To do

Things to do.

1: Enpadronarme and register with CatSalut to enable to get my sick days at work. A non starter. Because of no.2, I’d been reading furiously all night and woken up too late to make it worthwhile. Despite various naggings from preppy team leaders over the last week, I decided that this one wasn’t for today. I’d worked all weekend and didn’t fancy going out of my way on my day off just to do something for work. Besides, I had lots more reading to do. I haven’t been ill in a couple of years which fills me with a foolhardy hubris. Whatever comes my way,  oranges, chilli peppers and tea will keep my body right, I’m sure of it.

2. Finish reading library books. No mean feat, as the last book in question is one of those doorstoppers (in fact, the dp for the hyperlinked page displays a book by the very same author). I haven’t read so furiously in a good long time and the pleasure of lying in bed late at night with some music and losing oneself in a good novel is one I should take more often. I’ve been reading at my desk at work, staining the ends of pages with spices over coffee-house tables, using the book to escape into infinite space while my body stays packed between the fleshy walls of public transport. But this time I took a night to treat her right. Like many of the best, our last tryst together resumed in the morning and went on all the next day (with a break for lunch, homemade curry, but I digress). But I finished in time, which brings us to:

3. Return library books. The deadline that decided my whole day. I take the metro, because I want to have plenty of time to browse after I return the books. But also because I want to be able to stand still and take a look at the books that I was returning as a favour for a girl. Just two: a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, in catalan, which I left, lacking the mental energy to tackle it (I’ve never studied catalan, nor can I speak it, but reading it using my spanish and french and piecemeal italian has generally been easy, if not effortless). The other was a novel by Chuck Palahnuik, it started with a few chapters from the POV of characters participating in 600m1f gangbang. One of the reasons I like this girl so much is that she routinely makes me feel like a philistine and brings to my attention various cultural artefacts that have slipped under my radar. I decide to borrow it immediately after I return it in her name.

The metro trip is short and not a little disappointing. As an experiment, I’d bought a monthly ticket for unlimited rides, to see if the time saved commuting to work would help me make the most of my days, and also because whenever I was trying to save money by walking everywhere, I always ended up having to meet people at short notice all over the city, and buying one-off tickets was costing me more than I thought. But I already regret it, I enjoy walking around Barcelona and the light exercise that comes with it, I could happy shave off a little time each day for it. But well, as long as I’ve paid for them I’ll see how it bears out over the long term. But it is helping me catch up on my reading.

The metro is usually good for people watching but I’m too busy on the new novel to look around. Once out on the streets though, I find myself in the midst of some classic Barcelona sights. Well dressed squads of asian and nordic tourists manoevre round the boutiques, a moustachioed hipster in a faded tee and trilby passes by, his arms emblazoned with retro tattoos. Ahead, a chubby man in a green  sweatshirt has his arms crossed over in front of him, blues eyes staring intensely at some inderminate point, a grim expression fixed on his hooded, impressively red-bearded face. I paused at a junction to check the name of the street I’m on, and I catch the eye of a girl sitting on the ledge of a travel agents. She’s pretty and curly haired and vaguely celtic looking, pale, lightly freckled and bright eyed, I’d guess somewhere round twenty years old. Next to her is a young blonde man in skater clothes and sportin what is an unfortunately rather common haircut here in Barcelona- a mullet with the back end trailing off into shoulder-length dreadlocks.

People watching can be a great exercise in introspection. We define ourselves by what we are not. In the city, seeing everyone around around you, what they have in common, what separates them, lumping and splitting and getting to know your own prejudices. You see yourself in a wider context, as a member in a faceless rabble, everyone reflecting one another. My favourite game to play here is to pluck my favourites from the horde and imagine their stories, making them characters in my imaginary narratives. Guessing the chain of events that made their faces, clothes, and attitudes. But it can also lead to feelings of insecurity. The need to define oneself in the crowd, to justify one’s existence. Uniqueness is an impossibility, forgiveable as an adolescent fantasy at best, but still the urge rises to say something, to define, to scratch ‘Kilroy woz here’ into the cell’s stone walls. So I’m reminded-update the blog. It’s just sitting there, useless. The blogosphere is an even bigger crowd to be lost in, but its a little spot to call your own and carve these thoughts. All these narratives, diatribes, rants and dreams lie mouldering, inert. And even if no one sees them, perhaps they will be animated, transmuted as if by some strange alchemical process, made quick and given some semblance of life. But first, I have some books to return.

