The night catches wind;
So this is when the story
We took a nap right after we arrived in Badalona where our hostal was. Badalona is a neighborhood just outside of Barcelona. The buildings looked modern and the streets were wide enough for cars pass through indicating that the construction here dates to at least the invention of the automobile. The metro station was just across the street on a square. The area is drab and dreary even in the daylight.
All five of us took turns taking showers in the one bathroom hostal but we did good time. I slept for an hour, which was enough for me. This is our first night in Barcelona and we were preparing to teach our bodies a lesson for feeling exhausted. It was a lesson that would continue for the whole trip.
The receptionist was a girl with dreaded hair and in her early twenties. I'm not sure where she was from but she was nice. My friends and I gathered for a picture and handed her the camera. Our first night in Spain and the healthiest we would look for the remainder of the trip.
We took the Metro and headed into the heart of the city. Miguel had been to Barcelona before and he more or less knew where to go. He told us that we'd really like the area that we were going to. Our destination was the center of Las Ramblas. The train ride was long but if you're from New York then you're used to such things.
Here's what I noticed about Barcelona's transit system. The train stations are clean. Not cleaner but clean as compared to New York in which the subways look like sewers complete with its world famous rat population. You won't find any garbage down in the Metro. There's an LED sign that tells you how much time it will take for the next train to arrive and it almost always arrives promptly. When the train stops at the destination, you press a little green button for the door to open then you get inside. The trains are also clean. The people on them don't talk. They read their newspapers or stare out of windows. But we Americans... you can hear us coming. We're loud, boisterous and silly. We made loud jokes and laughed plenty on the way to Barcelona. The Barcelenos stared at the ugly Americans. I didn't want to be that but there are some things you can't help. I was too damn excited.
While walking up the stairs, I was able to hear the sounds of the city. I could feel the cool air and see the lights shining from above. I took my first breath when we exited the station and onto Las Ramblas. Jesus Christ, the city was beautiful. There were smaller streets that ran between old buildings. There were people everywhere. Street performers. Elegant lights illuminating the artwork that was Barcelona. I stood in awe over the dream that I had for at least 10 years before. All of those fantasies of what this Spanish city must look like. Breathe like. Smell like. This was it.
A kid in his early twenties walked over to us. Barcelenos don't stand at awe over their city like we did and so we stuck out... again. The kid was blonde, had dreadlocks and spoke with an Australian accent.
The Aussie said, "15 euros for a bar crawl. You boys will really like it. You get to visit three bars and one club. You get a free beer at the first place and a shot at the other three. If you want I can take you there now. It starts at 9:30". He pointed down a street where he said the first bar was. "Temple", he said it was called.
"No thanks. We'll find it," we told him. We were still unsure but we wanted to meet Internationals like ourselves and this was the way but we had to eat first before making a decision like that.
This was the Gothic district of Barcelona or Barri Gotic. It's called this because of the style of archictecture of the buildings. I remember reading about this when I was in college. I had taken a couple of art history courses and the professor was passionate about the Gothic style. I remember seeing the pictures. Towering gray buildings. Stainglass windows. It was nice to look at then through the world of 2D but here it was presented to me. This area was also the original Barcino that the Romans had founded. It was a lot smaller back then and was reserved for war weary soldiers who wanted to make a new life for themselves. Funny how that tradition continues today when I recall the trip and fantasize about moving there and away from this achievement weary life.
One of the things I've always wanted to do was touch one of these buildings. They were erected long before Columbus went on his overseas trip. We entered one of the streets. We looked for paella, of course. I rubbed my hand against the face of one of the buildings. I wondered who else had done this and how many years have people walked down these blocks and wanted a sense of time.
During our search for food, we entered a court where people had gathered to watch a band play. The stage was in front of this old cathedral. We didn't stay long but it was nice to hear some music. I wish we could have stayed but we were hungry and we had a bar crawl to consider.
