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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

There goes the neighborhood

Real coffee. Real bar.

That’s it. I just got the keys yesterday. My girlfriend and I are going to move out of el Bari Sant Pere – which, to me, is still one of the best neighborhoods in Barcelona. This, despite the encroaching urbanization and hipsterization which is destroying the fiber of the neighborhood. I believe in eternal change, in the perpetual flux which makes this life exciting; but still, I’m bummed to see what is happening to this neighborhood.

Up until now, the only guiris I ever saw venture down by my apartment were those that had just been robbed. But more and more they are closing in. The other day I was walking up from Barceloneta, through that vapid wasteland catering exclusively to guiris (Borne, especially next to the Picasso musuem), and I swear I have never seen so many tourists anywhere, not even Paris. I walked across carrer Princesa, up to carrer Carders and saw - grouped at one slightly picturesque corner - at least eight or nine tourist couples taking pictures of the buildings, of the street scene (auténtico Fauna Ibérica, maybe? guess again …). One guy, I swear, was taking pictures of some croissants on display in a shop window. No, it wasn’t Spain being visited, it was Spain visiting them. They are a spectacle to behold. Desperate, last minute site-seeing, pixelized for time immemorial on their flash cards and iMacs. They really were never here, these tourists. They’re the living embodiment of Baudrillard’s realer than real simulacrum. I don’t think any of these persons has any idea of the subtleties around them, the mish mash of languages and cultures, the political and linguistic bones of contention, the reality of everything basically that goes beyond our vague romantic histories of this place. That is, until they get robbed, when maybe they’ll get lost while running after the thief and think and feel what most of the people living here experience everyday. Not the robbing I mean, but just being off the beaten and well paved tourist trail, glimmering in euros …

So I’m already feeling nostalgic for bars like Vermut, even little smoky maryjane-friendly dives which I’d rather not name, places like the plaza de Santa Caterina where on a Sunday evening I’ve sat and enjoyed a canya or two. I’ll miss the pakis down the street that are open everyday, including Sunday until midnight. I won’t miss some of the more radical ones that have cut-out pictures of Ahmadinejad pasted on the walls, whose televisions are either showing football games or grainy videos of guys flagellating themselves. But I’ll miss the little markets and the Gallego bar at the end of Sant Per mes Baix, the plaza of Sant Pere, bar Carlos …. La Guardia policing people from her window …

But it’s just as well. My new soon-to-be disclosed neighborhood (when I get pics) is nice. I have a terrace and I’m eight stories above the city. It’s gonna be quite a change.

Incidentally, a couple friends of mine who live near my new apartment also live in a sobre attico, and they were robbed by a ladrón silencioso not to long ago. A rooftop robbery. This is a newish trend, or at least it’s news to me. They take place for the most part in the Eixample from what I understand, but just last Sunday it happened on Sant Pere mes Alt. A guy tried to break into apartments – gaining access via the rooftops and the patio de luces, which is a space between buildings where people usually hang their clothes. Neighbors caught him in flagranti and he fled, again via the rooftops. This time the mossos were ready and they surrounded him and he “precipitated into the void” from four stories up onto the corrugated roof of an exterior bathroom annex, three stories down. Amazingly, he was hospitalized with only slight injuries. Neighbors who saw him described him as “Spiderman”.

But enough of the rambling writing. I need a new lease of life for this city. I was starting to get burned out. Just today I saw that a nearby café on Via Laietana has been sold, and in its place is going to be another Starbucks. Which means there will be two Starbucks within two blocks on via Laietana, right next to where I’m living right now. I can’t believe how much this city is selling out. But you can’t argue against the economy, and I suppose these kinds of incursions are good for it. I say that grudgingly, and with a certain amount of bewilderment, because all this is taking place under the auspices of a socialist government who is also responsible for the infamous Forum 2004. What is the point of a socialist government if they don’t curb some of this speculation?

§

One of my new favorite places is La Principal cafe. Great seating arrangement for people watching, low-key heterogeneous crowd, and ice cold Moritz. And it’s about five minutes away by bike from my new apartment. And, as of yet, it hasn’t been sold to an insipid, characterless franchise.

Salut, Barcelona, I’m still with you.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rebellion in the zoo

Oh silly tourists. You thought Spain was so quaint, the natives so blissfully oblivious, your trip to the Iberian peninsula an escape from the rat race.

How you enjoyed your brief submersions in Spanish culture, your brief parlays with the locals in a mixture of sign language and English spoken exclusively in the present tense.

What you didn’t know was that the Fauna Ibérica were also watching you.

Look what I found on youtube:

El Guiri

Guiris dancing … errr kind of.

Guiri borracho en SanFermin

The title pretty much says it all.

Niño Guiri borracho

I think this was filmed on a ferry between Spain and England. This kid is four sheets to the wind, as they say, and he has no idea what this Spanish guy is saying to him. It’s a good thing, too.

