I am the Butchers' Friend.

Woke up late and had to shower quick and get downstairs to the tiny supermarket that's next to our apartment building. Wanna see my neighborhood? This service from QDQ is amazing. They went around last summer and took pictures every 10 meters (!!!) of every street in the city. You can virtually walk around the whole of Madrid like this. I'd love a service like this for San Francisco... With digital cameras it'd be easy as hell to produce. I can't believe no one thought about it during the dotcom nuttiness.

Anyways, you can see the market next door. And do you see all the taxis below my apartment? (I live in the center window on the 2nd floor (errrr. That might be the 3rd floor in American English... They start here with floor 0 and I'm confused now which is which now.) The taxis are there because of this incredibly popular bar on the corner. The one with the sign from the 70s above it if you roam around the hood virtually and see. Bars are where the Spanish eat breakfast, have coffee, lunch, snack and have late night drinks. For some reason this place is inexplicably popular 24 hours a day and most of the week with cops, taxi drivers and street cleaners. It can be a pain in the ass because they double park all the time and the system to notify someone that you're trapped is to lay on your horn until the guy comes. No matter if it's 2 a.m. or 7 (which is worse, IMHO) You can see that if you're laying on the horn, you're probably doing it below my window. I've started throwing loose pennies, dirt or water at the cars that do that now if I can reach them... wake up my kid and I'll dent your roof or get you wet. That's fair I think. Also the cops keep their radios on their loudspeaker sometimes, so all you can hear is these loud BEEPs followed by short static-filled Spanish police reports... ugh. Obviously I'm not throwing anything at the cops, but still, it's annoying.

Anyways, I rushed downstairs and bought the basics at the supermarket below. You can't run out of toilet paper on the weekend or you're definitely in trouble. There actually IS a 7-11 close by, but it's better not to have to hike over there to buy a �10 4-pack because you forgot on Saturday. Then I rushed upstairs, dropped off the goods and ran up to the butchers at 2:05. They were closing the shutters when I arrived, but because I've been buying meat there for the past couple months (and before that too, but regularly since Alex was born) they know me. I'm the American. The day after the U.S. lost to Germany in the world cup one of the butchers and I had a longish conversation about where I was from and how great the U.S. played, etc. So I arrived and the guy closing the shutters gave me a wink and let me duck under the half-closed doorframe to buy the meat for the week. Cool!

The butcher I go to is pretty good - it's a decent sized shop with legs of ham (hoof and all) lining the walls and separated into three stations. On the left you buy your steaks, chickens and pork, in the center your cheeses and on the right you have the deli. They chop everything up for you right there. So if you want, say, a chicken breast, they pull out a whole chicken, peel-it, chop it, cut it up and fillet it right in front of your eyes. Almost the same for steak - they have these huge slabs of meat and you choose which one you want your steaks from and then they slice your steaks for you. The cheese station is classic Europe - there's like 40 different cheeses in wheels and they'll cut them how ever you like them too. In triangles, chunks, or sliced for sandwiches. The deli is the only part that actually has much less choices than in the U.S. There's no roast beef, for example, or roasted chicken. The Spanish eat HAM. There's like 5 or 6 types of "Jamon York" which is what I think of as normal ham for sandwiches and then there's some types of salmi and turkey breast and that's about it. I'd kill for a New York style deli here in Madrid...

It's kinda fun being known at your local butcher. Some Saturdays they really want to chat, but my Spanish hasn't woken up yet (anyone living in another country using a second language knows how that is) and so it can be rough. I'm sure they call me the "dumb, but nice, American" when I'm not there...

Okay, enough with the mundane life of a guy in Spain. I'm getting some stuff done today.


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