My first meal was a falafel and not paella. I went all the way to Spain to eat a really bad falafel; sauce dripped on the Barcino streets and tomatoes marked my tracks like bedcrumbs. Joe had eaten at the same place when we passed through the street earlier. Gus had eaten at the pizzaria next door. Joe said that the man who served his falafel had cut his fingernail with the same knife used to prepare the meal. He looked up at Joe, I guess to see if there would be any debate but Joey... what could he say? So this mess of a "cook" continued making the falafel. This was also Joe's first experience with the bad service we would continue to have in Barcelona.
Temple was on the same street where we got our food. It was a quick walk. We peered through the windows of the bar and noticed that it was packed in with all sorts of people. We still debated though. Fifteen euros didn't seem like a lot but it was our first night in Barcelona. Should we really commit to this or should we explore? Joe sat down across the street while Miguel, Mike, Gus and I conferred. After a short debate, it was decided: Bar crawl.
"I need you guys to step back right here," said the Englishman at the door. "It's fifteen euros, mates. You're going to have a great time, boys. You know the story all ready?"
The man procured a pad of paper and wrote something about "entrance for 5 guys" or something like that and handed it to Gus. I thought to myself, let's bail. We're not obligated here. The air gathered and made the street into a wind tunnel as it began to blow. Whatever was to go on in there would be better than what was happening outside.
The Englishman said, "Walk up those stairs and to the back. You'll see a gentleman there. Give him your money and he'll stamp your wrist. Make sure you have your money ready, ok mates?"
We hesitantly walked in. We hoped that it would be worth it.
The place was an Irish bar. First we ate falafel and then now we were going inside an Irish bar in Spain. Just like we would do in New York except we would have done this on a weekday. That's midtown talk. Nevertheless, we walked up the staircase where an Indonesian looking kid sat at a table handing out stamps taking people's money. We gave him the fifteen euros and he gave us drink tickets.
The place was packed. We stood against a column and tried to manuver our beers down our throats as people repeatedly bumped into us on their way to the back. Gus observed some seats that were unocuppied. It wasn't in the middle of everything but at least we could drink in peace.
We walked to the rear of the bar and took our seats. Those first few moments were quiet. Peaceful. I'm sure all of us were reflecting and taking it all in. The beer was decent so I kept my mouth shut. We wanted more drinks but the bar was frothing with bodies and it was impossible to order anything. Joe told me to get the attention of this waitress that we noticed serve the tables nearby. I tried to get her attention but she was talking to some people. She looked at me once and continued talking. Finally, she looked to me again and I asked if we could have some service at our table. She seemed irritated by my presence.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I'll have a Franziskaner. My friends want some drinks too if you can come by and take our requests," I told her.
She must have misunderstood what I said because she replied, "Well, I'm right here. Give me your order."
Joe walked by and sternly told her, "I'll have a vodka and club soda. No tonic." He played the part of the asshole but this was the only way this bitch would respond. She turned tail and fetched our drinks.
She returned with our drinks in surprisingly good time. Mike, Gus and Miguel made their requests. Mike began speaking Spanish to her.
The waitress looked at Mike and said, "I speak English". She was annoyed at Mike's presumption but how was he suppose to know? But Mike continued to talk sweetly with her. He mentioned something about liking the song that played over the speakers.
"That's my iPod," she said proudly.
She wasn't from Spain at all. She was from Romania and a big fan of Depeche Mode. After that, we had no problems with her.
I went to the bathroom and some girls asked me to get some toilet paper for them. Two were Australian and one was American from Boston. I walked in but there were too many people waiting in line for the toilet. They yelled at the guy pissing in the toilet to give them some toilet paper.
"In a minute, love," the Brit told them.
I said, "Well, looks like you girls are taken care of. I'll just do my business here if you don't mind."
I could hear them laughing outside the bathroom. My first interaction with Internationals was inside the men's bathroom. I walked out and asked if they needed anything else.
"Some more toilet paper? Some drinks perhaps? Would you like something to eat?" I said mockingly to the girls and their English friend.
We were alerted by the people working the bar crawl that it was time to go to the next joint. The boys and I were feeling something good from the drinks bubbling love juices from inside our gullets. I didn't realize how many people were on the bar crawl with us. People from all over the world gathering to play in the streets and bars of Barcelona bursting into the city streets with laughter and fun ringing loudly from our throats.