El guiri en plan figura

A tourist-torrero. An adventurous tourist fights a (baby) bull to the amusement of Spanish spectators.

El tanguita del grupo Los Guiris

A music video by a Spanish group called Los Guiris. They dress and act like … you guessed it. The true canción del verano!

Guiris gordas

Fat guiris. These guys take advantage of some tourists girls’ ignorance of Spanish.

boy whipped with belt by girl in palma de mallorca

This is what Spaniards think English tourists do when they come here. When in Spain

fauna y flora

Two Nengs, a prevalent species of Fauna Ibérica, drive by graffiti stating “Som una nació. Vota no” then head up to tourist central in Barcelona, la Sagrada Familia.

They watch the tourists; the tourists, cameras poised, stare up at one of Barcelona’s number one tourist attractions … Check out the unspeakable awesomeness of the Nike shoe hanging from the Neng’s rear view mirror. Chumba chumba ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Putas will cost you a lot

In Spain there’s a saying:

Tiran más dos tetas que dos carretas.”

Literally, that means, "two tits move more than two carts", which works because it rhymes in Spanish. In English it sounds bad, but you get the idea.

There’s also an adage that says the more preposterous the story, the more likely it is to be believed. Well, that’s not always the case. Especially when you invent a story about being kidnapped after leaving a string of bills in whorehouses - and make a cash transaction after the purported kidnapping two meters from your own home.

A guy from Montcada i Reixach (outskirts of Barcelona) spent 330 euros in a puticlub called the “Mezquita de Oro”. Feeling guilty - and not wanting his family to find out about his dalliances - he concocted a kidnapping story. To add a degree of realism he came up with an ingenious idea: he beat himself up. More precisely, he “violently beat his head on his own vehicle”, according to El Periodico.

And, last December, there was a businessman in nearby Sant Boi who faked getting kidnapped so he could spend time with his mistress. During a police interrogation he contradicted himself , and finally fessed up that he had invented the whole story.

What do these guys have in common?

The sex/guilt factor is what links these two cases; but there is something else: both men claimed to have been kidnapped by immigrants. The businessman claimed to have been kidnapped by “black Arabs”, and the guy who spent 330 euros on putas claimed to have been kidnapped by “South Americans”. Most likely, during the police investigation they used the words moros and sudacas – the Spanish equivalents of niggers and wetbacks.

This is indicative of the zeitgeist, where, for one, people are still hung up when it comes to sexual issues; and two, where a climate of victimism and racism simmers just underneath the surface of Spanish society (yes, I know it exists in the States as well).

While these are somewhat tragicomic occurrences, one could imagine where this kind of behavior leads. Since crime is so often associated with immigrants, especially North Africans and South Americans in Spain, these unscrupulous fellows have found an easy scapegoat for their own misadventures. There are many infamous cases in the United States of fake victimization, where the blame was heaped on one minority or the other (usually black) for the sake of verisimilitude. It’s only obvious that this perpetuates the climate of hysteria, leaving many innocent people in the lurch.

The guy who spent 330 euros in a whorehouse, then invented a story about being kidnapped will not live this down. He will be the laughing stock in all his local bars (but after doing a Zidane on his car he might not be lucid enough to even care).

Unfortunately people are going to remember him for his scandalous adventure in a club de altern, and not for his use of latent racism to make his story more believable. That’s where the real crime is. It’s not sex, although it makes for a good bar story (why, because it’s “shameful”? I guess, but it’s also hilarious!).

I’m not immune to latent racism. Every time there’s a robbery in my neighborhood, I immediately think “Moroccan”. And every time I look out my window and see someone running down the street this is confirmed. Every time I’ve seen bag snatchings in restaurants, in train stations, and department stores they have been “South Americans” … the silent robbers in Catalonia are always described as “Eastern European”. I think part of the problem is xenophobia, because it’s never been stated that all Moroccans, or all South Americans are criminals. And if you’ll notice it’s a generalization that’s being used. I personally know many people that don't fit the aforementioned stereotypes (but I'm not naive enough to pretend I don't know why they exist in the first place).

(Just now, as I'm writing this, there was a bag snatching in front of my apartment. Seriously.)

Everybody knows it’s not fair to blame based on a priori knowledge. Each individual should be accounted for. I guess it’s easier for people to fall back on stereotypes because they can blame others for their own shortcomings.

Anybody with their ear to the ground knows that no one race or nationality is perfect. I haven’t been pickpocketed or robbed (though they have tried, and I have witnessed many instances of it) but I was cheated out of 3,000 euros in wages from a Catalan businessman back when all the English academies were going belly-up. Crap is crap. The worst sort of people are race and nation groupies that hide behind prejudices when it is convenient, and pull their race and nation cards for mere self-aggrandizement.

