I was sitting in a Barcelona square when I heard screaming. I looked to my right and saw a little girl chasing pigeons with feathers. I grabbed my camera, turned it on, zoomed a bit, and then pointed in her general direction and prayed. I got lucky.
She did not catch any pigeons.
In Seville I walked with the hostel crowd to some bars off the Guadalquivir River. There’s a wall against parts of the river where you can sit down and relax, and we put ourselves next to three guys who were singing and drinking to improvised drum beats. These guys attracted more people than the actual bars behind them and it seemed like they weren’t even trying; they were just having fun. I was pretty mesmerized by them, especially the one in the white shirt who sang with so much energy that he was red and exhausted after every song.
When I came home from Spain, I was so inspired by their performance that I ordered an instructional book to learn how to play my djembe drum. I am sure I will open that book any day now.
What do you do when you get desensitized to amazing castles, towers, cathedrals, and palaces? What do you do when you can’t even see them? What does it mean when you don’t get the chance to practice a language you’ve studied for months? Does it matter that you don’t meet many natives? And what exactly is culture anyway? What is the point of traveling?
On my way to Madrid I had to wait in the Valencia train station for seven hours because I missed an earlier train. I was getting used to my new health problem that showed up the night before and was wondering what I would do for the next ten nights. I went to the caf? and shared a table with a German tourist. The table was small and the metal chair was uncomfortable. I drank coffee and sat there for three hours with a pen and notebook, thinking, drawing, and writing nothing of real importance. I sat there a man without any obligations: no one I had to call or see, no meeting to attend or job task to perform, no deadline or pressure of any kind to face, as free and disconnected as I can get, happy and at peace with myself. It turns out I don’t travel for the girls, for the culture, for the food, or for the sights; I travel just so I can sit somewhere with my own thoughts, alone, with a pen, free from the noise and routine of everyday life. As for everything else that happens during travel — well, those things are just a bonus.
Ladies and gentleman, the mullet is alive and well in Spain. Maybe you can consider them stylish mullets, but they were still mullets, sported by half the native girl population in Barcelona (and in lower numbers elsewhere in Spain). Even though these girls seemed to rock the mullet well, I was still disturbed.
One word can best describe Spanish girls: juicy. You just wanted to bite them. I would say they are two-thirds South American and one-third white, with a ratio that changes depending on where you are in Spain. Barcelona had less whiteness, which showed in curvier, darker women while Seville had more whiteness with the most blondes in all of Spain. Barcelona had the most beautiful girls, very closely followed by Granada.
It’s very rare for a Spanish girl to have neither breasts nor ass. They have at least one, and it’s usually breasts; big, full breasts. While I’d rate their ass as only respectable, they tended have a better idea how to accentuate it, choosing to wear thin, cotton dresses that made it seem bigger than it really was.
If you are into girls with oral fixations, Spain is your place. Not only do most of them smoke, but they all have piercings in the mouth area. There was no clear pattern of where they put it: some of them have it on their lip, some have it somewhere around their mouth, and others have it closer to their cheek. While American girls have the generic lower back tattoo, Spanish girls have the randomly placed mouth piercing. I think neither have considered the repercussions of their choice that may come with aging.
As you can see from the chart below, Spanish girls prove to be capable enough in enough categories to edge out Italian girls. Venezuelan women will retain the top spot because they possess all the qualities a horny assman needs. American girls, like usual, round out the bottom.
|International Women I’ve Studied In Their Natural Habitat|
|American Girls||Venezuelan Girls||Italian Girls||Spanish Girls|
I wouldn’t believe you if you told me - after my recent tame experiences in Italy and Venezuela - that I would be thrown deep in the game every day for two weeks. But that’s what happened. Spain was like a boot camp of game.
By the time I left Madrid for Seville, I was mobile but still in bad shape. I was completely congested and started to develop a dry, unproductive cough. My voice, the keystone of my magic, was completely shot. As a man I was borderline useless.
Seville’s residents have been described as the most beautiful in all of Spain. I observed the women of Seville closely for four days, and, frankly, they are quite chunky monkey. Unless September happened to be fat overhang month, look to other Spanish cities for better quality. I think the fatness could be due to the cheap 2-3 euro tapas that put U.S. Spanish restaurants like Jaleo to absolute shame. (In Granada, the tapas actually come free with your two euro drink.)
