Monday, June 30, 2008

The Whiskey Dregs Have Moved to Wordpress

This Blogger account will be used for something else new and exciting.

Please go to whiskeydregs.wordpress.com

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

One Sweet Crush

“This song’s about getting your head chopped off,” yelled the vocalist for Thy Will Be Done before plummeting into a song called, “Guillotine Dream”. I wondered how he could know of such things. The guitars roared as the vocalist began to bang his head so hard that I thought it was possible for the skull to come right off the stump of his neck.

It was a Sunday night jamboree at the Knitting Factory. Five Heavy Metal bands in the heart of downtown New York converging upon the community of Chinatown with their brand of aural communication. What is this music and who are these people?

My writing desk was a wooden shelf, which ran along the wall across from the bar. I had to brush aside flyers in order to write anything. Distorted guitars screamed high pitched tones, which were manufactured for the purpose of awakening its audience to a new level of human strife. I was there with my friend Joe who knows all about these things. He invited me in the first place.

When we arrived our tickets were given to a man with a scruffy beard and eyeglasses. The two of us were thirsty so we went to the bar where men sporting tattoos communed. Girls with jet black hair and bright smiles stood alongside them but it was mostly a boy's club. Later on in the night, Joe and I went outside to smoke a cigarette when a cab driver pulled up to the curb and asked if it was a gay bar.

Near the entrance of the Knitting Factory were vendors who sold T-Shirts, banners, magazines, and CDs while fans crowded around the tables. One of the tables had a sign, which read, "Give us your drugs,” so I presumed that one could also barter with these salesmen for a brand new CD. I had my eye on T-Shirt with a design of a shark showing off its impressive collection of sharp teeth. The shirt’s slogan read, “Chum Fiesta.”

A man yelled, “Joe” and beckoned my friend over to the bar where he sat. The man’s name is John and he performs lead vocals for a hardcore band in which every member save one is named John. It was difficult to see how this man could be in a band named Turmoil when he shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you.” After that it was a conversation about mortgages and old friends. John is an affable type; looks you squarely in the eye when he talks and is at times at least gregarious if not more pleasant. Somehow the name of the band doesn’t imply until you see them perform. It is then that one may begin to learn all of their tricks.

With beers in hand, we walked through a corridor toward the space where the stage was. As I entered, I was knocked back by the dank smell of a locker room. It was as suffocating as a humid summer night in the Everglades except this was human sweat and the only alligators there were the ones with the furious fists slamming into the air. They seemed to be maniacs set loose into a boxing ring from an insane asylum. When the bell dinged it was their go to box invisible entities which harassed them from somewhere near the ceiling… or so it seemed. In spite of all this thrashing, these men, as well as some women were pleased to be hassled by the raging sonic force of Thy Will Be Done. Their gritted smiles said so.

Turmoil began their set after Thy Will Be Done finished. Suddenly, John took the persona of the band’s heavy message. All five of them banged their heads at a steady pace with the music and then it lurched into speed as the room exploded with ferocity. The wallflowers drew closer to the stage and John wreaked havoc upon the microphone. I couldn’t understand the lyrics but I understood what he meant.

Turmoil’s set was full of incredible and rancorous drones. This intestine pulverizing music was composed by a band whose lead singer appeared to be one of the happiest people I’ve met in some time. Suddenly the room became a chum fiesta as human tornadoes dared to make victims of all those who stood along the unseen sideline where a circle formed to allow re-entry the ones wishing to beat the air once again.

This was John’s outlet. As people grind through the train systems to get to work, John is taking notes and interpreting our misfortunes. The deadly bombardment and aural crushing is the sound of a quintet dynamo explaining to its audience an alliance of understanding. This audience listens but unfortunately they don’t catch. The stage proved to be too small for him. He jumped down into the pit with every one else and slammed into a group of people in front of me falling over onto the floor. He stood back up and was back in action. He later recalled the story to Joe and me and said, “I expected someone to catch me but no one did. Oh well.”

I nearly became a victim of the audience’s emotional discharge during Turmoil’s set. I kneeled in the mosh pit to take some pictures. One of these fleshy hurricanes wore a blue bandana and a white tank top. His arms, built like tree trunks began to flail about remiss of any who could be struck. After some careful maneuvering I was able to avoid any combat.

The key to understanding the music of this band is that they aren’t trying to put people into a dark place where dreadful thoughts could manifest. Instead, they revive people by forcing them to confront and not repress their emotions. I observed explosion after explosion of thunderous release when these fans confronted their aggression and afterwards there was applause.

The breadth of psychoanalysis misses one thing: A relation to the client. It is easy to dispute, however unlikely to truly garner the exclamation point required to truly cure the patient. A release of all bonds for one evening can treat one’s desperate plea for help.

Although I do not consider myself a fan of this music, there is an appreciation for what these bands are trying to achieve. It is not monetary success. Many of these unsung heroes like John often have to support themselves by holding regular jobs just like the rest of us. They deliver their feelings to an audience who shares the same experience daily. The ones who listen call back to the band’s cause. The truth is that these bands will be a footnote in the history of Rock and Roll, however the mark that is left on their fans runs the highway of human understanding.