§

More fake victims in Guirilandia:

King for a night

How not to travel free

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The dope on the shell game

These guys are out in force on the Ramblas - and anybody with half a brain knows it's a total scam. Still, I see tourists play the shell game as if their lives depended on it.

Luckily Larry Kovaks has solved the mystery once and for all. The most shocking part is the use of fake Americans as ringers. That's right: tourist disguises to attract the real deal. Read more about it, and the shell game, in The American Tourist Con.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Crosstown traffic

I hate doing this but it must be acknowledged.

Last week I had an enormous amount of traffic – beyond what I got from the topless sunbathing article, which admittedly attracted hundreds of web surfers just looking for sleazy pics. I’d rather, honestly, have people visit my blog for the content and what I have to say, not some candid shot of a nude sunbather. I’ve never considered sheer volume an indicator of how good a web page is.

So last week both thebadrash and Iberian Notes [sorry, no perma-links to his page] gave me a mention. Both of them were very flattering:

… Guirilandia (which is, let’s face it, the best BCN blog there is)… - thebadrash

[no, I don’t think that’s true, but thanks anyway!]

… you have to check out this incredibly kick-ass blog called Guirilandia. Hilariously funny … - Iberian Notes

I give a very humble nod to each in kind. I’m pretty sure both have been blogging for longer than I have, and both come much closer to what can be called “high seriousness”. I stay away from politics and more “serious” issues because I feel I am not informed enough to really say anything worthwhile. Plus, I feel many people out there can do it better than me.

Both of these guys are great writers. The huge irony is that thebadrash can definitely be pinned as left-wing, while Iberian Notes can be pinned as right-wing (okay, left-wing loony and right-wing nutjob, depending on who you talk to). I often disagree with them, but they present their arguments well.

Funny. In real-life encounters I often argue with left-wingers who think I’m a conservative, and right-wingers who think I’m some kind of commie pinko. I think that’s because I’m natural-born contrarian.

Monday, July 10, 2006

El chulo de los quesos, revealed!

What drew my attention to this poster, I don’t know.

But my poor eyes lingered on it just long enough to realize that the food-server in this poster is the very same asshole who refused to serve me the other day in el Mercat de Santa Caterina.

That’s right, this chulo de los quesos, or, the pimp of the cheeses, flat out refused to serve me the other day. Instead, he continued talking to his buddy the fishmonger and folded his arms in front of himself, somewhat reminiscent of Mussolini in this shot:

I had forgotten about this jackass until this weekend when I had the misfortune of coming across that poster for the Generalitat while exiting the metro. First a fleeting glance, then a double-take and I realized the chulo de los quesos was also a male model for the Catalan government! So this guy thinks he’s hot shit because he’s a male model! And, on top of that, for the Generalitat, in a poster where he plays himself! The silly little pimp of the cheeses!

Well, you might think that’s the end of this tragi-comic affair, but alas, ‘tis not.

Last Saturday, those of you lucky enough to be living in Spain were treated to a cinematic masterpiece, Roadhouse, on Antena 3.You ask yourself, what does this have to do with the chulo de los quesos? Well, take a look for yourself:

Close-up: Chulo de los Quesos & Swayze, or the same person?

The resemblance is striking, to say the least. Could the chulo de los quesos actually be Patrick Swayze? Perhaps he’s studying for a role in an epic movie about cheese-cutting?

Further research on the internet brought me to this [WARNING: the following link contains a disturbing ass shot, right before a horrific scene of Swayze doing tai-chi next to a lake]:

Roadhouse Redux on youtube.

See for yourself. Then go see my friend the chulo de los quesos at the Mercat de Santa Caterina and tell him guirilandia is on to him.

Moltes gracies.

§

An open letter to chulo de los quesos:

Chulo de los quesos,

I hereby challenge you to a sardana showdown, next Sunday in the Plaça de la Catedral. You may have some dirty dancing skills, but I’ll show you who’s boss with the sardana.

An open letter to the Generalitat de Catalunya:

Generalitat,

That is blatantly false advertising. El chulo de los quesos is a cheese server, not a jamon server. Not only that, but he is a lazy bastard to whom the word servicio means absolutely nada.

Mind rambling

A few weeks ago I wrote about a fight I witnessed from my third story window. One thing I didn’t mention was that I actually know the guy who busted the other guy’s nose. I used to work as a stage hand – roadie without actually hitting the road – for the likes of Operacion Triunfo, Metallica, and the Stones - to name a few. This street brawler was one of my coworkers.

Quite a motley crew we were. Since I was a yank – or gringo as they liked to call me - I got a lot of flak as all of them were “artistic” types: squatters, musicians, painters, and some university students. On top of that, the Iraq war was just starting. Nothing like arguing with people that wear mass-produced Che Guevara t-shirts.