The entryway to the library is a grand old stone affair, presided over by an elderly couple eated at eaither end of a carved wooden double-throne set against the north wall. Their captain at arms, in blue rent-a-cop livery, idly investigates a newspaper and eyes me up as I climb the stairs to the library proper. It doesn’t take me long to quickly find replacements for the pile of books I returned so I don’t tarry too long inside. I love being in libraries, though, and if it wasn’t close to closing time I would’ve found a spot and got started on the new books right there. As it was, my days objective was acheived in little under half an hour. A trip to the library toilets results in one of those uncomfortable moments then I can sight of myself in a mirror and am taken aback by my own ugliness, and one of those awkward moments when one enters a toilet cubicle to see that someone’s stuffed the bowl full of thick brown paper and made a mess, and realising that if you exit and someone is out there waiting to use it after you, they might mistake you for the long-gone vandal.  As I head off with the new haul I remember the aforementioned girl. She showed me this library and a couple of others in the city, and I remember the her eyes and the smell of her hair and the time spent mocking the titles of several self help books at the back. I feel almost guilty for missing her already, since to make a proper go of a long-distance thing, I want to be stronger than that. She also told me to keep writing and update the blog, and today being a day where I will Get Things Done, I’m on my way home to do just that.

On the way back the couple spotted on the ledge have curled up for a little snooze, the curly haired girl resting on Blonde Mullet’s chest. Remembering the disappointment that was the metro, I take the long way home, on foot. Ahead of me a girl exits a fast food place, and heads off down La Rambla. She’s petite and elfin, an appearance accentuated by coat of jesters motley patchwork with a long tapered peak dangling down off it’s hood. For one second I actually feel pangs of envy towards this pixie, because I want one for myself, but try as a might, I’m never going to be the teenage girl who could make the most out of such an item. I stroll home down carrer Tallers, which is full of record shops, bakeries and alternative/retro fashion boutiques. It’s also the place to be to be informed of any upcoming concerts in the area, everything from squat parties to wold tours has their posters up here. Hippy/punk/hipster/metalhead types abound here, the most impressive tonight being a rare creature- a girl wearing a Manowar t-shirt. Female though she is, I’d certainly vouch for her to be included in the ranks of metal warriors that form the aforementioned band’s adherents. She was burly and broad and looked like she could snap the average Manowar fan’s neck if they decided to mock her with any of the group’s more sexist lyrics.

I did scope out some good concerts coming up. It seems like Autumn really is the season for music. For example, I’m seeing Peter Murphy (singer in Bauhaus, one of my favourite bands, and distinguished solo artist in his own right) tomorrow night, but there are at least 5 touring acts I want to see coming in October alone. I had planned on buying some new clothes, but if I saved and spent the money on concerts, perhaps just by being seen at these cool places I could convince Barcelona’s elite that broken leather boots and black dockers covered in cat hair were the hottest new thing in bohemian fashion.

4. Update blog. My prime reason for returning home this route was actually ginger beer. For me, it is spicy ambrosia itself but unfortunately not widely available in Spain and even in places where it is, just in expensive cans. I take a swig and the sweet, delicious liquid races down and bites me at the back of my throat. She also showed me this shop, after surprising me with a can earlier that day after she knew of my liking for the drink.  On the way home I think of her words of encouragement, and how she’d playfully deconstructed my insecurities and excuses the last time we walked down this neighbourhood. Yet after spending the day reading novels, I’d momentarily tired of fiction. I looked over the pieces that I’d started when I first set the blog up, both about events in early September, now seeming rather irrevelant and dated. I’d always told myself that this wasn’t meant to be a diary, or at the very least, not just one. But I couldn’t spend another night in silence. I couldn’t let this place atrophy,  so I wrote about today, to pour a little water on the flower so that it would not wither.  No apologies for the self-indulgence, but I beg patience from any gentle readers, and thanks to those who had enough of it to make it this far.

Goodnight

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~ by theserpentscircle on October 4, 2011.

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