At the end of the show, smiles and overenthusiastic “Thank yous” were a sign of success. It’ll have to hold these fans over until the next morning when they must sluggishly return to their 9 to 5s and do it all over again.

As for me, I found myself smiling and charged with electricity returning to the cold night feeling warm and awake. After being in the ring, Joe went home with joy and a wounded knuckle. The injury was chump change for the exhilaration of temporary relief. I left without becoming a casualty yet gained a new respect for a music I hardly listen to.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Last Day in Barcelona: Day 5

Lost in the triumph of Barcelona without a passport. It's not as bad as you think but then again, I didn't lose mine. Mike and I had a good run of the city and of course on the last full day there, his passport had disappeared somewhere deep in the labyrinth of Barcelona's transit system.

Gus, Joe and Miguel slept while Mike and I panicked. My job was to secure a room for the night at Kabul, in the middle-of-everything Las Ramblas. Placa Reial next door to the nightclub, Jamboree - better known by Miguel as "Donde esta Jamboree?!!?"

I told Mike to retrace his steps and see what his fortune could bring while I reserved our room.

Kabul is a hostel that most people imagine - loud music, young drifters leaning against pool tables and a machine that dispenses tickets for a euro in exchange for Amstel beer. The man behind the counter was an older Middle Eastern looking man who promised me a good room and handed me the keys. I walked to the room, opened the door and felt the sensation of being in a horror movie. The room smelled as if an arsenal of assholes were used to wipe the floor while its master - a guy in his early 20's - slept in one of the bunks. Bottles of alcohol jut from the floor like dark towers of disaster. The guy immediately got up, apologized and disappeared into the hallway while I stood there trying to kick my jaw up from the floor.

Mike entered the room and was smashed with disbelief as well. Partly because of the condition of the room but mostly because the passport was indeed missing. I had refused to stay in that room and imagined having to explain to the rest of the boys of my failure.

The man was back behind the counter. I complained politely because I was unsure what these savages were capable of. He was frustrated with me - the American expecting the best conditions from a hostel. "This is a hostel," he said. "Sometimes there's condoms left on the beds. Sometimes there's shit. Sometimes there's puke all over the place."

"OK," I told him. "But you have to understand that I'm not staying in there. Is there anything else possible?"

The man checked the computer and said, "Yes, there's an eight bed dorm on the fourth floor. Go look at it and see if this will be fine."

I picked up my 50 pound bag and climbed up four flights of stairs, hungover, tired and disillusioned. The previous room was that bad.

The room on the fourth floor was a garden in comparison. Although it didn't smell great, it certainly didn't smell like ass either. The sheets were clean. The beds were made and I was able to relax. I walked back to the first floor and told the man that it was a done deal. "I'll take the room."

Mike and I unloaded our bags and went to a restaurant that was on Las Ramblas.

Joe called and I tried to explain to him what had happened but the frustration caused by the traumatic memory hung in my throat like flem. "I'll just tell you when I see you," I told him.

The rest of the boys arrived. I handed them the keys and they dropped off their belongings in Kabul while Mike and I continued eating our breakfast. We were about finished when Gus, Joe and Miguel came back. Mike and I asked the waiter if he had any advice about what to do with the passport situation and he advised us to go to the police station. We didn't want to waste anymore time so the two of us left while Gus, Joe and Miguel placed their orders.

Once at the police station, we realized that we didn't know how to say, "I lost my passport" in Spanish. Mike did the best he could with my phrasebook. The cop told Mike to fill out some paperwork and come back.

We waited a long while for anything to happen. The cop took a cigarette break, chatted on his cell and then returned to tell us that someone else would be help. We waited some more... and then some more. I took advantage and bought Malena some gifts because I was missing her a lot of a lot. I felt closer holding something that I got for her knowing that she would wear or read or look at it when I gave it to her.

Finally someone gave Mike the official paperwork for him to take to the American embassy in Madrid. We decided that it would have to wait until we got there which wouldn't be until Friday.

I told the boys earlier not to wait up for us and they didn't. They had their breakfast and off they went to do their own tour. Mike and I were pretty much agreed on every site that we had wanted to see during the whole trip so I looked forward to exploring more of Barcelona with him.

We walked around the Barri Gotic. Nothing special to report on that unless you were there. More beauty. In spite of this, I started to feel dizzy. My body attempted to ditch me before I had the chance to check out the Parc de Guell where Gaudi's masterpiece park was so we hopped on a train and headed toward it.

Once off the train, we began our search. Apparently, the park wasn't as close to the train station as it had appeared on the map. We asked a man on the street and he said that it was on top of the mountain. "On top of the mountain???" Yes. All of these years my friends have said that I can't go to Barcelona without going to Parc de Guell and yet no one ever mentioned that it's a gut straining walk to the top. The huge hills really took a lot of the spotty energy I had left.

I was inspired by a group of five elderly people who walked and talked as if it was a casual Sunday stroll. Thankfully, there was an escalator about 200 feet from the entrance that we went on after that insane climb (note: must quit smoking before I go to San Francisco).

