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: