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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Another peep in the void

Another denizen of Guirilandia speaks his mind in today’s, La Vanguardia.

Man, this letter to the editor almost has a decadent, Circus Maximus feel to it. Check out the choice of words: tunnel of terror … alcoholized Englishmen … subsaharan prostitutes … zombie tourists … reads like the premise to George A. Romero’s next movie.

[my translation follows]

A las 7 de la mañana


Como vecino de la calle Ferran tengo asumido el ruido, la suciedad, los ingleses alcoholizados y sus cánticos nocturnos, la falta de descanso… Pero a mí me preocupa el miedo que sufre mi mujer cada mañana al ir a trabajar. El corto camino entre Ferran/Avinyó y la Rambla, a la altura del mercado de la Boqueria, donde tenemos el parking, es para ella un exclusivo túnel del terror: indigentes medio desnudos orinando y defecando en la calle, prostitutas subsaharianas practicando felaciones a zoombies turistas, jóvenes magrebíes tira bolsos en la Rambla y turistas supraborrachos. Y todo esto a las siete menos cuarto de la mañana.

Estos últimos días, y gracias al eco informativo, el Ayuntamiento está poniendo en la calle a toda la Guardia Urbana disponible. Nuestra desconfianza es máxima, sabemos por experiencia que estas acciones son limitadas en el tiempo y simplemente obedecen al miedo político a perder su preciado poder. Sin embargo, necesitamos más seguridad real, efectiva y para siempre. Durante el día para los comerciantes y sus tiendas, y durante la noche, para los ciudadanos que vivimos en los barrios más conflictivos. No pedimos nada más a nuestros gobernantes (Estado, Generalitat y Ayuntamiento de Barcelona), que cumplan su obligación frente al ciudadano.

At 7 in the morning

As a neighbor of Ferran street I take as a given the noise, the filthiness, the alcoholized Englishmen and their nocturnal [football] hymns, the lack of rest… But what worries me is the fear that my wife suffers every morning when she goes to work. The short walk between Ferran/Avinyó and the Ramblas, up to the Boqueria market where we have a parking space, for her it’s an exclusive tunnel of terror [italics in original]; half naked bums urinating and defecating in the street, subsaharan prostitutes fellating zombie tourists, young Moroccan bag snatchers on the Ramblas and supraborracho [totally wasted?] tourists. And all this at six forty-five in the morning.

In the last few days, thanks to the echo of the news, the city council has all the Guardia Urbana [local police force] available. Our skepticism is at a maximum, we know from experience that these actions are limited to a certain time, and simply due to politicians in fear of losing their precious power. Nevertheless, we need real security, effective and lasting. In the daytime for the merchants and their shops, and at night, for the citizens that live in the most marginal neighborhoods. We ask nothing more of our governors (State, Government of Catalonia, and the city council of Barcelona), than that they fulfill their obligation to the citizen.

I got news for you, disturbed citizen.
Barcelona thrives on guiris like these. I don’t think Joan Clos Van Damme can do much to stanch the flow of turismo borracho because the € keeps the economy afloat and him in power. It’s a simple equation.

I think he ought to build an Easyhotel on the Forum site and send all the weekend warriors there. That way they can roll around in their drunken piss fests, chant football hymns and fight all they want. Throw in a couple donkeys and some guy doing palmadas to give them that authentic Spanish feel. After two days ship them out, wipe the place up, and ship the next bunch in. Either that, or start cracking down on employers that pay 900 euros a month for trilingual administrative assistants working 10 hour workdays. Then we can all go abroad and show them how to really party.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A peep in the void of Guirilandia

A letter to the editor in today’s La Vanguardia

Turisme de borratxos

X. V. - 29/08/2005 BARCELONA

Quatre dels 13 detinguts a les festes de Gràcia són turistes. Gran part dels qui embruten les platges de Barcelona també són de fora, i igualment són estrangers molts dels que provoquen brutícia i molèsties a Ciutat Vella. És gent que al seu país no actuaria de la mateixa manera.

