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.

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.

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."


Joe said...

The Pussy Dance. That's what it was! Hahaha. Mike singing "da da da da da da da" and doing the dance with his arms and explaining that The Pussy Dance is a cheesy but popular dance to do at weddings.

Carlos Detres said...

Ooooooooh yeah! Good stuff.