Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Race and Loathing in Europe: Malaga, Spain...Day Two


Ay ay ay, these roundabouts! We call them rotaries in the States. But it seems like every road has them here. The GPS lady sounds so confusing.  Where is Siri when you need her? Proceed to the roundabout take the third exit. Proceed to the roundabout, bear right, and take the fourth exit. I want to strangle the GPS lady. But, Candace has been on the ball behind the wheel.

Oh yeah, there are lots of vacationing Germans here. We watched the World Cup at a restaurant. When Germany won, none of them cheered much. They've grown weary of excessive nationalism.

Anyway, today is our first beach day. The beach is just ten minutes from the resort and it's very, very--European I should say. An antiquated watchtower greets us as we get on the sand. A rocky cliff juts out into the water. Off into the distance, people are getting massages, paddle boating, surfing. Vendors are peddling trinkets to the tourists. A man with a flip book offers to do tattoos. A Senegalese mami advertises her hair-braiding services.

People are naked.

Lindsay and I pause to reflect.

Should this be Africa and naked people were to be encountered, there'd be a white man in the cut ready to link the scene to some sort of barbarism. Now, it's our turn to comment.

Fifty-year old Dutch guy, balls hanging grotesquely from speedo.

Look at that savage.

Ginger lady walking open bosomed.

That savage.

Eight-year old boy wee-wee wagging in the wind.

I can't believe these savages.

Topless eleven year old girls.

Has no one read Lolita?!  Savages!

We tan under six-euro hammocks. We dip in the water. We read. We nap. We take a timeout and eat lunch. A shirtless old guy (German? Spanish? I can't tell.  Dark shades. Cigarette in his mouth. His skin is burgundy leather from the rays) at the bar flags me down. He's spotted my guitar and wants to twiddle. I oblige.

What do you want to hear, he asks.

Some Beatles, some Bob Marley, I say.

He obliges. He's good. His arpeggios make me seethe with jealousy, but it's all fun. We're eating paella and steak sandwiches and there's nothing but sun in every direction. Lindsay decides to be cordial with the old man.

He raps, she says to him about me.

Oh, the man says.

He looks at me and decides to do what?--he decides to start clicking with his mouth. I kid you not. As in African Clicking Language. Lindsay is aghast. Candace is aghast. Tiffany is aghast. Mama Strachan is aghast. We're all freaking aghast.

He taps me.

Cluck, cluck, cluck.

Cluck, cluck, cluck.

Lord, I'm trying to give this man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's trying to beatbox? But there are no clicking sounds in beatboxing.

I give up.

We laugh it off. He isn't being malicious. He is 'misguided' we all agree.

I have a feeling we'll be walking into more 'misguided' people.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Malaga, Spain Day 1

I just landed in Europe, ni**a!

I know, vulgar. Yet, the Rick Ross lyric seems like the only apropos quote for this journey. As Black people, we don't land anywhere. We don't have the funds to most of the time. When we touch down in another continent, we've made it and we want you to know.

Anyway, it's me, Lindsay, her mom, her sister Candace, and her friend, Tiffany for this one week trip.

I'm in Spain. I'm ready for the small streets. The villas, all that.

But no.

This place is confused. Is it American, Latin American, European? From the rental car, I see Fords on the road, but I also see Citroens, Meganes, and Clios. I see authentic eateries and I see Burger King. I see palm trees and cacti. The houses are made of stucco (that's what that's called right?).  Or is it adobe?  Acrobat Reader?  Most of them are gated.

(Hotel view)

I can't help but be conscious of race here. It's like being a Black man in the American South, but worse. There, we're one in ten. Here, we're one in a hundred.

The only people of color I see here are Africans selling illegal sunglasses and pocketbooks. I think to myself, Great, we're the bootleggers, caricatures of ourselves. Look how they do us.

So yeah, race is a big theme...
At first, I don't feel it at all.

I haven't noticed anyone staring at me, I tell Lindsay at the airport.

The kids have been, she says.

I start noticing them as soon as she says that. One boy at baggage claim leans in and whispers to his mother. I'm guessing he said something like, did you see the black guy in dreads?

His mother nods.

We're on the restaurant strip by the resort, when some British youth no more than eight years old,
goes, Jamaica?

Supermoon on restaurant strip
United States, I say.

Oh sorry, he says. Because of the head.

The hair he means (let's hope).

I want to shake him up and say, Didn't mummy and daddy teach you racial manners?

Man, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss American white kids? Just kidding.