Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spain: Chelsea

Avenguda. Paral-lel, 172 bis
08015 – Barcelona - Espanya
93 325 34 47

by Beau Cadiyo

A few hours later, I was at Franco’s family’s weekly lunch. When I’d first met Franco, his family had a large garage near Placa Espanya which they’d used for giant weekly gatherings of their entire extended family. The city had used some version of eminent domain to seize the land, then built a small park and a large apartment building where the garage had been. The family intelligently purchased a far grander space with the compensation money they’d received. After five hours of eating, drinking, cigars and an startlingly Machiavellian version of Uno, we left and did what Franco does very well: we hung out.

I was hungry later – very hungry. Around 11 we went to Chelsea, a hamburger bar that advertises itself as being extremely American. When I lived in Barcelona, to be fashion meant to wear shirts with meaningless English phrases on them. My favorite was the five-year-old whose parents thought he should ride the metro with a shirt splashed with “Man rides 15¢ only.” Chelsea seemed to be cashing in on the idea that to be stereotypically American is cool: the walls were lined with phones from which to order extra dishes (I guess they think we’re too fat and lazy to flag down a waiter) and posters of MLK’s Dream speech, JFK’s picture with the quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you…” and 2Pac declaring that “Only God can judge me.”

We talked. I was struck by the similarity of Franco’s relationship to Maria and my relationship with Frank. When we told stories, the other had inevitably had almost the same exact experience. We compared notes on what we liked, what we didn’t like, what we fought about, what kept us together until we weren’t together anymore, and mostly the things we discovered about the girls and about ourselves. Everything was flooding back to me, but in Castellano; I found myself slipping into the common patterns of Spanish speech, and Franco used the opportunity to practice his English. “You know,” he said at one point, “my family has very much concern for me because they say I don’t speak English and you don’t speak Spanish. But you – you speak your Spanish,”

“- yes, but as one Indian -”

“and I speak my English. It is perhaps not so good as you, but they don’t understand that we, we have a language. It is the language Franco-Beau.”

“The thing most important is the communication. With the communication, the languages and the words are not important, they are not important,” I responded.

The Top Bacon was better than I expected: a burger as good or better than most places in the US, and thus far superior than what I would have normally expected from a Spanish place trying to be American. The meat was dense and cooked through completely, which was the only disappointment. While the lack of pink might have been frowned upon in upscale American burger joints, the meat here was very tasty and very moist, as if they’d ground bacon or pork into it. On top was an egg, fried just a bit too much so the yolk was solid, stacked on strips of delicious Iberian bacon and a cheese which was probably meant to imitate American cheese but failed in that it was actually very good. The end result was better than most American places because of the high quality of the ingredients. In addition, the blatant Americanness of the place meant that all Americans stayed away – they were all looking for “authentic” restaurants – and Catalans crowded the tables, young strumpets and urchins rubbing elbows with five of the surliest cops I’ve ever seen.

Franco went to sleep when we went back to his apartment, his television blaring a Catalan news network down the hall. I stood on the balcony for a few minutes, breathing in the air. It was dusty from construction, and a near-full moon was rising above the buildings to the left. I realized that I had no idea in what direction it was coming from. Unlike London or Cardiff, Barcelona is more or less a grid, and it’s easy to orient oneself internally once one knows where, say, Tibidabo is. I had not seen it above the buildings since I’d arrived, so I was lost.

I went back inside and sat on the couch. There wasn’t any heat in the apartment, so I was in my jeans and leather jacket. I was also on Cleveland time, so it was roughly 7 p.m. for me. The last time I toured a former haunt I used it to my full advantage, forcing myself up in the morning and then staying out late at night with ease, napping only occasionally and putting espresso into my veins with an IV drip. Getting back to Cleveland time at the end was easy because I wasn’t really off of it. I was hoping to do the same again, but I started thinking about how I’d only gotten six hours of sleep in the previous 68, and didn’t have anything, really, to keep me up, and I nodded off.

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