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?