Going back

It was early in the morning. I stood on the metro platform and I was reading a newspaper, only vaguely aware of the people around me. A girl with abundant black hair and a green skirt. A man with an umbrella. Two boys in their school uniforms.
So absorbed was I in my paper, that I heard rather than saw that the metro had arrived. A voice over the intercom said something unintelligibly, first in Catalan, then in Spanish, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I heard the doors open and I stepped forward.
Then a guy jumped out of the metro and clashed right into me. I realised I stood right in front of the doors. Normally, I hate people who do that: blocking the exit way for passengers who come out of the train. They should all be shot, I think. “Fool!”, said the guy who had come out. “Sorry, ” I said, hiding my face behind the paper and then I was in the train and the doors had closed. The train quickly gathered speed.
Only then did I fold my paper and sat down. And only then did I realise that there was nobody in the train. Except for one girl, who sat right in front of me. She must have been about 10 years old and she looked strange. She wore a dress that was much too big for her, and also much too adult. Like a grandma dress.
Meanwhile, the train was still going faster, and it didn’t stop at the next station.
– “Hello,” I said to the girl.
She pointed with a finger to me: “You should not be here.”
– “Why?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
– “So, why are you here?”
– “I waited too long. And then it was too late.”
I didn’t understand. – “So, where are we going?”
– “Back,” she said. Just one word. Back.
– “But…,” I said…, moving my hand to imitate the movement of the train which was clearly going forward. But she shook her head and indicated her watch, an old-fashioned golden watch. The watch was so small that I couldn’t read the time but only saw a blur.
I started to wonder what was wrong with this girl. Maybe she was ill. Why was she here, all by herself? And where was everybody else? More stations had passed by and the train did not stop.
I looked at her. On a string around her neck hung a pair of reading spectacles. Strange.
– “So, when no passengers are allowed,” I said, “Why did the train stop at my station? Why did it let me in?”
– “It didn’t”
– “Yes, it did. The train stopped.”
– “Not to let you in. To let you out.”
I shook my head. Maybe the poor girl was crazy.
But the train was slowing down. Another station passed by. And then the train slowed down some more and the girl pointed to the doors. I looked around. The train had stopped at the station where I had gotten in. We must have gone around in a circle.
– “Get out,” she said. It was an order.
For some strange reason, I didn’t hesitate in obeying her. I jumped up and out of the train. Some stupid guy, reading a newspaper was standing on the platform, just outside the doors. People blocking the exit should all be shot, I think. I collided into him and called him a fool. “I’m sorry”, he said and got in. The doors closed and the train left.
I looked at the other passengers on the platform, waiting on the train. They were looking at me now. A girl with abundant black hair and a green skirt. A man with an umbrella. Two boys in their schooluniforms.

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Revisited Debate about Catalan Nationalism

A long and interesting discussion which in the end, as all good discussions do, touched all aspects of life, the universe and everything (42), made me reconsider a few things. It’s a process similar to having a drink with your fellow colleagues, band members or family: little iritations are not so important as they seemed, life is not so much about what’s going on in your head and after all the most important things in life are basic and obvious.

The whole debate about Catalan nationalism and Catalan independence, which keeps on being a basic ingredient for politicians to avoid talking about real issues: economy, housing, security, general well-being, is just another “brick in the wall“, a political wank.

The beauty is that I live in a city where two languages (probably in the future three) live side by side. Since I came to live here, I have marvelled at the spontaneous capacity of people here to switch from one language to the other, not only during a conversation but even in mid-sentence. I think that is something to be celebrated, a rare example of “mestizaje” (“linguistic mix”) that shows flexibility and social coherence. One thing that always struck me of Spain as a whole, be it Andalucia, Madrid, the Basque countries or Catalunia, is that at the core of its culture (or cultures, if you wish) is “pasárselo bien”, a desire to have a good time for all, having a drink or a meal (food being an important part of its culture) together and making sure everyone is feeling comfortable.

