Barcelona, First Impressions

DAY FOUR :: 09/27

Our first day in Barcelona was something of a surprise. The pampering we received in London by means of a comfortable and private living room left us disoriented when thrown into hostel life with all its accompanying consequences. Showers are communal (divided by gender). Rooms are cramped (but not divided by gender). And the language spoken in various regions of Spain do not resemble anything I’ve ever learned in my younger days even despite my foregone knowledge of syntax and conjunction. My initial reaction was a rebellion of sorts. Give me London, I said, even with its slight implications of racism. It had become something familiar. There was still loveliness in the clouds.

However, hostel life does accord the meeting of random strangers. I am dorming with two German ladies, two American ladies and my sister, and we have met a number of people in the hostels already, French Canadians, Finnish, Germans, Singaporeans, Brits. But being a lackadaisacal socialite, who will know how these interactions will go. It is nearly 1 AM and the group we have acclimated to will be leaving the enclaves of this nestled warmth for the dark exterior of foreign exploration. Salsa clubbing, they cried out. Either way, it is time to sign off and get with the program.

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DAY FIVE :: 09/28 :: EARLY HOURS

We just came back from a club. Somehow my sister had convinced the bouncer to let in two females in our group for free (including the one that didn’t want to pay) and we lounged about for several hours or so. They were playing some decent house tracks and though I made some attempts to dance, few people felt the urge to join in. Almost a waste of good music. Anyways, it is half past three and I haven’t slept in quite some time, here’s to a great night. Ciao.

London, Thus Far

FLIGHT

We lifted off at 6:45 PM after a 30 minute delay, backdropped by a lazy sunset and the mechanical rumble of jet engines screaming into sky. My sister is sleeping beside me, her head on my bony shoulder and I can feel my left scapula digging into her cheek but she looks comfortable enough, there’s a lot of good that comes out of the closeness of family, someone to travel with, a fair if somewhat temperamental companion. None of this has sunk in yet and I wonder if this trip is too little, too late. We both could have used an earlier salvation, the slow drive to madness by ill-fitting day jobs had worn our patience thin and suddenly the years yet to pass loomed ahead, dark and massive. Sickle shaped. So in the end the idea was formed. Bags were packed, dates blocked off. And here we are, taking a good look at our lives from 35,000 feet high, en route to another country, maybe two. No, it hasn’t sunk in yet, but we’re not alone. There’s much more than just passengers riding on this plane: hope, fear, everyone has their reasons. You can tell by the baggage they’re carrying.

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DAY ONE :: 09/24

We touch down early afternoon in Heathrow airport. The details are unclear as my eyes were half-closed the whole time trying to blink back dry contact lenses. So this is how our first day in London begins, with the hesitant stumble towards the express train, to the subway, to the awkward trace from Waterloo station down to the steps of 10x Stamford Street where we are then united with Arianne (my sister’s roommate in Orange County), Paul (our kindly host and, not so coincidentally, Arianne’s friend), and the shower (a sit down contraption of inadequate dimensions).

Paul is a travel journalist and a good one at that. He has visited umpteen countries funded by his desire to write and the willing pocketbooks of the travel journals he articles for. He even did a stint in Japan, teaching English. There’s a certain courage in traveling that I’m gathering from this trip and while it is slow in coming, I feel that it will come in time.

Let’s cut to the scene now. I’m reeling after a night of pub hopping and it’s one of those nights where everything falls into place. We have been able to route all obstacles. We are back in the Picadilly (?) district now and wandering the Soho (?) area of beatniks, poets, and vicinity hipsters. The weather is perfect, an unusual break in clouds to liven up this characteristically dour London. And how could it be any better: a full day sailing down the River Thames, acquainting ourselves to the underground transport, and now here we are, all of us talking as if old friends and smoking finely inside a pub. If this is what the world outside of bubble California has to offer, then tell you what. I’m staying.

DAY TWO :: 09/25

I sat in on a sermon today in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’m not a religious man by any means but there was resonance; it is enough to wonder the utility of church, if God is for the people or if people are for God. I believe in the former even if the latter is often implied. Sitting in this cathedral, the evidence of faith rises up like this glorious structural testament. I sat and the bishop intoned, and he prayed for the world, to believers and nonbelievers alike; it was a calling to communion to understand the mishaps of this era’s misdirected crusade and to recognize the failings of our free nations. In a prophetic moment, as the bishop stilled the congregation for silence, a siren grew from the movement of clouds and pulsed closer. I thought the noise would be annoying but strangely, it enhanced the moment. We listened to the siren and what it meant, heard it draw close and then dispel into the horizon. When the bishop resumed, our private sphere had changed. Someday, we can do without sirens.

Call it serendipity, but Covent Garden has its share of talented and enthusiastic musicians. I’ve been watching this string quartet accost strangers trying to descend the stairs, dancing in front of them with tantalizing music, all the while nudging a tip basket with their feet… without missing a beat.

Before I conclude, Wicked in London is amazing. Even though we sat in the upper boonies, the cast performed spectacularly. We had the original Elphaba and her voice is beyond comparison, far more gripping and emotional than the paltry affair that was her Orange County counterpart. While my gripes with the rest of the cast in California straggle hither and thither, there’s a certain beauty in hearing something you are so familiar with in a different accent; it becomes foreign and new and, in the end, something wonderful.

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DAY THREE :: 09/26

After the thorough thrashing of our first frenetic days, we called for a quieter day exploring the Tate Modern Art Museum and ogling at the manifold surrealisms of Dali and his peers. I wish we could have taken pictures but photography of any sort was strictly prohibited. There were some expressive pieces that really were thought provoking, precisely because you had no idea what you were looking at.

This would have been a good place for my younger brother but, alas, he is not with us on this trip. It was refreshing to see a healthy art community in London, there were hundreds of art students of all ages with their notebooks and portfolios, imitating masters and taking some works to another level. Resting early tonight, tomorrow, Barcelona!

Weekend in Brief 11

Sept 01 “Nest” Warming Party @ David’s New Pad in Little Italy. Afterparty @ Belo.

Sept 02 Jazz Night @ Corner Broiler.

Sept 03 Club London @ Boardners.

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But I was young then, and there wasn’t ever a reason to return home. So let your shadow grow with the midday sun, strengthen then succumb, become another footprint beneath the moon. Hey bartender, another round for the kid, keep the tab open, and get me another long weekend, will ya? Someday, I repeat, but not today and guilt was always a bitter brew.