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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Apropos of Nothing: The Queen of Jarandilla

Still stuck on a piece about Reagan, and sitting around waiting on the New Hampshire results. So, of course, my mind turns to thoughts of nothing important to anybody else: my dogs, my cars, my falling stock market investments, and, above all, to long ago dusty memories of when life was a bit more fun.

Spain, early 1970s. More specifically, province of Caceres in the region of Extremadura. Even more specifically, I write of events in the small municipality of Jarandilla. Population back then? About 2,000. Not a big place, but like many small Spanish municipalities, a helluva lot of fun when party time hits. These folks know how to party. Small-town Spaniards are among the nicest, funniest, most welcoming people on the planet. They are also extremely politically incorrect, and use language that would make a sailor blush or a delicate modern college student pass out. There is no safe space. Microagressions are at the core of the humor. Any and all human physical features are legitimate targets for ridicule: accent, skin color, hair, weight, nose, butt and shoe size, etc. No wimps need apply. Remember, the Conquistadores who humbled Islam and conquered half the world came from these sort of places. These are not pajama boys.

The town was having a big party for some reason or another: too many years have gone by to remember all the details. There was a lot of drinking, smoking, eating, dancing, puking. The big event would be the election of the town's "Miss" who would go on to compete for "Miss Caceres," who would go on to compete for "Miss Spain," who would go on to compete for . . . well, you got it. Can't place exactly where that big event took place, but recall a crowded, smoky venue, with a dance floor and a small stage. A table with, I think, four judges was on the floor facing the stage. The raucous crowd of men and women sat, stood, roamed, smoked, drank, sang, shouted all over the place. A group of us pushed to the front and stood just behind the judges.

The competing "Miss" candidates, all natives of the town and surrounding areas, paraded onto the stage, and proceeded to do "Miss" things. The hooting from the audience made apparent the lack of popular satisfaction with the ten or twelve candidates on offer. These, mostly sturdy rural girls, clearly felt uncomfortable in make-up, heels and gowns, and the crowd cruelly mocked them. The judges were not happy, either. The main judge, puffing furiously on a Ducados black tobacco cigarette, started looking around. His glance fell upon the future Diplowife. Pointing a cigarette-stained finger at her, he roared, "That one!" Two other judges looked at her and agreed, "Yes! That one! Bring her up on the stage!" The future Diplowife looked mortified. The crowd began to shout "Yes! Yes! That one!" Kong had to have his tribute. The sacrifice would take place.

Helped onto the stage, long brown hair cascading about her shoulders, wearing tight bell-bottom jeans, a half unbuttoned checkered blouse, and clunky clogs she stood there, meekly smiling and waving to the noisy crowd--I vowed to myself that this would be the lady I married. The official contestants, in their ill-fitting gowns and heels, fidgeting and confused, milled about behind her--one stomping away. Upon, however, hearing the future Diplowife say her impossibly Basque name, one judge yelled, "No! No! This is against the rules! She's not even from here! She's Basque!" Nobody else seemed to care. Bam! A sash, a crown, and a trophy appeared, and were placed, respectively, on the shoulders, the head, and into the hands of the future Diplowife by a more than somewhat tipsy official. Loud music blared. She was asked to walk back and forth across the stage: blushing, lamely but gamely waving, trying not to drop her trophy, and holding the crown on her head, she shuffled around. The other "Miss" hopefuls? One began to cry, another to curse, and then all stormed off. Needless to say, we saw no fake tears of happiness or strained hugs of joy for the winner.

The crowd's blood lust had been satisfied: the local gals humiliated, their dreams of fame and glory crushed. The future Diplowife had a crown, a trophy, and a sash. We made it to our cars and out of town alive and whole--we were warned that male relatives of some of the "defeated" contestants were looking for us. A good night's work.

All these decades later, the crown and the trophy still sit on a shelf at her parents' house in San Sebastian-Donosti. As we expected, of course, she was disqualified from running for "Miss Caceres" by higher-up party-poopers in the "Miss" organization. Her father would have never permitted it, anyhow, so that did not matter. He, by the way, couldn't decide if he was furious with his child or proud of her. Given, in subsequent years, that he bragged about having a "Miss" for a daughter, I think he settled on the latter. He, alas, is no longer with us for me to confirm that.