Quin dret creuen tenir aquests individus de venir aquí a fer el que vulguin, sense cap tipus de respecte? Són alemanys, centreeuropeus, italians, escandinaus... El problema no se soluciona només amb educació.

Drunken tourism

4 of the 13 people arrested in the Gracias festivities are tourists. [Last week the Barcelona neighborhood of Gracia held its annual festival in which there were many incidents of vandalism and rioting] A large part of those that litter the beaches of Barcelona are also from the outside, and those that provoke dirtiness and irritation in the old town are strangers as well. They are people that would never act the same way in their own country.

What right do these individuals think they have to come here and do whatever they feel like, without any type of respect? They are Germans, Central Europeans, Italians, Scandinavians… The problem can only be solved by education.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Left wing utopianism: an infantile disorder*

I used to work for a company that did events production throughout Catalunya. We set up lights, sound and stages for everything from conferences to rock concerts. Almost all of my coworkers were of the “left-wing” persuasion.

There were the punkis, who, like any other kind of conformist wore the uniform of their group: elaborately torn clothes, died hair, dreadlocks sometimes, but usually sporting mullet haircuts (which ironically enough is a “hip” hair cut here in Barcelona - little do they know that it is the emblematic white trash hair style in the the United States). Many of them were squatters, living in occupied buildings so the derisory paychecks they received were actually not that bad, considering they didn’t have to pay the rent (in contrast to me, for example). Some of these guys were actually cool. With them I could talk casually without pretensions, maybe even smoke a joint on a break. Some genuinely decent, liberated minds. But I would have to say a majority of these guys espoused every possible left wing proto fascist cliché you could imagine. In embracing what they think are lofty utopian ideals, they shun and stomp on the natural evolution of ideas.

I was the only American working with them (them being Spanish, Catalan, Argentinean, Portuguese …). I didn’t want to be the typical (I thought) arrogant American. No American travelling abroad can be completely unaware of the bitterness harbored towards us. I, like most any other American I know, go out of my way to understand and assimilate local culture. The fact that I had learned Spanish without going to school, in Spain; understood and could even speak a little Catalan; that they had no idea where I stood politically, made no difference at all to them. I had to put up with daily verbal assaults for the mere fact that I was born in a country they loved to hate.

I just didn’t look the look. Nor was I from Rosario or Lisboa or Valencia or Milano (it’s hilarious when Italians criticize me based on American politics when they have a sociopath like Berlusconi).

I concluded after two unsuccessful years of trying to show them a different face for Americans that they are groupies, like so many of the people they differentiate themselves from. Race and nation groupies.

Which of course is ironic because in order to feel so righteous (much like the American neo con movement) they need to compartmentalize the world into good and bad. They of course are the righteous few risen above they unseeing masses, carrying the banner of true humanism. Anarchism (the lack of any government) appeals to many of them because it is an ideal; but like so many ideals, it is unattainable. It would be nice, I think in certain starry eyed romantic moments, to do away with the superstructure that defines our lives and start again. It would be nice if I didn’t have a boss, and didn’t have to get to work on time. But there is a hierarchy in even the dingiest punkiest squatter house. There’s the look, the music, the half baked philosophical jargon too. The world can be changed in a snap, with a burning dumpster, a letter bomb and clever slogans.

I measure my words because of course not all these folk are that feeble minded. But it wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t called out for being an American – and that of course entailed all the stereotypes and political baggage this current world offers. I didn’t know, of course, that the war in Iraq was really about corporate maneuvering and geopolitical strategy and that many innocent civilians were dying horrible fiery deaths because they were “collateral”. I probably had a whole closet full of guns I secretly smuggled with me from the states, and I saluted a flag upon waking up everyday. I was a sexual puritan hypocrite deeply offended by Lewinsky’s cigar bobbing and Janet’s exposed nipple. I fell into the vision of America they loved to hate.

But by basing me on a stereotype they were contradicting their self-proclaimed humanism.