So the street brawler in question used to work with me (at least he didn't wear a Rage Against the Machine t-shirt). He, like me, has “artistic” aspirations. But, unlike me, he has the thespian muse.

About a week ago I ran into him on the street and he invited me to his theater performance, called, “De noche justo antes de los bosques” (At night, just in front of the forests). This took place last Saturday night, in a locale on Sant Pere Mitjà – a dark and dingy, high ceilinged bajos that triples as his living quarters, workshop, and slapdash stage.

I knew this guy was slightly insane. Actually I’d seen him get a little too passionate during Champion’s league in the neighborhood bar. I spoke to other’s who had seen him in another bar (bar Bahia, specifically), getting really worked up when the DJ played his favorite song, drumming on the bar and practically screaming.

Anyway, I thought I have to see this insane guy’s theater performance. And it turned out to be fucking amazing. It was a totally lo-fi, somewhat ragged piece de teatre on one of my favorite themes: being lost. And there’s a hilarious drunken tequila sequence that defies all description, which I will go back and film at a later date and get permission to upload.

The funny thing is that the performance consisted of two principle actors. One was my former coworker, but the other was also strangely familiar.

In one part they are literally hopscotching through the city: bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, "sitios fashion" (which is a disparaging way of saying “trendy” spots) … So they start arguing about which after-hours to go to and I realized then that they were the exact same two guys that I had seen a few weeks before. Only that time they weren’t arguing, they were brawling - on the street, in front of my apartment. I thought for an ephemeral moment - and this would be even more amazing if it were true - that it could have been Stanislavsky's method acting. But busting someone’s nose is going too far even for the most hardcore method actor.

This is the kind of story no one will ever believe. Like the “moros” trying to break into my building just a few minutes later, that very same night. I talked to the owner of the bar on the corner and she added to the story (she was the one who alerted the neighbors in the first place). She said the kids trying to break in called it off when she started yelling. They tried to figure out where the yelling was coming from, then made a call on their cell phones. A few minutes later a scooter came buzzing up the alley and stopped in front of my building. At first she thought it was an undercover mosso cop, early on the scene. Then she realized the guy on the scooter was looking up to see where the warnings came from. He didn’t find out, but this confirms that a lot break-ins and robberies in this neighborhood are organized.

It turns out that after all this – the bloody brawl, the two Moroccan kids trying to break into the apartment, there was an attempted rape down by the fountain on Verdaguer I Callis, which is right next to the Teatre Antic. A girl who lives on Sant Pere Mitja was walking home about five or six in the morning when a drunken individual – La Guardia assures me it was one of the kids trying to break into the apartment – came up and groped her from behind. She backed him into the fountain and elbowed him before anything happened and was lucky to make it home before he called his buddies. I don’t know if this was attempted rape as La Guardia claims, or just drunken foolishness - but I know if I was in the girl’s position I sure as hell would be freaked out.

Last, but not least, my friend Larry Kovaks would be pleased about the mossos latest bust. It’s a real-life case of Guiri Gone Bad.

Turns out this perv was filming children on the beaches of Barceloneta. Someone noticed inappropriate behavior and called the mossos. He was caught in flagranti while filming little kids taking showers. They brought him back to his hotel, searched is room, and found two computers and massive amounts of extremely explicit child pornography. They also mentioned that this individual was American.

It’s hilarious. Not the child pornography part, but the amount of perverted guiris strolling the beaches of Barceloneta. I have told many people of the countless pervs taking pictures of topless women on the beaches. Obvious tourist types with camera gear that go around with almost complete impunity taking pictures of semi-naked beauties. I bet there are tons of websites and newsgroups with pictures from Barceloneta. Kovaks and the Mossos are doing the best they can. But, everybody, please watch out for middle-aged guiris taking inappropriate pictures. You may find yourself en pelotas on the world wide web.

Joe Joe was a man who thought he was a loner

But he knew it wouldn't last.

Joe Joe left his home in Tucson, Arizona

For some Barcelona ass.

Get back, get back.

Get back to where you once belonged

Get back, get back.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kovaks is back ...

... in The Chinese Angle.

There's an urban myth in Barcelona that los chinos have a secret method with the slot machines. They always seem to win. Larry Kovaks, in his own inimitable style, gets to the bottom of it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Pigeon Crap Con

Larry Kovaks, Barcelona's premier guiri detective, is at it again in (Un)friendly Helpers. Anyone who's never heard of the "pigeon crap con" ought to check this guy out. He sure saved me a lot of hassle.

I ran into Kovaks yesterday and made a bet with him over who was going to win the Germany/Italy match. He won, so I bought him a shot of Mascaró.


When he was leaving he told me he's on a new case called "The Chinese Angle". He said to check back this Friday.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Territorial pissing