The next place... well, I
don't remember what the next place was called
but I do remember that it was red inside and good ol' Rock and Roll played out of the speakers and sweated down the walls. Headphones hung on hooks from the ceilings over the bars which lined the walls of either side. We entered another doorway into the main area. There was a booth to the right of us that had prepared shots for all of the bar crawlers. I looked down at the shots to pick the mightiest one but it was impossible to tell from that height. The drink needed to be in my veins in order to correctly guage its strength so I drank it and it was pretty good.
The boys and I gathered at the end of the only bar in that room and ordered some drinks. I quickly downed my vodka and tonic. The room was filling with stragglers from the crawl. I really enjoyed the music in that place. I don't remember what they played but I know that it was good.
"You guys want to see a trick?" I heard in an English accent. Gus, Miguel and I turned to the smiling Englishman with chin length dark hair. He did a lot of tricks that were really impressive but the one that I lost my shit over was when he told me to pick a coin out of the five he had in his hand. I made my pick and then he slid the coins into my palm.
"Now feel the coins," he said.
I felt the coins and replied, "All right, there's five."
He revealed a coin from his hand that looked similar to the one that I picked. He told me to open my palm and I couldn't believe that I saw four. I was flabbergasted and a bit disturbed. How the hell did he do that? I thought that the bastard made a deal with the devil for that trick. He sniffled and I said to myself, "did he make a deal with the devil for some coke?" Brilliant. My goal for the night was to find out how the hell he did that and what the deal was made for. His soul? Cocaine? I needed to know. This foreshadowed something that would happen on this trip when the five of us would lose one.
We gave him some money and he went off to another group to perform his Satanic trickery. Joe was witness to it but was unimpressed. He couldn't come up with an explanation but he tends to be more rational than me. I'm looking for miracles all of the time and rarely find them. I'll even take the devil's work.
I walked towards the front to guage the nature of this bar when I was pulled over to the side by a flock of English broads.
One of them asked, "Where are you from?"
Just like in the States, people know all they need to know about you once you say New York. I never once told anyone that I was from America while being there. I definitely said that I was an American but I tried to distinguish what part American I was. It seems that even in Europe, New York is seperate from the U.S. and the better portion of America if I may add.
I chatted for a bit with the English girls but had a hard time understanding them. They talked sloppily and all at the same time. It was like trying to listen to the three fates in a bar while holding a glass of the hard stuff in your hand. Good luck.
As we walked out to join the rest of the bar crawl on the street, Joe heard the Misfits play. I didn't recognize it at all but it was good to hear something like that being played all the way out here.
I noticed more bar crawlers than before and by this time, every one was feeling properly sloshed - including me. Mike had made a friend earlier named Sequoia de California, which must translate from Cherokee and Spanish to Sparrow of California. Real cute. Anyway, so this was Mike's new buddy and not a bad one to be friends with. She worked with the bar crawl crew and her job was to keep every one in line. Sequoia said that she'd been living in Barcelona for about 6 months and didn't speak a lick of Spanish. Perhaps she should have reconsidered her last name as it might throw people off ;-)
We thrashed through the narrow streets. Once in a while, I'd see Miguel on Joe or Gus's back racing past me like a jockey on his caballo. Miguel would slap the "caballo's" ass to go faster and faster. Every one was in a jovial mood. I stared at the sky and just listened to the laughter. The stars were up there somewhere. I couldn't see them but who needs stars when you're in Barcelona. That's New York talk.
The group gathered at a plaza and stopped. The plaza was surrounded by large and old government looking buildings that carried Catalonian, Spanish and European Union flags. Joe jumped on Mike's back but proved too much weight for Mike and he fell. Suddenly one of the English girls from before jumped on top of both of them and then another random guy jumped on all three of them. Poor Mike was crushed
but still managed to laugh off the pressure.
We walked into the third bar that looked considerably older than the first two. "Down the stairs!" someone said and we followed the voice down down down. Christ, the place was an old basement with a bar lining across the entire back wall. There were seats between the columns. I was feeling really drunk by this point and was a bit concerned about the shot I had just taken. I was going to bite the big one if I didn't slow down. I grabbed my drink and walked to a table that was underneath the staircase. Joe came by first with a huge goblet of what appeared to be vodka.
"Fuck no," I said. "You're sharing that with me. You can't drink all that by yourself." Who the hell was I to talk? I couldn't drink more than three sips from that damned thing. I wanted to watch over the boys and make sure that no one overdid it with the drinks because the last thing I wanted to do was escort someone home who couldn't handle their drink but there I was, shakey and careless sippng someone else's drink. Barthelona!
A girl with a supersoaker walked by and said, "do you want a shot?"
"Sure," I responded. She squirted the back of my throat twice with the worst vodka I'd ever had since I was unemployed and relied on cheap vodka.
"Want another?" she asked.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that's it. No more." I said before she squirt squirt into my mouth.
Gus came by with his giant goblet and I told him, "What the hell is the matter with you? You can't drink that all. Give me some," as I drank one sip but this time only one because... well, you know.
The girl went around and poisoned all of my friends with her cheap ass vodka until Miguel grabbed the gun from her and tried to squirt some into her mouth.
"No, no, no." she said. "I can't. I'm at work."
"C'mon," Miguel protested. She finally relented and reluctantly took her shot that Miguel squirted from the super soaker. Just then, her boss walked by and told her to get back to work. Miguel felt terrible.
Things almost got messy for me back in that bar. I was about two drinks overdue for a departure from there and thankfully it was time to go. So up we went through those elusive stairs. The steps moving from beneath my feet and the hand rails proving to be as slippery as snakes. It's the truth.
Through the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic we went again. I had begun singing the "Star Spangled Banner" to Joe when I saw Miguel run past us with Gus. I thought it was a fitting moment. The bar crawl had made stops that were on the way to the port and this time we were going to get right up to the Meditarranean's steps, which was kissed by the beach. It was a longer walk than before but I needed time to sweat out the alcohol in my system. I stumbled across a major street. I looked both ways before crossing but all of the lights seemed to come from everywhere.
Before we entered the next bar, I could hear "Sweet Home Alabama," sung by someone with a Spanish accent. A cover band was on a small stage ripping guitars and playing music that I loved. Mike danced with Sequoia and Gus and I walked to the terrace. We talked to a group of English girls. We were talking to anyone by this time. I wanted to know every one's story. Why were the here? What were they looking for? What's next for them? Anytime someone takes a trip like this, it changes them.
Anyway, the girls were fairly uninteresting. I went inside to grab my last drink of the night because I had had enough of the alcohol. I'd rely on pure adrenalin to keep me up through the night. I grabbed my drink and walked to the dance floor and moved around for a bit.
I don't remember where Joe or Miguel or Mike was but somehow we all gathered outside. I remember grabbing Miguel to leave. We were getting messy.
This is where things get blurry....
Ok, I do remember going to a club but the club kind of sucked. It was the last place of the tour. I don't remember where the club was but I do remember a guy constantly telling me to smoke in this small room and NOW I remember... I was in this small room smoking a cigarette when one of the English girls that I met before walked up to me.
"Do you want a [unintelligible]?" she asked.
"Say what?" I said.
"Do you want a THREESOME." she repeated.
"I'd love one but my girlfriend isn't here." I told her.
"Have you ever done anything like that before?" She asked.
I said, "Well, yeah but I'm not going to do something like that if she's not here."
She asked me, "Do you think she'd want to if she was here?" Like it would matter anyway because my girlfriend wasn't there. Yes, it's true. I was a good boy. I told her no but I did ask...
"How about my friends though? There's three that I know that would love to have some fun with you." I told her.
"No, I really want it to be with you and another girl." she said.
"Well, thanks but I can't." I told her. I wish I had something more exciting to report but I don't.
The club pretty much sucked. Gus and I pulled every one together and left the place. Miguel threw something at the bartender. We found out later it was because she threw something at him. I don't remember the whole story and don't want to make anything up. If I choose to write a book about this, I promise to come up with something good that happened there. We waited on Mike to finish making out with some girl that he was dancing with and off we went.