We entered the park. The entrance didn't look like anything special and some of the boulders were covered with graffiti. It was impressive to see that the tallest building within view was Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. This is an old tradition - churches must be the tallest buildings in town. Coming from New York where the skyscrapers represent America's true religion, it was impressive to see this continue in a city that values its modernism as well as its classicism.




But then there was a real beauty of a sight. I mean true "Welcome to Barcelona" stuff. A house that was directly in front of the park was covered with anarchic imagery and maxims but the real showstopper was the huge sign, which said, "Why call it tourist season if you can't shoot them?"


Mike and I continued to walk up the pathway, which led to three crosses on top of the mountain. Mike and I went up the spiral staircase and holy shit... I must note here that the view from Parc de Guell is really fucking insane especially from that peak. The clouds rolled in from the coast over the peak of another mountain miles away. Once it swept through a giant antennae was revealed from the top.

We on a stone and just enjoyed the view. There was a guy trying to read his book. I felt bad because we had begun to get a little loud - well, loud in Barcelona but normal in America. But he wasn't disturbed, in fact he started a conversation with us and mentioned that he was from Michigan and had been living in Barcelona since September. I would have loved to move to Barcelona just like that guy. He did it alone and wanted to use it as a launchpad to see the rest of Europe.

After Mike and I were full on an eye feast of mountains and the entire city of Barcelona, we left to find Gaudi's section that the park is famous for. Guell is the last name of one of Gaudi's friends who was an influential rich guy who lived in Barcelona. Gaudi was originally from Taragona, which is south of the Catalonian city but met him doing something. Can't remember what.

OK, no matter how many pictures you see of Gaudi's work in Parc de Guell, no matter how many people tell you how beautiful it is, it's nothing compared to what you see when there. Amazing. I won't say much because it won't mean anything and showing pictures just doesn't do justice You must see it for yourself. I believe that the architecture, statues and space design was an extension of Gaudi's mind. Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef, once said that you can tell a lot about a person from what they cook for you but I think that it's especially intense when you enter a park created by a master architect. You might as well ride a roller coaster through his gray matter. Pretty special.

I was really tired by the time we left. The night slowly drew while it shaded the day light of its glow. I felt that it was time to check up on Joe and see what the rest of them were up to. Joe picked up when I called and said that he was out to dinner with Gus at some excellent yet really inexpensive place. Miguel was somewhere out and about. Not sure what he did.

Mike and I journeyed back to the train station. We were hungry, tired and for the first time, I decided that it would be really smart of me to take a 15 minute nap. I looked forward to it.

Once out of the station near the hostel, we trotted to Placa Reiel. Just dragged our feet, man. Really hurt something awful. We stumbled up the stairs. I braced myself against the banister. I could hear music playing in the main room of Kabul and when I walked in, there the Boys were - drinking beer. The energy cracked through my body and I became revitalized like fucking Popeye. I grabbed my euro, shoved it into the Amstel beer machine, got my ticket, walked with vigor to the bar, "Here you go," to the bartender, he poured me a cup, I walked back with more vigor and drank it down with my brothers.

At 8:00, they began serving dinner, which wasn't too bad. I had a very un-Spanish dish of curry chicken that was damn good but who cares about that. Anyway, Mike, Miguel and Joe met up with Eva and Nudia for dinner while Gus and I hit the Barri Gotic bar scene.

First place Gus and I went to was some Jazz joint. It was the Euro version and it was OK. Heard better in NYC - speaking of which we also met two guys who live in Astoria. One of them lives the next block over from Malena, my girlfriend. Nice guys. Drunk and we were on our way there as well. We exchanged numbers and said that we'd call in each other once back in the States. It's January and I still haven't called them. They will always be a blip on a blog.

Next, Gus and I scoped out this other bar that was more my style. Dark, dingy and New Wave music rattled out of the speakers. The bartender was from Chile just like Gus. He didn't know how to make a Jager Bomb that Gus had requested so Gus instructed him how to do it. I thought that I'd had one before but no. Those suckers were good so we had another... and another. It was cool to hang with Gus. This was our trip from 10 years ago (like I mentioned before) and we had made it after all that time. I mention it again because it was still pretty fucking unbelievable for me.

K called me and said that she and A wanted to meet with us. We met up and went to a really tiny bar. Sat down and talked for a bit and then met up with Joe, Miguel and Mike. They were at some bar not too far away. Joe and Miguel saw some girl walk out of a bar and they decided that would be their alcohol reserve (aka bar to hang in). The bar was a lot of fun, however the poor service from aka "hot girl" was absolute shit. She talked down to Joe and tried to make him look like an ass. Joe went outside, chit-chatted with some random guy and vented about the bitch behind the bar. The "random guy" turned out to be the owner. He said that Barcelenos aren't fond of tourists. He also suggested Valencia as a place to go. We were only sort of certain we'd go there the day before. Joe and I wanted to check out Dali's museum in Figuera. The idea of the trip was to plan as we went along.