Then there were the college bound coworkers that were either on summer break or dropping out. I went to school in San Francisco, so I know what kind of propaganda gets pushed on students. For instance the PC movement and the need to call blacks African Americans, Indians Indigenous Peoples, retarded people special. Just ridiculous stuff. Once those words drip down like mascara even the righteous lexical activists will bare their ugly teeth. We’re humans; we’re animals; we fight to survive and inherently distrust all that is different. A word is a virus that will mutate according to time and context. No one can rewrite thoughts.

So school bound alternative Catalan boy with fashionably shaggy hair sits opposite me at lunch. He calls himself a socialist, or a communist (with no real understanding of these concepts other than a Che Guevarra t shirt logo … he doesn’t understand how they are different and how small minded people have taken their concepts to extremes). We make small talk as is usual amongst coworkers, and he hears my accent. Naturally, as small talk goes, he asks me where I’m from. “America” I say. I say this because here I am an Americano, because anyone here that refers to “America” knows that it means the United States. But apparently only everyone else besides Americans has the right to say that word. He can’t help smirking after he asks me, rhetorically, “Well, do you know that there is a South America?” Ever since he’d seen Godard’s pedantic tour de force, “Éloge de l'amour ” he’d been dying to lay that one on an ignorant American. Or wait, should I say North American, no wait maybe now I’ll be offending the Canadians. Damn… I guess, well shit, I don’t have a right to exist.

Another school bound coworker tried to single handedly revise history. He told me that it would have been better for all of Europe had the Americans not intervened in World War II. It would have been much better had the el Generalisimo, il Duce, der Führer and later Stalin had their ways with the whole of the continent, later the world. After all they were “Europeans”. American intervention was part of the grand capitalist conspiracy to subjugate the European people. Had the Americans remained on their side of the puddle, the Europeans would have been able to decide to their own fate, and, fast forward to now, the Americans wouldn’t be dominating the world. It’s all very simple to this guy. It’s all black and white.

Everybody’s hackles are raised because of the immediacy and transparency of the news these days. Then again, if you examine any particular country in minute detail, you will find filth and corruption. Americans are in the unique position of being observed by the rest of the world with a magnifying glass.

But, do you believe everything you see on TV? Do you really think you can bottle up 300 million people? I met a lot of people who do. And to tell you the truth, these are the people I’m most afraid of. Given the right circumstances, who knows what they’re capable of?

In large part, the world has evolved the way it has in the last 150 years because of snotty Europeans. Because of radical armchair revolutionaries who thought they could change the world with one fell swoop of the pen transformed into the sword of the downtrodden. Because of left wingers turned conservative fascists, because of genocidal self-hatred, and oh yes because of European colonialism (America learned well). The commonwealth carved up the Middle East, the communists had their way with mother Russia and the eastern block, the national socialists … I could go on …

And you’re preaching to me?

I guess we non-entities, that is the average American, are stuck somewhere in the middle. All this moralizing and idealizing makes us nauseous. Chekhov wrote: “I am not liberal or conservative … I just want to be free” – and I couldn’t agree with him more.

* I lifted this from a section heading in Vollman’s short story, the White Knights. It’s taken out of context. I just liked the way it sounded.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

German guiri shows Spaniards how to party

Yesterday a drunk German tourist jumped from a boat en route Mallorca to Barcelona. (For those of you unfamiliar with Catatonia or the Balearic isles, Mallorca is basically a German colony … all the Spaniards I know tell me to avoid it at all costs)

From El Periodico:

El joven que tuvo que ser rescatado del mar se lanzó completamente borracho y tras despojarse de toda su ropa. Según algunos testigos, se tiró por una apuesta con un amigo. Ya en el agua continuó su particular fiesta, ya que, según otro pasajero, se pasó los cerca de 30 minutos que se emplearon en devolverle a la embarcación chillando y levantando las manos: "Estaba de cachondeo".

