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Saturday, September 09, 2006

One man's crusade

He's in the Eixample. He's angry.

This is a man on a mission. His shirt reads, BICIS per la borera, NUNCA MÁIS, or BIKES on the sidewalk, NEVER AGAIN.

He walks through my neighborhood spewing bile on bike riders who get in his way on the sidewalk. Stalky and somewhat round-shouldered, he’s got a face like a bullfrog; two hard, dull eyes; two deep creases pointing up in an inverted V from the corners of his tightly pursed lips.

I’ve crossed him a couple times right in front of my apartment. I’d be in the process of looking for a place to park my bike, when he’d walk by and yell “Capullo! Mamón!”, or “Dickhead! Prick!” Spittle would spray out of his mouth as he continued his rant - something about sidewalks and bikes.

He’s not the first angry pedestrian I’ve encountered on the sidewalks. There are some parts of this city - particularly in the center, or in Gracia - where at certain times of the day it is simply impossible to ride your bike on the street. With the exception of some of the main arteries like Diagonal, Gran Via, Passeig Sant Joan, even half of carrer Provença, many parts of this city are difficult to navigate on a bike during rush hours. Angry sidewalk vigilantes have admonished me in colorful Spanish and Catalan, and I usually told them to “Fuck off” and went on my way. But the Nunca Máis fellow would get on my case right in front of my apartment, where inevitably I had to use the sidewalk to lock up my bike. Even after I told him the first time – “Vivo aqui, I live here …” – a few days later I heard “Capullo! Mamon!” and there he was, stomping away.

So the other day when I saw this snarky fellow dragging himself around the neighborhood I just had to laugh. He actually went through the trouble of making a T-shirt that said, BIKES on the sidewalk. NEVER AGAIN. Not only that, but instead of writing NEVER AGAIN in Catalan like the rest of his shirt, he wrote it in Galician: NUNCA MÁIS. Nunca Máis arose as a slogan and a protest movement after the Prestige oil spill in 2002, reflecting the discontent with Aznar’s government. Nunca Máis, then, has emotive and almost righteous connotations. This guy, with his particular hatred of bikes on sidewalks, obviously feels very strongly about about this phenomenon. Watch out for him. He’s not a big guy, but he’s loco. Batshit.

I wonder where his anger comes from.

§

At the risk of sounding solipsistic, my second bike in a month has been stolen. This happened a few days ago in one of the most irritating neighborhoods of Barcelona, the Born. It’s a beautiful neighborhood right in the middle of Guirilandia, but it's overrun with tourists and fashion victims. I went for a couple drinks with a friend of mine, and an hour later I found a sliced lock where my bike should have been.

2 in the morning, and I found myself walking back from guiri-fashion-landia. I stopped in Plaça Catalunya, bought a beer from a Pakistani guy, sat on a bench, and watched these Moroccan kids shaking down drunken guiris. The kids approached me at one point, thought better of robbing me, and said “Salam malikum.” (It’s not the first time someone has thought I was Moroccan). I drank the rest of my beer and walked the rest of the way home.

If you see an ugly matte black mountain bike with fucked up brakes, send me an email: somejackassstolemybike@gmail.com. Or if you have a bike and want to get rid of it, or even trade for something, let me know as well.

Salut.