Archive for May 2008

For the Love of Jamón

May 21, 2008

The first photo album I made from Spain was based solely on a specific food that Spaniards seem to worship more than the old ladies worship their fur coats or the young men worship blonde Americans. More than any other country in the world, Spaniards consume about five kilograms a year of a food that gets significantly less respect here in the United States: ham. Five kg of ham. That’s over 25 million little piglets each year.

 Jamon flavored Lays

Similar to New Yorkers and our hopeless obsession with Starbucks, it is hard to walk a block in Madrid with out spotting the popular Museo del Jamón. That’s right, this food is worthy of its own museum. Not an actual museum (thankfully) Museo del Jamón is more like a deli/diner where you can get ham sliced straight from one of the numerous large legs that hang from the rafters soaking up the patrons’ cigarette smoke. If you look closely enough, some of the legs even have bits of hair left prickling off of the skin. And if that doesn’t get your mouth watering you have no hope of surviving in Madrid.

 

 Museo del Jamon

 

Ham played a strong role in Spain’s history, dating back to 1492 when the Christians drove the Moors and the Jews out of the country. It was the time of the witch hunt when Christians who were not sufficiently devout were accused of being Jewish and the Jews who wanted to stay in the country that they called home worked hard to hide their true beliefs behind excessive PDC: Public Displays of Christianity.

 

Ham became a way for Christians to display their religion and for the Jews to hide theirs. Ham legs displayed prominently in home windows and storefronts became a common sight and it is even said that ham would be hidden in dishes to test a patron’s religious beliefs. Six centuries later the tradition has led the way to a full on love affair with the meat. So it is the Christians of the 15th century that tourists and vegetarians have to blame for the endless surprises they find in their potato croquettes and “vegetable” soups. As one waitor told me as he placed a salad in front of me that was weighed down by slabs of ham, “It IS vegetarian, it’s just jamón!”

 

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The Holy Trinity (?)

May 19, 2008

I once told my old boss at Style Publications that the guys I befriended in Spain were like different action figures: the air traffic controller, the firefighter, the man who owned a motorcycle shop. But for the ones who made the biggest impression on me I think a more accurate description would be The Holy Trinity. I’m definitely not trying to put them on some heavenly level, in fact, for Miguel at least, I’d like to do just the opposite,  but it is funny how, looking back, each one of them seemed to have their distinct role to play. Let me explain: 

MIGUEL

Miguel, the previously mentioned Argentinean, was an air traffic controller who aspired to be, not an actor, but the guy who does the horrible voice overs for the movies. I didn’t understand it at the time but apparently Brad Pitt’s voice over guy is just as famous as Brad Pitt in places like Argentina. In the short time that we dated (mid January just after I arrived until Valentines Day) he made me brownies in the microwave using only sugar, flour and chocolate and they were actually semi decent. Take that Top Chef! Yet he scoffed when I tried to introduce him to the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and despite the fact that he enjoys a chocolate pastry and a cigarette for breakfast each morning, he chided me for eating something so unhealthy.

 

Miguel would be The Father because of his age and because I met him soon after I arrived in Spain, before I knew much Spanish or had even begun understanding the culture. He confessed to lying about his age; he told me he was 25 and then said he lied and was 28. I’m thinking he was probably 30. I was 20 at the time. Not cool. Also if we went a few days with out seeing each other, the next time we got together he would always exclaim in frustration “when are you going to learn Spanish?!” As if he was so disappointed our communication wasn’t perfectly fluid after a couple of days apart. Disappointment is definitely a fatherly quality.

 

 

 

ALEJANDRO aka ALEX

The Son would definitely be Alejandro. He liked me to call him Alex because it was more American and at the age of twenty-something (I was afraid to ask after the Miguel incident) he still lived at home. Because of his history with Americans he knew this living situation might be perfectly acceptable in most European cultures, but for Americans it really threw us off. But because of his lighthearted nature he just laughed it off and could easily joke about the whole ordeal.

 

I met him at the little bar across the street from my apartment–a small cave bar with low ceilings, dim lights, and Moroccan inspired decor and the best hand crushed mojitos you will ever find in Spain. He was with his ex girlfriend, I would later learn, when his radar for American girls picked up our broken Spanish and thick American accents. He invited my roommates and I to his own birthday party the next night and even wrote us directions on a little bar napkin. Uneasy but curious, my roommates and I (we were dubbed The Katies because our names are all variations of Katie which is especially difficult for native Spanish speakers to pronounce) ventured off to see what a Spanish birthday party was like. It would be this same logic that got me in a cab heading towards the suburbs of Madrid one evening to “see what a Spanish house party is like.”

 

The party was pretty much what you would expect, until Alejandro came out in a Care Bear costume swigging champagne from the bottle and pronouncing “I am lover bear!” in broken English that disintegrated into laughter. Any uneasiness The Katies initially felt was quickly washed away with champagne and laughter. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 

Alex is The Son because like many Spaniards my age, he just seems so much younger! People there were often amazed that I left home at 18 to go to college, as if they couldn’t imagine being on their own that early in life. But I guess in their culture, it is kind of unimaginable. But even if living at home is the social norm, his relationship with his mother is not. She still picks up after him, even wakes him up some mornings and doesn’t flinch if he’s not alone in bed. And as a painter, she has even painted a nude picture of her son, which I was not fortunate enough to see. But all in all, Alejandro’s good natured, laid back personality can often be seen as childish but more in the way of a man who never fully grows up…like Peter Pan. In a good way!