The youth, who had to be rescued from the sea, was totally drunk when he jumped overboard after stripping all his clothes off. According to some witnesses, he jumped after a bet with a friend. Once in the water, he continued with his particular celebration, since, according to another passenger, during the 30 minutes that were spent returning him to the boat he was screaming and waving his hands: "He treated the whole thing as a joke".

Though he was rescued, another passenger reported seeing another passenger go overboard. The Coast Guard spent the last 24 hours searching the Balearic waters, until it was confirmed that all the passengers in the ferry were accounted for. The ferry line and the passengers are considering denouncing the German tourist for a 4 hour delay in what was already an 8 hour ferry ride.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Beach alcohol and neon

I thought Barcelona was bad.

There once was a beautiful town on the Costa Brava called Lloret. Easyjet and Ryanair are flying guiris in by the planeload. Packs for around two hundred euros promise a staggering good time with cigarette-strewn beaches, cheap pension hotels, and discos that smell like ass...

From an article in El Periodico:

Las luces de neón rompiendo la noche, turbas de gente por la calle, risas, gritos [...] promesas de diversión barata: tres cubatas a dos euros, medio litro de cerveza a uno y medio, tequila a cero coma 90...

The neon lights breaking the night, crowds of people in the street, laughter, shouts [...] promises of cheap diversion: three cuba libres for two euros, half a liter of beer for one and a half, tequila for 90 cents...

This part was particularly poetic:

La luz de neón otorga falso brillo a un tipo de farra bárbaro y cabestro que, casi siempre, acaba con el hígado prensado y la vomitera en la acera.

The neon light grants false brightness to barbarian and brutish types of parties that, almost always, end with a ruined liver and barf on the sidewalk.

I think I had one of those nights in Tijuana many moons ago. But I wasn't the fool riding the electric bull spewing technicolor chunks. That was another gringo. Ah, the memories.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Read the classics at your boss' expense

This page is amazing. Thousands of classic titles in easily printable .pdf format (also .doc, ipod notes, etc) .

In 28 languages - from Catalan to Welsh. Now just find a moment when your boss isn't around to print these babies out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dame un Lars con Trier, por favor

He won me over with Dogville, and "Five Obstructions" (co-directed with Jørgen Leth) further validates him in my mind.

Where does art come from?

What is its essence?

How do we define it?

What makes good art?

"Five Obstructions" explores this highly subjective terrain. The premise is this: Leth has to remake one of his own short movies, "The Perfect Human". The catch: he has to do it five times, each time with different arbitrary obstructions (rules) put forth by Lars. They range from having scenes limited to no more than 12 frames per second, to making the "worst film possible".

On a superficial level it seems like Lars is enjoying a sadistic little prank; but, what he actually does is make you think about the origins of "good" art, and how, despite limitations (socioeconomic, political, for example), a genuine artist will create.

In the "worst film possible", the filmmaker is forced to use animation - which he detests - and ends up making a piece of eye candy that trumps its counterparts on MTV. I was blown away with what you could do with only 12 frames per second (roughly half a second). Shot on location in Cuba (another arbitrary obstruction), it’s an amazing montage of the perfect man and woman – a la Cubana.

Curiously enough, the apex of Lars’ experiment came when he told Leth to make a film without any obstructions at all. "Oh no," Leth said. "that’s too difficult. I need some kind of restriction!"


Lucas should have seen this before he made the abominable Revenge of the Sith. "CGI, total control, and megastars do not a good movie make."

And I'm tired of arguing with Spanish people who think the barrier to success is because there is no Hollywood here. Try making something original, and not a bad Hollywood copy.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Connie from California

My girlfriend and I don't have a lot of money so we try not to go out that often. To boost our morale, we play the Primitiva Lottery once a week. Before the numbers come in we imagine ourselves eating in fancy restaurants, ordering any dish we want, drinking the finest wines. So far, we haven't gotten more than two out of the six numbers. For entertainment sometimes we go to Café Zurich and watch people. Even though the place is over-priced and packed with tourists, we like to sit there and watch the rabble walk by. It's like a circus out there, with its mix match parade of people.

