Tuesday, August 15, 2006


My flight to Barcelona was as smooth as stroopwafel honey. Time from my apartment door to the Schiphol gate: exactly one hour. None of the flight restrictions in the UK apply within the rest of the EU, so it's smooth sailing over here. One poor fool brought her stuff in a transparent plastic bag, and she looked very sad.

Not as sad as the people wanting to go to Heathrow, as all those flights were cancelled. They are seriously freaking out over there. Hopefully it'll yield fewer obnoxious British tourists in Amsterdam when I return. They are the worst -- loud, classless soccer hooligans. I have a theory that Amsterdam: Britain as Poconos: New York City. Discuss.

I arrived safely at my fabulous accommodations in the Hotel Jazz, unpacked my rusty high school Spanish, and set out to explore the city. I went out that night with a new friend of mine, Oscar, who selected a ream of tapas that were just delicious. Not quite as delicious as the sangria he ordered with vino blanco, which was just spectacular, fruity and only slightly sweet. He held me back from ordering a second jug, which nearly had me skewering him like the light and tasty octopus; in retrospect, I barely managed to stumble back to my hotel room as it was. That stuff is dangerous. Deliciously dangerous.

The next day I took off for the many architectural delights of Barcelona's native son, Antoni Gaudi. First was Casa Batllo (Motto: "Pick a vowel, we don't care"), an eight-floor townhouse with many fun architectural elements, like sky-blue tile work. Next was La Pedrera, his massive apartment complex with no straight lines. Cool, even with lines that were Anne-Frank-House-long. Try not to kill yourself on the glazed-tile terrace, like this poor guy.

The big disappointment of the day was Segrada Familia, Gaudi's crazy gothic cathedral. It looks fabulous from a distance, and the sculptures outside are wonderful. The inside is nothing more than a construction site. The only thing to amuse me was watching visitors desperately analyze every nook and cranny for Gaudi's genius. Gaudi's genius, I have to say, is both beautiful and deeply tacky. It is architecture-as-camp. And I love him for that. Too bad he got run over by a tram.

Language here is beyond confusing. My Spanish is sketchy enough, but many things are in Catalan, the insanely difficult regional language that seems like a mix of Spanish, French, and Euskera, the Basque language of my ancestors. So I don't know if I don't understand someone because they are speaking Catalan, or because I've forgotten nearly all of the Spanish I ever knew. Like adjectives, nouns, and the past tense.

Today I got a personal tour of Montjuic, in the hills above Barcelona, from the indefatigible Oscar and his trusty lime green circa 1988 Honda Civic. Oscar has, without a doubt, the best parking karma of all time. We swooped into the front entrance of Montjuic Castle, which rained cannonballs on 17th century invaders while providing panoramic views for the soldiers to enjoy. Much later the castle was used to house Franco's enemies, who presumably also enjoyed the views as they slowly starved to death, proving that a good view only goes as far as your food supply.

In the afternoon, after a leisurely two-hour dinner, Oscar was forced to spend a couple of hours at his advertising job, as Barcelonistas are expected to work on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5pm. I trekked alone to the medieval cathedral in the Barri Gotic, which like Barcelona and all of Europe, was under intense, view-constraining construction. I was pleased to witness a conflagration as two groups of Mediterranean great-grandmothers nearly came to blows when one of them tried to sneak in through the exit. I whiled away the remainder of my afternoon walking through the neighborhood's old windy streets, imagining the future WWE UPN Smackdown: Spanish Grandmothers vs. Italian Great-Grandmothers in the Steel Cage. Extra bonus: Gravediggerrrrrrrrr! (Some of those ladies are going to need one soon enough.)

It was an eventful couple of days, so I retreated to the hotel for the evening and enjoyed the rooftop pool. I had a nice conversation with a New Yorker and his Swiss friend. Instead of throughly researching their many hotel options with Trip Advisor, weighing their budget and their priorities, they got off the highway, stopped at the first hotel they saw, and parked. That's a strategy, I suppose. Not, you lucky bastards.

Tonight it poured buckets in quite a thunderstorm. I hope they didn't get really, really wet.


At 4:04 AM, Anonymous ChloeandSam'smom said...

Hi Mike!
do you like that song Magic Stick by Lil Kim? It's really an awesome song..I'm listening to it now as i write this lovely literary piece..
You and those stroopwafels..Is this oscar a new man in your life?
"I got the baddest shit..If i can hit once i can hit twice..i got the maddeest shit..I got the magic stick.."
Lyrics from my favorite song. Do you like Eminem? He's another favorite of mine...

At 4:06 AM, Anonymous ChloeandSam'smom said...

My favorite song by Eminem is Stan. Do you like Stan, Mik?
Isn't this great, this lovely webpage of yours..


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