again. Now I feel like a million euros (that’s a 1.2818 million dollars to all my American friends). Thanks Fortasec!

Until I find a job, I'm going to make relentless plug pharmaceutical drugs until one of them throws me some money.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gettin' Catalan Wit It

I’m living in Spain now. I like to call it an early, albeit temporary retirement. Every year professional athletes retire at a young age to pursue other interests and/or go bankrupt, further develop pain-pill addictions, and sink into deep post-playing-days depressions. Why shouldn't a copywriter who earned in the low-mid-range five figures be afforded that same opportunity?

Actually moving to Spain has been the life plan for some time, I always claimed that moving to New York City was just a multi-year layover before moving to Barcelona. It’s also the fulfillment of a lot of office-job-induced day dreams — dreams in which I had become so delusional that quitting my job, one that I actually very much enjoyed, to move to a foreign country with no plan made sense.

My other dream was to spend a December working in a Christmas tree lot on the Southside and Northside of Chicago, where I'd discuss Christmas and Derrick Rose with as many Chicagoans as possible, before eventually writing a book on how segregation and socioeconomics play affect Christmas and Bulls fandom. But that idea still needs to be fleshed out a bit more, and Rose is still a few years away from hitting the apex of his career, so I decided moving to Spain would be wiser.

And this plan — the Spain one, not vending Christmas trees in Chicago — made perfect sense to every single person from all walks of life I talked to. My favorite piece of advice came during one of the six times in 2011 that I practiced journalism and talked to real writer Jeff Pearlman, who said, “Do you have a plan for when you get over there? Because it would probably be better if you didn’t.” Brilliant. And just the kind of advice I needed to feel good about putting off any thought of forging a plan until I got to Barcelona, except for the obvious goals of seeing as much of Europe as possible and potentially getting a job at a pastry shop. But since arriving I’m yet to find a pastry shop that meets my criteria (pastry shop criteria to come in a future post).

Now that I’m here I’ve got all the time in the world to enjoy not having a job and attempt to suppress freak-outs about not having a job. I spent the first week fretting over how Barcelona is not New York City. Because it's perfectly rational expect (within 48 hours no less) to have the same love for a city in which you've lived for three years and developed countless friendships, when you show up in a country to which you've never been, where you only kinda speak the language, and know absolutely nobody.

My grandest fear is that I had it all in NYC, and by all I mean access to cheap-and-delicious lamb pizza plus almost-infinite chances to listen to Young Jeezy albums with people who enjoyed TM103 just as much, and for the very same reasons I do. What a world I had. Maybe if I have time between making croissants and confections, I will start an ex-pat club for people who simultaneously ironically and genuinely love Jeezy as much as I do.

I’ve since made peace with my decision to live in a city where I see a cloud once every 14 days, it's 60° in Janurary, I don’t work, and I share in a luxurious apartment with my prometida (my word of preference because fiancé still sounds weird to me. I also probably should have mentioned that I moved here with my prometida higher in this post. I'll work on not burying important details as this era of WheresPMac progresses). Having minimal responsibility and unlimited freedom can be rather enjoyable.

Especially when I consider the alternate is not seeing the Sun during a frigid NYC winter with my weekly highlight coming from "Bagel Monday," a phenomen I’ve learned about from my former co-workers who Facebooked about the greatness of free bagels at the office. But dammit, I do really miss NYC bagels.

Hopefully I’ll stumble into Paul McPherson again and during my what-the-hell-am-I-doing freak-outs I remember some of the first words he said to me in Monte Hermosa: “Man, Argentina's alright,” he sighed before taking a long pause and schemingly rubbing his hands together, actually I can’t remember if he made that motion, but lets just pretend he did because it makes the story 10% better. “As soon as I find some bitches and weed things will be better.”

So in the infinite wisdom of my all-time favorite NBA burn-out-turned Euro-league burn-out-turned-Argentine-league-burnout, I should be good on the former and just need to work on the latter of his formula for adjusting to a foreign location.

Something I pathetically don’t know: The name of Spain's president, or really anything about their government

Something I pathetically do know: Sebastian Telfair is averaging 3.8 points per game in the six games of the Suns' dismal 2012 season

Why I like the picture at the top of this post: It's taken from the top of Parc Guell, which is cool. More importantly, it's got basketball hoops and someone graffiti'd "Anarkia y Birra Fria" (Anarchy and Cold Beer), an ingenious phrase that I will definitely steal, should I decide to join any Occupy movements abroad.