One night, about six months ago, we were sitting out there drinking coffee and making plans for our big lottery score. It was unusually cold that night, so we dressed in layers. When we were about halfway done with our coffees I spotted a woman standing in front of the subway exit, wide-eyed, looking in our direction. She had a bleach blonde perm that sat like a helmet on top of her head. She wore a GAP sweatshirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes, and was carrying a couple El Corte Ingles shopping bags. She reminded me of one of those tourist caricatures that they do on Las Ramblas. She squinted her eyes and scanned the tables assembled outside. They were all full. Then she looked back in our direction and started walking towards us. The couple next to us was leaving and a waiter was wiping table. The woman held up her shopping bags and squeezed her chunky ass through a maze of stainless steel chairs and sat down at the table.

She sat there huffing for a minute or so. Then the waiter came to take her order. With a piercing Californian accent she ordered a caffay con Baileys. Then she pulled out a map of Barcelona and started studying it. She had a notebook with a list of some sort and she was checking things off. She began mumbling to herself, scratching her chin. Then she tugged on my jacket. I turned to face her and she shoved her map in my face. Then, reading from her notebook she said, “Con kay autobus pway-do eer a Plaza Espan-yah?” I pointed to my girlfriend, and, in Spanish, she gave her the correct bus number and where to catch it. She looked confused and leaned back in her seat and studied her map some more. Then she tugged on my jacket again.

“Pare-done. Hab-lez eengles?”

“Sure do, I'm from Louisiana.” – which is actually true.

“Oh that's great! What a coincidence!”

We gave her the directions in English this time. Then she asked us if it was safe to walk around here at night.

“It depends on where you go and what you look like. Stay away from the lower part of the Barrio Chino and you'll be all right,” I said.

She thanked us and told us her name was Connie Hatcher.

“I'm from L.A., she said, and it never gets this cold where I'm from! I'm sorry for talking so much, but this is such a great coincidence to meet another American here in Barcelona!”

I watched the people passing by. Everybody on their all important missions. Finally, when I said we had to get going, Connie insisted on buying us a couple drinks.

“But not here, she said. It's too cold out here. Remember, I’m Connie from California!!” She broke into a hysterical fit of laughter. I looked at my girlfriend who seemed to think it was okay. You can't turn down a free drink.

Connie drank about a fourth of her coffee and paid for the three of us. We told her we knew of some bars nearby and led her down the center median of Las Ramblas. It was packed that night and we had to dodge kids with mohawks asking for change and drunken English football fans singing pride anthems. The tourist season hadn't arrived yet, but you would never have guessed it by walking down Las Ramblas that night. You could hear practically every language besides Catalan and Castellano.

We were about a quarter of the way down the Ramblas, near the Liceu stop, when Connie stopped in front of one of the street performers. He was a living statue covered in silver paint and dressed in a kung fu uniform. Connie dropped a Euro in his tin cup and he did a karate kick. Connie’s face got all red and I thought she was going to burst. Then she doubled over laughing. Then, all together, we walked another ten meters or so and Connie huffed and set her shopping bags down. She put her hands on her hips.

“All this walking is making me hungry. Why don't we get a quick bite to eat? My treat!”

I suggested a little falafel joint near Placa Real. She was skeptical at first, but I told her it was nearby and she wouldn't have to walk much further. We walked through the plaza, then made a left on Calle Escudellers, passing an open flame with rotisserie chicken. The place I was looking for was a few meters further up the street.

The place was brightly lit and cigarette butts suffused the floor. They don't stretch for ambience in these cheaper joints. Connie looked skeptical.

“Come on!”

Two English tourists had just placed their orders. We took up three stools at the far end of the stainless steel counter. There was a Moroccan guy working behind it. He asked Connie what she wanted. She read from a page in her notebook.

“Uhhh ... Dah may oon ... showarma, por fah vor.”

