Author: Dane Lowell
Submitted by: redadmin

Chapt. 309 - 2 393 words
Columns :: Fighting the bureaucracy alone

Somewhere in Northern Spain, January 12, 2011 -- Comments:   Ratings:

Druzhka back in Moscow
Bureaucratic Spain
I lose my keys
And buy a computer desk – still unassembled
All I wanted was a potato masher

Somewhere in Northern Spain, January 12, 2011Druzhka left last night. Like me, in my forays to Moscow and to Norteamerica, he caught the midnight bus to Madrid, where he was to catch an Iberia Airlines flight to Moscow this morning at 10:30.

He sent me a message as he was boarding the plane in Madrid this morning: “You are one of the best girls I’ve seen in my life. See you in March.” We are sisters, you see, and he enjoys camping it up when there’s nobody around but us. I’m just a tad uncomfortable with it, but what the hell? We call each “darling,” or “querido,” which is the Spanish equivalent, and – after seeing “Sunset Boulevard” the other night -- he now refers to himself as “Madame.”

It’s a tad bizarre, since he is returning to Moscow to nurse his “girlfriend,” or “wife,” or whatever, in her last four months of pregnancy before the birth of their daughter, who is going to be Anastasia, or Nastya. I warned him not to take her to Norteamerica with the nickname “Nastya,” because it’s much too close to “nasty.” Since he speaks impeccable English, he knows the meaning of “nasty,” and assures me that if she goes, she will be “Anastasia.”

I also had a call this morning from “Sasha” in Ohio, who has promised to come visit me in Spain. It seems he needs an invitation; but since I am here as a tourist, I can’t really send him a legitimate one, so I will ask my friend Pili, the 50ish mother of beautiful 14-year-old Saul, to write a letter of invitation.

Saul is still being teased and verbally abused by his classmates for being gay, which he may or may not be. I feel very sorry for him. He’s incredibly sweet, but I can’t acknowledge to his mother that I am gay, because it would probably be the end of our friendship. Even though Spain is formally enlightened, and homosexuality is not only legal here, but so are gay marriages, in the conservative and provincial area in which I live, it’s still socially unacceptable.

Druzhka, who taught Saul in an English class here, thinks there’s more to it than Saul’s simply being – or being thought -- gay, especially because there is another boy in his class who is gay and out, and who is completely accepted by his schoolmates. Druzhka thinks it’s because Saul is aloof and “uppity” that he is ostracized, and not just because he doesn’t like sports and only has girls as friends. His 18-year-old sister has also had fights with her schoolmates.

In any case, it’s a serious problem for Pili and her husband, Lisardo. They don’t know what to do, and are seeing pscychologists and school counselors about the problem.

I just hope that they carry through on their plans to pay my way to London to be a native guide to the family this summer, in which case I will almost certainly room with Saul, who will be 15 by then. So that’s another reason why I don’t want her to know that I’m gay.

Out of the blue during the holidays came a note from mo old Russian lover Olin, with whom I fell out over Hong Kong Harry (it’s chronicled somewhere around Chapter 200), and from whom I never expected to hear again.

Not only did I hear from him, he began his e-mail with “Dearest Dane,” and proposed that he come to America to live with me and that we get married and he would take care of me in my old age.

In addition, he ‘lowed as how I was “the most intelligent person” he had met in his entire life.

He somewhat accurately described the “bitter rivalry” between Mike and me over him, which he described as a “terrible misunderstanding and confusion.

“…I followed and watched with great attention any events and changes in your life. Mike told me about your moves….About one month ago Mike told me that you went to the U.S. He also told me about your difficult financial situation, that you can live only on your social security.”

He went on to tell me about “two crucial changes in my life.”

First, Mike is retiring to London next year. “It means my relationship with him is coming to an end. Another reason – he has a Chinese boyfriend in Macau.”

Secondly, “I decided that I should leave Russia. The more I live in this country, the more I dislike it. I simply need to get out of here.”

This comes as something of a surprise, because the last long discussion we had over Russia, he was very defensive of both Russia and Putin. I, moi, yours truly, simply didn’t understand Russia, he insisted, and it was foolish to try to compare Russia with America or Europe and to expect Russia to be anything but Russia. Now it seems he’s no longer satisfied with Russia being Russia.

He said he has saved about $ 2500 and is making $ 500 a month (he lives with his parents in their apartment, and has no real expenses) working in a department store. He speaks excellent – almost perfect -- English

“As you know,” he said in his letter, “I am 100% queer, and I am only attracted to aging guys above 60 years old.”

That, frankly, came as a bit of a surprise. The last time I sucked his cock, he didn’t think he was gay. In fact, he thought he was straight. It’s nice to know he has finally realized and accepted the truth.

He closed by promising his “love, commitment, honesty, care,” and financial support, though I don’t know how he would manage the latter.

“I miss you; I treasure you.”

I was truly flattered by his wanting to live with me. He is honest (notwithstanding the Mike affair), sweet, young (still under 30), and a little naïve. I told him about my eye operation in the U.S., but told him that I am living and teaching in Spain now, and expect to remain in Spain for the foreseeable future.

I also told him that I was going to try to help Misha come to Spain to live with me, but “if Misha is unable to get a visa, I would happily live with you – with or without marriage.”

So “to give you a direct answer, I can only say, let’s wait and see what happens to Misha, to me, and to you.

“I am flattered by your interest in me; later on, no matter what happens, perhaps you can come visit me in Spain.”

He began his reply again with “Dearest Dane,” and asked if Misha demanded a completely monogamous relationship with me. “I just thought if three of us (you, me, and Misha) could live together. Is that possible?”

He said he hoped he could get a “decent job” in Spain, perhaps teaching Russian.

