Fight, Frights, and Red Lights

I woke up far too early this morning to the sound of chairs being hurled furiously at a man-shaped target one after the other after the other to a bellowed and echoey cussing chorus… although since I don’t understand any Spanish, it might have been tables he was throwing.

Either way, I was shaking in my metaphorical (I don’t sleep in them) boots while dead-of-night, witching hour thoughts whooshed through my insensible brain.  Once I got a grip on what was happening, I cowered behind what seemed like the thickest barrier and researched Spanish gun laws, reassured to remember that most other countries are portrayed in world news as thinking Trump is just a joke we’re playing on ourselves.  Perhaps they also take a more measured approach to semi-automatic accessories.

The crashing and howling intensified.

I pulled up the wifi.  My last google search was something along the lines of “eat someplace close but not gross,” which un-reassured me because I remembered that I was, in fact, mostly wrong about this not being a red-light district.  My first clue should have been at check-in, when she sympathetically told me to “stay to this side at night”, but my second clue should have been the coupon for a massage, and my third clue should have been the erotic museum.  I need things clearly spelled out for me, however, so I obliviously explored the territory in leggings and short dresses (marriage proposal: check. man stopping me in the street to show me a bloody and disfigured picture of his ear: check) until I read this:

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The Liceu is directly across the street from my room.  It’s really pretty, by the way.

Aside: the architecture in this town is just silly by how glorious and awe-inspiring it is.  I meant to go castle hunting yesterday (which is why I was wearing the dress- it was a gorgeous day and you never know when Game of Thrones casting directors will be out scouting locations and looking for extras to eventually die bloody and incestuous screen deaths with their legs hanging out of a dragon’s mouth) but got distracted (lost, to be honest) by how much people are capable of creating.  Barcelona people in particular, at least in the field of building stuff.  In fact, since 1848 the Royal Gold Medal has been given to a person who has contributed significantly to the field of international architecture every single year but one.  That one?  They just decided to award it to this entire city.  My pictures don’t do it justice, but it is very, very clear why:


Anyway, it’s finally 11 a.m. and I think I’ve given the local police (I assume) sufficient time to clear the bodies (I assume) so I’m going to venture out and hit Dennis’s recommendation once again.

It’s time to fill my stomach with something more substantial than butterflies.

*** I feel like I should note that I don’t actually feel unsafe here at all- I mean, aside from the fight, which I’d like to chalk up to the passionate Mediterranean temperament.  There is no actual evidence of bodies and nobody needs to call any embassies or even hesitate to stay here.  It’s just, you know… the dead of night is called that for a reason.  And yes, that was scary, but not half as scary as some of the things we quietly let happen every day.  So.  End addendum.  I really am hungry…


Frissons and the Erotic Mishaps

In the interest of research into what’s been floating the various boats all these years (and in the interest of imagining Aunt Cathy’s face when she reads this and realizes she passed this place up for Gaudí) I decided today to visit the Erotic Museum.

This post will not be suitable for moms.  It will also be in reasonably poor taste if any of the pictures came out, but I will try to make up for it and show my education by using my very best multisyllabic words. Interjection: Ha!  I came into this restaurant next door for lunch and to write stuff before I forget it, and they’re playing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” which is striking me as very hilarious.  The flowers are not next door, Peter.  (And Paul… and Mary.)  But thank you for asking.

So the museum visit got off to a solid start with what I assume is a misspelled Bill Cosby quote- which, under the circumstances, they should really rethink- on a poster that led up the stairs toward my ticket and a complimentary glass of champagne.  Since I’d lounged all morning, bypassing breakfast for blog posts and books, I was rather tipsy almost immediately and giggling at the tidbits of erotic history, which were carefully typeset into adjacent sixes and nines.  My gut says this was not an accident.

I learned a LOT.  Like, a lot a lot.  I will be rethinking my pre-Columbian and Japanese history units for sure.  (Correction: I will not be rethinking those at all, but I will definitely now be aware of all the insidious undercurrents.  Did Mr. Hickey know about Rasputin’s reputed magnitude when he told us all those stories in 7th grade?  Was Catherine the Great really a literal equine lover?  Why was the little cartoon penis in one of the first black and white animated pornographic films detached and frolicking happily down a beach?  These are questions for a true historian.)

Also, nobody ever told me that Pompeii was essentially a giant, imaginative brothel with very explicit instructions inscribed in ancient graffiti.  And that snuff is interesting, yo.

So I finished my champagne and wandered sort of open-mouthed through the various exhibits, which include a royal erotic film gallery, a phallus/Betty Boop garden, and a world record section (where I had to pull out my handy “go someplace foreign” app and do some thoughtful metric conversions).

The best, though, was when I got to the gift shop portion (inevitable and ubiquitous museum exit station… this aside is when I get to use my big words, see?) and the lady- who spoke only broken English but clearly recognized me as an American, probably from my solidly Puritan heritage- told me to try out any of the toys, and right there in the shop no less!  I laughed at the lack of clarity but to be gracious, turned something on.  Then BOOM!  That very instant, every light in the place went out and we were left in almost complete darkness, the only sound an embarrassing and erotic vibration coming from my hand.

I am still laughing.  Still.  I am still laughing even though it’s like an hour later and Michael Bolton is on the hi-fi and it’s not even that nice a day out.

Because that- history, hilarity, and the mildly inappropriate- that is what floats my boat.

The Grudge

So, it’s the dead of winter here.  And while that means a very different thing in Barcelona than it does in Portland, my attitude of “meh, it’ll be like 50 degrees warmer there so a sweater, a light purple jacket oughta do it” was idiotic and ill-conceived.  50 degrees warmer than when I left is still only 50 degrees.

I’m freezing, and at the depth (assuming depth is the proper opposite of height here) of fashion.

This is not my first go ‘round with frigidity and a purple jacket, mind you. In college, I had an ugly one that maintained serviceability in that I spent most of my money on Ushuaia and Strange Pleasure shows and couldn’t afford another.  Amy hated that jacket and snuck it into the box to Goodwill.  Hence the frigidity: of her cold, cold heart.  It was the 1990s and I am not over it, Amy!  And I still want my life-sized cardboard Han Solo back, destructive college neighbors who also once stole my shepherd’s pie!

Anyway, here I stick out like a sore plum.  I kept an eye out yesterday because I wanted to know if it was my imagination or if truly I was the only one dressing like an Easter egg.  After 12 miles on the ‘dometer, though, it was clear that the only other women in colored coats were matchy-matchy together and I don’t have a lesbian partner as an excuse. Even if Shakira is potentially in town.

So I’m channeling both Amy and Chrissy today.  I’m not a “shop your buns off” kinda girl but I’m even less a “freeze ‘em off” one.  And since the line of designer shops here could be the setting for a Shannon Doherty/Jason Priestly television sequel, I’m going to make the old friends proud.

I don’t know to whom Shakira was singing, but it’s just goosebumps underneath my clothes.  I might wanna fix that.

Addendum: I did find a jacket and it is way more toasty, but after hours of shopping ineptitude- I stood in three different lines at the “I forgot the cable that attaches my camera to my computer” store before finding an actual cashier- I decided a hotel nap was more attractive than wandering.  And it was, until magic hour hit and I remembered that I was only a few blocks from the Mediterranean and hadn’t yet moseyed on down.   So I strapped on my jacket and hauled out the Fuji and wandered around taking pictures of interesting buildings and the occasional anatomically correct iron lion.  So there’s that, and it is pretty.   Here:






I accidentally posted this to the wrong site- whoops…

“You’re going where?  Barcelona?” asked the cabdriver, because all of my stories start with something weird the cabdriver said. (Correction: sometimes they start with something weird I did with a cabdriver, like try to pay with a check or a piggy bank.  But that is a story for another day.  For when we have fingers of whiskey and talk about our youths…)

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Anyway, “you’re really gonna take it there,” he continued cryptically, and he dropped me at the bus station where puzzled, I went on my way.

27 hours later, I got a “10% off erotic massage” ticket upon check-in.  I was pleased to know that if I did in fact wish to “take it”, it would be at substantial discount.  Holy prescient cabdriver who does not know me at ALL.

I’m not in a seedy or red-lighty district, by the way, like that hotel in Bangkok that left me condoms and a mint on my pillow.  There were dozens of coupons in my face here, most of them for the brigade of upright citizens.  That just happened to be the one that caught my eye before my eye swung shut with its partner for the jet-lagged nap.

I woke up hours later, famished, and thus dropped into the nearest cafe, where I was immediately struck with the realization that I have almost zero conversational Spanish.  When the waiter came, all I could think of to say were some French words and “Feliz Navidad.”  Alan taught me “where is the bathroom?” just before I left, but it wasn’t appropriate in a food-ordering situation (even though it kind of sounds like a Vietnamese sandwich) so I just sort of grimaced and pointed at the menu. I ate a tiny flute-shaped ham baguette, pretended (by nodding knowingly at my plate just in case anyone was looking) that I had only ordered that much on purpose, and went on my merry way.

My destination was Parc Guëll, mostly because I heard someone say it once and the accent was enchanting. Plus this Gaudí fellow who created it is all over the B’lona guidebooks as “can’t miss!”

As it turns out, this is because you literally cannot miss the dude’s work.  It is like drugs took drugs and had baby drugs and took them, too.  And then they grabbed nautilus and turtle and python shapes and multiplied them and mushed them all together and built buildings.  So interesting, and soooooooo weird.  Like this one, Casa Batlló:


Before I was anywhere near the Gaudí-designed Parc Guêll, this wavy building stopped me short:


La Pedrera, or Casa Mila.  I vaguely remembered at some point reading about the rooftop, which is Spanish Happy Fun Place, so I bought a ticket immediately.  Security was tight and I had to run my bag through the machine, presumably so they could look for the kinds of hallucinogens the artist- Gaudí, of course- took before parking his buns at the drawing board.

My audioguide- which had Sony Walkman memory foam headphones that made me want to throw a Boombox on my shoulder and crank the Flava Flav- said that this is a UNESCO world heritage building, which is apparently a Spanish phrase that translates to “wicked flippin’ cool”. Outside is the aforementioned wavy Wonderlandyness and inside, the attic is gothicly lit with a hint of bat cave. Not just any old bat, though. Cheshire bats, for sure.


On the rooftop, this:


They were looking over this Saharan dune-style undulating floor plan that people don’t walk on without prohibitive fences or dying: remember, we were seven stories in the air.  Gaudí actually is Spanish for undulating, probably, but after reading a little more about his work, I’m less inclined to call him nuts than brilliant.  He did, in fact, look to replicate nature in his designs, and how he managed to build a castle that looks like a giant melted candle but still retains functionality and is magnificently lit and beautifully structured both inside and out is beyond me.  Salvador Dali has a history in this town, too.

I’ll bet the two were drinking buddies.  Okay, here’s one more:


Those shiny things that garnish their faces are champagne bottle shards, by the way. The friend group unconsciously tried to replicate that one New Year’s Eve at 1410, but instead of “expensive champagne” it was “4-dollar bubbly”, and in place of “modern art” we had “an accident”.  But hey, don’t the above guys kind of resemble the fertility statues in the Thai phallus cave?  I totally think so:

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Small world as far as artistic inspiration, right?  Anyway, off to Parc Guëll.

Interlude: The international language of friendship is definitely booze, folks. I had an hour to kill between buying my ticket and actually being allowed in the park, so I popped into this restaurant for some squids and anchovies.  When the friendly waiter waggled his eyebrows and offered beer, I put a horrified American look on my face and declined. He was equally horrified for his perceived faux pas for a moment, but then I saved him by grinning and demanding Jack Daniels. I tried to order en español, which is ridiculous because what am I going to say? Juan Danielle? So I put a weird accent on it, he laughed and gave me a strong Gritty’s pour, and here we are now: friends.

Did you know you can stuff squid, by the way? Neither did I, but I now know why it’s found on maybe four other menus worldwide. The squid part at this place was the predictable texture and consistency of the meanest kraken, but instead of being round, fried, and ringletted, it’s about the size and shape of a Wonder bread. And it’s wrapped around the same meat product, I think, that can otherwise only be found in canned corned beef hash. You know, the one that comes with the potatoes that look like tiny dice, potentially signifying what a gamble it is to eat the stuff?  That’s what this squid is stuffed with, and there are also brown peas in there and it’s gross. Back to my Juan Danielle. End interlude.  Here’s Parc Güell:


It ended up being okay, and then I went back to La Pedrera for a night light show, too.  All in all a solid day of taking it.  So thank you, cabdriver: your words did guide me here.

I’m glad I didn’t pay you with a check.