Monday, 19 May 2008

American Idiot

Strange but true: There´s lots of great spinach around, but no one here eats it as salad. We had a nice spinach salad two nights ago, and Thomas the Dutch Handy Guy who is staying here now dutifully ate his up, saying he "never have such a ting tasted." 

He spent the last couple of days feeling very ill in his "tripes." Gotta be the spinach, he thinks. But I ate it too, and my tripes are feeling just fine. Maybe it´s an acquired resistance? Must´ve been all the Popeye cartoons I watched as a child, which apparently didn´t make the trip to Europe.

Things are limping along here, with Castro the Wonder Contractor beginning to behave a bit like the old Bozo Mario -- not showing up when he says he will, delaying and delaying. We still can´t use the shiny new kitchen, as the plumbing isn´t finished. We´re using the downstairs bathroom, but the upstairs, no. And the spigot out in the back yard works, but it puts out HOT water! Just what we need, eh? 

Still, the carpenter showed up today, and is now hanging some lovely Castilian wooden doors in the house. Yay! No more dogs on my bed! No more wondering who that is coming down the hallway, toward the wide-open bathroom, where I may be occupying a less-than ladylike position. Woohoo!  

Not a lot of great interest to report from Moratinos -- just a record-breaking number of pilgrims bombing through, a carbolic flea-dip for all three dogs,  the ongoing chore of studying the Spanish Rules of the Road Driving Manual, and a thousand shades of green in the fields. Along the roads the wildflowers are putting on a show of red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, and white. No wonder everyone in the world wants to walk the Camino in May! 

Oh, and the Ugly American. I met a particularly nasty character today in Sahagún, holding forth at the Bar Deportivo before an audience of four or five other pilgrims, apparently English-speakers. This guy speaks no other language, he said: "and why should I have to?" He griped about the French, Germans, Spaniards, and other "foreigners" he´s encountering on his hike, and wondered why they don´t just pave the entire camino trail. And then he started into politics...

It was ugly, racist stuff, and he spoke in terms of "We Real Americans" and the need for "someone to eliminate this Obama-Osama fellow and all them people, a plague on America and Europe, too."  Extraordinary... even in America you don´t hear this kind of thing bandied about in public except on wacko AM radio shows.  

Long story short, we got into a shouting match. He called me a Communist (the only right thing he said the whole time!) and blamed "soft-headed idiots" like me for all of America´s problems. 

I asked his pilgrim buddies to please not judge all Americans by this ranting old bore... some of us are decent and sensible people. And I told the man to please keep walking, as obviously the Camino has not had much effect on him.  

I kept a handle on myself, and turned my back and left, smiling at the others. Two of the pilgrims left with me, the French Canadian to assure me he doesn´t dislike Yanks, and a Dutch girl thanking me for an excuse to get the heck outta there. Apparently this guy is known to them. He snores all night, then rises early and walks fast to the next albergue, grabs a bed soon as the place opens, and then heads for the nearest cheap bar. "From there it´s Instant Asshole," the Canadian guy said. "Just add beer."

My sympathies, therefore, to everyone out there who has to walk the camino with this blowhard. He´s an example of the downside of a free society. He´s entitled to express himself, and obviously feels everyone else is entitled to his opinion, too. 

Thankfully, most intelligent people know that one American idiot does not speak for all of us Americans. Only some of us are idiots. It´s your call which ones.   

Javi and the Deportivo guys apparently enjoyed the show. Spanish bars host shouting matches all the time, but I imagine not a whole lot of them happen in other languages.


Deirdre said...

Ah, yes. I'm American and am therefore entitled to be an asshole to the rest of the world. And as loudly as I possibly can. And so then when the rest of us travel we wonder why we are treated with such disdain. I spend so much time explaining to my students that we travel as guests in a foreign country and since we might be the first Americans someone has met personally, make sure the first impression is a GOOD one!

Dan O'Gara said...

Thankfully I've yet to meet an American asshole (although I've meet plenty of european ones) but I have heard they exist (like those guys who blow Peter Fonda away in Easy Rider...bastards) anyway I think you're the best American I've met Reb.

claire said...

Thank you for reminding me of the shades of green on the Camino :-)
There are shades of green where I live right now, but not that many. Just enough however to conjure up yours :-)

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Jim G said...

Maybe we've all had one bad pilgrim experience on the Camino? Perhaps I missed encountering an ugly American because we only ran into one other American during our walk in 2004. The part of disgruntled pilgrim in our case was played by a German lady who yelled at nearly everyone (hence our description or her to this day as "the angry German woman").

Rather than take up more space here, I'll write an entry at my place and nudge you when it's done. I think this topic is fertile ground for stories, conversations, and ruminations. said...

... I see a baklava bake-off on the horizon.
My baklava has won PRIZES.