 

 

 

PEDRO 

And that leaves Pedro, inaccurately dubbed “Fat Man,” with the title of The Holy Spirit. He was one of the bartenders at Plaza Menor, the quaint bar across the street, and the only one who spoke a bit of English and tried to understand our Spanish. Although he was only slightly pudgy, I woke up one morning remembering only that I’d met a fat man who was a bartender and whom I thought I’d fallen in love with.  And after telling The Katies this, our three brains were able to put the events of the night together and figure out who I was talking about. While the love turned out to be an effect of the mojitos, the desire to get to know Pedro reamined.

 

The street between the bar and our apartment was so small, maybe 6 steps apart, that we could hear the sound of the large creaky door opening as we groggily woke up from our daily afternoon siestas. The sound of Pedro slowly opening the heavy metal door was often my alarm clock-my cue to awake from my post class nap and start getting ready to go out for evening.

 

Fat Man is The Holy Spirit because he always seemed to be right outside my window (not in a creepy way) and because he is still a very elusive character in my mind. Although we saw him almost every night, whether it be for one of his unforgettable mojitos that I still sometimes crave, or just saying goodnight as we stumble home past his bar, I never felt like I got to know him beyond the superficial neighborly relationship. He gave me his e-mail address on my last night in the city and we both looked close to tears when we hugged goodbye, but I somehow lost his e-mail in my move and I never heard from him. So Pedro, if you read this, my apologies for the nickname and please send me an e-mail! Otherwise, I’m sure I will make it back there soon enough; I just hope Plaza Menor is still where I left it!

 

A Belated Introduction

May 18, 2008

Jungle in Ghana

I started this blog as an experiment–a test where I could try out promoting myself and the writing I have published–as well as play around with writing in an unedited arena where I can pick my own topics. Its still coming together but I just wanted to introduce myself so many the jumble of posts will seem less random!

I just graduated (literally! Like last week!) from New York University with a double major in Journalism and History. Writing and journalism have always been passions of mine and after spending a semester abroad in Madrid, traveling became one of my other loves.

I could (and have) written endlessly about my experience in Spain, where I was lucky enough to live with two crazy girls who were just as adventurous and open minded as me and made for perfect companions when we visited something like 11 different cities on a shoestring budget. The three of us learned so many things about traveling, about the cities we visited, and about ourselves while staying in hippie communes in Budapest, communal hostels in Berlin, and unfriendly hotels in Dublin. Before that I had never been a traveler, just a tourist, and it wasn’t until that six-month long experience that I even fully understood the difference. Since then I have spent a summer in a reporting program in Ghana and I’m currently trying to work out a trip and possibly even a move to Buenos Aires.

I have interned at a lot of great magazines in New York City—Seventeen, Business Travel News, Interview, and Rolling Stone—and have done some writing for a glossy in Tampa, where I’m from. And now that I’m finally done with school I’m hoping to graduate to gigs that actually pay!  And despite the economy and the struggling print industry, I remain armed with this false optimism that my friends from Spain like to make fun of us Americans for. I am on the hunt for that elusive fulfilling job that I can be passionate about! 

Home Sick for the Road

May 17, 2008

ba

In between the chaos of graduating, ending my internship at Rolling Stone, and making big kid life plans I often catch myself day dreaming about my next big travel adventure. Last week I filled my Amazon.com shopping cart with over $100 of books. And used ones no less! Now I’m reading Wanderlust and a Fodor’s guide book on Argentina and constantly pulling out my albums from last year’s adventures in Ghana and Spain. I swear my big red suitcases that double as a closet are staring longingly at me from across my tiny NYC apartment.

I’ve been talking about moving to Buenos Aires since I got back from my semester in Madrid over a year ago. Although I met so many interesting, intelligent, and just totally fun Spaniards while I was there, it seemed like wherever I went I met someone from Argentina. The first “local” friend I made in Spain was an air traffic controller/wannabe voice over actor from Buenos Aires. Because I met him before I really got a handle on the Spanish language, and because he admitted to lying to me about everything from where he lived to if he smoked, our relationship did not last past one honey rum soaked Valentines Day, and it really wasn’t all that memorable as a whole, but the way he described his home country really was.

The Paris of the West, the Big Apple of the South, something in me is convinced that this thriving city is where I’m meant to be. Something about a place that has overcome hardships, both political and economic, makes it so appealing in a strange way. Much like in Berlin, a city that has endured not only the loss but the shame of WWII and The Cold War, the attitude of perseverance just invigorates me and makes me optimistic.

If I ever want to move down there, now would be the perfect time in my life, but since it feels like I’ve been working to get a good job (both in school and in the six magazine internships I managed to pack in during college) it feels like such a huge leap to run away from that path even if it only is temporarily.