So we all danced, had fun, drank a little and celebrated our stay in Barcelona. But then a guy came along and tried to spoil our fun. The fucker went through all of our stuff. Joe told him, "fuck you" but the guy didn't understand English so he told Miguel to translate. It didn't make a difference. As we left, I saw him wearing a similar hat as mine. The thing was that if it really belonged to him, it would have been the first time I saw anyone in Barcelona with a similar hat other than Joe - and we're American. I said, "Where did you get that hat?" He shrugged his shoulders and gave me back my hat. Guy tried to steal it right before my eyes. He'd take more but that's for Day 6 if you want to know what else he took.
Eva offered me some weed but I declined, however one of us did not. I won't mention his name but it starts with a 'G' and ends with an 'S'. He took a toke or two, got really sick and went home with the little prize that Eva gave him - a little nugget of mary juana. In G's words, here's what really happened: "Wrong!! I didn't just go back to the hostel, I crawled back after taking a hit of that super Spanish grass that fucked me up instantly. They should put a warning label on that shit."

The bar closed up at about 2-230 AM. Places in Barcelona close really early. Thankfully, K and A offered their place for us to continue the party. Eva and Nudia had to work the next day so they left. I really enjoyed talking to them and I was happy to see them that night.

And then there were six...
We got to K and A's and I was floored by the size of the place and they only paid five hundred Euros for a whole week. We made some drinks and then walked upstairs to their terrace which overlooked a plaza. We had a lot of fun, took silly pictures but then it was time for us to go. The sun was slowly peeking from the horizon. We went back downstairs and said our verbal goodbyes. Miguel sat down on their couch, turned on the TV and began flipping the channels. I yelled, "Miguel, come on dude... Let's go. We have to leave. They're trying to get some sleep." He just laughed in my face and continued clicking until he finally listened and got up to say goodbye.

Mike, Miguel and I stood in line to say farewell to the girls. I gave a kiss on A's cheek and then went to kiss K who went for my lips. I turned my head so that she would kiss my cheek instead. She failed in her drunken attempt. Then it was Mike's turn. He went for the kiss on the cheek and she tried to kiss him on the mouth but she failed. Second time. Then Miguel. He went for the kiss on the lips and she did too. I said, "All right, Mike, let's get out of here." We headed out and tried to collect Joe who was talking with A. I saw him and knew that there would be only two guys walking home.

So there we were. Mike and I again walking down Las Ramblas while our two comrades did whatever they did (more about that on Day 6... A LOT more). Good night, Barcelona. Sweet urban crawl in the Iberian Peninsula.

Then Day 6 happened and I learned all that had really happened the night before but I'll save that for the next post. Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Switching blogs

Hey, all. So I have moved all of my posts over to WordPress. I've had too much trouble with Blogger.

If you want to go look, you can go here:

http://whiskeydregs.wordpress.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2004: The Year We Almost Changed America


Brooklyn, NY
Approximately twenty-five people filled the space in a small room to watch a storm of images from an 8MM movie camera. The footage was shot in the 70’s and fertilized the imagination of anyone who watched the projector screen. In the opening shot, a man with long hair, a mustache and in nothing but a pair of jeans tightened the screws and bolts of a farm tractor. In another shot, little girls wore dresses and bore little girl grainy smiles while they played together. In yet another shot, men and women plowed the field and planted seeds. These scenes were edited together for a documentary made by two of those little girls who eventually grew up and moved to Brooklyn.

I was invited by one of the filmmakers to attend the screening of the documentary. For now, her name is N. She whispered to me, “That’s my dad,” when the man fixing the tractor appeared. “That’s S,” she said, pointing to a blonde little girl who danced in circles. S had also grown up and was sitting on the other side of the room, whispering to three other people. S probably explained to them what N had told me. S pointed at the projector screen on the wall where the image of a blonde woman stood and smiled into the camera.

These girls were the daughters of parents who had founded a commune somewhere back West in America. The parents were fraught by the society that bred them into a turbulent era of America. These were 60’s kids who were filled with ideas and revolution in the style of Gandhi’s protests of the 1920’s as well as the words of Thoreau and Whitman. “To hell with America,” they said and off they went to establish a new America, which they would propagate with seeds for a better world with soul mates they found on the way. Hundreds of other Americans did the same in the late 60’s and 70’s. N and S was part of these parent's hope and extension of their ideals.

The people who attended the screening had begun to shift in their seats. This was old Dumbo party days when anyone who stepped a foot in that district expected a good time. N and S had organized a few events at that space before to raise money for their film. I tagged along with a friend of mine to one of these events and that’s how I met N and S. I offered to work the door that first night and collect the money for entrance. They didn’t know me from anyone else, however they trusted me enough to safeguard donations for their documentary.

This was early in 2004 – the year that I felt that change was the closest it had come since the 60’s. Protests were a weekly ritual. If you didn’t go, you didn’t care. The people of New York were excited at the possibility getting rid of Bush and ending the war. Parties, exclusively for revelers, became fundraisers for organizations who wanted to fight the administration. Billionaires for Bush, a satiric group of individuals who acted like conservative Americans, performed all over the city, calling New Yorkers to vote for Bush and support the rich Americans. This confused many of our city's citizens. Were they for Bush or against him? That was the inside joke.

