October 25, 2017. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Let me start by saying Barcelona is nothing like in Tony Hawk. I’ve seen like 2 skateboarders, tops. Lots of bikes. It’s more like the BMX game in that respect, but no other, really.
After my airplane didn’t burst into flames I wandered aimlessly around the airport after being instructed to go “down, left”. What she meant was turn the corner, find the elevator, take it to the ground floor, then locate the correct bus. On the right, coincidentally. Fortunately, airbus or buslift or airwolf has an apparent monopoly on all of Europe, so I climbed on the same bus I did in Dublin and hoped it wouldn’t take me back.
It dropped me off a half hour later next to a gorgeous set of multicolor water fountains. The streets were flooded with humans, moving in a throng, mostly college-aged but some older folks and children, everyone totally amped to be next to the fountains in Barcelona. I found my hostel and attempted to conduct my business in Spanish. We made it about halfway. They charged me an extra 2 euros for bedsheets, but that’s how they getcha. (For those familiar with my conversion rate, that’s approximately 9.32 chicken nuggets).
Realizing I hadn’t eaten that day, I went to forage. Every other shopfront was a tapas restaurant, which I learned means “about 3 bites of food for next to no money”. Conceptually, I can get behind that, but in practicality, it’s a good thing I’m not lifting because 220g of protein are not happening through tapas.
Estrella lookin so good I be like
I found a likely looking place that promised cervezas and something called a “meat bomb”. They ushered me in and when I ordered it, the waiter assured me in rapid-fire, heavily accented English that they were out, but I could order meatballs and bravas. I assumed these were most of the components to the meat bomb. Not so much.
Three meatballs later, he puts this monster in front of me:
It turns out this meant patatas bravas, which I’ve been struggling with the translation for since. In Spanish Spanish, brava means” “brave. In Mexican Spanish, it means “a fight”. In Italian, brava means “well done” or “good”. They were good patatas, I guess, but linguistically challenging.
And surprisingly plentiful. I found out this is because I somehow ordered like $10 worth of patatas bravas. That’s also how they getcha, but Mama ain’t raise a quitter, so I plowed through ’em and went on my merry way.
good thing, if they’re gonna keep giving me three pounds of potatoes every time I try to order food
I made the tragic mistake of trying to find a brewery in Barcelona. Google assured me that “Cervezeria 100 Montaditos” was a brewery, and only a half mile from my hostel, so that was my next stop. Montaditos, for the record, are simple sandwiches made by cutting a half a loaf of twisty Spanish baguette in half and jamming it full of meat. This is distinct from bocadillos, which are the same thing but with standard baguettes — and they would go on to save my life.
Regarding the bar: Imagine a high school pep rally. Now take it out of the gym, and put it in a 2-story bar, and that was 100 Montaditos. Thousands of children, all shouting, all drinking the Spanish equivalent of Natty Light, a flavorless amber concoction called “Cruzcampo Glacial”, made by the Spanish branch of Heineken and receiving a whopping 12% on ratebeer.com. But they were also 1€ each. I ducked into a corner to evade all the screeching, downed it like a frat boy, and retreated to my hostel for a long-deserved shower.
The bathrooms were a shared affair. Three shower stalls, three sinks, two stalls. Standing in front of the mirrors were two middle-aged men. One was a tall, stocky German man, discernibly a dad and discernibly nonplussed with the conversation he was having with a hunched French philosophy professor who shared Sartre’s perspective, both due to his metaphysical beliefs and his lazy eye. The professor was trying his damnedest to convince the dad that he had to take things less seriously, because all of life is a derision. The dad did not know this word, and clearly wanted to just get out of the conversation and go to sleep, but couldn’t due to manners.
“All of life is a joke!” the professor insisted, laughing like a maniac. “Is a joke! None of it is real! It is a derision! You take too serious!”
The dad made a face and said, “How do you know this about me? You cannot know me.”
“I know you! I know you, you have a wife, two children. They could have been girls, you know! Is all a derision!”
“Oh, okay,” I interjected, because they were both trying to cross entirely too many language barriers here. “He means a delusion.”
The German made the same face.
“It’s like in a dream,” I said. “Something you think is real, but it’s not. And you have no way of knowing.”
“No way to know!” the Frenchman said. “I cannot trust!”
“Yeah, you’re talkin about Descartes,” I said. This helped no one.
“You mean… illusion?” the German asked me. I considered, then nodded.
“Then he should just say illusion!”
The dad considered the professor distastefully for a moment, then motioned to me and said, “What about him? You know this about me, can you tell also about him?”
“Is prollity,” the professor said, and I tried to interject “probability” but they weren’t having it.
“Or are you,” the dad continued, looking at me for the word, “How do you say… psychic? Mind-reader?”
The Frenchman considered me critically for a moment.
“How about him?” the German demanded again. “Does he have family and kids?”
“No. He has no family. He is alone.”
There was a beat of silence, and the dad started laughing nervously, I imagine because he had to do something to vent his discomfort. I grinned and said, “But aren’t we all, really?”
At this point a Ukrainian teenager entered the bathroom and politely tried to figure out which shower was okay for him to use. The dad said, “This one is fine, but you must be careful, or you will be trapped for 15 minutes talking to him!” He nodded at the professor, who had removed his shirt and was now trying to explain that he had hair on his shoulders because he was “once a monkey”. I didn’t know if he meant evolutionarily or in a past-life sense, and I did as much deciphering as I was ready to that night. I bid them goodnight, took my damn shower, and went to bed.
I really like Barcelona.