Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Song Fridays III

Desmond Dekker, "Shanty Town"
From one of my very all-time favorite albums ("The Harder They Come" Soundtrack), I give you Desmond Dekker singing "Shanty Town." This is in reference to a recent facebook status update of mine, referring to Santander, where I live, as "Santy Town." Despite the fact that, a) Santander is extremely posh and about the furthest thing possible from a shanty town, and b) this post serves mostly as a reference to an inside joke with myself, it's a great song from an all-around great album. I am only slightly disappointed that I can't, in good blog-faith, include more songs from this album in the near future, so just check out the whole thing after listening to this song. Signing off from a momentarily-sunny Santy town...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Me and my Big Mouth

I am just starting to get comfortable, socially, at my new job. I've been there since November, but the first few months are always awkward as the new person in an office where everyone knows each other and gets along well. It doesn't help that, since it's the only time I have easy access to the internet, I read sympathetic emails from friends and end up crying at my one wants to be friends with the weird new girl who cries. But, moving on....

Most of the people in the office are a few years older than I am, with a few exceptions. A group of us always goes for coffee around noon to break up the long morning, where we work from 9am to 2pm, when we have a two-hour break for lunch. Between feeling shy around new people and speaking a foreign language with those new people, and the fact that we only ever get a chance to socialize for fifteen minutes a day at a bar, I am only just now getting into the social swing of things.

Last Wednesday was a particularly good day -- the morning coffee break went well, I successfully told a relevant, funny story in (what I think was) perfect Spanish, and everyone laughed. It's just like middle school all over again. They like me! Maybe they will be my new friends! Look at them laughing! They LIKE me!! So when we all came back from lunch I was feeling extra buoyant, relaxed, like I'd proven myself somehow.

When I returned to my desk I had an email from a friend, forwarded from some other friend, about a litter of 11 Husky puppies that needed homes. I don't know how recent or reliable this email was, but I knew my friend had sent it to me because of my weakness for animals, so I forwarded it along, and began asking people as they came back to the office if they wanted a dog. "¿Quieres un perro?" I said to everyone as they settled back into their desks. It was random, and funny. I swear. I was being sociable and a little bit sassy. My "true self" was coming out. And they still liked me! Look at me go!

The people who'd already arrived were egging me on to ask each person as they walked in. "Hey, aren't you going to ask him about the dogs?" And I, of course, would oblige, and the joke continued. Then Raúl, the quiet, softspoken, shy computer-something-engineer-software-whatever (see how much I understand about the company?) walked in and I said, just as with all the rest, "¿Oye, quieres un perro?" He flinched, but didn't so much as look at me. Just continued past to hang up his coat, returning to his desk next to mine without a word. I looked confusedly around at my coworkers-turned-accomplices for help. "Hey, what, Raúl, you don't like animals?" Ask Pablo, one of the more outgoing of my coworkers. "Ohh," said Raúl with barely any emotion. "I thought you said 'Que eres un perro.'" Everyone burst in to uproarious laughter. I blushed like the pink grapefruits that just came into season. He didn't hear me ask if he wanted a dog; he heard me say "You're such a dog."

I apologized profusely, stumbling over my Spanish as I tend to do when flustered. He said it was fine. Everyone else couldn't stop laughing.

It's one thing to tell funny stories, but once my coworkers can't walk back into the office without the weird foreign girl calling them's time to tone back the sass.

Metiendo la Pata

"Meter la pata" in Spanish means "To put your foot in it." According to the Mac dictionary on my computer, this means the same thing in English, with the variation "Put one's foot in one's mouth." (I had to look it up because my English has become tainted after so many years of existing in two languages simultaneously and constantly flip-flopping between them). This new tag is for incidences in which I embarrass myself in one way or another -- "meter la pata" -- and it's a little bit sad that a whole tag can exist for this...but I do it often enough, or embarrassing situations arise often enough, that it deserves its own category. Hey, if you can't laugh at is really not funny? I don't know how that saying is supposed to end. Living abroad has made me take myself much less seriously, so I will continue to add embarrassing anecdotes so my readers will also take me less seriously. Ha.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Favorite Song Fridays II

Today's song:
Joe Cocker, "With a Little Help from my Friends"
There was a time last year when I would sneak upstairs to the English Department at the high school where I worked to use the computer. I say "sneak" not because I wasn't supposed to use it, but because I always hoped there was no one else working there so I could put this song on. 

