FRESH YARN presents:
Life in Spain
My trip to Madrid begins in the Delta Crown Room at LAX, the private club that Delta provides for its business elite passengers. I sit in a designated quiet area that restricts cell phone usage. It's 8:43 in the morning, and a nearby woman orders a vodka and orange juice. Next to her sits a man in a brown derby who talks loudly on his cell phone. Being an elite customer, I think about asking him to power down, but as I put my glasses on to see what kind of man defies the quiet area, befriends an alcoholic, and wears a derby, I see that this man is Robert Wagner. Normally this would be weird to me. But today I am traveling to Spain to shoot a dog food commercial, and to this point in my life, nothing is weirder than that.
When I got the job, I had a million questions. Where would I be staying? Do they know that I only know five Spanish words which probably wouldn't help much unless I needed to feed the dog "lechuga" (lettuce)? But my biggest question was echoed by everyone who I told about this job: who the hell would fly me 7,000 miles to shoot a dog food commercial? I have a pretty big ego, but I know for a fact that I am not famous. I google myself at least three times a week, and I know where I stand. Even amongst other Matt Prices, I am not as well known as say the Australian journalist Matt Price or the stand up comedian in London Matt Price. So if I come in a distant third to my own name, why would anyone pay me a large sum of money to come to Madrid and do what I did in the audition, i.e. chase a cat around a yard? The plane ticket alone cost $5,263.22. That's a flat screen TV, a flat screen on which I could watch myself lose my dignity if I was only in Spain where this commercial would be running.
I had a 14 hour flight to think about this absurd turn of events so I tried to distract myself as much as possible. I eat everything the stewardesses offer. "Shrimp cocktail?" "Sure." "Filet mignon?" "Absolutely." "Hot fudge sundae." "Is that even a question? " Things aren't so bad in Business Elite. I'm well fed. I've got 8 channels on Delta Horizons TV. I look at the map. 11 hours to go. Holy fuck is this far. I think about all the things that I'll do when I get back. This is a calming ritual for me when I fly. It grounds me in the future. I decide that when I return, I want to build something out of wood. A birdhouse maybe. Use my hands. I want to start a band, especially before I get much balder. You simply can't rock as hard as a bald man unless you shave it all off, and my head's too big for that. I want to work out more. All of the time, in fact. As soon as I return, I will go to the gym daily, and I will be in the best shape of my life. The stewardess interrupts this thought with warm chocolate chip cookies, and I stick out my hand like Paris Hilton grabbing for attention.
With the nine hour time change, I arrive in Madrid exactly one day later than when I left. I can't siesta so I use my newly purchased calling card to call my girlfriend, Tamara. Tamara and I are moving in together in a week, and that's why I can't stay in Spain any longer than the two days they're paying for. It's midnight in L.A. I tell her how weird I think that is. She agrees. There's a lull. How can we have a lull? I'm in Spain. There shouldn't be any lull!! Now I'm worried about the shoot, not sleeping and the lull. Maybe this is my Lost in Translation, and soon Scarlett Johansen will walk around the corner eating a tortilla. I think to myself, "No, dude, it's just a lull. You love your girlfriend. Go to sleep." Myself thinks back, "But what if there is a Scarlett Johansen. She's really pretty." "Shut up, dude. You're really annoying. Go to fucking sleep." "I can't. I'm in Spain, and I'm freaking out."
A few sleepless hours later, a guy who speaks no English picks me up in a non-descript white van. For this reason, I'm fairly convinced that he's going to kidnap me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see where the lock is on the van door, knowing full well I can just leap out onto the highway if I need to. He turns up the stereo, and we're listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits, and I immediately feel better. This is my Spanish driver's way of telling me that he loves America. Or at least he's trying to soften me for the kill. I don't care. At least I die happy because "Breaking the Girl" is suddenly the best song I've ever heard. The crooked, tree-lined Madrid streets whiz by, and tables of beautiful, dark Spanish women eat tapas at a café, Anthony Kiedis fills my ears, and I feel weirder and freer than I ever have in my entire life. Bueno, Espagne!! Lechuga por favor!!