But for now I will continue reading about other people’s wanderlust and try to contain my own while I try to make decisions about the very near future.

Check Out the Empire State Building Tonight!

May 13, 2008

Forty thousand dollars a year might not guarantee you a great starting salary upon graduation–especially if you chose to follow your passion in the lucrative field of journalism, like I did–but what it does guarantee you is a night where the New York City skyline is lit up just for you! Tonight the Empire State Building will be all purple and white in honor of the class of 2008. That almost makes up for the economic disaster that we are being dumped into. Hooray class of 2008!

Downtime at Rolling Stone

May 8, 2008

Interns

The Capri Lounge was done away with decades ago so with out that imfamous Rolling Stone hangout where, let’s face it, interns probably weren’t allowed anyways, we have to come up with other ways to stay busy during our down time.

 

Every once in a while something truly amazing occurs in intern land. In between research projects, transcriptions, and random errands, there are rare magical moments when the e-mail inbox is empty and for just a moment, a confused but grateful feeling of relief washes over the library.

 

Too cracked out from the free coffee and .75 cent Cokes to just relax and read Gawker like normal people, we use these precious moments for more creative time-killing strategies. And because most of us are overly anxious about college graduation in May, we find a way to write all of it off as “skill building.”

 

We practice our research skills by Googling after work bars in search of the best happy hours. Our incomes only afford us the drinks we can get people to buy us after we tell them we work at Rolling Stone, and that usually amounts to zero when they find out we are just interns, so finding the deals are essential.

 

Being an expert at Excel spreadsheets is also a resume builder and I have one circulating the office which details 37 different bars in the city and their specials every night. For convenience, the bars are alphabetized and each day of the week has its own color-coded tab.

 

Storytelling is another essential trait for a journalist and we practice that by rehashing the details of our nights together. “Tragic” is the most common adjective used after we share the “I can’t believe I did that/woke up there” moments. After attempting to recreate a certain incident involving Hunter S. Thompson and Rolling Stone’s Editor in Chief, it has been declared that one intern is no longer allowed near fire extinguishers (ahem, Cody).

 

You have to be ready to compete in this rat race they call the real world and when there are 10 interns and seven computers, our free time quickly turns into a game of survival of the fittest. The Lord of the Flies manages to finagle their way into the shiny new Mac near the editors while the Piggy of the day gets the slow PC in the corner. So far there are no heads on stakes.

 

Being YouTube savvy goes along with staying in the know which is another vital attribute in the industry. If you haven’t seen Michael Cera’s Impossible is the Opposite of Possible, the Korean baby singing Hey Jude (don’t miss the remix), or Ghetto Gumby, how can you possibly feel ready to walk into an interview and tell the editor you are “in the know?”

 

Every intern comes away with the basic knowledge of working with editors and juggling assignments, but I hope that our extra-curriculars are giving us a little more than that. And if being a master at Excel spreadsheets isn’t going to give me the upper hand that lands a job, then at least I have some good embarrassing stories about  whoever among us does manage to make it.      

 

Life as a Rolling Stone Intern

May 8, 2008

Rolling Stone Cover

It is my final week as an editorial intern at Rolling Stone and after spending a semester fighting with the copy machine and listening to wacky interviews on everything from Willie Nelson’s campaign against eating horses to Adam Levine’s list of the best songs to hook up to, I find myself getting a little sentimental. If you want a little taste of Rolling Stone life you will probably need to wander in the middle of a mosh pit full of sweaty stoners, but if that’s not your style, just read on…

 

A Day in the Life of a Rolling Stone Intern

“Here is a nine minute interview with Sporty Spice. It could be the most groundbreaking work of my entire career. Mick Jagger gave me an hour. Sporty gave me less than a tenth of that.”

 

This e-mail is just one example of the type of love letter that greets us as we arrive to start our day in the lowliest position that exists at a magazine: an intern. Few will be shocked to learn that what you saw on MTV’s portrayal of intern life at Rolling Stone was about as realistic as the girls from The Hills, but even though we don’t get invited to lingerie parties or DMX’s tour bus, we at least get to brag about the celebrities that pass through the offices every week…oh and also that we get to work at Rolling Stone.

 

Most of our time is spent transcribing interviews for the editors, researching for stories, and when the ADD kicks in, YouTubing videos of babies who crack up at the sound of paper tearing. Someone with a cruel sense of humor decided to station the intern desk directly outside of Jann Wenner’s office so that every mistake or mishap becomes even scarier when you realize the Editor-in-Chief might have just seen you dump your salad on your lap as you scrambled to take down a message.

 

Last week someone arrived with so many bodyguards we were sure it was Obama in there amidst the sea of muscle. But when I heard the Us Weekly people getting excited about the mystery celebrity, I knew something was wrong. Turns out it was P Diddy amidst the entourage.

 

Celebrity sightings are a weekly occurrence but after a few appearances (Sheryl Crow, Santana, Counting Crows) we realized that the leftover food is the real reason to get excited. The magazine hosts luncheons for the celebs and there are always untouched platters of gourmet sandwiches and other treats left over. Yes, we are unpaid and have very little pride.