I watch the recent documentary about Woodstock with my dad whenever it's on TV (the one from 2009 for the 40th anniversary of the festival) and can't help wishing I'd been born forty years earlier...but that's another story for another day. Here is one of my absolute favorite performances of Woodstock and hands down my favorite version of this song. Joe Cocker has so much soul (see a trend in these first FSF song?) in his voice, and unlike other people, I think his crazy spasms are kind of charming -- they just show how much he feels the music (and sure, he probably had some "chemical help" to enjoy it so very much, but come on, it was the '60s and he was a rock star).

One of my biggest complaints with the music that's popular these days is the absolutely horrendous live performances the artists give. The particular of singing and playing music live has gotten lost in the spectacle of rock and pop shows; the masses don't care if the performer is singing off key or gets the words right or connects emotionally to their music -- it's all about the lights and the sex appeal and the noise. To be fair I've felt buoyed by emerging artists that have managed to maintain some musical integrity and become internationally renowned and respected, like Adele, Amy Winehouse (RIP) and many of the "indie" artists that are out there (although I have another bone to pick with them, ie. too experimental is too weird, and just because you don't wash your hair doesn't mean you are "cool" and "alternative" and "anti-establishment.") 

But to go back to this video, I love how subtle and nuanced his inflections are, and I'm always amazed at how right-on his pitch is, throughout -- and this is without those awful earbuds that allow you to distinguish your own voice (supposedly) from the womping amplifiers behind you. True talent is hard to see in the face of all the glitz these days, and I find it so refreshing to listen to Joe growl away so beautifully. Happy Friday!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pretty Things in Spain IV

We went to see a livestock fair, and on our way home found pretty coffee with pretty treats at a pretty tea house full of pretty things. I'm going to say pretty one more time since I haven't said it enough: PRETTY

Favorite Song Fridays One

If you read this blog, you know me at least a little bit. And if you know me at least a little bit, you know how I feel about music. I can't put it into words. It is a part of me, a passion, a love, a comfort, an inspiration... It has been and always, always will be one of the most important things in my life. Living abroad has introduced me to a lot of new music, so I'll include some Spanish songs on here sometimes (although it's mostly pop that doesn't do much for me). While I've been Spain, music has provided company in my loneliest moments, inspiration in the dullest of times, and just plain happiness with the beauty and stimulation it always seems to bring me.

So, in order to get me writing with some regularity, and to share some of my favorite songs with you, I present "Favorite Song Fridays." I've seen series posts on other blogs and I think it's a cute (albeit somewhat kitschy) idea. So without further ado, the very first Favorite Song Friday:

Today's song: 
Otis Redding, "These Arms of Mine"
I once bought an Otis Redding song on iTunes because of one note. I should have known then and there that if one note could make me fall in love, I would adore the rest of this artist's work. But I didn't, until I rediscovered THAT VOICE singing "Merry Christmas Baby" on "Jingle Bell Rock," the 1987 Time-Life compilation (on vinyl) of '50s and '60s Christmas music (and in my opinion, the best Christmas album out there, and a Branch-Spencer tree-decorating staple). helloooo run-on sentence. 
But I digress. Upon purchasing "The Very Best of Otis Redding," I fell in love with this, one of his first singles, and have been listening to (and singing) it obsessively for days: 

I don't like trying to describe music in words. I love the feeling of this song. I love what he does with it, his voice, the little touches he adds, how he makes it his own. See? No matter how I try to describe it, only cliches come out. So just listen to the song. It will make you feel melancholy and warm and dreamy.

(wondering what the song with that ONE NOTE? Ok ok, I first heard it in an episode of Sex and the City [blegh], the song is "Try a Little Tenderness," and the one note is that high one in the third line of each verse. The best one is in the second verse. MELT.)

ps. I hope these songs are the right versions. I may or may not be at work (shhh) and can't listen to verify. 

pps. Why do all the good ones die young? (no Billy Joel reference intended...more of a Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix reference...ever heard of The 27 Club? cue Twilight Zone theme song.....)