It was in Seville where things started coming together.
Lesson #1: If you think you are getting a vibe, you are getting a vibe.
When I walked into the Oasis Hostel in Seville looking for a room, a 5′10, thin German 23 year-old girl named Vicky was helpful to me (think runway model without an eating disorder). That’s it — just helpful. At the time I wanted to think she was giving me a vibe, but I concluded that she was just a nice person.
The hostel had a communal dinner the next night and she stood next to me until I started a conversation. When it comes to girls there are no such things as coincidences; they are subtle creatures, opposite of the man’s obvious “I want to fuck you, seriously” style of seduction. They reward men who have enough social intelligence to pick up on these subtle signs, and unless desperate, will only give you one or two chances to do something about it.
As I would find out six hours later, Vicky was indeed giving me a vibe. I’ve come to learn that German girls compete very well with other women of the world. Plus their accents are tough to beat.
Lesson #2: Language is everything.
Without language, you just can’t establish that emotional connection. This is why I let myself stay in the comfort zone of English-speaking hostel girls than trying to grind it out and play a numbers game with natives. Language is like the screwdriver in your toolbox — a toolbox that only contains four other tools. A big chunk of your game relies on the ability to talk and have it mean something to the girl your talking to. Every girl I met in Spain who meant something to me was fluent in English.
Lesson #3: If someone asks if you are God, say yes.
After Vicky I met Hannah, an 18 year-old English girl who attends Oxford. She is the typical cute girl-next-door but with a very nice body. Rumor around the hostel was that she had a boyfriend, but she never told me so I could only interpret her omission as a green light. My cough was getting worse but she didn’t care and neither did I. I put in six hours of work that first night but she still wasn’t ready to be kissed.
Instead, she washed my face. Yes, my face. It was the most genuine moment of the trip. We were in the bathroom, she accused me of having “bad intentions,” and next thing I know she was scrubbing my greasy t-zone. It’s hard to resist a girl who shows a willingness to take care of you (unless, of course, she’s ugly).
The next morning she gently woke me up like only a girl knows how and asked if I wanted to go to the beach. If a cute girl asks you if you want to go to the beach with her, you say yes. Don’t make the same mistake that Dan Aykroyd made in Ghostbusters.
I liked this girl a lot, but I liked the other girls a lot too. These are the times I feel pity for guys who have crushes and obsess over just one girl for months or even years. There is just too much quality out there in the world to have an obsession. And every new girl you meet sort of just replaces the previous one, even though the previous one was awesome in her own way (and maybe even better). For some guys, the rush of meeting someone new is more addicting than the comfort from something stable and long-term.
I spent another twelve hours with Hannah, including time in the water playing around, away from everyone else. On the beach she wore a serong that covered everything below her waist. I would patiently wait for a gentle breeze to lift it up just enough to show a little skin. Fantasizing about nudity, I decided, is more erotic than nudity itself.
Eventually I realized Hannah was like a pot of water you could only heat on low. She invited me to travel with her and her girlfriend to Cadiz, but it would completely change my plans. I had to say no. Should I have gone? Was I on the verge of breaking her down? You always hear of girls having a window of opportunity, a time where you must take advantage of her attraction for you. Well, guys have it too.
Lesson #4: Cockblocking is a chronic illness that can only be managed, not cured.
No one has any respect for a man trying to get laid. Especially not the girlfriend who can’t walk home alone. Or the other girlfriend who is having a bad day and needs emotional support at four in the morning. Or the drunk Aussies who are acting stupid and ruining it for everyone. Or the hostel guy won’t let you take a guest inside. Or the other hostel guy who won’t let you make out with your girl in the lobby. Or the drunk guy friend who rather die than see you get with his crush. Or the Canadian guy who stands right next to you and your girl in his lame “I Like Girls Who Like Girls” t-shirt when you are ready make a move. Or the club that closes when you finally get the girl alone. It just wouldn’t stop.
But you know what, I will never get upset at cockblocking again because it’s a part of life, something I can’t control, like my slowly emerging back hair. Just ride it out like a wave. The more you worry about it, the worse your mood gets.
Lesson #5: It’s all attitude.