We left that club. Joe later said that he had to help Miguel out of there.
I remember walking up a spiral platform that exited onto the city streets and Gus pulling Mikey up from the ground floor while Joe pissed off the side. Mike told us that one of the English girls that I met earlier in the night jerked his [expletive] and told him to meet her in the bathroom, which he never did.
RIPROARING THROUGH THE BARRI GOTIC AGAIN
It was just the five of us left who walked through those cobble stoned streets; crying from laughter. Our first night and we did it big but it was not yet over.
Miguel pushed Gus into a gate that covered a storefront. Miguel fell into the gate as well. Suddenly, I heard the gate lift open and a big burly Spaniard came out and pushed Gus and yelled all sorts of things at him. We yelled back. It was amazing that this man would even confront Gus seeing that there were four other men behind him. A man with glasses peered out of the store.
Miguel came back and walked away from the confrontation, waving his hands and telling the man, "Comida, comida, comida."
The man yelled back, "NO! NO COMIDA!" It was really funny that in the heat of all of this that Miguel would tell him in Spanish, "Come on, let's get some food," and the man replied, "No! No food." And the way Miguel walked away from the situation as if he all ready assumed the man would come. Did he expect the angry burly Spaniard to say, "Ok, you got me. Let's go get some food." Jamon! (Remember that Mike's new thing was "You've been Jamoned" every time something bad happened... think blooper televison show).
I laughed all the way to Las Ramblas. Miguel had begun urging us to check out a club called Jamboree. It was an incredible place according to him. Gus and Joe were tired and decided to return to the hostal. I wanted to go with them but Miguel was very determined to find it and needed companions. I thought to myself, what the hell? I'm in Barcelona.
Miguel grabbed Joe by his coat and said, "Come on, man. Don't go. Come with us."
Joe became annoyed and told him, "Get your hands off of my coat. Seriously." Miguel let go and our group of five split. Two went home and the three went searching for Jamboree.
Miguel asked every one, "Donde esta Jamboree?" Over and over... "Donde esta Jamboree?" No one knew where this club was and I started to suspect that it didn't exist but help would come soon in the form of two young girls.
Miguel becomes Mister Hyde when he drinks. I love Mister Hyde. Miguel is great too but Mister Hyde is classic. So, Mister Hyde found these two girls, grabbed one of them and asked, "Donde esta Jamboree?"
One of them grabbed Miguel back and said, "Venga acqui." I started to think that something was awry. Miguel grabbed one of the girls and kissed her neck. She pushed him off of her and then grabbed him again and said, "Venga, venga."
Mike looked at me and said, "C'mon. It's Ok." I knew that it wasn't Ok. We had to go. It was time to leave. There was no fucking Jamboree and these girls were taking us to some dark alley to rob, rape and kill us or sell their bodies to us and when they find out that we aren't willing to pay then, "matales!" or "corta sus cabezas!" You can't tell what these Spaniards are up to. They used to do the running of the heretics and kill them afterwards.
One of the girls yelled at me, "Por que? Por que?" Por que because you're taking us somewhere we shouldn't be.
Mike and his girl started to walk further ahead from us and disappeared behind into another street. Miguel laughed while the
girl he was with continued dragging him by the arm.
"C'mon guys. We have to get the fuck out of here. Seriously. Let's go," I continued.
"Por que? Por que?" said the girl with the furrowed face while Miguel looked at me and laughed.
I was really concerned now. I couldn't see Mikey anymore and had no idea what was happening to him. Miguel grabbed his girl as she pushed him off again and said, "Venga, venga por acqui."
"Donde esta Jamboree?" we asked for the last time.
"Cierra a la seis en la manana," the man told us. Closes at six in the morning. It was all ready 5:30 AM and we had no idea where this place was. Time to go back.
We boarded the train and went to bed. Such is the end of the first day in Barcelona. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep but only for a few hours because there was much more to see and do the next day.
THIS WAS DAY TWO OF TEN.