Friday, April 3, 2009

Lost in Translation?

-"Chin** tu Madre, pinc** cabro**", say it! Go on, SAY IT!
-Don't you want to speak Spanish? Just say it to that guy over there.
-What does it mean?
-Nothing, it's just like, "hey, how's it going man?" Just go say it to him.

In the little town where I grew up in Oregon, this was a common "right of passage" for the 9 year-old white kids in my neighborhood. The older, cool Mexican kids in Junior High were always eager "teach" Spanish to the little elementary school kids. Even the Russian speaking punks would get in on the game:

-Say "pizd**", it means hello in Russian. Go on, SAY IT!

Inevitabley, some poor sucker would go up to a Mexican or Russian oldster and try out his new vocabulary, only to get yelled at or worse. Behind the nearest tree, his new "friends" could barely contain themselves. Yup, another stupid little white kid. Sucker! I'm sure these same jerks were once young immigrants on the receiving end of that same trick. Just getting back at someone less experienced felt good.

It's a little sad, however, when these child's games continue into adulthood. What happened, didn't you get it out of your system in middle school?

-Watch, we'll get the dummies to say "conyo" when they bring their gramma in to get a sandwich.
-Hi, I read in Westword that you have this great Cuban sandwich.
-Oh, which one? (sly grin, wink, wink)
-I think you call it the "eye kon-ee-oh"?
-Oh, you mean the Conyo? Say it, CON-YO!
-Thanks! Yes, I want UN CONYO!

Cue the laughter, the kitchen staff is rolling on the floor. "Otro pi*** gringo pidio un Conyo!" (Another f'ing gringo wants a CU*T!)

Despite Johnathan Shikes assurances in his Westword review that "Aye Conyo means something like Goddamnit in Spanish"; a simple Google search will get you this definition:

I. Literally, translates to what has sometimes been termed the most obscene word in the English language "c*nt"...
II. Usually used as a passionate, emphatic expletive (see f*ck!, sh*t!, d*mn!, etc..). Significantly more vulgar than "mierda" (sh*t).
e.g. Conyo, hombre, ella sabe! transl: F*CK man, she knows!
Urban Dictionary

Now, I know that the Spanish language is not monolithic. I understand that how a word is used in Spain, might not be the same as how it is used in Mexico or Cuba. But, no matter how you present it, "cu*nt" is not a word most of us would be using casually when ordering a meal with the family. I also realize that people have the freedom to say whatever they want, even if others might be offended. But what I don't get is the need to make unwitting customers say words that they might not say if they understood them.

Going to an establishment, whether it be a restaurant or another service provider, is an act of trust. We trust that our host will treat us with respect, that they will provide us with what we are requesting, and that they will not fool us. If I am lactose intolerant and I order something at your restaurant because I'm told it is non-dairy, will you sneak in some cheese just to watch me get sick? Yeah, you might think it's funny watching me run to the bathroom like my hair was on fire, but it's not nice.

I don't think I'm being a prude here. I'm just asking for respect.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hey, that looks like...wait it is!

It's a strange thing when a picture you took shows up on someone else's website:




Not that I'm seeking recognition or compensation; I'm just sayin'...

Eating the Whole Hog

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I've always had a fascination with places that in some way mirrored the climate, geography and green-inspired "grey" state-of-mind. There is something special about a place where you can come out of the mists surrounding a hill-top and be slapped in the face by an indescribably beautiful, green valley. Small farms dot the landscape, both inviting and somehow forbidding.
As you go over the next ridge, you re-enter the clouds and wonder what you'll see as you descend again. This time you round a bend, the clouds dissipate, and through the breaks in the dense forest around you, a feeling of something large and powerful overtakes you. A couple more turns, as you come off the mountain, and you realizes that you've been driving next to the ocean, you don't know how long. You felt it before you saw it. Once again, you run across small groups of houses, or even an isolated farmstead. Every time, the thought enters your head: Who are these people? Why do they live out here? Surrounded by such amazing beauty, but intense isolation: What is their life like?

Many travel writers focus on observing and recording; afraid of ruining the scene by their mere presence. Taking this voyeurism to the next level, is something that engaging writers like John Barlow do for us. In one of the best food/travelogues that I've read: "Everything but the Squeal...Eating the Whole Hog", Mr. Barlow eats his way through north-western Spain. Galicia is a place that has always been fascinating to me. Reminding me of my roots and enticing me with it's food, this corner of Spain calls to me. The rural nature of this area, however, means that there isn't as much information on this area as there is on other parts of Spain. In his quest to eat his way through every part of the pig, Mr. Barlow goes to the most remote areas of this beautiful region; and he's not afraid to knock. Reclusive hippies, grumpy old-men, fashionable viudas in tapas bars: they all eventually come around and add another piece to the pork puzzle that Mr. Barlow constructs (or consumes) in the course of a year.

I read this book without the benefit John Barlow's Flickr photoset; I'm happy to say that the images in my head were not far off the mark.