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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.