Although having not a drop of royal blood, I eventually married the Queen of Jarandilla. Granted, we could see a new War of the Spanish Succession since some poor misguided souls might dispute the legitimacy of her title, but . . .  never mind. She has the trophy, the sash, and the crown, and the pretenders don't! Possession, as they say, is . . . OK, back to the NH primary.

31 comments:

  1. Mad,
    We may have crossed paths. In the early 70's I was on a train (with 5 nuns and 5 bottles of wine purchased through the car window at a station) between St. Jean de Luz, Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona. What a good time I had!
    James the Lesser

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    1. Those nuns told me about you . . .

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    2. Nothing lurid happened, except 5 happy nuns drunk on some horrible wine. We really did have a fun time paaing around the bottles. We had to finish the first two so the rest weren't so bad to taste.

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  2. Great story. I always enjoy reading the stories of your past.

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  3. A great story--and I hope Senora Mad approves.

    Speaking of parties, a happy Chinese New Year to all and sundry! It was yesterday, and for the sake of the weekend, Uncle Kepha's family had its celebration over the weekend.

    You talk about small town partying--well, this time of year makes me very nostalgic for the smallptown and medium-sized city Taiwan. Something tells me that, with all due respect to Spanish joy of life, they're second-rate party people compared to anyone in Sinitic Asia. You should've seen the spread my mother-in-law used to put on!

    It's customary for the hostess to say, "Nothing to eat here" (literally, "no vegetables"), which is the cue for everyone to start praising the spread. As a Xiang Xia Gu Niang (country girl), my mother-in-law, while not likely to appear on the food network, was a superb cook. One year (excuse idiosyncratic romanization of Hakka):

    Mother-in-law: Mo makkai tsoi ("no vegetables")
    Uncle-in-law (just before proposing a toast): Yinvui kiungkiung he ngiuk! ("It's because it's all meat!")

    Uncle-in-law had a point. There were at least three chickens prepared in different ways (inclulding a local delicacy which is a black chicken served whole in its slightly medicinal broth), four ducks in different ways (including the local take on roast duck and Taiwan's favorite salt-water duck), a few pork dishes, including a superb long-simmered pork shoulder braised in soy auce and served over bamboo shoot, which is to die for, and superb locally made sausages served with garlic greens; there was also a dish of dauteed frog, and an excellent turtle soup--and then there were numerous fish and seafood dishes as well. Multiply this all by about five or six large, round tables for the extended family visiting and you have an idea of the mount of food. Of course the Shao Xing, Gaoliang, beer, and soda flowed pretty freely, too.

    Never ever let them tell you that the Far Eastern diet is heart-healthy: poultry without the skin is not worth eating, and those people wrote the book on fat pork. Let a Sinitic people prosper, and I guarantee that they will see to it that they eat well. As Dr. Sun Yat-sen said, "The People regard eating as Heaven." (民以食为天).

    While a lot of the fun went on indoors, there were also special markets, firecrackers, theatrical exhibits, calligraphers, and crowds like you would not believe.

    Hmmm. The story about how the local beauties responded makes me think of a few things I've seen among the teens I now teach. I guess Latin America is still heir to some of the attitudes brought over from Spain.

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    1. Your last paragraph made me think of Steve Harvey v Miss Colombia and how he and his descendants need to avoid a vacation there for a long time.

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    2. Great to hear.
      Food worship is both a blessing and a curse.
      My in-laws were born/raised in Taiwan, but of shanghai/hubei stock.
      They worship food in ways that are mentally unhealthy. I can't eat anything they offer without knowing that it's going to come back at me in the form of "you weren't grateful enough" (blah blah blah) whatever.
      I'm politely appreciative, and even their own children get grief for everything they eat.
      Nutty!

      - reader #1482

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    4. #1482. Yes, a lot of Chinese and Chinese-descended people can be pretty neurotic about what they eat. I can only say that I married into a plain, middle-class Hakka family (even learned some of their dialect, in addition to Mandarin), and ate their plain, hearty, designed-for-hard-working-folks fare (although I like fancier Chinese food, too).

