I am quite certain I was the only four-year old American boy who cried when Generalisimo Francisco Franco of Spain died. The waterworks surprised both my parents and me, and for a long time I have been trying to figure out why they existed in the first place. Thanks to years of psychoanalysis and the wisdom of my 30+ years I have at least discovered the reason why the death of a fascist dictator from a country I had never visited up to that time caused me to cry: I wanted Spain to rule the world.
As I grew older I forgot about El Generalisimo but still found my life full of Spain and things Spanish. I ended up taking four years of Spanish in high school, traveling to Spain as part of a high school class trip, minoring in Spanish in college and returning to Spain several times since. Until recently, I thought it was the language with its th instead s, tapas, sangria, the art of Picasso and Miro, the architecture of Gaudi, the films of Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz (in the days of Jamon, Jamon and Abres Sus Ojos before she became the latest in a long line of beards for Tom Cruise) that attracted me to Spain. Those things were and still are great.
But what truly attracted me to all things Spanish was the reason I wanted El Generalisimo to rule the world – the siesta, the mid-day nap for which Spain is known. I wanted Franco to rule the world and make the siesta the law of the land. How could anyone not love that? Even today I would give up a few personal freedoms and democracy for being able to have government-mandated mid-day naps. Wouldn’t you?
Sadly, El Generalisimo is no longer with us, and, forty-plus years after his death, I still get upset by this. Making matters worse, Chevy Chase taunts me periodically, often calling while I am napping and leaving his famous line from “Weekend Update” on my voicemail: “This just in. Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” While this is good natured ribbing between friends, I perhaps go too far in my retaliation: I read reviews of his talk show on his voicemial. Even sadder than Chevy’s talk show is the fact the Spanish government has reduced the lunch break of its employees from two-three hours to one hour. Oh, the horror! I weep for you, government employees of Espana! Que lastima!
From the foregoing you should have figured out that I like to nap. Growing up I would take any and every opportunity to nap – before chores, during chores, after chores, while in the shower and as long as possible on the weekend. Unfortunately, during the weekend naps I was often awakened by my father saying, “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. Your beauty rest is over. You’re pretty enough as it is. Now get up and be productive.” This was somewhat hypocritical as he would take many a nap after church on Sunday.
My napping was considered laziness by my very industrious father, but I defended my need (okay, desire) to sleep by claiming I had mono. When that was not successful, I claimed I had narcolepsy. To bolster this claim I took to “falling asleep” at odd times – while playing video games, while in the bathroom, during an eye examination. Despite the cleverness of this idea my execution left something to be desired. Once I feigned falling asleep at the dinner table by plopping my face down, mid-sentence, into a hot chicken pot pie that was fresh from the oven. My nose broke the top crust and the filling was magma-hot but I had to keep up the pretense and keep my face in there as long as possible. During this time the magma-hot filling flooded into my nostrils giving me first degree burns before I lifted my head. My doctor laughed at me, for the first time. The second time would be when in my senior year of high school I contracted chicken pox and the sores found their way into my nostrils.
Pretending to fall asleep during a driving test was not one of my wisest choices either. I obviously failed the driving test and then spent the next several months visiting doctors to obtain enough proof to convince the DMV that I did not have narcolepsy and to not ban me from getting a driver’s license.
While working on my napping skills during high school I had an idol, someone to look up to, someone who’s skills one day I hoped to have. This person was Lamar S. from Spanish class my freshman year. Lamar was football player and one of the upper classmen who taunted me, the lone freshman in the class, by calling me el pez, which was short for el pescado. (I knew this meant “fish” for “freshman” but I secretly feared it meant they thought I looked like Abe Vigoda who played a character named “Fish” on the television show Barney Miller. After several days of this taunting I ran to the bathroom to make sure this was not the case. My ability attract women was already severely debilitated by bad skin and what was, in retrospect, the most unfortunate pair of glasses imaginable and the last thing I needed was to look like Abe Vigoda in any way. A proclivity for wearing ties in high school did not help my chances with the ladies either.)
Despite the taunting, I idolized Lamar for a skill that he had: he was able to fall asleep sitting straight up without having his head fall and jerk awake. This obviously came from the thick neck he had acquired through natural selection and developed further through years of football. Once I discovered his secret I knew I had to get me one, too. So in order to get a thick neck of my own, I spent hours alone in my room lifting weights to strengthen my neck muscles. Unfortunately, this was the days before the free, though often spurious, advice on the internet and instructional YouTube videos, so I devised my work-out routine on my own. The end result was that I ended up elongating my neck rather than widening it. Now my head-flops begin from a higher elevation and the jerk awake is even more startling. I nearly got whiplash once.
All this talk of napping has made me kinda hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[Part 2 available when Terry wakes up.]