We ordered too and when the waiter turned around Connie said to me, low, “Look at those vegetables!” She was looking at an open tray of diced vegetables. “That's not sanitary! How long do you think they've been sitting there! I'm sure that guy didn't even wash his hands!”

Meanwhile, the cook was taking his time. I looked at Connie and imagined her mouth was full of rotten vegetable rinds. Every time she spoke she spat out slimy projectiles.

Finally the sandwiches arrived. First Connie's, which she left sitting in front of her, then ours. They were good sandwiches and I ate mine quickly.

We left the falafel joint and went to a bar in Plaza George Orwell. I ordered three beers while Connie left for the bathroom. When she came back she was frowning.

“What’s wrong?”

“There was no soap in the bathroom! How un-sanitary! And this bar is a fire hazard! There's not enough room in here for all these people! How can they allow smoking in here? What if you don't smoke?”

She was so righteous and sure of herself that it was entertaining. The Connie from California Show. I remembered how one Bulgarian guy said to me, “You Americans are just like on the television. Ev-er-ee-time you walk in a room you make big announcement. Then tah duhm! I expect the funny music.”

Later we walked her to the taxi stand in Plaza Catalunya. There was a line of taxis and we walked to the next available one. We said good-bye to Connie and she plopped in the back seat, her shopping bags beside her. When the taxi pulled out I could see her big hair sticking up over the back seat.

“Remember, I'm Connie from California!!”

The next morning I woke up and the first thing I thought of was Connie Hatcher sitting in a plane, somewhere over the Atlantic. I could see her with her headphones on, watching the in-flight movie, laughing hysterically at every obvious joke. Then I saw her filing her nails and opening a bottle of nail polish. She was painting her nails and everybody around her got nauseous from the fumes. I took a long hot shower and tried to make those images evaporate.

Friday, August 05, 2005

How not to travel free

Last Monday two French women were detained by the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalonian police).

The charge: faking rape.

The two women (19 and 18) didn’t have any money so they concocted a story in which they were hitchhiking when four men picked them up. According to the women, the men took them to their apartment where they tried to rape them by threatening them with box cutters. One of the girls escaped.

They entered the police station in tears. They both had torn clothing and superficial cuts and bruises. They then told their tale, but when the girl who said she was raped was to be examined by a doctor, she fessed up. She said they beat each other up thinking that the police, after hearing their story, would put them on a plane or bus back to France.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

smooth criminals

Guirilandia (aka Barcelona) is a haven for petty thievery. I have seen so many robberies and cons here that I’ve actually been inspired to write a book. I even made a short movie about it, called, not surprisingly, Guirilandia.

I have seen the full gamut from good old bag snatching to out right cons of the sketchiest nature. In my current neighborhood it’s about every other day that poor befuddled middle aged tourist gets robbed. I usually see them de facto – screaming from the shock, and waving their flabby pink arms (in the past year, thankfully, the robberies have slowly migrated to other parts of the neighborhood).

I saw little Moroccan street kids that couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old sneak up behind an elderly lady and snatch her purse with such ferocity that she fell down three steps. I’ve seen pick pockets on the subway get downright indignant when one would-be victim got wise to him. He then spat on would-be victim, and accused him of racism. I’ve seen and heard about many more, and these are some of the ways they do it.

Snaky fingers

One variation is a guy selling roses. He goes up to you and offers his roses, often appealing to your sense of chivalry (if you’re a guy). For whatever reason, you decide to by the damn rose … most likely because he is really pesky and you want him off your back. You pull out your wallet. You open the change pocket, or pull out some bills. Snaky fingers decides whether to steal or not based on the type of wallet you have. For his magic fingers to work he needs you to have the standard type wallet with credit card slots and a sleeve for bills.

