The hostel scene can be a strange one. I really really liked the vibe in the two on my test run. Smaller places, inexpensive private air-conditioned rooms with sheets and towels, but a common area where people linger. You have your privacy, some room to stretch out and unpack and feel at home, but also a handful of like minds sitting just outside your door, and I have not really found that here yet. These have been massive places jam packed full of mostly students. Its great fun, but living out of a locker is a drag, especially when something in your locker stinks. Sharing a room with strangers has its good and bad sides. Its kinda like some strange blend of scout camp, basic training, and prison. But with scantily clad women jabbering in oft sexy accents. Im getting some sort of bronchitic smokers hack thing which my roommates would have found far less than charming were they able to hear me over the racket created by Fabrice, an older Frenchman with huge open lesions all over his legs who downed a bottle of red and then another of cheap scotch and passed out, snoring wildly. And then John and Pete who were the last to crash had to suffer through Magda, Dagi, Steph, Amy & I loading up prior to the 11 AM check out time. Im sure he was harmless but he gave everybody the creeps, and I really had to be careful to make sure of all my valuables were under lock. The other thing Im slowly learning is that if you are leading a group out on the town comprised mostly of 20-22 year old girls, if you are going to insist upon being truthful about your age, you should probably keep your mouth shut when the topic turns to things like the brilliance of Dane Cook and Christina Aguillera.
I probably should be heading to Lisbon right now via Ryan Air as it was less expensive than this train ticket to Madrid, but there was no way to print anything out at the hostel, and the whole hop a train to catch a bus to catch a plane thing sounded like more work than I was willing to do. I banged the fuck out of my elbow yesterday in the shower and the huge knot makes it hard to straighten that arm out, rendering it kind of useless in the luggage schlepping department. So, I sit here in the train station, rubbing the Buddha stone, hoping to find a cheap but spacious private air-conditioned room with an ensuite bath and reasonably priced laundry facility, free Wi-fi, within walking distance of the Indian Foreign Consulates office. Yesterday was a marvel. Tomorrow I need an office day. Get this back stretched out good, get some exercise, get that Indian Visa thing fixed, sic my legal team on Abbott and American Express, wash and dry everything I am carrying around, including the bags themselves, burning whatever still smells when that is over, not chain smoke, save a few bucks, and try not to start boozing before maybe 8.
After getting set up at Kabul, I took to the streets. I had been there 3 nights and really had not seen much of Barcelona. Money and the camera thing and the hot room had had me a bit on the down side off and on over the previous two days and under cloudy skies I set out to see the town and find a hangover cure. When you tell people that you are from the States, and then Kentucky, they reply alike all over the world, and I was convinced, probably through some sort of subliminal power of suggestion thing that the only thing that could make me feel human again was a big bag of transfatty goodness courtesy of The Colonel. There was one on my corner; Im sure Id find another. I took one big assed footloop around Barcelona and took as much in as possible. In the shadow of the not to be completed for 20 more years and defiled by cranes and scaffolding until then Sagrada Familia, I found what I was looking for. It was KFC in name only. No 6-piece boxes, no mashed potatoes and gravy. It was more like a McDonalds, so I split.
There is some sort of restaurant mafia there that mandates that everyone have an identical offering of boccadillos and paella. Half of them have the exact same sign hanging out front with a picture of their 4 different paellas. You can get a chorizo boccadilla, or you can get a cheese boccadilla, but dont you dare ask for a boccodilla chorizo y queso. Somewhere I picture small Chinese children in a poorly lighted room making these sandwiches at a frantic pace throughout the night to be distributed to every restaurant at dawn. And, as I searched for a nice spot to have lunch and some wine at, it occurred to me that I had not had anything resembling a vegetable or fruit (except my morning OJ) in a very long time, and found a great little bistro and got the Ensalada Catalana y copa vino blanco del la casa, por favor. It was great, and I dont know if that long over due dose of nutrients and vitamins had anything to do with it, but all of the clouds started clearing; in the sky, over my head, over my psyche.
Just when you think youve lost your ability to be overwhelmed, to be amazed, to be awed, just when you think that youve seen it all and that if the Coliseum didnt move you that nothing will and resigned yourself to being jaded, you walk in to Park Guell. Gaudi was a freak on a par with nothing I have ever witnessed or can even begin to conceive of, and I want to rob his grave, crush up his bones and snort a few lines to see what was coursing through his tortured, genius DNA. It is really the most amazing place I have ever seen, every centimeter of these acres micromanaged, and as you look out at Barcelona from high on that hill and see the city below you and the sea beyond, you realize that this might be the nicest place you have ever been, city division, and you wonder where the Guells of today are, searching for, recognizing and rewarding mad geniuses like Gaudi. Build me a church, a hospital, and a park. Theyre probably all being sued by fucktards like the Lakeside Neighborhood Association, fretting over the effect of something different on their property value. Maybe they were run over by an Escalade as they rode their scooter into town. I dunno.
So, Id walk `til my feet or back got sore, and stop for a beer. A wine. A sangria. Un cafe solo. Its strange. In Italy, its espresso, ordered from and drank at the bar. Here, its cafe, and you sit your ass down, and wait on the waiter. I think when the cafes close, their waiters all drive the N line, or Nocturne, buses, and as Steph, Amy, April, Magda, Dagi and I set out for Kubik last night, we waited at the stop for 45 minutes for the N6 which is supposed to run every 20 minutes. But I really got a good taste for this place and though I know my ADD will make me forget all about it once I leave here and declaring the next stop down the line in some superlative manner, this place really has it all in spades. And, despite the disturbingly puffy nipples on the department store mannequins, how bad could a city with Penelope Cruz ads in every bus stop and Eva Longoria ice cream ads in every cafe be?
3 out of 8 aint bad. After a nice train ride and a lunch of blue cheese and chicken atop salad, white wine, vodka, fresca and vicodin, the iPod provided a nice soundtrack as the landscape went from green and brown to red and yellow. Private, spacious and air conditioned. Not too expensive, but right by the main train station, right on a metro line, internet cafes very close, laundromat within walking distance, bacon and egg joint next door, Indian Embassy an easy Metro ride, Picasso exhibit across the street. I overlook a rambunctious plaza and the sound of dogs yapping and kids squealing fills the air, leaving me longing for a pellet gun. Im also getting the vibe that this might be a gay hotel, too. The manager is a little too nice and Christian and Nolan appeared shirtless from nowhere when I stepped on the balcony to have a smoke. Itll work. And tomorrow so will I. And then Friday another travel day. While I need to see a barber soon, Seville will hopefully wait until after Lagos and Sagres. I need a good beach day or 5 after all this walking around and traveling.
I really dig this place. Lots of little cool cafes and bars in the blocks that surround where Im staying. Todd told me this would be a budget killer, and though Im far enough removed from the party center as to avoid much temptation, I am happy, extremely well fed, and quenched, and as I took my seat here at Yal-la mere steps from my front door at 11:30, Im sitting on my 4th least expensive day of the trip. I feasted here earlier and had a few glasses of wine and sangria for like 8 Euro, and then settled in to a really cool little joint a few hours later called La Musa De Esproncei and had 3 glasses of really nice wine, each different, and some tapas of chorizo and peppers for under 9 EU. That said, I will probably drink my self back to 12th place as I ordered a vodka here, and he brought the bottle out and requested that I say when which I declined to do. Since the season in Hvar lasts only 4 months, I am looking for other ventures, aside from my tit cream importation empire, upon which to sustain myself when this is over, and I think I have stumbled onto 2 new opportunities this evening.
Croatia was playing Espana in basketball tonight in Seville and the barstaff at La Musa was glued to the TV. While my hair is not good enough, nor my facial hair so well styled, I would, having not touched a basketball in years, still have been the best player on that court. I also would have been the darkest. Holy fuck were both squads pitiful. So, Im not sure how long the season runs, nor am I sure if they will allow me to play only after the inn keeping rush runs its course, but I think that might be a good way to keep this thing going until Im at least 50.
Cafe Creme in Paris was a transcendent experience, and while I have not found anything that comes close, I still find a place every day that has something that would be so nice to have in Louisville. I watched a couple converse at La Muse, spent beer kegs forming the base of their perches, a piece of wood used as the seat, just such a neat space. I could really see myself opening a cafe when this is over. Id hate the hours, and Id lose most of my friends would they insist on discounts, but Ive found many things that are missing, plus Im going to have a serious espresso addiction when this thing is over, and if anyone is going to profit from it, it might as well be me.
The thing that is stuck in the back of my mind is will I want to stay in Louisville if and when this is over. Ive dabbled with the idea of moving to bigger, realer cities since 1991, but could never bring myself to trade in the convenience, the ease, the inexpense. While Im still immaculately decked out as I write these words, after this, the sleeping in small rooms, the not driving, the not even having a car, walking everywhere or taking trains or buses or cabs, living out of a suitcase, the bliss on a budget will be what I know. Inconvenienced but just happy as hell. At least in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago Ill speak the language. But by this time next year, Ill speak the language in Spain, and in most of South and Latin America and the Caribbean as well.