When I woke up on Monday, he called out from the living room, "What's all this about? What kind of bad joke is this?" I didn't know what he was talking about, so I went to the living room to see:
Har har har. What a jokester.
That night -- the night before my sister and grandma arrived in Madrid -- Alex, Gregorio, and I went to dinner at the Japanese restaurant we always go to near his apartment. This time we sat around the table where they cook in front of you, which Gregorio's wanted to do all year.
They put bibs on us before they started cooking
It was fun to watch; he'd even toss and spin the pepper shaker any time he used it. Everything was a performance. And everything was delicious.
When we were done eating I tried to pay for Gregorio's third of the bill, forgetting about the Spanish tradition I don't think I'll ever get used to: On your birthday, you pay. If you invite your friends out to dinner with you, you'll be taking care of the bill. Heading to a bar? You'll be buying some rounds. But as an American, it's so engrained in me that on your birthday others should treat you.
So yes, Gregorio paid the bill for all three of us on his birthday. And although that's very normal for Spain, I think birthday celebrations of my Spanish friends will always feel a bit weird to me.