It works like this:

… snaky fingers has a bunch of roses which he holds over your wallet while you are haggling over the price

… with his other hand now obstructed by the bunch of roses, he slips his butter fingers into your wallet and extracts whatever bills he can

… you are annoyed with the haggling and there’s an ineffable feeling of unease about this person

… he walks off leaving you with a lousy wilted rose and a couple hundred Euros in the hole

A very similar thing happened to me when I was a foolish young backpacker with a wispy beard. I had gotten off at the Estacion Termini in Rome central and was looking for a hostel. I tried hard to be cool and look casual, but anyone knows that’s impossible when you got a Northface backpack and you’re wandering around a train station. Gringo total. It’s in those areas that the sketchiest people hang out, and it’s where, if you’re a tourist, you’re most likely to get ripped off. So I was walking trying to be cool when coming at me was a group of gypsy women. I knew they were gypsies from all the Kusterika movies I’d seen. They had mix matched garments, head scarves, and angry scowls.

So they surrounded me and the leader had a newspaper out and was supplicating for money/dollars/liras … can’t remember which one. But the technique was she would take the folded newspaper and hold it out like she wanted me to put change on it. But underneath it was her other hand which was snaking into my jacket. I was so busy fighting off the other women which were on all sides (and I feared reaching into my backpack) that I didn’t realize what was going on. I just knew it was wrong. I felt something moving in my jacket and pushed the lady with the newspaper away. I swung around and the rest scattered and then I ran to the nearest main street.

I was lucky, because I had put all my money and my IDs in a little travel pouch which I had had safely tucked into my pants. So the lady got nothing and I walked away a little wiser for the wear.

A friend of mine said he saw three drunken men in front of his apartment one night. Two of them were speaking movie* English and were saying goodbye to the third man, who spoke with an English accent. One of the guys with movie English was hugging the English guy like they were great friends, lifting him up in the air – shaking him like you would a piggy bank. His accomplice, meanwhile, rifled through the Englishman’s pockets. The guy was so drunk he didn’t realize that his new buddies had just snaked his wallet and probably his passport.

It’s easy to figure out what happened.

Drunk tourist in a bar befriends a couple locals

... he even invites them to a few drinks. He’s on vacation and he’s feeling good and why not, the drinks are way cheaper here anyway

... they appeal to his ego by laughing a lot, make him feel like an all right kind of guy, like they are all right kind of guys

... they distract him … and poof, his wallet has been ganked.

I mean, some of these scenarios are hilariously pathetic, but you’d be surprised what tourists get themselves into.

On a related note, here is an actual letter to the editor from last week’s Metro newspaper in Barcelona, 7/29 (translated by me):

The jacket thieves

A few days ago, at 11:30 in the morning, I had the pleasure of traveling on the blue line subway car (from Diagonal to Entença), with two individuals known as the jacket thieves. IT IS INCREDIBLE HOW THEY ACT WITH IMPUNITY!! AND THAT I KNOW OF THEIR EXISTENCE THROUGH ANOTHER READER OF THIS NEWSPAPER!! WHERE IS THE SECURITY?

They are two South American men, one with a plastic bag in hand and wearing sunglasses. The other wears a hat and has his jacket hanging from one of his arms, and in the other hand he carries a newspaper. Now that it clear that there is no security at all, we have to be very careful and as vigilante as possible.


People have told me that the jacket thieves are well-dressed individuals who blend in cleverly by wearing sunglasses indoors. They distract you with a jacket or newspaper, and, because of the close proximity in the subway car they are able to reach into your pockets and steal your wallet. This has been going on for a few months now. I saw similar activity in the main train station (which connects to the airport) five years ago as well.

As far as profiling goes, it shouldn’t be said that they all fall into one category or race type. I’ve seen it all, but they do tend to stick to certain rackets based on what culture they’re from.

But they all love Guiris.

In upcoming installments: undercover cops that dress like dorky American tourists, the hide the pea con, cell phone theft techniques (and where to learn them), hot spots …


* movie English is something you encounter a lot traveling. It's English picked up from movies. I knew a guy who could only quote Star Wars.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Terrorist chic?

I saw this on the way home today. I really can't figure out what these guys were trying to say.