I had a lot of strange dreams last night, but I’m not going to tell you about any of them because they are all fragments now and I can’t remember any of them. Although I do remember that one of them was about eating at Haddock’s restaurant and then staying so late that all the kitchen staff left and we ended up washing our own dishes. I did mention that these were strange dreams, right?
Anyway, today I am going to tell you a story about tentacles. Be warned, parts of this story are not pretty, and I do not recommend eating it over any sort of meal.
Long-time readers will probably remember that I have written about my predilection for tentacles on numerous occasions, preferably deep-fried, although I am not overwhelmingly picky. However, I did not always have a love for tentacles. In fact, for several years, I had a deep, gut churning fear of tentacles.
Our story begins in Madrid, where we had just arrived after driving for two days across the Spanish desert and we were generally hot and miserable. We found a small pensione across from some sort of compound housing some important Spanish official, who was presumably not in residence, since the house was dark and there were only two immaculately dressed guards with submachine guns out front.
At any rate, we dropped our things off and then boldly set forth to find food, taking advantage of the awesomeness that is night life in Madrid, where restaurants are open until midnight and good music floats down the street like a scent. We drifted around for some time before settling into a tapas bar (and this was before tapas got trendy in the United States, I would like to point out). I don’t really remember much of what we ate. I remember all sorts of textures and tastes, and I remember tentacles.
Tentacles with a strange metallic sort of flavor, which I put down to an odd seasoning choice and my exhaustion. Now, I don’t know when you last looked at a map of Spain, but Madrid is in the middle of Spain. As in, no readily available local sources of tentacles. So we stuffed ourselves with food and then tottered back down the street to go to bed.
The next morning, we woke up and ambled down to the cafe for hot chocolate. My stomach felt a bit tense, but I was still adjusting to the time change and we had just completed a long trip, so I was not too unduly distressed. We sat down at a small table where I picked at a chocolate filled croissant, waiting for my hot chocolate to come. As my hot chocolate wended its way across the dining room, my intestinal tract alerted me to a serious problem. A problem which required immediate evacuation of the dining room and several hours of communion over the toilet.
Presently my traveling companions joined me, and we proceeded to fight for custody of the bathroom facilities as our bodies produced alarming amounts of material from multiple orifices. The metallic taste of those tentacles haunted me as I clung, shivering, to the toilet bowl.
After about a day of this, or perhaps several days, given the way that time was fluctuating, it was very apparent that some sort of medical treatment was required, and since I was the most hardy among us, I was dispatched to find a chemist to give us something which would keep us from exploding long enough to get a doctor’s office. Our sense of time had become deeply skewed, and so I found myself staggering out into the street in front of the pensione around 11:00 at night, glancing up at the armed guards across the street and waving a desultory hand. They cheerfully waved back, perhaps assuming that I was just drunk, and I tottered off down the street, confident that I would find a chemist eventually.
I think the guards grew concerned about the second time I fell down in the street, and after a brief consultation, one of them left the guard post while the other came out into the street and I explained the situation. He was immensely sympathetic, and sort of propped me up, walked me back to the guard station, and gave me a seat while he and his companion consulted about what to do, since it was very apparent that I could not be allowed to wander off into Madrid by myself.
To my horror, the discussion was interrupted by the appearance of a very large, very black, very armored car which pulled almost noiselessly up to the guard station from the street. As it turned out, Important Spanish Official was, in fact, in residence. Spanish Official and guards had a brief discussion, during which they were presumably asked why a bedraggled American was sitting in the guard post, and to my horror, the door of the car opened.
I’m going to be shot, I thought irrationally, and struggled to my feet to face my death with dignity.
The Important Spanish Official leaned out from the car and said:
“My guards tell me you need a ride to the chemist?”
And this, my friends, is how I found myself in an armored vehicle with an Important Spanish Official, whizzing down the streets of Madrid in search of a chemist, with a dangerously churning stomach. Important Spanish Official distracted me with a stream of chatter, most of which I didn’t understand in my extremely altered state, until we pulled up at the chemist and a guard popped out to obtain the medication we needed, while Important Spanish Official patted my back gently as I vomited copiously in the gutter, and then they bundled me back in the car and dropped me off at the Pensione.
The medication, incidentally, tasted like bleach, and it was quite effective. We spent the next week or so wandering around Madrid, and on our last day there, I sheepishly approached the guard post with some flowers and a gracias, Senors. The men waved off my thanks, and to this day, I have no idea who the Important Spanish Official was, or if he noticed that I vomited on his shoe a little bit and didn’t say anything, or didn’t see it until later, when he got home.
As one might imagine, this incident rather put me off tentacles for a bit, and it was about five more years before I could bring myself to savor the flavor of tentacles again, this time in a pleasant coastal city with the sound of the ocean behind me.