bulls and beers

We were nearing the end of our month-long trip backpacking around Europe, and the mighty city of Madrid was our last stop.  At least it was for me, I was quickly running out of money and had to head back to the States after Madrid.  My pal, Khan, still had some bread left, so he was going to stay an extra week.  Yet, this was it for me and damned if I wasn’t going to enjoy our last official stop on our European tour.

Upon entering the city, we immediately checked into an apartment-hostel.  In reality, they are called hostels but you are really staying in the extra rooms of someone’s house.  An elderly couple was in charge of the one we checked into.  They seemed very nice at first, yet did apply a strict curfew to their rooms.  I believe we had to be in by 1am; otherwise the doors would be locked.  With this in the back of our minds, we headed out on the town to see the sights of the night.  First stop: Burger King.  No, we weren’t hungry, though we did grab a bite to eat there as well.  The main reason was to drink beer.  Yes, that is right, we went to BK to drink beer.  It was great.  You could order a 24oz draft beer for a couple of bucks.  We saw this as excellent value, especially since we were down to our last few bills.

The plan was to go to BK and get a head start on the night’s drinking in a very cheap way.  Once we had satisfied ourselves with enough beer, we would then head out to the clubs for dancing.  In fact, when we went up to the counter to order our first beers, we stayed standing a little to the right of the main counter, drinking away.  So in effect, we created a bar scene atmosphere right there in BK.  Before too long, a few other patrons joined us in beers and conversation.  This soon forced the management of the place to close off a section of the counter to accommodate it’s new “bar” patrons.  It was really a trip, drinking big beers and sharing some great conversation in the middle of a BK.  Only in Europe could you experience something like this.

As our group grew larger, we soon noticed 2 lovely American girls from Chicago.  The 4 of us hit it off right from the start.  They too were backpacking around Europe in search of adventure and good times.  After a few drinks at BK, the four of us now headed off as one group to hit the club scene.  We had a blast that night.  One of the more memorable spots was a jazzed up club in the heart of Madrid.  It was here that we proceeded to dance a good portion of the night away.  One dance I remember doing was the “Macarena”.  At the time, this song was hot in Europe and hadn’t even made it’s way over to the States yet.  So, in essence, we got to dance the “Macarena” before anyone back home.

By the end of the night, we had obviously passed our hostel curfew.  The girls also asked if they could stay with us, since they had not checked in anywhere and needed a place to crash.  Once back at the hostel, we finally managed to wake up the elderly couple.  They were not happy and kept referring to the curfew.  Needless to say, we got past this lecture and made our way to our room.  The next part of the plan was sneaking the girls in.  We knew darn well that the couple would disapprove of this action.  They would see this as trying to pay for a room for 2 and having 2 more come along for free.  We didn’t see it that way –we saw the girls as guests to the room we already paid for.

Initially, all seemed to go well.  We managed to get the girls in without creating much of a stir.  However, 10 minutes later, in came the couple shouting and screaming that we were trying to cheat them.  They immediately told the girls to leave and even threatened to evict us if we didn’t follow the rules.  We obviously didn’t want to lose our beds, so we told the girls to take off.  Unfortunately, the girls had to sleep outside for the night in a park down the street.  These things happen when you are packing around Europe.  Sometimes you have to brave the elements.  When this occurs, it is best to drink a few beers, so that it will be easier to pass out on the hard earth.  Before they went off into the night, we told them to meet us the next day to go to a bullfight.

To our surprise, the girls did show up the next day, though they looked a little rough from their sleepless night.  The big day was upon us.  One of my goals on this trip was to see a real-life Spanish bullfight.  I wanted to see what Hemingway had seen.  I wanted to feel the excitement of the fight as Ernest had so soulfully described it in his many novels.  We headed off to the Madrid arena with a sense of thrill in our step.  We didn’t know what to expect.  All we knew was that people cheered the killing of bulls.  It was a horrible image to see an animal being treated so cruelly, all at the expense of entertainment.  Yet, it was a revered pastime, with a very loyal following.  Hey, if the locals were good with it, then maybe I could be too.  We were about to find out.