joy is squashed when my silent driver pulls up to a low income housing
project, looks at me and nods. I say, "oh, um
"Gracias" is another of the five words I know, and I will say
it four hundred more times before I leave. He points me in a direction
of a group of teenagers hanging out on a corner, and I become fairly sure
that the kids are going to tackle me and hang me by my feet in a Spanish
I am saved by a tattooed 18-year-old wardrobe assistant who looks like a cooler Spanish version of my cousin Julie. When you travel, everyone you meet looks like a foreign version of someone you know, and I am certain of this because I've been out of the country one other time. Cooler Spanish Cousin kisses me twice on the cheeks and takes me into a trailer to find an outfit that is "muy loco." After trying on fifteen different options, each one more muy loco than the next, she settles on her favorite: very tight blue warm up pants, a beat up red parka, one black shoe, one white shoe, and a hunter's cap. I want to ask her why someone needs a "muy loco" outfit to chase a cat around. I want to ask why I'm here at all. I want to ask if all of those tattoos hurt. I instead say "gracias," and an American actor from another cat-chasing spot walks in. I've never been so happy to see an actor from Los Angeles. We shake hands and exchange agent information which only doesn't annoy me when in Spain, and he leaves. Cooler Spanish cousin says, "You lucky he work with cat."
"What do you mean? I work with cat, don't I?"
"No. You work with car."
"Car? What do I do with car?"
"Uh I don't "
Our communications had gone as far as they could. A car? What kind of operation is this? Is Spain full of lunatics? And then I realize why they spent so many Euros to get me here. This isn't a dog food commercial shoot. It's a porn shot. It's a porn shoot for people with balding men fetishes. Scalps Gone Wild. This muy loco costume is a ruse. I'll be showing my chorizo by sun-up tomorrow.
Back at my hotel, I order room service and pace around my room. I've been awake for about 36 hours. I'm losing my mind. There's a discotheque in the lobby downstairs, and I walk past that to get to the library so I can go online to see if the Cubs won. All of the AOL commands are in Spanish. What am I doing here?
"Money, my friend. Mo-nay."
"Money? For a dog food commercial? You're such a sell out."
"Sell out? How? You can't be a sell out if you got nothing to sell."
"Shut up, dude."
"You shut up."
I go upstairs and call Tamara. I call my sister. I call my parents.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Pretty good. Aren't you in Spain?"
"Yup, yup. But enough about me. What's going on in the states?"
"Not much different than yesterday when you left the states."
A few hours later, my silent driver takes me to the porn shoot in suburban Madrid. It's 5 AM. It's dark out. I wonder if the shoot will be with men or women. I've never kissed a man before, let alone had sex with one. I wonder if it's different in Spain. America's Greatest Hits plays on the CD player. Is "Ventura Highway" some euphemism for a Spanish sexual position that I will soon come to understand?
When we arrive, I put on my super tight, pre-sex warm up pants and meet Victor, the director. He explains the shot: I am supposed to chase a car down the street, yelling "hey!" at the car, you know, like a dog would.
"Yes, but like a dog would."
Of course, like a dog would say 'hey.' Victor yelled "actionne!," and I chased the car. He yelled "coupez!," and I stopped. I did this about fifteen times, and Victor came over and with his thick yet gentle Spanish accent said, "fantastic, Matt, fantastic uh, act more like a dog if possible. If not, it's OK. It's great."
So I did it another fifteen times, and Luka, the lone English speaking P.A., tells me that he can drive me back to the hotel now, and just like that, we were done. Apparently Victor, the Spanish director, ended the shoot early because he had to be home by sunset every Friday. "He is how you say Jewish?" So that's it. No kidnapping. No Scalps Gone Wild. Just a good, old fashioned dog food commercial which, to me, was the weirdest outcome of all.
At the hotel, I take advantage of my delirious state and ask Luka if he had any idea why I was flown 7,000 miles to wear a muy loco outfit and chase a car down the street. He laughs and tells me that they actually had auditions in Spain, and they couldn't find anybody. Then they had auditions in England and couldn't find anybody. And so they had auditions in Los Angeles, and now "here you are." He tells me also that the Spanish commercial industry or "publicite" wasn't very big, and that's why they're hiring American actors.
"The actors that are Spanish, they are how you say leading men They are not um the ones with character. Like you."
I laugh, and he says, "You should be flattered though. You were literally the best dog imperson-ee-ator in the world."
morning, I sit in the Delta Crown Room in Madrid waiting for my plane
back to America. The room is full of loud Americans complaining about
the pulp in the orange juice. I overhear a small tour group from Florida
talking about how Curb Your Enthusiasm is the funniest show on
TV, and "Did you see the one where Larry told the black guy to get
his car because he thought he was the valet?" That's so American,"
I muttered under my breath, as I left the Madrid Crown Room for the main
terminal to get one more glimpse of the beautiful Spaniards walking by.
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