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Heads or Tails?



Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.


I was sitting in a bar in the Calle Moret having a midday caƱa (little beer) when I heard the news. One of the older regulars burst into the bar and said, 'Have you heard? The old elephant matador has gone on safari for good!' The volume on one the TVs that seem to be found in the corner of every bar in Spain was quickly turned up and sure enough, his royal highness Don Juan Carlos had abdicated. At this time of the day, the clientel varies between pensioners having a pitarra (young local wine) before lunch and civil servants who work nearby taking late coffee breaks; not a tattoo, rasta or perroflauta (hippy) in sight. Surprise quickly turned to irony as the conversation veered towards his sexual conquests and their amazment that his wife hadn't thrown him out long ago. Another pitarra was poured and they moved on to the amount of Vega Sicilias the ex-king had enjoyed on their tax dime. Thirty minutes passed by and I realized that not a word had been mentioned that could have been construed as positive, that is if you don't count some of the admiration expressed for his ability to dupe his wife. The next day and since then for that matter however, the newspapers have spoken of a different Spain. One that doesn't seem to coincide with the conversations I am overhearing in bars, at work, in the check out line or waiting to pick up my daughter at daycare. It seems that you have to turn to page twenty-six to find a line or two about the fact that no Spaniard under the age of fifty-six has been able to vote on their model of government. Keep reading and you get the impression that the dreaded r-word is only reserved for anti-establishment types and hoary bearded old Marxists. There's also almost a complete black out regarding those on the right of the political spectrum who share no love loss for the monarchy, in particular those on the farther right who still view the ex-king as a traitor who went back on his word with el generalissimo. The inability or perhaps unwillingness to state that a republic is not necessarily the Republic and that each and every citizen should be able to aspire to be head of state seemed so surreal to me until my wife flipped a Canadian coin at me and said, “Heads or tails?” As the coin landed in my hand, I looked down and saw the profile of England's Queen Elizabeth staring up at me and realized that yes, things could indeed get even more absurd.




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