Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Night Classes in Geography

The other night David and I wandered over to one of his many locals--another Cuban place in the back streets of Gracia (Raim, c/ de Progres).

We were already three sheets to the wind when we found ourselves at a table with two Argentinians, one of whom was wearing a fedora and claimed to be a psychiatrist. Not a bearded, pipe-smoking Sigmund Freud type but an if-they-need-a-replacement-at-Seattle-Grace-they'll-call-him type.

I believe David had asked for the stir sticks from their mojitos so that I could take them home along with the three half dead roses that David's friend, the rose seller, had left on our table. The stir sticks are a fine move, Ladies. Commit it to memory.

As it turns out, the Argentinian, despite his supposed psychiatric training or perhaps because of it, was one cocky cabrón and decided to start an argument about the continents--as in, the large land masses into which we divide the world. His opening gambit was four; mine was seven, which is what they taught me in grade school. Before we knew it, half the bar was in on the action and we had additional bets of 5, 6 and 8--though the last originated from a miscount and was not taken seriously.

Contrary to my Argentinian friend's claims, the idea of continents and their number is one of convention, not definition. If you consider the world in terms of four, you might believe in Afro-Eurasia, America, Australia and Antarctica (though these were not the ones the Argentinian himself listed). If five, then you might split Africa off from Eurasia or you might split Afro-Eurasia into three and forget about Antarctica because there's too much ice and not enough land. If six, then suddenly Europe and Asia are distinct, despite the absence of any physical separation between them. And, if seven, well, you're as nit-picky as they come and it's North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica, all separate and apart. Australia and area, by the way, are sometimes referred to as Oceania around these parts--an ill defined region which purports to encompass a variety of islands in the general area of the Pacific and which quite frankly does not fit into the unified land mass theory of a continent.

Interestingly, the Olympic rings are something of a red herring as they omit Antarctica--the penguins aren't much for sporting competitions, though they do have some excellent uniforms--and consider the Americas as a single region.

The upshot is that, by the end of the evening, the Argentinian had me so riled up that I forgot my stir sticks and my roses when I left the bar in a huff. A good lesson about keeping my priorities straight next time.

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