October 28, 2017. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
After a meager hostel breakfast of bread and more bread, I went out to a coffee shop and settled in to do some writing.
There’s this peculiar phenomenon that affects me specifically. No matter where I am, what building, business, vehicle, or apparently country, if there’s an opportunity for screaming children to be near me, they will find a way. Within moments of setting my laptop down, a disaffected mother with two screeching children entered the cafe and sat down in the seat next to me. The children, as if on cue, immediately began to howl and practice muay thai on the legs of the table. I dipped.
After the daily happenin gettin my tippatappin in, I went wandering through the unusually calm streets in search of a laundromat.
Turns out, the reason nobody was in the streets is because they were all crammed in the alleys, poised to spring out as soon as I got close enough, in appropriate Halloween fashion.
My Spanish is still not what I would describe as fluent, but since I arrived in Barcelona I’ve become particularly adept at asking strangers “what the hell is going on?” In this case, a dude answered a little too rapidly for me to catch every word, but from what I gleaned it’s a Spanish cultural tradition of some kind, not necessarily a Catalonian one, but he’s just visiting too so he couldn’t say for sure. I tried to corroborate this in English with a clump of Brits, but their only contribution was an uncomfortable smile with no eye contact and “We have no idea what’s going on”. That was reassuring, in its way.
The laundromat was 10€ and the hostel would do the same thing for me without my having to hang around a laundromat for two hours, so I opted to suffer that hustle instead, dropped my bag off at Don Mustache and continued my explorations in earnest.
Are you familiar with the old Tolkien quote, “Not all who wander are lost”? And then this dog meme?
I’m in a superposition of those two states any time I’m awake.
Eventually I found myself in La Rambla, where two powerfully built gentlemen with heavy African accents were very excited to see me.
“You! You smoke weed?”
“Not anymore,” I said, more or less truthfully. “At least, not here.”
“You come with us,” they said, gesturing down an alley, “We are 1 minute walk away from a coffee shop you can sit down and smoke weed!”
“Really!” I said. “Is that legal here?”
“Yes, yes!” they said, gesturing frantically toward the alley where I would be murdered. “Come on, right down here!”
“I’m good, thanks anyway,” I smiled and waved and swayed back into the bedlam.
“You’re good? I know you are good! Come smoke weed!” they shouted after me.
My compañera de viaje from the day before had said, “It is like, when I am alone, I do not trust people!” I told her, “Me either. Also, when I am together, I don’t trust people.” She thought that was funny, but I think it’s a solid philosophy. It’s well within the realm of possibility those two gentlemen saw a lone American tourist swaggering blithely down the street, front pocket of his stupid slim-fit jeans bulging with his wallet, and they thought, “I really hope we can help that guy smoke weed.”
Another block down the street, I found a heavily dreadlocked hippie sitting cross-legged on a blanket, looking like he was fighting the nod-off. He had four labelled cups in front of him, which read WEED, BEER, LSD, and Comer (FOOD). I dropped my small change in the empty acid cup and said “buena suerte, amigo.” Boul lit up like a Christmas tree.
Truth told, drugs seem kind of like overkill in Barcelona. A couple times a day I find myself pausing and double-checking that I’m awake. An alley full of clarineteers and dancing wooden giants doesn’t suddenly happen in the real world.
The elbow-to-elbow density of humans in La Rambla suddenly increased as the daily political protest took form. This time, the signs were about freeing political prisoners and “NO A LA MILITARIZACIÓN!”
Back stateside I oppose la militarización as well, but I didn’t see any reason I should oppose it in La Rambla, vocally, this close to a political upheaval. I shaded out.