Eduardo Centelles

1. My grandfather Eduardo Centelles with a friend at the door of El Pilar Basilica (Zaragoza). 2. Wedding portrait. 3. Portrait for the Spanish military service.

My grandfather Eduardo never visited Las Vegas. He was born in a family of farmers in Alcañiz, a small town located in the north-east of Spain. He came out to this world without medical assistance, in his parents bed. He never had toys. He had the silent countryside and the open sky. His favorite game was capturing scorpions with glass jars and try to make them angry with a stick.

He had to quit school when he was 12 to help his dad with the sheep, but he would always remember every river, capital and historical fact he memorized when he was a kid. He spent his life repairing trucks. Breathing those fumes for decades caused him lung cancer.

There were two things that made him vastly happy: his family and the countryside. He would grow every kind of fruit and vegetable typical from Bajo Aragón -a region of Spain known for its fine olive oil and peaches- and he would split the harvest between the members of the family. When I was little, he cultivated licorice for me.

He had many dreams the low-middle Spanish class born in the post-war era could not fulfill. “One day, when I win the lotto, ‘Martica’, -he used to repeat me,- we’ll leave your grandma here (she refuses to travel) and we will go to Las Vegas. Will you come? Just you and me”. He was fascinated about how they found water in the middle of the dessert and built a city out of nothing. He also wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. I think he would have felt like one of those cowboys he used to admire in the western movies.

I don’t know how serious he was about this idea of going to Las Vegas, but I was deeply committed with it and used to remind him he had made a promise. It would be the best adventure ever. He would win the lotto and we would go. Soon. Why not? He deserved that.

But my grandfather Eduardo never went to Las Vegas. He travelled the world through our national television documentaries. He never knew how it feels to take a plane. He didn’t visit any different country from Spain except from France, when he was in the military service.

I don’t believe in the sky but I do believe in Las Vegas. I will go there one day and I will find my grandfather. He will be standing outside The Bellagio, with his hands inside his pockets and his infinite smile, waiting for me to get inside.

Language is fascinating for revealing.  Some people don’t ask in restaurants for “some” ketchup or “the” ketchup anymore. They ask “where” is “their” ketchup. This means they are not only taking for granted that the restaurant has ketchup but that they are entitled to it.

So ketchup seems a basic need these days. Even a right. At this moment, for example, there are people talking in front of me and thinking I am listening when I am actually writing about ketchup. And I don’t even like it!

toronto

1- Milk is sold in 4 liter plastic bags you get from the supermarket’s fridge like if you were taking out the trash.

2- Streetcar drivers are always happy and polite, no matter how archaic and inefficient is the public transport they have to handle with.

3- Firefighters are dressed like astronauts and drive trucks that, due to their size and outlook, could easily take off unknown galaxies.

4- The crutches that Forest Gump uses exist. And if you slip on ice during the winter, you will feel like the movie’s main character. To make you feel better or to definitely kill you -who knows-, somebody tells you that falling over the ice in Canada means you will stay here forever.

5- Was the 80s-90s generation born with tattoos already?

6- No tobacco, plastic balls for kids or canned nuts. Here, vendor machines sell newspapers!

7- Advertising has invaded public washrooms too. Some places have installed a screen in front of the toilet so they can sell you trips to the Caribbean while you’re peeing.

8- Kids seem not to exist in the downtown.

9- Toronto has the most cool retail store in the world. Preserved just like it used to be in the 50s, inside Honest Eds one can feel like Betty Draper looking for Campbells tomato soup.

10- They’re not cats, rats or foxes… They’re damn raccoons rummaging into your garbage!

11- It is 2.00am on a Saturday. It is -30 degrees. You’re wondering how many minutes you have left before dying from hypothermia while you walking towards the streetcar glass canopy. You’re trying to turn the traffic light to green with your eyes like Matilda -the one in the kids movie- when she poured cereals into a bowl for the first time. In that moment, a men with frozen eyebrows and eyelashes comes nearby. He is also waiting for the traffic light to change colors. He’s wearing those five finger shoes. You look at him to ratify. Yes, he has snow in his eyelashes and his shoes doesn’t even have a sole. You ask him what in the hell he’s doing. He says he’s a server who just finished working and went running at 2am of a Saturday. That’s the only moment he has to exercise.

12- Rich neighborhoods in the suburbs don’t have sidewalks.

13- Sweet potato with garlic mayo as the most common tapa.

14- In the spring bikes blossom more than flowers.

15- Crazy people everywhere.

I am running late for work. I get a cab that probably will cost me more money than I will make today. I can’t be late, so I put the taxi driver under pressure. I know this is not fair but I do it anyways. And he does everything that is possible for me to be on time.

I am living in a dirty full of roaches shared apartment, I am not meeting my career aspirations, people around me seem to have no soul and all the ones I love are very far away. I have nothing but my job at this side of the world and I can’t lose it.  I am so desperate that I tell all this to him.

He feels very sorry for me.

He’s from India and shares an apartment with somebody too, although he’s more than 50. He used to have a wife but he’s divorced these days.

We’re in silent waiting for the traffic light to turn green when he suddenly says:

“I have no life. I’ve been inside this car for 25 years. When I get home I heat something in the microwave, lie on the couch, watch TV and sleep. Then I come back to the taxi”.

He continues feeling sorry for me although I’m not talking anymore. I can’t imagine a worse life than a life in a taxi.

When we arrive at my workplace, he takes only half the money I should pay. “Don’t worry, okay? Things are going to be fine”, he says.

I am on time for work. His words resonate in my mind while I am walking. When I turn back, he’s still there smiling at me and waving his hand.

In this subway car where pink knitted strawberries hang from pink iPhones and everyone gives you a half smile when you make eye contact, I wish sometimes that somebody would come running desperately from the other wagon, prosecuted by some very bad guy with a gun.

The pink strawberry would fall on the floor. The pink iPhone would crash onto the floor too. And I would have something to write about.

 

Olga Rodríguez

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