After Seville I went to Granada for two nights. The dry cough got worse: each coughing fit would end with me gagging and wiping tears from my eyes. I also contracted bacterial conjunctivitis and had to take off my contacts. Since I didn’t bring my glasses, I could not make out faces unless they were two feet away from me. In other words, I couldn’t see anything. I experienced the Alhambra, Spain’s most popular attraction, through the eyes of a legally blind man.
Even though I wasn’t even in condition to pick up a whore in a whorehouse, the game pulled me aside and asked me to make one final show.
Her name was Helen. She is a 19 year-old student from England. I swear I didn’t try to meet her but she sat at my table with her friends while I was having a cappuccino. She said two things which meant that, at the minimum, I would be sucking face tonight:
1. “You are the first American I have really met.” Everyone loves firsts!
2. “I really like Johnny Depp.” I look nothing like Johnny Depp and have nothing in common with him, but girls who like Johnny Depp also like me. I don’t ask questions.
Spain took away everything I thought was important to meet girls. My voice was shot, my eyes were leaking thick, green mucous, and I couldn’t get out a long sentence without coughing. I looked and felt like shit. I was a beaten man. But I was still getting with quality girls that I dream of meeting here. How is that possible? How can I be at only 50% health but still succeed? Why would a girl want to kiss a guy who sounded like he was about to hack up a small, furry animal? Why did it keep working again and again regardless of how bad my condition got?
It has always been right in front of my face.
The game is not your clothes, it is not your money or your car, it is not you cologne, it is not your lines or routines, it is not your hair, it is not your wingman, it is not your guitar, it is not your voice, it is not muscles, it is not your job, and it is not your liquid courage. It is everything inside in your head: your intelligence, your life experiences, your desire, your drive, your self-respect, your beliefs, and your confidence. Your success as a man is already determined every morning before you even walk out the door. As long as you’ve put in your dues, there is no need to do, just be.
Americans make a big deal when they hear you are traveling alone: “Oh my god, poor thing, don’t you have any friends? It must be so hard for you.” This usually comes from the same people who rather be struck down with a mysterious illness from God than to go to a movie theater or bar alone. About half of the Europeans I met in hostels were traveling alone, a non-issue that I don’t remember coming up in conversation. For living in a culture that stresses the individual, I’m surprised that Americans want their hand held when wandering from home.
I only need a few things for successful independent travel: $100 a day, the desire to experience new things, uncontrollable sexual rage, and good health. With health gone, the dynamic of the trip changed. “Where am I drinking tonight” changes to “Is this the right dose of medicine.”
It was pointless to go to Ibiza while ill. Instead, I went to Madrid to recover for three days.
Madrid, from the five or six blocks I saw, seemed like a very nice city. It was hard to explore when I had to take a thirty minute break after every ten minutes of walking. In three days I visited a palace, a park, and a botanical garden, which I took a fine nap in. I did not enter a single Madrid club or bar unless you count the bar in my hostel. There is a subtle competition between travelers about how much they’ve seen or done, and I’m not ashamed to say that I did virtually nothing in Madrid.
An important part of recovery is proper nutrition. Any doctor will tell you that soup and juice is fine for a sick body, but I decided to ignore conventional wisdom and treat my body with a daily dose of Doner Kebab, which you may know as Gyro.
There is something very masculine about Doner Kebab; the gigantic, rotating hunk of beef, the oozing meat juice, the crackling sizzle, the muscular forearm of the man doing the slicing, and the sweaty brows of everyone standing near the open-air spit. It all adds to a very satisfying culinary experience.
Every sub shop in the States is stingy with meat. You order steak and cheese but you get dough and lettuce. Not so with Doner. They pile meat on top of meat and then add some more meat. The meat that fell off my daily Doner sandwich could easily feed a non-American teenager for a day. I was content to eat Doner every day, especially after my paella experience in Valencia.
Earlier in the trip I thought I was robbing myself of the Spanish experience by not eating at fancy restaurants. I decided to eat in a place that displayed a metal pan of paella about the size of a monster truck tire. I had chicken paella, wheat bread, and a glass of sauvignon blanc. The meal was very good, but I swear to you it tasted very similar to a $1 box of Rice-A-Roni Chicken Broccoli flavor that I often make at home. It rang in at $35, and I can definitely say to you that the paella experience was not thirty-five times better than my boxed rice. I don’t care how great Spanish cuisine is, but for $35 it better end with at least a lap dance.
