Chapter 17: Music Fail (An American Barista in Spain)

The following link will show you the list of the, apparently, top 40 songs on a radio station call the Forty here in Spain:

While interesting musical acts and groups do exist they are hidden from use in public, where almost everything is beholden to the whims and reigns of culturally irrelevant media companies. This botox-ed puppet show model for media production and consumption is generally the rule in globalized communities and the fundamental issue here has no cause rooted in Spain per se; however, being that I’m in Spain – what follows is merely my opinion and observation on the music here which is much more pervasively commercial, invasively demanding, and alarmingly accepted in public settings – even when the music seems geared towards nothing more than teenagers at best.


 “Don’t you know Justin Beiber? Do you like the Muse? Why don’t you like Kesha? You’re American!”

<It really doesn’t matter who is and who isn’t ‘American’> Huckleberry thought. <Afterall, people from the United States don’t really define what it is to be American; that’s apparently the job of the rest of the world, instead.>

You see, the USA (while not actually receiving enough political criticism, both externally and internally) serves as a scapegoat/circus for Western Europeans (Who doesn’t like pointing fingers and laughing instead of taking responsibility and actually taking action, am I right?), Western Europeans who often have the gumption to call themselves Europeans as if Eastern Europeans didn’t exist. However, this is not the time to discuss double standards, this is strictly a time to discuss music because Huckleberry, if anything, is a musician.

Therefore, when people talk to him about REM, Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Pharrell, Metallica, Myley Cyrus, et cetera the most logical and sincere thing to say in response is that all of these things are “lame, cheap, fabricated for teenybopper bubblegum chewing adolescents, really-really out of date, super cheesy, uninteresting, and/or the result of talentless hacks.” However, western europeans are very sensitive about being out of date and one must always coat the truth with the red pill or the blue pill, and then a spoonfull of sugar. There also seems to exist a strange fascination with Bruce Springsteen. Don’t get me wrong, he probably puts on a good show, but Huckleberry nearly forgot The Boss existed until he came to Cáceres. One in every four cars that pass by are playing Metallica tunes. Its surreal. Further, the worst plastic atrocities to hit the (*cough*fan*) airwaves have been assailing him in stores, in schools, in bars, in cafes, in public events, in cars, on radios, and from that dude’s car as he drives by repeatedly.

Huckleberry arrived without any personal music, on purpose, to get a feel for what was really happening in the scene here – and how it was happening. It proved to be a profoundly rewarding psychological experiment. The music industry in The States has been dying a slow death for many a year and is much less powerful than it used to be. There were mass burnings, great thefts, rampant piracy, lawless streams of music and eventually a user-centric revolution. Coming out of that anarchy, new systems are being created to regulate and rule the consumption of music. Here, the old tyrrany remains unchecked. This numbing propaganda works on the mind like the good drug that it is. Huckleberry noticed a huge difference in his everyday life with only the a.) out of date b.) terrible, horrendous, inexcusable or c.) “do people really enjoy this?” music available. Any consumption of media is, in effect, on some level hypnosis. Now, when one cultivates their own hypnosis to shape their character, most people call that personal growth or even …education…but when the Choosers who do the Choosin’ are far from the reach of those receiving media, all of a sudden a Brave New Hypnosis runs amuck. Even worse than the idea of a conspiracy of control is the probable reality that these media are regulated by unmanned laws and systems that have little relation with the content. That, actually, isn’t really that bad, but what really gets Huckleberry’s buttons pushed to and fro is the lack of cultural anitbodies running around saying, “Is this what we really want?”

<This system could not possibly work without apathy,> he mused.<that and the vulnerablity of both collective and individual vanity facing the brute persuasion of capitalism.>

These things, one wonders, must be the result of the population’s desires and/or taciturn approval.

Or not. It’s hard to tell. Ignorance is not always bliss. Sometimes ignorance is highly unsatisfying. Sometimes its painful, in an unpleasant way. Where is the real verve in an ignorant life? Complacency and apathy send inspiration and creativity into exile. Quality is unmentionable.

Speaking of exile, Huckleberry is no authority (which should always go in the fine print) outside of that field which, sometime in the 1910’s joined latin in the museum of dead languages; yet, he wonders if going to Spain was an exercise in self castigation, exiled from something so delicious as a nice cup of joe or a well pulled espresso. What he thought was merely an addiction turned out after all to be a sincere appreciation for flavor. And ¡surprise! quality.

This has been a recurring theme in the T.A.O.H.G. Nonetheless, until it is documented with precision it seems you, Dear Readers, will never be free of his self-coddling and intolerance-reinforcing observations. So, would you like to know once and for all just what the coffee experience is like here?

Yes? Wonderful! I’m sure he’d be delighted to share. Huckleberry, would you kindly share with us just what the experience is like?

Emotionlessly he says,”Come witness for youself.” and heads straight for the door. I don’t have time or an option to react. This is his ball game, apparently. Picking up my journal and sweater I rush to catch up with him as he leaves the flat. Wordlessly, Huckleberry leads me to a neighborhood café-bar. We enter. We order. We observe. Then he speaks in such rapid succession it is honestly hard to keep my narrative pen going.

“There, see now, there – he’s grinding the beans in that hopper. He’s letting it grind beans for a minute straight, that’s normal. Just in case someone else comes in to order espresso during the next ten minutes.

What you see before you as a frosted baton is actually the steamwand. Cleanliness isn’t an issue.