Another group called Green Dragon (named after the tavern that the Sons of Liberty routinely met at in Boston) dressed as the Sons of Liberty and paddled a boat across the Hudson River during the Republican National Convention. We always became excited whenever someone we knew was reported in the media. It was common for a group of people who were just hanging out to protest at impulse. People gathered and thought of creative ways to protest. Pirate radio stations, independent media, documentaries flourished as the turn for a new media became necessary to spread the rumor of pending change.

Friends of mine were under surveillance by the city government. Sometimes the police would be present at protest destinations before the protesters. This became more prevalent as the date of the RNC came closer. C.L.A.W or Corporate Lawyers Against the War even showed up. There was another group of protesters that served as the legal team for the demonstrations to ensure that the rights of the people were respected. They were distinguished by their orange vests and were usually found walking alongside the marchers and negotiating with the NYPD.
People of all colors, races, age groups, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam turned out to protest against the war and Bush’s administration. I had the same smile on my faces as hundreds others when I saw the size of the masses that had gathered. People wanted change and the gap of the 60’s and 2004 had dwindled to only a handful of years between because the age of change is always young.

I once witnessed hundreds of people gather in Washington Square where a march had ended. Police in riot gear had begun to surround the demonstrators and warned them to move and if they didn’t, they would be arrested. People shouted that they were on public property, which was answered by the deployment of more vans to put people in if they misbehaved. Unaware to the police, hundreds more protesters continued to march into Washington Square. The entrances were blocked by the police and the dissenters were forced to surround them. The protesters in the park, who were nervous before, felt empowered and charged at the NYPD. Rocks, bottles and anything else that could be thrown were hurled at the police. There was more shouting. More screaming. “This is our city! This is our city!” The cops had no choice but to disperse and allow the people to stay.

The documentary ultimately ended with the conclusion of the commune. N’s parent’s moved around the country in the 80’s and eventually divorced. I don’t know if N and S ever distributed their documentary or if it was ever finished. I lost touch with them about six months after the original screening. Regardless of the reflection of 2004 in the mirror of the 60's, the war continues and Bush is still in office.

I read once that time is not a linear entity. It is a flat realm that can be accessed through the archive of memory and although the world is currently chaotic, the change we hope for is always coming.

video

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sexdrenalin and Rockets Red Glare


Burst open the bright blue sky with neon lights
As scared soldiers scurry beneath you skirt
Bring in the dirty money
Bring in the dirty freedom
America, America, America.
You shining disco ball of sexual repression and fever.

When you were born,
Your ragged mango flavored sex was nothing but a sore spot.
Sore, sore, sore.
Every single sperm feeding off of your citrus juices.

My love, my clean burning fire
America, America, America
You freak.
You degenerate.
You liar.

America, I've seen you in the bathrooms doing blow
Screaming, "Dying rebel! The bloody rim!"
America, I've heard you squeal from the bedrooms of lovers
Who broke from you.
Who said they were gay.
Who said they were straight.

I've heard the bulldog dildos shoving into squeemish vaginas.
I've seen the barking of little girls in dungeons across the country.
America, you drove me wild
All those nights, asking, "Why, why, why?"
That's the nature of you.

You are the green-bellied fiend.
You are the anti-love machine.
You are the cure for love.
Your solution for extreme emotions is blissful complacency.
This is your gift to the world.
You great shepherd.
Tend to your flock.

The rebels want to stuff a stick of dynamite into your twat
Boom boom boom
The jazz drummer kicks the bass drum.
Shooting machine gun fire.
Drum sticks for weapons.
Weapons for instruments.
And your great song is a tale of war.
And your war is my tale of sorrow.
And your war is your war against me.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

One Sight For Man. One Giant Bar Leap For Mankind: DAY 4 of 10

A new day in Barcelona. Why do we have to grow old? Why do we have to die? With so much to see and live, why does it have to ever end?




We sat outside waiting for the waitress to return with the menus so that we could eat breakfast. Pigeons gathered around the tables looking for crumbs. The Cathedral of Barcelona stood in the background casting it's large shadow over us. I could see the old Roman wall that the builders of the cathedral set the foundation on. It was warm enough to take off our coats. There was a lot of people walking around for a Monday morning.


The waitress returned and handed us the menus. Coffee was in order as well as a bocadillo, a Spanish sandwich that is distinguished by a loaf of bread cut crosswise instead of the traditional American sandwich, which instead requires slices of bread.


The pigeons got too close for Joe's comfort. He picked up a chair to, I guess, swing at them. The Spaniards looked horrified by his aggressive reaction while the rest of our group yelled for him to put it down. He placed the chair back on the ground and walked away to wait for us to finish.


Gray clouds had begun to roll in. We finished our breakfast, gathered our belongings and left. Mike, Gus and I were low on funds so we went to different banks to withdraw money for the day's activities. Our only goal was to go on one of the bus tours that are offered in Barcelona. These double decker buses are an excellent way to become acquainted with the sections of the city that was outside of Las Ramblas.