The arena was an awesome Coliseum-like structure.  On this day, there were going to be 3 matadors engaging with the bulls.  Outside, there were souvenir tents everywhere.  I bought a cool poster with the date and names of the matadors.  We soon entered the packed arena and found our seats on the sunny side.  The sunny side was where the cheaper seats were, with the shady side being more comfortable and therefore more expensive.  Once seated, we quickly ordered a few bottles of San Miguel from a man walking around with a bucket of beer on his shoulder.  At that moment, you couldn’t ask for a better scenario –sipping cold beers with great company and waiting for the excitement of a bullfight to begin.

When the event started, our eyes quickly focused on the first bull in the arena.  This would be the first of six bulls to face the sword.  The matador had yet to make his entrance.  As the bull made his way around the circle of sand on the floor of the arena, a few men on armored horses entered the scene.  I soon found out that it was their job to weaken the bull with mortal wounds by piercing the bull with long heavy swords.  So, this wasn’t going to be a fair fight between the bull and the matador.  By the time the matador entered the ring, the bull would be half in the bag and ultimately bleeding to death.  Thus, it was only in this near-death state that the matador could have any chance of slaying the bull single-handedly.

The matador entered the ring with all the majesty of a sitting king.  He had his trademark red cape and began to showoff his skill with it.  He taunted the bull in every direction.  It was a magnificent display of hypnosis between man and beast.  The final moment soon arrived and the man rose up with the shining sword to strike down the helpless beast.  You could see the blade going deep into the neck area of the bull.  As the sword was pulled out slowly, you could see the life of the bull withering away.  Once the matador moved away, the bull made a few drunken steps and collapsed into the dust of the afternoon.

Seeing the first bull die, I felt nothing but pity for the bull and hatred towards the matador.  Yet, as the show continued, I began to look past the unnecessary act of death and started to admire the skill of the matadors.  This is what the crowd was there to see.  They wanted to see the skill of the matador in full display.  They did not care about the fate of the bull. They only cared for the thrill of the moment and the skill level at which it were executed by the matador.  When the matador displayed a flawless act of killing, the crowd went wild with praise.  The matador was then given permission to cut off the ears of the bull.  He would then present the ear to the local political official overseeing the event.  One time, he threw the ear into the crowd and I almost managed to catch it.  On the flip side, when the matador was slightly grazed by the horns of the bull, the crowd would boo him for being too slow and not graceful enough.  As for the rest of the bull, I learned that the meat goes to the poorer sections of town.

We were emotionally drained by the time the last bull was dragged out of the arena by the team of horses.  It had been an exceptional experience to see how and why this ancient sport still thrived in our modern world.  Later that night we bid farewell to the girls from Chicago and soon said goodbye to Madrid as well.   I would eventually manage to get the poster home in good enough shape to frame it and stick it on the wall.  Now, when I look at it, I always go back to that exciting day of life and death.

why be remembered?

you know why we should be remembered –because we go through this whole thing called life and then we just die in the end.  i mean what is the point of living if not to be remembered.  i guess if we only live for the moment, then that is why we don’t care if people remember us or if history remembers us.  i guess if we are not alive to see people remember us, then it doesn’t matter if we are not remembered –what do we care.  these are all good points and many can live by them–and die by them.  but, what if we want to convey what we learned to our kids and grandkids –and the rest of society –you know–so they can learn from what we learned in life.  this could be one very small reason why we should want to leave some things behind besides a will and a corpse.  we might also want our relatives, friends, etc to see what we looked like, to hear our words, to know what we thought about things.  perhaps this is a better reason to leave your mark behind.  the other reason might be to make sure history records your life the way you want it recorded.  this could give you some extra peace of mind on the way out.  for a few brief minutes of your time, would you do a few steps to be remembered by history?  would you take a few more steps beyond that to save things for your family and friends.  maybe —and maybe not.  after all, what do you care, really?  you will be dead and who cares when one is dead.  this is the question –do you care enough to care?

words vs actions

there are so many instances in life where we come up with what we think are great ideas. we think that we need to act on these ideas.  we think that we need to fulfill our destiny by acting on these ideas.  we think that these ideas will take us away from the mundane lives we live and to the place where we will love what we do.  these are our dreams and we want to make them come true.  we see our life being full and satisfied.  we see a rainbow at the end of the tunnel.  we see closure in life being achieved.  but the problem is we don’t act on these thoughts.  we don’t act on these ideas.  we don’t act on these dreams.  we don’t act because we are afraid.  we don’t act because we are comfortable in our life and we don’t want to risk this level of comfort we have achieved.  we don’t act because we want the dream to come true, but don’t quite believe it is the path we should take.  we have doubt about going out on a limb.  so we don’t act.  we just dream.  and then we get old and die.  dream unfulfilled, but comfort kept intact.  what is more important at the end of the road –staying comfortable or taking risk and possibly fulfilling dream?  most will choose former –what will you choose?

stop recording my life

facebook!  who gave you permission to record my life?  who are you?  how did you get involved in my life?  you act as a meeting place where friends and family can gather.  you put up the front of being a familiar place -like my old high school, my old neighborhood, my old house –so very comfortable and soothing.  this is all a front to record my life and pull me in to present my life to my friends and family–but also to you.  you are watching my every move.  you are recording my every moment.  you are now in my life and are actually recording my life.  stop recording my life.  you should not be recording my life.  who gave you permission?  because i use your platform to talk to friends, you think you can take my data and record it back to me.  i will record my own life and i will leave my own mark the way i want to leave it.  i will not conform the story of my life to your parameters.  where is the button to turn off this “timeline” thing?  this is your master plan.  gather, gather, gather –then publish my life and billions of others.  get out of our lives and stop recording now — pause the program.

don’t talk about others

you know we all do it.  but when we do it, we reveal a part of ourselves that most don’t know about.  people would be shocked to hear what you have to say about them behind closed doors.  but the reality is you are doing yourself a disservice in the process.  you are letting yourself down by saying mean things about others and then being nice to their face.  you need to make both experiences the same – do not have conflicting thoughts about a person.   imagine this…… you say something about someone and then immediately think that person heard you.  you then panic and think –“what an ass i am” –but are you saying that about yourself because you think you are caught and now your other self will be revealed.  you are acting selfishly because if you did not think you were caught, you would go on as normal –still talking shit about people.  so–you feel bad and you say you will change.  but it turns out the person did not hear and you can still keep your other thoughts a secret.  you can go back to your old ways of talking shit….and most of the time you do.  but you shouldn’t –this should be viewed as a close call and a warning to stop this BS.  so, stop talking shit and bite your tongue once in a while.  get in this habit of not talking about others so much and it will make everything more positive.

get hands dirty

you must get your hands dirty to accomplish anything in this world.  in other words –stop standing around waiting for others to do the job –because they won’t.  you must get in there and make it happen.  you must do the small jobs on your own and not delegate others to do it –because they won’t.  if you start a job and then come up with a plan –and then do not do the things that the plan requires –you will fail.  you must get in there and do every little thing that the plan requires.  don’t be someone who draws up a plan and then expects others to do the plan.  you must do the plan.  you must get your hands dirty.  yes, it is tedious work.  yes, you believe that you have reached a point in your career where you don’t need to get your hands dirty anymore.  wrong!  if you are the ceo and shit needs to be done –then do it.  just keep doing what you have to do to succeed.  at the end of the day –if you want to keep getting paid –you must find a way to get things done.  if this requires you to get your hands dirty over and over –just do it.  waiting for someone else will lead to your failure.  get your hands dirty –end of story.  oh–and don’t complain so much.  this is just another attempt to avoid getting your hands dirty.  another way to failure.