      Interestingly enough, Hakka cuisine has become somewhat fashionable in Taiwan. I guess it's like Americans starting to re-appropriate various kinds of country cooking.

      Then again, nothing like a good noodle shop, too. As late as the 1980's, the way to find one was to look for some old ex-military laoban in gongfu shoes with anti-Communist tattoos showing due to wearing a muscle shirt and swearing at his staff/offspring in Northern dialect. That generation, alas, has retired or died off--but you can still get good noodles and jiaozi almost anywhere.

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  4. DMad, just in case I have not said so, and I am fairly certain that I have not, your lapses into humanity documented here are appreciated more than you probably realize, and certainly much more often than recognized by folk such as myself who follow your comments with relish, as an oasis in a desert of insanity, but rarely have the time, or take the time, to say so. Thank you.

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  5. D'Mad,

    Watch New Hampshire? For what? It is ORDAINED by those greater than reality (MSM, that is) that The Donald and What's Behind Door Number 2 will win. The only question is: Why are you watching that instead of the pups and the beauty queen?

    Green Bear

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  6. That tale would make an excellent plot for a short story.

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    Replies
    1. If not a Gregory Peck and Sophia Lorraine movie.

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    2. And the ending should be "...and she will return someday, when her people need her most" :-D

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  7. beautiful story!
    if you're writing something on Reagan, just make sure it recognizes him as the father of modern no-fault divorce.

    - reader #1482

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  8. I took a different look at the New Hampshire race.

    In 2008 the total NH primary votes broke down as:
    Democrats: 287,542 = 54.612%
    Republicans: 238,979 = 45.388%

    In the general election that fall NH voted as:
    54.38% Obama
    44.73% McCain

    The primary predicted the general within 0.232 percent for the Democrats and with 0.658 percent for Republicans. The contest in 2008 was also similar to 2016, with both parties engaged in a very hot contest with high interest (which is why 2012 would be a useless baseline).

    So far, with 93% reporting, the 2016 NH primary breaks down as:
    Democrats 227,543 = 46.82 %
    Republicans 258,479 = 53.18 5

    The difference in the two primaries shows a 7.79 percent swing toward the Republicans. When I plug that 7.79 percent swing into the state-by-state 2008 electoral college results, it swings Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin and the Republican wins 346 to 192.

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  9. What a lovely little story. I liked it alot.

    Also, i have started to warm up to that buffoon Trump, ever so slightly. I think he is pulling in blue collar whites.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, and, yes, I am also starting mellow a bit on Trump

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  10. You could sing "The Queen of Jarandilla" to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas". You have four days in which to write the lyrics.

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    1. I can't work under pressure like that! Call in Adele, maybe she throw something together!

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  11. I have to admit she is a beauty! One of the most beautiful I ever met in the Foreign Service--you always had great taste and talent in wine and women!

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  12. A Basque wife! So you have my predilection for the exotic in women. Two French Canadians, one Pure Laine, the other Ontarian; an Estonian girlfriend in the past. Now looking at Brasil.

    Oh, I mustn't forget the Essex Girl.

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  13. Holy cow, this column ranks right up there with anything written by Youthly Puresome, I'm impressed!

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  14. I would much rather spend time reading about the Diplowife and your trails in the Department than the pretenders who are running for President.

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  15. That was like a great Hemingway story

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  16. what happens if a non-ass-clown wins the 2016 race and you're invited back to the state department? :)

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  17. So now we see the NH Super-Delegates have jumped for She Who Must Be Next and have effectively given Her a tie in delegates despite Bernie's 60-40 stomping.
    Now, before we laugh at how The Left has gone from rigging National Elections to now rigging their own primaries...we must consider Bernie's own economic platform.
    Bernie, the Delegate rich white man, was merely paying his fair share of delegates to the Candidate less fortunate. Indeed, under the meme of Equal Delegates for Equal Work, Hill-Dog is entitled to those delegates considering she is seeking the same job as the delegate 1-percenter. Bernie should actually thank Gaia that a Minority is also not running, less he have to transfer another percentage of his Delegate Wealth to atone for his White Candidate Privilege.
    Bernie feels the Burn.

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