We walked along the walls of the cathedral and into a huge plaza - the same as the one we were in the day before. The center of attraction of this plaza was the cathedral. On the opposite side of it were stores and restaurants. One of the walls above a store displayed a large Picasso mural, which is easily recognizable due to pre-historic inspired style that he often employed.





The cathedral was in the process of renovation and a huge red sign covered the front of it exposing only the steeple. Miguel didn't want to go inside so he waited for us on the steps while the rest of us entered. The inside was exactly what I always imagined it to look like. We had the option to purchase one of the red candles and place it on a set of shelves with tens of candles placed on top. The reddish glow casted an eerie hue on the gray stone.




Joe and I entered a smaller section of the cathedral containing an altar, several benches and a tomb on the ground. The inscription on the tomb read that the body was interned somewhere around 1080. An effigy of the Virgin Mary stood behind the altar. It was a magnificint view. I said to Joe that this is how you convert people to Catholicism. I was so astounded that I wanted to pray but then I realized that this was a worship of art, of man's craftsmanship and his interpretation of faith. Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous view.

Christ... 1080?!?!? Those were Holy Roman Empire days. The Empire that King Charlemagne, better known as Charles the Great, forged. The country of Spain was known as Hispana back then. The Aztecs were just beginning their reign in Mezzo America, unaware of the perilous future that awaited them. Cortez and his band of conquistadors... That was no time near the conquest of Latin America.

Anyway, we all seperated around this time. I walked around and gawked at everything I saw. The large metal pipes where I was able to hear a soft solemn tune. In the center of the cathedral was a section where the choir once sat. The acoustics of this building were made so that God could hear every one sing. What must have it been like when there were hundreds of medieval attendees. People standing against the walls. The silence and then the thunder of the choir and the roar of the organ as people must have weeped at the miracle of faith that I imagined would have swelled in their hearts.

I read once that mass was based on a Roman rite reserved for the emperor. When Constantine converted to Christianity, people were allowed to participate in this ritual that eventually became the basis for the Church of Jesus Christ. I can't imagine another religion in the Western world that must have been as successful at conversion as Christianity and when you stand in one of these cathedrals, it really isn't difficult to surmise an explanation - an easy one.

I continued walking around the building and exited into a garden where there was a pond with a couple of swans swimming in it. The swans's black and white feathers, the gray stones and green leaves from small trees amalgamated to paint the modest color of worship while the artwork contained inside the cathedral rose like a becon for any celestial being to locate with ease - if one does exist.











It was probably time to go. I exited feeling an inner peace. I was thoughtful of the world of Barcelona. The patron saint of the city lay beneath the altar and I envied her for the bones that aged deep in the heart of beauty. I'm an idealist. I respond to miracles with sentiment and heartfelt wonder.

Miguel, Joe and Mike were on the steps. We sat there waiting for Gus to come out. I looked about the plaza, the church tower. I couldn't believe that I was actually there and recalling it now, it is still difficult to imagine. Gus left the cathedral and told us that there were steps that led to the roof. He took some beautiful pictures of it which, wouldn't matter for reasons that will be explained in a later blog.

We walked through a cobble stoned street. There was a crew of workers installing Christmas decorations above the street. There was a small gallery that had sign that read, "Dali". Joe and I walked through the passageway where some of his installations and sculptures sat. Dali is one of my very favorite painters and yet I was unimpressed because of my experience at the cathedral and yet, here was a man who sculpted and painted with his faith in God guiding his hands. His madness creasing the clay into these surreal shapes. The truth of reality displayed once more. It was 15 euros to get inside. Joe and I were convinced that we would go to Figueras in the coming days to visit the Dali museum, which we never happened as you will later learn.

The Placa de Catalunya wasn't far. This is where one of the bus stops was for the tour bus. We crossed into it and were suprised by the hundreds of pigeons that had gathered there. A woman selling snacks threw some bread crumbs on the ground, which captured the attention of those pigeons. They flew in front of our faces in the direction of the woman.


We walked toward a bar called Jules Verne. It was an Irish bar with cherry oak wood floors and walls. Miguel didn't want to go inside. The rest of us ordered our beers and walked up to the second floor to enjoy them and relax. Miguel eventually relented and joined us.

After this short breather, we left. As I walked out, I looked back to the table where we sat. I thought about the sentimental ache that I would feel the next time I return sometime in the distant future, perhaps when I'm an old man and think of the fun of that day. The bond that the five of us shared, which was growing thicker every day. It was good to see Gus in Barcelona with me. We had planned this trip 10 years before and talked about it loosely througout the years. It was a silly place to be sentimental in about feelings I'll have in the future but that's what I was thinking.
The bus pulled into the stop at Placa Catalunya and the five of us got in and walked to the upper deck. The deck was mostly empty. We sat down and plugged in the headphones that were given to us with our tickets as the bus drove away.