“I am so happy we can get in touch again. Look forward to your response. Take care, my dearest Dane.”

I replied to “my dearest Olin,” and noted that “I was fortunate in that I saw many of my old friends in the U.S., but had no sex except with my own hand. But it’s the kind of sex I have in Spain. Gay boys here are like the gay boys in America. They only want somebody younger and prettier than themselves, and I ain’t young and pretty

“Misha is quite open to other relationships for me. I love him, but he’s made it clear that he doesn’t mind if I have other relationships. We would have to have a larger apartment, which would cost more money. I’m only paying 170 euros a month here (compared with $ 1400 in Moscow), and we could probably rent a larger apartment for about 350 euros a month. So I would probably have to have a little help. Misha has no skills, and can’t teach, so I can’t expect help from him.

“Anyway, my dear, that gives us lots to think about. In the meantime, have as happy a 2011 as possible.” Of course, I signed off with “love.”

I have had no response to this letter, and in fact wrote him a subsequent note: “Hello, honey, are you enjoying your holiday? How are you spending it? Write when you have time and tell me about what your life is like now. Love, Dane.”

But I’ve also had no response from that, which was about 10 days ago. Maybe his parents have caught wind of his hopes and plans and are limiting his computer access. They were keeping him as a virtual prisoner when he and I had a more inter-active relationship back in 2005-2006. I had to sneak to spend the afternoon with him in his apartment while they were away for the weekend. Consequently, I’ve never met them and don’t want to. I think they’re pathologically protective/defensive about their only son.

Or maybe he’s just very busy. Anyway, I expect I’ll hear from him soon.

In the meantime, I plan to send Misha about $ 600 later this month to pay for his Russian passport. Then we’ll see what happens next.

Yesterday morning I went to the police station to see what I have to do to extend my visa for 90 days so I don’t have to leave the country.

What a bureaucracy!

Russia’s bureaucracy is probably no worse. The major difference is that in Spain, everybody has to follow the same rules. You don’t get a “pass” for being an influential government agent or a rich slob. Since I am neither, I would have to jump through the hoops anyway.

The first thing I had to do was to make a complete photocopy of my passport. No big deal. It set me back less than five bucks. Then Jorge (Druzhka’s ex-boyfriend) will call the academy where we teach on Monday and get them to write a letter saying that it’s important for me to stay in Spain to complete my Spanish studies (partly true). Then I have to buy health insurance for the next three months. God (and Jorge) knows where I will get it and how much it will cost for a septuagenarian.

Then I will have to submit to the police station, or comisaria, all the documents, including a copy of my travel tickets to Morocco the first of May to renew my tourist visa. Ahhhhh!

I am doing this to save me a trip to Morocco the first of February, which may be worth it; though at this point I don’t know if the extra hoops I am having to jump through are worth the time and money I will save.

When I got back from the comisaria, I couldn’t find the keys to my apartment! Holy hemorrhoids, Batman! I’ve never in my life misplaced my keys, that I can remember. I had to have them to get into the apartment the night before, and I never had occasion from the time I left the apartment till the time I returned to reach into the pocket of my newly-purchased bolso, or shoulder bag, where I now keep my keys.

I sent a text to Elvira, my landlady and Spanish teacher, and we arranged to meet downtown later in the afternoon. She gave me her only set of spare keys, and I will give them back to her in our lesson on Monday morning.

Druzhka gave me back the set I had given him when I went to Norteamerica last summer, so I’m now using them. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done. I presume I can have another copy made, but I’m only guessing. I will find out from Elvira on Monday.

In the meantime, I’m frustrated and perplexed. Where could they be? Only in the apartment. I still think I’ll come across them sometime unexpectedly.

In an advertising flyer that came to my apartment last week was an ad for a computer desk for only $ 29.95. My student Carlos, the winemaker and jack-of-all-trades, took me to the suburban discount store on Thursday, where I came into proud possession of a super computer desk.

My laptop is now taking table space, which I will need for eating space if Misha or Olin comes to live with me, and even now is unfortably cluttering up my minuscule apartment.

So I proudly bore my boxed treasure into the apartment, only to discover that there’s only one minor problem: I can’t assemble it. “Only a child can do it,” as ex-lover Jim in Seattle used to say. So I’ve set it aside until Misha, or Olin, or somebody comes to help me with it. In the meantime, my kitchen table will have to continue to serve as a desk on which I write these columns

As a sloppy kind of Walter Matthau in “The Odd Couple,” I find it’s something else to clutter things up and give me an excuse not to keep things neat and tidy in my tiny living space.

All I wanted was a potato masher that I could use to make more pulpy the potatoes that I cook in the caldo gallego, a heavenly stew of ham, turnip greens, potatoes, and navy beans. I remember throwing away in Moscow the ancient potato masher my mother used to use. It was, after all, bent and beat up and would cost money to ship. “I can get them in Spain for a dime a dozen,” I told myself.

But I can’t. They simply don’t have them. I should have gotten a clue from the definition in the English-Spanish dictionary: “A utensil used to squash potatoes.” They don’t even have a word for it. After unsuccessfully searching in half a dozen shops and department stores – most of them owned and operated by Chinese, I finally asked a Spanish shopkeeper:

“Don’t they mash potatoes in Spain?” Nope, he smiled.

They sell lots of potatoes. What do they do with them? You can buy “pure (Spanish for puree) de patatas” in the grocery stores, a mix that you add water to and cook. So what do they do with all the potatoes they sell? Apparently they don’t squash, pulverize, or smash them. Maybe they boil or fry them? Maybe I’ll find out.

Stay tuned.

See also related pages:
Chapt. #308 - Christmas in Spain – Feliz Navidades a Todos :-)