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Taking a Stand
Maybe I’m just a crabby tourist. That would certainly make sense, since I’m crabby when I’m home alone watching the tube.

The grievance I want to discuss, however, is about more than just my level of gruntlement. As proof, I point to the particularity of my travel crabbiness. It is never directed toward the locals, but almost always at my fellow tourists. Furthermore, it centers on just one dispepticizing offense.

Standing in the doorway. I repeat — which is what I began to do out loud after two weeks abroad — “standing in the do-o-o-orwa-a-ay.” I don’t think my growls actually registered on these folks because they were standing — utterly transfixed and oblivious to their fellow humans — in the goddam doorway.

It is only natural, when encountering some new situation, to pause and survey the scene while getting one’s bearings. Yes, perfectly natural, but so is farting. The challenge is to act naturally while also thinking of others. I even get their temporary disconnection with those around them. But that’s still no excuse. As with cutting the cheese in an elevator (natural though that may be), you should be mindful of others and for Pete’s sake (and mine) not just stand there in the doorway. Please, thank you, safe travels my friend.

Not only were those people standing in my way, they were standing in the way of everyone lined up behind me who wanted to use the doorway for its paramount purpose: moving from one space into another. It might be a good place to stop and gawk, but that usage undermines the whole door concept.

The example that still preys on my mind came at the railway station in Segovia. I don’t know if she was also farting at the same time, but that would have been consistent with her mindset: blank. The train had stopped, and many of its passengers, including me and my nemesis, wished to get off. She and her luggage were among the first to descend to the platform, and I was right behind. As her feet hit the ground, however, she seemed struck dumb. She put down her suitcases and began a slow scan of the train station.

I guess it wasn’t a classic example of standing in the doorway, but the principle was the same. She blocked the only way off the train for me and the increasingly impatient travelers behind me. It took some tricky footwork to squeeze by her, and my completely insincere “excuse me” seemed to awaken her from her reverie. She stepped slightly aside, but even then I saw no recognition from her that she had erred. Instead, she seemed offended that I dared to get ahead of her in line.

Which only made my relative gruntletude that much worse. Indeed, it chafes at me even now, and the fact that it does further exacerbates my feelings of aggrievement. She has long forgotten the boorish American who cut her off in Segovia; I seem destined to keep the memory alive indefinitely.

Maybe those are the wages of crabbiness. I guess I should accept that. No matter how just my complaint, I am forced to carry the burden of it with me — which makes me the perpetual loser and notches another victory for all my tormenters.

And that really pisses me off.
Fearless Leader
Let’s admit it. We’ve been chumped out by the French. Us, the 800-pound gorilla! By the French!

Now, I want to make clear that I have nothing against the French. They’ve saved our bacon in the past, and we’ve done the same for them. Lafayette is welcome in my home anytime, and Paris is, you know, Paris. The cooking is overrated, but the people get a bad rap. They’re good buds, but we’re #1, right? Yeah well, maybe not.

First, it was their resounding electoral rejection of the hate-activated nationalist Marine Le Pen. That was something we couldn’t quite pull off here with our own bigot-in-chief. And now, it turns out le jeune dweeb who beat back those forces of darkness is not a dweeb at all. Brand new French President Emmanuel Macron made two international superbullies both look bad in the space of a couple of days last week. First, he made our representative (that’s Drump, remember) say uncle, defeating him at his own game of alpha male grip-off while smiling sweetly for the cameras. Then he dissed Putin to his face, irking him in a way only the elite French can, by telling the truth and not backing down…again with that cheerful insistence.

Angela Merkel also got in on the fun. She had just faced down a nationalist fringe uprising in her own country, then went on to show up Drump by meeting first with Barack Obama and thoroughly enjoying his company. After that, she participated with Macron in a very sly suckering of Drump in which the new French leader seemed to head toward the Orange One and his outstretched, stubby-fingered hand, then veered off at the last moment to shake Angela’s hand and the hands of several other European leaders. Later, she delivered a we’re-on-our-own-now statement that seemed to thumb the European nose at our current president and show a united front within the EU.

As I say, chumped! France and Europe looked stronger and more solid after the NATO summit, and we (thanks to some butt-ugly bumbling by our team captain) came out a loser. If there is still a leader of the free world, it ain’t our boy, gang. Right now, that title just might go to the freshly-minted President of France (and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra) Emmanuel “the man” Macron.

Care for some freedom fries, mon amie?
Straight vs. Curvy
I have been imagining a faceoff between two historic figures. I see them down in the pit, vying for dominance, and only one can come out alive.

FiguratIvely speaking, that is. It wouldn't be a fight to the death, exactly. More like a no-holds-barred build-off. Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Antonin Gaudi for the title of Best Architect of the twentieth century.

The weapons at their disposal would include conceptual daring, soundness of engineering, breakthrough ideas, use of new materials, evocation of and blending with nature, management of space, practicality, and beauty. Some might see this as a contest between art nouveau and modernism, but both men went beyond the narrow boundaries of those categories. Each created a style and a vision uniquely his own.

I should mention that Wright has always been a favorite of mine. His designs and thinking inspired, in a small way, the design of my own modest home, and when I'm in a bookstore, I am always drawn to the architecture section so that I might take a moment to page through any books they have about his work. But that was then. I am in Barcelona now and fresh off visits to Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, and Gaudi's still-unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.

Sorry, Frank. You are a worthy contender, but It's Antonin in a first-round TKO.
Gone, But Not Forgetting
I'm a long way from my drawing board right now, but politics is somehow moving on without my cartoons. The issues are ripe and bursting with juicy irony, and I am experiencing withdrawals from being unable to satirize them.

Among the scenery moving around in my head:

1. Drump unhinged. He looked positively incandescent in that oval office meeting with the Rooskis. Like a navel orange on fire. His teeth seemed to glow neon blue, and his face bespoke a strange, overamped goofiness. Was he coked up again? His lips, we know, were especially loose.

2. The Republicans. They continue to exhibit the perfect antitheses of all the noble qualities that they claim exclusively for themselves: patriotic, strong on defense, tough on Russia, fiscally responsible, honorable in the extreme. No, no, no, no, and no. They've managed to give craveness a bad name. I am so tired of using the nice old elephant as a symbol for these turkeys. If only I could replace it with something more appropriate. A weasel, say, or a leech. Cane toad? Moray eel? Maggot?

3. The Dems. United for once, mostly, but too worshipful of the elites. Joe blow is still out there looking for someone who really cares. Could I make them a gelded Arabian stallion instead of a donkey? Or maybe a unicorn?

4. The rest of the world. They're pretty busy with their own control freaks, but I'll bet they're still gobsmacked that we could follow up our salad nicoise a la Obama with a crap crepe.

5. The planet. Tick, tick, tick. Just like Drump, only slower.

6. Truth. Not that hard to find, really. Your daily newspaper does a pretty good job. Oh, wait a minute, it disappeared. My #1 rule: don't believe anything that comes out of Drump's mouth. Unless it's a precious national secret, that is.

Okay, I'm feeling better about my cartooning now. The republic, though, not so much.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee