On Wednesday, 16 February, I fell asleep in London and woke up in Barcelona. Sun-starved, dazed, stepping out onto the bright tarmac, I thought: this is what that guy from that book must have felt like when he came out of that cave. My friends and I took a bus from the airport, past the bullfighting stadium and the Arc de Triomf, past the fountains and Noucentista statues at Plaça de Catalunya. We checked into a hostel near La Rambla, a street filled with all the trappings of tourism—living statues and waffle vendors and souvenir vendors and pickpockets and those little rubber firefly things that people slingshot into the air.
This was our reprieve from the relentless cloud cover of London, so it was time to soak up some vitamin D. We took a tangerine-colored tram to Montjuïc. We walked through winding trails of flora, fauna, fountains, and sculptures in the jardins.
Jardins de Laribal, Montjuïc
The jardins emerge into a panoramic view of the city. Have you been to Barcelona? It looks like this:
Tucked away in the garden, in a courtyard of little blue tiles and orange trees, is a restaurant called La Font del Gat. There is an illustration of two curve-backed cats on the window. We sat inside, drank white wine, and ate Catalan cuisine. It was 11 o’clock in the morning.
The next day, my second day of wine-for-breakfast, I began to realize that I have a problem. I spent the rest of my Spring break indulging myself in Barcelona and Milan, and after returning to the sobering, gray world of London, I’ve decided that I am in need of a 12-step program. So I will go through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—in the context of this blog only. Here goes.
Step 1: Admit that you are powerless over alcohol, and that your life has become unmanageable.
I will add that I am addicted to Europe, and that the lifestyle I indulge in while there is completely unmanageable and unsustainable.
My enablers were the following: my roommate Connie, who meticulously photographs with her DSLR everything she eats. She knows a lot about food and art, so she’s a good person to have around when you’re traveling, especially because she actually plans things out using guides and maps and whatnot. Militza, an absurdly patriotic Bulgarian temptress who loves the Hard Rock Café and says funny anachronistic non-sequiturs like, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” She is awesome.
Step 2: Believe in higher power.
Day 2: Sagrada Familia, the second-most famous church in the world.
Gaudí is buried in the crypt. He was killed by a tram.
The stained glass windows are like great eyes close up. They’re better enjoyed with an El Guincho soundtrack, rather than the hum of countless tourists and echoes and intermittent gasps of wonder and coughs.
The life-affirming sunshine of the previous day had dissolved into scattered showers, which gave the cathedral’s famous Nativity Façade the appearance of a dripping wet sandcastle:
It’s nice to know that you could never design or create something so magnificent. It really takes the pressure off anything you do. I wonder how many people even create something they’d actually want to be buried with.
Step 3: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understand Him.
Day 1: Fundació Joan Miró.
I’m not saying Miró is God or art is like God or anything like that. But the childlike quality of his paintings reminds me of a time when God took care of me and that was all the reassurance I needed. Also I needed a segway to my visit to the Miró Museum.
"The diamond smiles at twilight"
Miró is a Surrealist. He’s all about primary colors and shapes, women and birds; he created dream images as an escapist response to the carnage of the Spanish Civil War and the World Wars. The titles of his paintings are like verse poetry:
Memory of a Poem
The diamond’s angle lights us
The star of hope raises
Catalan peasant in the moonlight
Young girl escaping
Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
My inventory of immorality begins, naturally, in Barcelona. Wednesday’s vices were wine, sangria, copious amounts of bread, tapas, cake, and cigarettes. Thursday started with wine and tapas at Pintxo Bar in La Boqueria market. This was followed by the aforementioned moment of clarity, which was followed by chocolates. Thursday night we drank a pitcher of Sangria at a Flamenco show.
We then traveled to the Ciutat Vella district to hit up Icebarcelona. This area of the city is extremely posh. There is a marina glutted with boats and boulevards crowded with palms and a massive whale sculpture suspended among casinos and five star hotels.
Frank Gehry’s whale sculpture, Barceloneta
Along a strip of sand on the coast of the Mediterranean, some men were playing rugby in the sand by twilight. There is a cluster of expensive bars on the beach. Here is the ice bar.
As you can see, the ice bar was completely empty because we went around 11 o’clock. Nerds alert! So we had a private party with the icebear and the icebartender and the reindeer fur seat covers. We left, Connie smashed her ice glass on the boardwalk, and we walked along the strand and touched the freezing cold Mediterranean.
Now it was time to continue on to Arabou, party central for the trashy student crowd. We went to Chipito’s, where the pirate-looking bartender set the bar on fire.
We drank flaming shots through straws. Homesick, perhaps, I bought a pack of Lucky Strikes from the cigarette machine and we went to McDonald’s.