Friday, September 30, 2005

Barcelona, a city given to curses

I´m not talking about curses as in the old gypsy "may your chickens prove eggless and your eyes turn round in your head" or in the more crass "Sucks. Did you hear what I said, Mommy? I said ´sucks´" (which my nephew Eric´s first attempt at cursing, when he was still a toddler). No, I´m talking about a city in which your response to most everything is "Goddamn!" or "Sacre Merde!"

The second curse is in response to the fact that I am rather shamed by the fact that my Spanish is so bad. When you travel and see how almost everyone in Europe is at least bi-lingual, you get an idea why they get frustrated with Americanos who can only speak English, some of whom can barely manage that, and expect everyone else to converse on their home court (to mangle a metaphor). I´m certainly no better. I felt like I had a good grasp on French while in Paris. I could conduct most basic transactions (buying food, pleasant basic conversation, getting instructions) without resorting to English at all. But here in Spain, I´m frustrated by the fact that after saying "hello," I have to switch to "Si habla Ingles?" The fact that everyone seems to think I´m British doesn´t help matters.

Back to basics: Barcelona is a city that inspires wonder and the necessary curses to express that wonder. Two nights ago, I had an amazing dinner of tapas at a restaurant. It was like hors d'oeuvres at a reception, but no reception I´ve been to ever had food like this (my apologies to everyone who´s wedding I have ever been to are a given). They would bring out plates of tapas (little finger foods), you would pick what you wanted, and were charged by the number of toothpicks on your plate at the end of the night. Everything was amazing. I have no idea what anything was. There was a cheese thing, a salmon piece, some tuna mix, a decorative olice and asparagas in oil concoction that looked like an octopus. I filled my belly on tapas and four hearty glasses of red wine for about $20. Sacred merde, indeed.

Best of all, I shared a spot at the bar with a couple from America honeymooning in Barcelona. They were open and friendly like Americans at their best, and I was delighted to hang out with them. Not only were they Americans, but they were Baltimorons, too. I enjoyed talking to them for most of the night, thrilled not to be having any language difficulties, that I later tried to figure out what makes Americans so friendly overseas. In my experience, they really are the third friendliest people you could meet. First being Australians, second being the Irish.

Today at lunch, however, I thought I might have to alter my rankins. I may need to make room for the Germans in there somewhere (happy, Stacey and Karl?) There´s a produce market here in Barcelona, and the food stands are highly recommended. At one, I found an empty seat. I asked, in broken Spanish, if the seat was empty. I thought the man sitting next to the seat was severly sunburned, and based on how he moved, perhaps a little retarded. No, it soon became evident, he was shit-faced drunk (it was about 12:30 in the afternoon). A nice lady explained in broken English that the seat was available, so I took it. Someone three seats away was eating a seafood platter that looked good, so I pointed that out to the counterman and ordered it. The nice lady was there with her husband, and as we began to talk, I got their story. On retiring, they had moved from Germany to the small island of Majorica, off the Spanish coast. Our conversation was a complete tower of babel. They spoke German, Spanish and a little English. I spoke English, some French, and with the aid of my travel book, basic Spanish. However, they were so sweet and kind, they invited me to stay at their place in Majorica if I decide to go to the island. To hear them sing its praises, it made me want to completely alter my travel schedule and check out the island. They gave me their phone numbers in case I want to go...

Which I am thinking seriously about doing. The question now becomes, what do I sacrifice in order to go?

14 comments:

Carol said...

Hey, where'd your "Oops, I crapped my pants" post go?

the hanged man said...

I don´t know. I´m having some trouble with the blog. I´m kinda pissed that that post is gone. I will have to re-write it.

I´m glad you saw it at least. It means that I´m not crazy...

Carol said...

Hey, do you realize we've interacted more since you've been 3000 miles away than when you were 150 miles away?

Carol said...

Hey, I gotta stop saying "hey."

Miss Stambaugh said...

Scheißfreundlich.

the hanged man said...

Carol - yes, I do realize that, and it makes me aware of how much I enjoy your company and regret we don´t talk more. Feel free to say "hey" as often as you wish...

Miss Stambaugh - what does that mean?

--john

the hanged man said...

By the way, the island is Mallorca, not Majorca, and is located in the Mediterranean Sea...

Julie said...

OK, first to Carol - What's going on with you and my mom?
Second, to Stacie - tell me more about the crap sling.
And John - did I mention you are REALLY paranoid when stoned? That peaceful feeling that came over you was propably the browie wearing off. At least when you're paranoid you're amusingly so, and also very nonviolent. Sorry the whores were a disappointment, though. Somehow you expect foreign women to be more exotic.
Love and miss you,
Julie

Miss Stambaugh said...

As nice as pie.

Miss Stambaugh said...

Julie,

Shit sling was a term that a friend of ours from college used to describe a certain mess he made. If you need any more details, let me know.

the hanged man said...

Julie -

I can also provide more details about the shit sling. Let me know and I´ll email you. I´d like to steer this journal back to traveling around Europe. Right now with all its talk of poo in pants and getting stoned, it´s like Cheech and Chong are ghostwriting it.

And yes, I am soley to blame, since I brought up both topics.

love you,

--john

ps I have no idea what´s going on between Carol and Mom, but I´m just happy to be in touch with Carol again.

Anonymous said...

John,
I read an article about touring Europe and the dangers of going to visit people YOU DON'T KNOW in their homes. I hate to be the eternal nag, but I don't think it is a good idea.
Mom

Julie said...

John and Stacie,
Yeah, I'll bite, I'd like to hear the rest of the shit sling story. Hopefully after hearing it I won't feel so stupid for the time I threw up in that box. Oh, or on that guys arm.
Julie
PS forgive any typos, just got home from work. I just emailed Suzie's nephew Mike and he'll be lucky if he can read it!

Molly said...

Okay, I've been reading steadily along and need to say that first, as someone who is too chicken to watch live gymnastics/ice skating I'm glad you wrote closure to your Amsterdam story, b/c I needed to know you got safely back to your hostel. Adventures, yay! Wondering if you're stuck in the proverbial ditch? Not so yay. Second, I say (so not being a mother) that hanging w/ the people on the island sounds so great...(wait, why do I hear the Gilligan's Island themesong in my head, and why can't I stop repeating those "Lost" numbers, either??)But having some of my most memorable times when the locals said "come by and we'll show you around" (like in Ireland) I say at least think about it some more. Lastly, I heard "Loving You" last night on the radio!!! Yes, as in the Mini Riperton only-dogs-can-hear-it variety! Have fun!!