Vino Tinto

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March 26th 2007
Published: August 30th 2007
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Two hours to kill before the departure of the Algeciras-Cadiz bus. I decide to go for a walk in the harbour area. Loitering in a city’s underworld is always a pleasure. But this time will prove to be a lousy idea.

A black car closes me in a alley and two not too friendly fellas come out from the vehicle. They will reveal themselves to be policemen in civil outfits, but at the time I didn’t know it. After identify themselves, they proceed to ask for my documents and press me to deliver all drugs in my possession. I answer that I’m clean and they start the old tale “if you handle it to us all is fine, if we search you and find it you are in big troubles”. Yeah, right. I repeat once again that I have nothing, they proceed to search me and my rucksack. Nothing found. I ask one of the cops if searching an honest citizen who’s just taking a stroll is correct and legal. He answers that I represent the prototype of hashish importer: “male, around 30 and with little luggage”.

Once in Cadiz I proceed on boarding the Fortuny, the liner covering the route to the Canary islands. Everyone embark with their respective cars or trucks from the belly of the vessel, I seem to be the only one making the trip by ship as a choice. An employee of Trasmediterranea offers me a lift on its aged small white van to cover the one kilometre distance that separates the offices from the boarding point. On Passing in front of the customs inspection we get stopped. “They make random controls” explains me the chauffeur, “they just check one or two persons per time, not all passengers”. I look around, I’m the only passenger on the bus. “Well, maybe they’ll pick up the invisible man this time” I shoot back. The driver smiles while greeting the officer who waves me to get down from the van. It seems I am the drafted one this time. Usual luck of those superheroes. “Do you carry anything?” he starts between question and statement. “No, nothing” I answer. “Be known that the dog finds everything” affably says to me as to say “I have recognized you. You are that world famous colombian coke importer”. “No, I have nothing on me” I confirm the previous negative in an almost apologizing tone. Maybe, after all, is compulsory to carry a minimum of drug for the travel as alternative antihistaminic. Klaus, German of race and name, arrives and the agent repeatedly instigates him against my defenceless sack. “It’s here, it’s here, find it Klaus, find it” he’s definitely supporting the dog. The scene lasts only a minute and I know that the worst that could ever come out from my backpack is that over-stingy sock which would ruin forever Klaus olfactory skills, nevertheless I believed that, should have I in those moments undergone a truth machine test, I would have confessed not only possession and sale of drug but also the most brutal crimes committed hundred years ago by Jack the ripper. “OK, off you go” concludes the agent in a tone as to say “You’ve got luck this time”.

Forty hours later we berth at puerto de the luz, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. My plan was to search immediately for a lift on some boat heading to the American continent, some kind of sea-hitchhiking to cross the Atlantic. And things took a good turn from the beginning. A few days after editing my demand down at the Marina billboard, I receive a phone call from a Canadian lady offering me a job on her boat. They have recently employed a Chilean engineer who doesn’t speak any english and are in urgent need of an interpreter keen on travelling with them all the way to Mexico. Manna falling from the sky. I was looking for a cheap passage, I’ve found a job. The ship is a hydrofoil built in Ukraine, the Meteor. I’ve been living on the boat for two weeks now and the date of departure, not yet fixed, should be roughly at the end of this month.

Having plenty of time in the coming weeks to write about life on a vessel, I’d rather write today about more light-hearted aspects of these first weeks in Canarias. The Carnival, for instance, or my return to night life with my Canarian buddies. The truth is that on re-reading the previous episodes of my own blog I have counted an excessive long citing list of things I do not stand, do not tolerate, hate, etc. So, in an attempt to escape that image of sad, moaning, aging guy who spend his time complaining about everything and everyone (which is quite true, anyway), I will dedicate a few lines to a subject of pure hedonistic nature.