Lukewarm milk has been sitting out all morning, and while he pulls (goops) what will eventually be our coffee he might yep there he goes – just pouring in a random amount of milk so that, combined with the leftovers (approx. 9 ounces) of the last batch of milk he cooked, there will be enough milk to pour several latte’s in a row.

Meanwhile the untamped masterpiece travels in the cold, counter laying vessel over to the aged grouphead. It quickly gurgles forth a runny bubblebath of nonsense and then finishes up with about 3 seconds of watery who knows what.

The milk in the pitcher is probably still warm, but he’ll scorch it just in case. How does he perform this for us? By swirling the pitcher’s bottom around like he was mixing cream. By moving the pitcher mindlessly up and down making sure to “hit all the spots”. By sticking the steam wand into the bottom of the barrel, setting the pitcher on the espresso machine and walking away to tend to several customers while the full blast hot air vaporizes whatever remnants or potential of delicious may have once inhabited such bovine blessings. Sometimes they simulate an attempt to clean the pitcher walls with the vaporizer. Yes, these are all acceptable forms of steaming milk here, and standard. Unquestioned. Today it looks like he is choosing to swirl the pitcher around. We’re lucky.

All awhile, the preground espresso fines have already given up the ghost of their gases and oxidized all of their potential; put simply, from a compositional point of view those grounds are an entirely new entity. This new id-entity should not be served, and luckily, being the very carcass of utility-or-PotentialPleasure, most likely a quick death spared them the horror of being audience to the abuse of their brethren under the open fire of these automated groupheads.

Tell you one thing kid, that medicine’s’gonna hurt goin’ down.”

The waiter sets down the espresso in front of us on the bar and pours the milk in as I watch aghast. Huckleberry seems uncomfortably numb. After 9 months he’s seen too much to react; but his body knows better and demonstrates resilience against the happenings of this bad juju, this strange brew.

Huckleberry continues and warns, “Remember, this isn’t coffee. This is medicine. This is a habit. This is an excuse to leave work. This is an excuse to have melodramatic conversations about what What’sHerFace was wearing at the bar last night.”

All of this was said in an ironic tone, and suddenly I felt images of A Clockwork Orange seep into the theater of my brain. I felt imprisoned by my surroundings as I tasted the coffee and was attacked by the foul words of Huckleberry’s assessment of this coffee experience.

“Give it a good moment or two. Look at that cup. Take in the color. Breathe easily in through the nose two or three times making sure to exhale naturally. What do you smell?”

Chemicals. In summary, pure chemicals. Any aroma you might put under the umbrella of “Chemicals” was what I was getting. At this moment, to our left, four massive plastic bags full of potato chips were dropped off. Nothing like a plate of free potato chips with your beer, I guess. People get excited about them here, and say things like “Ooh! these ones are homemade!”. The world is a strange place. After getting distracted by this portentious omen, I was pulled back into the A Clockwork Orange re-“habilitation” scene by Huckleberry’s voice.

“Now take your first sip. On the first sip, don’t try to taste anything. Just let it go. Now take your second sip. Now, what do you get? What does it taste like? What is the mouth feel? Most importantly, how do you feel?”

I sip. I understand his words. It wasn’t about not tasting anything, there simply isn’t anything to taste. The discharge of flavor remains, however, as a metallic bitterness whose sharpness enhances – so to speak – enhances the mouth feel.

The mouth feel was, disturbing. Imagine a cat licking your hand. Good. Now imagine opening your mouth and going tongue to tongue with a cat. No, you can’t avoid it. Now that the idea is there you’ll never forget it and you might as well just go ahead and imagine. There you go .. that’s the mouthfeel of coffee here. Oh yeah, undertones of over oxidized red apples. Then, once you’re done playing tonsil hockey with a kitty, you get the finish. How did I feel? Deceived, captive, uneasy.

“Are you in the Finish yet? Can you feel the dentist’s X-Ray image paper clutching your cheeks to your teeth? Do you feel like you’ve cleaned your mouth with ripped cardboard?”

After giving up on his intense non-point focused wide-eyed interrogation, his composure relaxes, he pays for the coffee and leaves without further comments.

On the T.V., one hears gunfire. I looks over my shoulder. A deer hunting program.

I look back at the coffee. As the narrator, I’ve always thought that I had a pretty good idea of what Huckleberry was up to, what he was thinking. This was a humbling experience. Being abroad seemed thrilling, exciting, and revelatory but it doesn’t appear to be entirely fun and JENGA. Writing about someone’s travel experience, being their voice-on-blog is one thing: living what they live is another.

To top it off, the top of the charts (CUARENTA radio station) hails down in merciless chunks from the heavens. It’s this crappy Swedish group called Avicii…”Hey Brother“. Well, after the previous song, “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias – what more can you expect? People make mistakes. So does humanity.

This narrator has had enough, here. Time to go check up on Huckleberry and prepare the next chapter in T.A.O Hucklberry Grimm. I have a few questions about where this blog is going, and I have a hunch that Huck has answers for me.


3 thoughts on “Chapter 17: Music Fail (An American Barista in Spain)”

  1. So, maybe I’ll stick to tea if/when we come. I’m not that addicted.

  2. Oh, and I will jam to that crappy music, no doubt about it. Eric may lose his mind.

  3. Hahaha, I don’t envision you having any trouble with the music. In fact, for 95% of the population of the world I’d bet that the music is absolutely fine. Sin embargo, un té negro, o un té verde para vosotros – eso está claro:)

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