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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Los otros

The etymology and the meaning of the word guiri.

Check out my column, "Unnatural habitat", on Barcelonareporter.com for the answer:

Los Otros

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

El mendigo guiri

Have you guys seen him? Wandering the streets of Barcelona with his Peruvian/Manu Chao style hat, yelling at random passers-by? Fully dressed, sometimes in layers, even though it’s pleno verano?

I’ve seen him three or four times, wandering the Raval, Via Laietana, and Barceloneta. The last time I was walking by him he stopped and yelled at a family of tourists:

“You are the decadence of society!”

He’s not English or American; but he’s definitely guiri. My guess is Dutch or German. And he’s not the first raving mad guiri I’ve seen. In fact, all over Barcelona there has been a sudden proliferation of homeless people. It looks like a reverse take on the Bennetton ads. Just check out the mendigos, or beggars, out in force in Plaça Catalunya; sleeping on benches on calle Comtal.

I wonder, could this be part of the dreaded New York-ification of Barcelona? I say dreaded because the bad things are the most salient - like the Starbucks on every other corner, the over-priced drinks, the superficial veneer this city is engendering. I won't say it's wrong, because I don't believe in moralizing.

But I feel it in my bones. Something ain't right.

I'm not one for fire-bombing – I definitely am not one of those anti-globalization people – but man, this city is not the same as it was six years ago. You could say it’s losing its unique charm. I’m a little worried, and bummed out.


Come to think of it, this crazy guiri looks an awful lot like this guy I used to see staggering around the center a few years ago. He’d approach every other tourist with a slightly varying tale of woe, in semi-decent English. He’d beg for change to call/get to the airport/get a cheap hotel because someone had stolen his bags …

So, the guiri mendigo continues to wander and spew his bile on the uninitiated neophytes and tourists.

Are they the decadence of society? Or is he?

Monday, June 26, 2006

The discreet charm of guiris

Two Spanish archetypes collide in Pedro Lazaga’s “Three Swedish Women for Three Rodriguez” (1975)

Poor Paco should have known. Ingrid - his sexy sunbathing Swedish neighbor - had nothing but evil intentions when she said to him:

“Mucho valiente. Tu toreador?” (Very valiant. You bullfighter?)

Incredulous - but cachondo - Paco replied:

“Toreador no. Yo colchonero!” (Bullfighter no. I mattress salesman!)

Paco, naturally, was hypnotized by her encantos

Tres suecas para tres Rodriguez (Three Swedish women for three Rodriguez), by director Pedro Lazaga, is a guiri exploitation flic. In it, we’re introduced to two of the most important archetypes in modern Spain: one is the guiri – in this case represented by three Swedish babes, the original gangstas of guiris; the other is the Rodriguez, which, according to the LaRousse Diccionario del Argot, means “the husband that has to work while the family goes on vacation”. Despite what it may sound like, “doing the Rodriguez” is considered a good thing. The Rodriguez gets the house, the television, everything to himself.

Most importantly he has the opportunity to chase after lovely Swedish guiris.

Over a soundtrack that sounds like a mash up of The Love Boat theme and circus music, we see a pollution-filled panoramic shot of 70s Madrid. Cut to a shot of toupee-wearing Tony LeBlanc battling his alarm clock … my first pleasant surprise. Tony LeBlanc – for those of you who may not know – played Torrente’s father in Santiago Segura’s eponymous movie franchise. In fact, his role in Torrente - El Brazo Tonto de la Ley was his big come back 25 years after the monumental Tres Suecas para Tres Rodriguez.

It turns out Paco’s wife, Adela, is pregnant and is going on vacation with or without him. He is too tired to accompany her to the charming Hotel Don Pancho in Benidorm, so she leaves him alone at home, thereby making him officially a Rodriguez.

Paco is a disaster without his wife. He can’t hang his clothes properly, he can’t fry eggs, he can’t even iron his clothes … but he is a virile Spanish macho man. Enter Ingrid, the sunbathing Swedish siren on the neighboring balcony. She doesn’t much care that he’s a lowly mattress salesman: “Come here, guapo españolo!”

He can’t believe his luck when his guiri neighbor introduces him to two of her cute blonde - and Swedish - friends. Paco invites his amigos, Antonio and José, along for the ride (they also happen to be mattress salesmen, and by coincidence also “doing the Rodriguez”). The three unlikely couples go on a reckless ride in Ingrid’s sporty convertible; afterward they go to the bullfights where one of the Swedish babes brazenly enters the ring for a little toreador action. Paco and his buddies look on in bemusement. Those crazy guiris! Later, they end up back at Ingrid’s bachelorette pad.

It’s the moment of truth.

We hear a little wiki wiki wah wah guitar swankiness come from the record player, and the suecas get to grooving. Paco and friends pull their best macho iberico moves. Meanwhile Ingrid goes to prepare drinks.

In this moment our suspicions are finally confirmed (earlier in the movie, the more discerning will have noticed that these three Swedish babes spoke English with American accents, which isn’t exactly Swedish. A slight oversight by the director, I guess).