Years ago, during my first winter in Canarias, I discovered that the Carnival here doesn’t last just one day as happens in the rest of Europe. It embraces a period of approximately six weeks that stretches from the end of January till mid March. It begins in Las Palmas, in the north of the island, and goes on moving south as like a caribbean cyclone. It stops for a week in all main towns till its conclusion, 6 or 7 weeks later, in Arguineguin, in the southernmost part of the island. So, instead of being a matter of one day revelry preceding 40 of depravations, we are here talking about half a winter of celebrations preceding a tiny, two weeks long lent. Pura vida.

This year I arrived just in time for the conclusive Maspalomas Carnival week-end, one of the craziest in the entire archipelago. I have get myself a cheap Chinese made wolf outfit and I joined my friends (and a few more thousands people) in the mainly outdoor celebrations. Strangely enough, my passion for the Carnival has gone increasing, rather than diminishing, with years passing by. Actually not, that’s not that strange. The reason being that carnival is perhaps the only time of the year when age doesn’t count. Going out wearing a mask plus the generalized merry atmosphere erases for a day -or for six weeks, in our specific case- generational differences.

All to be said, nightlife when one is not eighteen anymore presents sometimes grotesque situations. I mean, the average saturday night at twenty doesn’t present other obstacles if not the shortage of funds. Ten years later the panorama changes radically. Everybody must be informed with several weeks advance notice in order to give enough time to the married ones to find a suitable excuse for their wives/girlfriends. The great day finally arrives. Some show up equipped with a round belly, others with incipient boldnesses, some others with a combination of the two things. Phase one, in the car driving along with some contemporary music: Guns' n Roses. Contemporary to our adolescence, that is.

Choice of the club. Here in Las Palmas two are the premises we normally hang around: the Paraninfo, dark ambient, rock music (often live), a crowd of youngsters and modest prices; the 30 y tantos the name (30something) says it all about the place, ’80, ’90 music, customers purely over30 and prices for people old enough to have already a mortgage. We park the car on the last notes of “Sweet child of mine” and enter the Paraninfo to get a couple of drinks without being force to prostitute ourselves in order to pay the bill. Everybody watch us with suspicion. Or maybe that’s just my imagination and in reality everybody is absolutely and purely ignoring us. Made exception for us and for the occasional 50something lady looking for his teenager son, everyone, males and females alike, wear pants hanging from their buttocks rather than belt to their waists. Perhaps Levi's, in a praiseworthy attempt to make fat people feel less fat and skinny people feel less skinny, has abolished clothes sizes and now produces jeans in one single measure. A piece of exposed underwear seem to be another must. We get to the bar, order a drink and try to make what we would have made ten years ago in an analogous situation: singing along with the stereo and making conversation with girls. Only, we can’t sing along inasmuch as we do not know any of these songs. In vain we hope for some “Welcome to the jungle” cover. Then we leave.

We get into 30 y tantos club, just next door. Situation turned upside down: in the first bar we were the grandfathers, here we are the grandchildren, the puppies. Ok, the name really means 30 something, but I guess the title has been interpreted the wide way and so it’s the kind of place where you can meet those 45-50 years old men and women who didn’t resign themselves yet to open-air dance-halls and Boney M. They do, in a way, what we do in places like Paraninfo. The God Bacchus had in the meantime set our mood up, so we try to socialize with exponents of the opposite sex. In this kind of club we play with advantage or, at least, that’s what we think. In my case I always try to pull out from my sleeve the travelling tales card which, after auspicious beginning, often leads to the treachery “I don’t know, you are probably like seamen, a girl in every port”. This question/statement open the way to three possible answers, all equally ominous in the result. A: “Yes, that’s true” “PIG!”. B: “No, you are the first woman I ever set my eyes upon” “LIAR!”. C: “That would appeal to me, but because I faced this question so many times before, I‘ve actually got none” “PIG and LOSER!”.

The end of the night arrives. Kids from the Paraninfo go home pissed with a girl or pissed with an erection, we go home just pissed.

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20th June 2007

love your blog
top writing skills - keep it up!

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