accountability

if you don’t have it, you ain’t worth shit.  really folks –if your word is no good, then it is going to be a long road for you.  you must be true to your word.  you must follow through with what you say.  you must not break your word.  you must not scuttle your promises.  if you say it will happen at this time on this day –then, by shit, it better happen…..unless you have a death in the family.  that is the only thing that should prevent you from keeping your word.  because if you do decide to not be accountable for what you say you are going to do –then your life will end up worth no more than a pile of ….   do you get it?  be accountable or be non-committal.  and being non-committal is no way to live a life.  again –another pointless ending.  so take the easy road which is actually the harder road –be accountable.  it will be harder to be accountable, but it will make your path much easier.  comprende?

do it when you shouldn’t

you know what i mean?  not really??  ok –listen closely.  you know how most of the time you shouldn’t do things?  this could be because you shouldn’t waste the money or the time, right?  you need to save the money for a rainy day.  you need to be more conservative in your actions so that you are covered in the future.  that is all good –and is true for the most part.  but guess what?  you could drop dead tomorrow.  and you will know folks that do just that….too soon.  and each time someone does, you need to remind yourself that could have been you.  and all the fretting about not doing something because your shouldn’t –that all goes out the window.  so when you decide to throw that big bash at your house, but you could use the money for something else.  think about how you could drop dead tomorrow.  think about how you want to look back and say we had the most fun spending the money, when we shouldn’t have.  someone said all we really have is this moment right now.  we don’t have the past, we don’t have the future.  we have this moment right now.  so once in awhile you should live like you could drop dead tomorrow –because you could!  what is it all for?  it is for thinking about the future a bit –but it is also about thinking about now –it’s all you have that is guaranteed –right now.  go do it, go live.

death

death is strange.  it depends on many factors on how you react to hearing of a death.  if it is a death in the family, you can have immediate, uncontrollable crying –but the immediate part usually depends on the closeness to this family member.  your mind tells you that this is major and it could affect your own life.  you starting thinking of what you miss and all the things you used to do.  you think about the warm touch you experienced –hugs, kisses –and how those will be gone.  you think about conversations and good times.  you think about the future and the wider uncertainty that has surfaced now.  this will take time to overcome, but you do need to tend to the living and this will help move you forward.  you think about your own mortality.  yet–when it is a co-worker or acquaintance –one that you do not see every day or might not have seen in a few years –the reaction is different.  you think more about “why” did this happen.  you think more about the suffering of the family left behind.  you do think about the good times that you shared and you do feel very sad.  but you do not cry most of the time.  you do think about your own fate a bit more.  you do think about living for the moment.  you do think that anything can happen at any time.  you do understand that as your life goes own, others will die –but you don’t think about this fact until the next person passes.  we can’t fully understand death and our reaction to it.  this is a primal experience –one that beckons from our inner soul.  but in the end, every thought we make clings to our own self-preservation.  death is coming, so live for the moment, but plan for the future.

forgiveness

it is very interesting how one comes about learning to forgive.  i think our first instinct is not to forgive.  you wronged me and i won’t forgive you.  i gave you my trust and your threw it away.  why should i forgive you if you did this to me.  an eye for an eye is what we live by in our society.  i am going to turn my back on you.  i am going to forget all about you.  you are dead to me.  i will go on with my life without you.  if it is not a true friend or family, then this is not a big deal to move on.  but if it is a true friend or a family member, then you must seek the path of forgiveness.  it is only during this exploration of what it means to forgive that you actually begin to become enlightened by the power of forgiveness.  deep down we want to forgive and move forward.  but our pride pushes against this concept of forgiveness.  however when you realize that forgiveness is more about you –this is when a change occurs.  look –as individuals we want to find comfort for ourselves.  by forgiving you are finding comfort for yourself.  it is true –forgiveness does free the soul.  when you forgive, you free yourself from worrying about how you were wronged.  you are free to move on and preserve the relationship.  try it –it works.  it is the only way you will lead an unburdened life.