One Barcelona, Two Barcelona

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August 4, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Whether you’re ready or not, Barcelona is primed when you get there.

You only get one chance to make  a first impression whether it’s a person, place or thing and this is a city ready to make a good one.

Was I ready?  Of course not.  I come from a small Oregon town at a time when the employment pipeline went from high school drop-out to working in the woods or sawmills.  At least that’s how it felt in the early seventies.

Families who took exotic trips went to Death Valley or Mexico, and it was the same family.  The one vacation my family took growing up was to Dallas, Texas in an un-air conditioned Volkswagon camper.  The air vent in the roof blew hot air into the back which didn’t cool four kids or two parents at all.

Since then I’ve gotten off airplanes in New Jersey and San Antonio and London.  The first two were easy.  The challenge in London was breathing the urine-tinged air of Heathrow.  Luckily that part didn’t last long.

Stepping off in Barcelona was more reward than challenge.  I didn’t expect to see Sancho Panza’s donkey any more than I expected to see a terminal with the new shine of the Phoenix, Arizona Sky Harbor.  The Old World looked pretty good.

The articulated bus and taxi to the apartment was the same I’d expect in any modern city and that’s where it ended.

For background I’d like to say here that I’m no giant.  Six foot three in shoes, two hundred and forty pounds of muscle and bone that I drag to the gym every day.  Okay it’s not all muscle but it’s not done-lop either.  I represent with a shirt on or off if that means anything.

The door to the apartment building was almost as wide as my shoulders.  The stairway to the apartment door three floors up closed the gap.  The challenge of huffing a hundred pounds of luggage up those stairs made me sweat off ten pounds in no time.

You know what building codes are?  Maybe Spain has them, maybe not.  For a hundred year old building it doesn’t matter.  If the building has a wall built around an ancient Roman aqueduct it matters even less.

Complaining about accommodations defeats the point of traveling.  If you want everything nice and familiar then stay in that rut.

From the foot-worn oak around the tile steps to the split color wainscot on the stairway walls I expected an equally worn apartment.  The stairway door looked like it came off a Roman ship.  Two doors inside that one led to a pair of apartments.  Behind the left door, my place, I found a squeaky clean IKEA remodel with every modern convenience.

The ultra-modern apartment stood in contrast to the outside where crews cut stone to make a new street.  The urban sounds of cars, buses and roadwork funneled up to my balcony.  It all mixed with the Gothic Quarter where I didn’t have to wear a long black coat and white face make-up to fit in, and neither would you.

Like all first-timers on The Continent, anyone who has been there before seems better adapted.  They chomped octopus with the sort of familiarity reserved for french fries.  They drank high octane sangria like it was Long Island Iced Tea.  They stayed out late and came in during the early morning hours.  It just took me longer to get into the swing of things.

Naps in the afternoon?  The last time I did that I got a graham cracker and a glass of warm milk in kindergarten.  Eat soup with enough floating olive oil to make it look like something skimmed from the Gulf spill?  Okay.

Eventually it all clicks in the Gothic Quarter, where even a goth would feel at home.  It’s new, it’s old, and you’re in it.

“This Is The New Shit

Everything has been said before
There’s nothing left to say anymore
When it’s all the same
You can ask for it by name

Babble babble bitch bitch
Rebel rebel party party
Sex sex sex and don’t forget the “violence”
Blah blah blah got your lovey-dovey sad-and-lonely
Stick your STUPID SLOGAN in:
Everybody sing along.
Babble babble bitch bitch
Rebel rebel party party
Sex sex sex and don’t forget the “violence”
Blah blah blah got your lovey-dovey sad-and-lonely
Stick your STUPID SLOGAN in:
Everybody sing.”

by Marilyn Manson

Hey, Steve.


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