Drinks poured, Ingrid busts out a little baggie and laces the three “españolos” drinks. This mysterious substance turns out to be heroin. Soon these would-be Don Juan Tenorios find themselves inconveniently drowsy, yet feeling might fine. They eventually nod off.

The three suecas move fast. They steal the keys to Paco’s apartment and hide a large stash of heroin in his wife’s flower pots. Paco, upon waking up, has no idea what happened, and he soon finds himself embroiled in an international drug smuggling plot, replete with mustacheoed policemen and leather-jumpsuit-wearing boyfriends.

Ingrid, the alpha female guiri represents the classic sueca in modern Spanish mythology. She is reckless, rich, fascinated by Spanish virility. She is also manipulative. In a semi-conscious state towards the end of the movie she even calls Paco a “gilipuertas”. But, by this time, Paco was wise to her. He had already confided to Antonio and José: What would three sexy young Swedish women be doing with three over-the-hill Rodriguez like them?

It just might be Paco’s clever intuition that saves him from the law and the nagging vengeance of his pear-shaped wife, Adela. Ingrid, the cagey femme fatale, has to admit: Es gilipuertas, but not tonto.”

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Gypmeisters beware

Read Larry Kovaks' latest adventures:

The Soccer Trick Con

The Nit Bus Special

Friday, June 23, 2006


“My way of learning is to heave a wild and unpredictable monkey-wrench into the machinery. It’s all right with me, if you’re sure none of the flying pieces will hurt you.”

Sam Spade in Dashiell Hammett’s, The Maltese Falcon

La semana loca for me. Complete 180º with work and personal relations. Change is more palpable than ever. And I am ready to start updating this blog with respectable regularity again.

Sant Joan is upon us: harbinger of a sweltering summer season - and busloads of photo-snapping tourists, poltroons ducking in alleys for the bag snatch, kids and divorcees in droves on the fake beaches of Barceloneta.

I think of Heraclitus:

“This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out.”

I’m off to drink a canya and jump over bonfires.

Salut, i força al canut.

Monday, June 19, 2006

5am , somewhere in Guirilandia

“Cállate! Gilipollas! Dame las llaves!”
“Shut up! Idiot! Give me the keys!”

“Déjeme explicar!!!! Por favor!”
“Let me explain!!!! Please!”

“Cállate maricón de mierda!”
“Shut up you fucking faggot!

I go to the window, unable to sleep anymore, just in time to see my neighbor land a right hook on some kid’s nose. Thwap.

“Estoy sangrando. Estoy sangrando.”
“I’m bleeding. I’m bleeding.”

“Cállate! Dame las llaves!!!”
“Shut up! Give me the keys!!!”

The guy is about to swing again when the other guy - crying and bleeding from his busted nose - tosses the keys in question to him. My neighbor walks back to his ground-floor apartment. I don't know what happened to the other guy.

Things quiet down for about ten minutes. I’m back in bed when the lady across the street, right above the bodega yells out:

“Que te intentan robar! Que te intentan robar!”
“They’re trying to rob you! They’re trying to rob you!”

This lady. I call her La Guardia, because she’s always the first person looking out her window when anything is going down.

A guy can’t turn his car in the narrow alleyway: out comes La Guardia to give confused directions from her perch two stories up.

A few summers ago a girl would fuck really loud, two or three times a day. The whole neighborhood could hear her moaning. La Guardia, furious, would come to her window and yell, “Eres un teatro!!!! Eres un teatro!!!!”

This occasion wasn’t quite as salacious, but just as scandalous.

So La Guardia goes:

“Que te intentan robar! Hay dos moritos haciendo la palanca para entrar en un piso de la primera planta! Hay dos …. uuupps igual mejor no decirlo … hay dos de este aspecto subiendo a tu piso!”

“They’re trying to rob you. There are two moritos [Spanish argot for Moroccans] trying to get into the first floor apartment [by one leveraging himself on the other’s shoulders]. There are two ….. ooops better not to say it … there two of those with that look climbing up to your apartment!”

She calls the Mossos, Clos’s boys in blue. La Guardia speaks loud enough for me and the rest of the neighbors to hear her entire conversation with the police.

She proceeds to tell them about the two guys trying to rob a place on the first floor of my building. One apparently already got in. Ladrones silenciosos in the center of Barcelona.

A few months ago they did the same thing and the Dutch couple who had been living there for 4 years, woke up and found several valuable possessions gone. Frightened, they left the apartment and the neighborhood a week later.

Could be a case for this guy, who claims to be Barcelona’s “premier guiri detective”. Larry Kovaks, P.I.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Els encants dels Encants

I wish I had taken these, but sadly I did not. These were forwarded to me:

Perfumes. Recien robados. 5€
Perfume. Just stolen. 5€

Una ayuda para jugar a las maquinas y hir de putas.
Assistance in order to play the slot machines and go to the whores.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Excess baggage

A typical sight in Barcelona.

A stolen suitcase that has been ransacked and left by the roadside. No doubt this once carried clothes and tourist guidebooks; now it’s being used as a trash receptacle for empty cans of Estrella.