I’ve concluded that foreign dining is more risky than unprotected sex. But now I have protection. I will only eat at restaurants that meet these five conditions:
1. There are no patrons speaking English.
2. The wait staff speaks broken English at best. If fluent English is spoken by any waiter, run.
3. There are no English menu translations.
4. A large percentage of the clientele is composed of people who don’t possess maps, digital cameras or fanny packs.
5. The location of the restaurant is at least two blocks away from a popular tourist site or square. If you eat at a caf? next to a huge cathedral, you might as well throw your money away.
There is only one place in Spain that consistently met all criteria. It’s called Doner Kebab.
I trained hard to prepare my body for two weeks of punishment. I went to the gym four times a week and put my body in the best shape it has ever been in my life. But it wasn’t enough because I decided to embark on a brand of tourism that was unsustainable. Here’s how to destroy your body in four quick days:
1. Stay out until at least 4am every night. Each night drink an amount of alcohol that your body normally doesn’t see in a week.
2. Get less than 4 hours of sleep a night.
3. Halve your normal caloric intake.
4. Consider water overrated.
5. After doing the above four items, insist on walking miles a day.
On the train ride back to Valencia from Bunol, I noticed a slight pain in the back of my throat. Encouraging emails from friends the day before urged me to push it no matter what, to sacrifice myself for the greater good of fun, excitement, and notches. Yes, I must keep pushing beyond what my body is capable of. I took a nap and prepared for my date with Ana the Polish girl, who I met
the night before.
It was much easier in Spain to meet quality, foreign girls. I remember thinking of the trouble I’d have adjusting to girls back home, having to go from Godiva chocolates to Hershey bars.
Ana took me a Brazilian bar called Opera where we met up with twelve of her friends, eleven of them female. They were from Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, and of course, Poland. Back at home I often wish to be a part of a large international circle of foreigners who come together to share laughs, drinks, and sex. I was living the dream but unable to fully enjoy it.
Excited about her newfound Spanish skills, she insisted on talking to me in Spanish. Problem is I didn’t really understand, and I just nodded my head as the pain in my throat got worse. I didn’t mind being her language guinea pig as long as I didn’t have to talk.
Opera became completely packed and all eyes were on the stage for the Capoeira demonstration. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that has little or no contact — it looks like a cross between ballet and gymnastics, with acrobatic kicks and moves that sometimes match with music. The demonstration by the three Brazilian men was nice, and I liked watching them balance themselves on their head while contorting their body in various directions, but I wanted the Brazilian female dancer I saw warming up on the side to take the stage.
Some women, like this Brazilian, have the ability to rotate the lower half of their body while keeping the upper half completely still — a complete mastery of the spine that is common with professional belly dancers. It was mesmerizing to watch a perfect body move perfectly; it puts you into such a spell that in this case I was convinced she is worthy to be my bride, and I don’t even believe in marriage.
By the end of her performance, the throat pain was so great that I had trouble speaking. The smoke was getting to me and my head was hurting. Ana was being nice, sitting there patiently waiting for me to take charge and be a man. But there would be no way I could service her tonight. I excused myself to leave at the night’s peak.
Every trip has its low point and for Spain it was tonight, getting ill and leaving an amazing bar and guaranteed action to return to an unbearably hot hotel room the size of a jail cell. I cursed myself for being too cheap to pay five extra euros for something bigger with air conditioning. Yes, this would be the low point, dry heaving over the toilet, desperately needing to vomit and unable to sleep. I would never fully recover.
La Tomatina is a yearly festival in Bunol, Spain that began because of one lovesick man. He tried to win over a woman with song until townspeople became so fed up that they started throwing tomatoes at him (so the legend goes). It is now a massive event attended by 30,000-40,000 people.
Most people arrive into Bunol by train and head to the town center to witness the glory that is the ham pole, a wood log greased in lard with a ham attached at the top. There would be no tomatoes until the ham was brought down.
This ham could have been brought down in fifteen minutes if everyone worked together like in those human towers, but every guy there wanted to be the hero. One man would get close and another would try to climb over him to a chorus of boos. Girls who attempted to mount the log would have their shorts pulled down. The base of the ham pole was not very different from a mosh pit, with fights, bloody noses, and boob grabbing. I was content taking pictures from a distance.
It was very obvious that the thick, white lard made climbing the pole very difficult. After about half an hour the main goal of the climbers was getting off as much of it as possible. Guys who made it high enough would have shirts thrown at them for grease wiping. The grease-wipers would get the most cheers as blobs of the Crisco-like substance landed on the crowd.