The fact that some people want to turn this into a problem (Catalanists or anti-Catalanists, both), a source of anger, antigonism and obnoxious stupidity, should not be taken as a proof that having different languages and cultures in one country is a problem (because it isn’t a problem) but rather as a proof that wherever you go, there are always people (luckily, only a few) that have the need to fuck things up and create imaginary problems.

Differences between people or groups of people are real, but instead of a clash, it should be a celebration. I am beginning to sound like a hippie, and I admit to still enjoying a slight afterglow after a night of drinks, so I stop now.

Whodunit 002 (Surprise)

 

They found the body on a Tuesday. And the surprise came on a Friday. In the mean time, not much happened.

At home, his wife had passed by Wednesday evening, but only to pick up some clothes and to criticise him for not visiting his daughter and granddaughter yet. So he went by on Thursday afternoon. There was nothing to do in the office anyway.

Peppy´s boyfriend opened the door.
– “Ah, it´s you.”
Peppy´s boyfriend had a lot of hair, most of which was knotted in a rastafari fashion. He made a gesture with one of his long arms to show him in.
– “As a matter of fact, yes, it is me,” said the Inspector.

In passing, the Inspector noted that the boy only wore some kind of bedsheet around his waist. The corridor was littered with clothes, packs of tobacco rolling paper, little metal tins, coloured hairclips, broken pencils, raffia mats and bits of uncooked macaroni. In the living room he saw his wife. She sat on the only chair in the room, with a huge african drum between her legs, some kind of turban around her head and an uncomfortable smile on her face. She looked like a protestant pilgrim´s wife visiting an Indian tribe on the first thanksgiving day.
– “There you are,” she said. And with her head she motioned which he way he should look.

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Whodunit 001 (Matters of Life and Death)

At 7.40 AM the alarm clock went off. The Inspector opened his eyes and for a few seconds he hoped his wife had made coffee. Then he remembered, as he had done the days before, that his wife had gone. There was a bitter taste in his mouth, mainly because of one glass of Dutch jenever too many last night. He missed his wife but he would never admit that, not even to himself. He showered quickly, put on some clothes and left the empty house.

In his car, he wondered whether he should call her. He decided against it. If she had anything to tell him, she should be the one to call him, thought the Inspector. Then he started the car.

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W stands for…

There is a new hotel in Barcelona. It´s beautifully placed, just at the side of the harbour and facing the sea. It´s beautifully curved, mirroring the slightly curved beachside. Its exterior is almost entirely made of glass, which both during the day as during the nighttime reflects the colour of the sky itself. Moreover, it´s build on a place that used to be a no-man´s land, full of litter that the sea had thrown up on the shore. It also has been cleverly placed just next to a nudist beach (mainly the homosexual one, the hetero one is a bit further away, although far be it for me to say that nudism and sexual preferences have anything to do with each other. Then again, beaches and sexual preferences might have), which promises a nice cultural cross-over between the “nouveau riche” and thenue et heureuse
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The Barcelona Bar and Restaurant Guide

It´s not easy for bloody foreigners and tourists interested in the “real Barcelona” to find the authentic and distinguish it from the touristic, especially when it comes to looking for a restaurant or even just a bar for a coffee or a soft drink. This is even more true since the difference between the true spanish/catalan (mind you! they think that´s a different thing!) waiter or waitress and the typical rude vinegar-faced and embittered yoke that serves bad tapas for tourists on the Ramblas, is smaller than you think.  So, I have made a list of places where you can find the real thing. Since this list might grow, I gave it a special place here.

Note that there is also an endangered species of really friendly artisans of the-man-around-the-corner variety in Barcelona. In my own street (Calle Corders), for instance, there is a shoemaker who seems to have been working here since the dawn of time. Friendly, cheap and doing a very good job, the man is almost a singularity in the space-time continuum, although I have found a few other ones of these exceptional artisans. I am afraid, though, that like the Bengalese tiger, the Iberian lynx and the Mississipi bluesmen, the sort is almost extinct.