We saw Gaudi's famous apartment building, the The bus began to drive up the road that led to summit of Mont Juic. The name of the mountain translates to Mountain of the Jews. I never did find out why but my imagination dug through the possibilities when I considered the Spanish Inquisition and the oppressoin and murder of thousands of Jews. I didn't want to know why because the reason may have tainted the feeling that I had about Spain. In the back of my mind, though, lurked this dark era of Spanish historytrain station and some other beautiful monuments. I barely paid attention to the audio guide. Miguel and Joe used the opportunity to close their eyes for a bit and rest while Mike, Gus and I made jokes and laughed.
As the bus drove higher up the mountain, we noticed a small village to the left of us. We instantly exited the bus at the stop on the opposite side of the street. The village was high enough that we were able to view almost all of Barcelona from the side of the mountain. As beautiful as the city was below, the dreariness of it stood out from that height. I assume that it was due to the Gothic, Romantic and Post-Romantic style of the city's architecture. The modern buildings, like many we saw in other cities of Spain, conformed to Barcelona's original appearance; looking only like updated versions of the buildings.













It turns out that the village, Poble Espanyol, wasn't so old. Once you pass through the gate, we realized that the buildings fairly new, although the architecture looked like that of Andulusian villages in the South. This was Epcot Center but in Spain. According to the flyer that we received, the village was built for Barcelona's 1929 International Exhibition. It is home to many restaurants and shops. In spite of this, one can tell that this was built for beauty. The white-washed buildings neatly lined along the small streets.
Gus and Miguel were hungry and walked into a restaurant to eat while Joe, Mike and I walked into Placa Mayor. Joe wanted some pictures taken of him so he walked to a pavilion to pose while Mike took pictures of him. I decided to venture on my own. I walked down the small streets. They were mostly empty. Some of the shops were open with only one employee inside each store.




I walked to the back where a tall structure stood overlooking the mountain. The sun was setting and the warm colors had begun to gather on the horizon, slowly shedding onto the Catalonian landscape. I found myself completely alone and enjoying every minute of it. After a while of walking and absorbing the scenery, I headed back in the direction of Plaza Mayor.











Miguel, Gus and Mike were walking toward me. I asked where Joe was but no one knew. We had built up an appetite and decided on dinner. A small restaurant was open near the entrance. We took our seats outside while Gus called his girlfriend. The waiter gave us the menus. He explained that there were only three paella dishes available.

Joe called and wanted to meet up with us. There was a misunderstanding of where we were but he eventually located the restaurant. The food arrived and it was disappointing. Lackluster paella accompanied with sangria that was too sweet. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves and the view. Gus returned from his phone call. Joe grabbed one of the crawfish that was on my plate and shoved it into his mouth, gritting his teeth onto the shell. There wasn't much meat inside anyway.

It was time to go back to the hostel and change so we walked over to the bus stop. It was getting pretty cold out by this time. The bus finally came. We loaded on. Gus, Mike and I went on top while Joe and Miguel stayed in the lower deck. The bus went along the mountain's road. We passed by the Miro museum, the Olympic stadium and headed back down the mountain.

We were back near the port where we went the first night. This was the foot of Las Ramblas where a tall statue of Christopher Columbus stood. I was getting energy back as the electronic vibrations of a live city flushed through my system draining my weariness. Night time again and the thirst for the party was strong.

I believe we went found the train station, went home, changed and came back out but I'm not sure. I remember protesting the idea of going back but... I can't be sure. Either way, we were to meet Eva and Nudia again for some dinner and drinks.
BACK TO THE PLACA REIAL

Drinky, drinky, drinky and food, food, food. The girls met up with us and we walked to Placa Reial. We went to a bar that was on the corner of the plaza. They told us the lower floor was closed. I excused myself and went to the bathroom but when I came out, no one from my party was around. I exited and walked around the block. I called Gus and Joe - no answer. Finally, I got through to Gus and the bartender decided to open up the basement for us to eat and drink in.
Down I went. Deep down into the archaic structure where this bar inhabited. Every one was there, drinking, laughing. They ordered some food. I didn't order any food because I ate something before I arrived. Hunger stops for no one and I never resist the temptation to eat some food especially in Spain where everything was tasty.

Eva and Nudia were warming up to us and I could tell that they were enjoying our company. We talked about music and Spain. Got to know each other. Gus had issues ordering his drink. He requested his usual Baccardi and Coke but when said this, the waiter looked at him as if he had spoken Martian. "Baccardi and Coke," Gus repeated but nothing registered.
The waiter said that they don't have it and offered two types of rum that they carried. "That's the one!!!" Gus exclaimed over and over.
The waiter said, "Oooh, Ba-kah-dee!"
"Yes, yes, that one," said Gus. In Spain, they don't have Bacardi. They have Ba-kah-dee. Whatever...
Joe had trouble too. They don't have vodka either. They have vahd-kah. Let's see them try to get away with that in the States.
Damn exhaustion had begun to rear its nasty cuerpo and possess my body. I was tired. No rest but it was like I said the entire trip: You have to rely on your 7th wind. I hadn't even had my second, which means I had six more to go through. I knew I'd be all right. I ordered my vahd-kah and Red Bull.

Mike said something about "pollo", which means "chicken" in Spanish. Eva and I laughed because what he actually said was "bollo," which means "pussy."