By 11:30am there were a few guys who got tantalizingly close to the ham. Patiently, the crowd waited by singing, chanting, and throwing random objects in the air. Finally, at noon, a young man brought down the ham with the help of a muscular man who supported him. A cannon boom was heard and the man and his ham was carried off into the crowd, a hero. Off in the distance, the first of five trucks was making its way to the town center. Little red balls could be seen flying in the air.
The next stage of the festival was the tearing of the shirts. If you had a t-shirt on, there was a very good chance it was going to get violently ripped off. The locals usually led the effort but tourists such as this one caught on quickly. Tearing shirts was harder than what I remembered from watching Hulk Hogan as a kid: you really had to yank and pull the victim in all directions to get the initial tear going. These shirts were then wetted with dirty water from the street and thrown into the crowd.
The first truck got closer and the noise from the crowd grew louder. Everyone wanted tomatoes. I put away my digital camera in a plastic bag as the first wave of tomatoes landed around me. Inside the trucks were at least half a dozen people shoveling and throwing tomatoes into the crowd. Security in front of the trucks moved people away.
There were a good amount of tomatoes being thrown in the air after the first truck passed, but it was less than I thought. I was barely messy and hardly getting hit. Was this it?
Then the second truck arrived. Instead of proceeding on like the first one, it stopped about ten feet away from me and lifted its bed. Several tons of tomatoes were dumped onto the street. Then it all happened so fast.
One minute I was wondering where all the tomatoes were and the next minute my eyes were burning and I was slipping into a river of tomato sauce up to my ankles. People were falling all around me and whole tomatoes were hitting me in the face. It took only a couple minutes for everyone there to get completely duped in tomato.
I kept getting hit in the head so I had to stay low, close to the tomato river. I’d bend down, scoop up some tomatoes, and hurl them at no one in particular. The smell of the river was getting to me, the product of 40,000 stinky bodies, a city square freshly coated with beer and urine, and a concentrated quantity of tomato that does not happen in nature. I gagged every time I reached for more ammunition.
Ten minutes felt like eternity. You get tired quickly and want to rest but there is nowhere to go; the tomatoes don?t stop flying and the tomato river continued to get higher after the remaining trucks dumped their load. The best I could do for rest was to go towards a wall and huddle against a mass of bodies. Once in a while I would take out my waterproof disposable and take pictures.
Many people there had a strategy to inflict pain. They would grab one tomato and try to beam you in the head. I tried doing this but it didn’t bring me as much satisfaction as the pie-face strategy. I would scoop up sauce from the river and make sure to leave out any large tomato pieces. I’d stand up, bob and weave like a boxer to avoid getting hit, and search for a victim close enough to nail but not too close where I’d get easily identified as the thrower. Then I would very slowly sling the sauce directly in his face so he was forced to stop whatever he was doing to wipe off the mess. (Imagine someone opening a large bottle of spaghetti sauce and tossing it at your face from six feet away.) I wanted people to go home and remember my toss. The discomfort I created with my pie-face throw put a smile on my face every time, except for the couple of instances where I was caught and dealt with in a swift and furious manner.
After an hour of fighting, after tomato pieces entered almost every crevice of my body, a cannon went off and it was over. Disgusting, outrageous, unique, filthy: this is something you can only do once. I got hosed off and took out my camera bag to take pictures but it was halfway filled with red water. It wouldn’t work again, but it was a small price to pay to take part in the ultimate tomato war.
Five days later I was served gazpacho, a tomato soup appetizer. It brought back vivid flashbacks of the river, the smell, the pain, and the days spent digging tomato seeds out of my ears. I couldn’t finish it.
-Don’t bring anything you don?t mind losing. Your clothes will be destroyed.
-Don’t worry if you lose your flip flops. There will be hundreds to pick from afterwards.
-You need a shirt to get back on the train. Buy a souvenir shirt for twelve euros.
-Always keep your head down, looking at the floor. Don?t show people your eyes!
-When the fight nears an end (you?ll notice the tomato river starting to thin), go to the water hose platform in the center. They are powerful enough to clean you off.
-Don’t bother with goggles. Your eyes will burn initially but they adjust after a short amount of time. Most people with goggles had them on their heads.