"Si. Me Gusta bollo," Mike said. Bollo this and bollo that. Eva would look at me and roll her eyes and laugh. No matter how many times we corrected him, it was still all about bollo, bollo, bollo. One could hear a Freudian slip but you couldn't be too sure.
Gus went upstairs and never returned. He called Joe and told him that he had to go back. "Not feeling well," he said. Back to the hostel, he went.
After dinner, we walked down the street where Soul was. The place we had gone to the night before. A man came out of a bar and yelled to Mike.
He said to Mike, "Hey, I remember you from the bar crawl." Mike had no idea who this guy was. He continued, "You were the guy who was making out with every one." ' It was funny that this guy remembered him. He could have said anything to entice into the bar but this was his method. Mike was flabbergasted. He really had no clue who this guy was. Regardless, the guy was spot on. Mikey, Mikey, Mike....
Past that bar, past Soul, past another street. Destination compute - the Grungy Bar. Entrance - Euros for drinks. Good company. Broken Spanish. Communication indeed. Nevermind language barriers. Round of shots and drinks for all.
This new bar was excellent. Good music and it was grungy, like I said before - just like New York. Home Sweet Home. A guy sitting next to me barked at the waitress for some drinks. When she didn't hear him, he leaned over the bar and poured himself more beer from the draft. The bartender had black hair and a piercing on her lip. I started talking to the guy. He was Argentinian from the city of Buenos Aires. He grew up in the Cantabria region of Spain. I pointed out the great wines that the region is known for. He wanted to practice his English and I wanted to practice my Spanish. We had a good conversation. He would ask me a question in English and I would respond in Spanish. Good times.

Joe and I talked about Spain and how great of a time we were having. Eva and Nudia had brought a friend along named Danny. He spoke fluent English. The guy was top shelf. Real decent dude. Joe really dug him because Danny was very much into hard core music. I talked with Eva for a bit about things that I can't remember. Nudia really opened up and became a really fun person to hang out with.

I asked one of the other bartenders for another drink. I gave him a twenty. I waited, waited and waited but no change for me. I was furious because we had received only bad service everywhere we went and now we were robbed and I had it with all of them. I yelled to him, "Criminales! Criminales!" I looked at my Argentinian friend and asked him, "How do you say, "you're all criminals"?" and he said, "usted es todos los criminales." So I yelled, "usted es todos los criminales!"
Nudia was upset and she sternly told the guy to give me back the money. The bartender continued with his lie that he gave me back my change. He said that Joe took it, which I denied before Joe said anything. The bartender must have been pretty nervous over these angry Americans. He saw what we did in Iraq and who knows what we'd do to this establishment. He responded by giving us all shots and a round of drinks. In the end, it was worth it regardless how dishonest this fucker was.

After we were lathered properly with liquor and other spirits, it was time to go. Miguel was going to get his way and so Jamboree here we come. The club wasn't so far. It was back on the corner of Placa Reial, next door to Kabul (the hostel). We missed Gus but we knew that the man needed to rest off his ailment.
The entrance to Jamboree was ten euros. Eva talked the guy into giving us a discount but I still somehow paid the ten euros. We had to walk downstairs for the main action. The speakers filled the room with the sounds of breakbeats from Hip Hop tunes. The place reminded Mike and I of Pianos, a bar on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side of New York. A place I once loved and have become annoyed with.

Joe and I were impressed at how they were able to manage a sound system that actually sounded good given the acoustics down there. Old bricks and arcs everywhere but somehow they set up the speakers just right to get the most of this otherwise difficult setup.
I hung out there for about 45 minutes. Mike and I became bored with the place. I was going to leave but Joe said to take Mike along because he was tired and also wanted to go back to the hostel.

Mike and I left Miguel who was dancing with Eva and Joe who was doing his whiteboy dance (his words and not mine) while holding a drink.
We took a cab back to the hostel. When we walked in, Gus was awake. Mike and I sang him a song and possibly awoke every one else in the hostel that was sleeping. Goodnight for now. Joe and Miguel would later wake us up when they returned. They stumbled about the room and talked loudly. I didn't mind. I was glad to see them.
PROLOGUE

According to Joe, this is what happened while we slept. In Joe's words:

"I continued to get my drunken dance on, while Miguel got down with "The Miggy Dance" which he moved onto some girl's ass within about 10 minutes. I couldn't see her face, so I relocated...and upon seeing her, wondered if Miguel had seen her face either. Her and her friend were from Long Island City. Ridiculous. her friend was a black girl, about 8 feet tall, and even more unattractive. I started to pass out at some the bar while Miggy Smalls ordered some other drinks, he had mercy, and "allowed" us to leave...but we couldn't go back to the hostel until we ate.
We hunted down food, unsuccessfully for a while, until we found some convenience store...that oddly, also sold samosas. Miggy never had samosas before...they were damned good. We tried to get into a cab, but the guy wouldn't let us in with food. Mr. Hyde [Miguel] didn't say a word, but kicked the front passenger side door in disgust as the guy rolled the window back up. We moved to the next cab, who took us home, while we ate Miggy's grapes (which he bought with the samosas...) and listened to the Ghostbusters Themesong and other crazy tunes while the cabbie asked us "whether NYC is really like they show it on the TV" as we drove back to the hostel.
that's it."