My accommodations in Barcelona weren’t incredibly accommodating. A charming 15 floor walk up in the heart of Gothic Quarter. The whole area is like a Tim Burton movie with sunshine. Gothic is full of tapas, bars, tapas bars, shops, a tattoo parlor and cafes. I specifically wanted to be near the Picasso Museum, so I chose the AirBnB strictly based on location. I didn’t pay any mind to how many stairs I had to climb to get there. The hosts were off-putting from the start. They were one of those couples that looked like brother and sister. Neither of them seemed like they got much sunshine. She did most of the talking as they informed me that this was an illegal short term rental. “If anyone asks, you are my cousin from America,” she said. They kept calling me a guest and I decided to correct them. “I am a customer. Guests do not pay a fee.” Off to a great start.
I told them I had two friends that were going to pass through Barcelona and stay with me, that’s why I chose a place with three beds. I wasn’t sure what dates yet, I promised to keep them informed. Before they got to the bottom of the fifteen flights of stairs I got an alert that they sent a bill adjustment adding two more people for the entirety of my 3 week stay. This started a back and forth via text, email and AirBnB chat that got increasingly testy, so I ignored all of them. I’ll give them more information when I have it, I wasn’t going to let them ruin my first day in a new city.
I was in Barcelona for art, food and the weed culture; it was time to enjoy myself. In BCN it is illegal to buy weed, sell weed and transport weed. It is, however, legal to join a marijuana social club to “acquire” and “partake.” It is very important that you never say “buy.” There’s a Twenty-ish Euro fee for an annual membership for each social club. I did my research and found one that was started by two New York City DJs, Smoke Signals BCN. It was set up like a nice basement apartment and the Brooklyn Nets were on when I got there. I was home. The manager, Bruno, gave me a tour of the facility and their private stock. I acquired some flower, vape cartridges and moon rocks. Moon rocks are marijuana buds rolled in THC wax and again in keef, keef is the dust of THC crystals that shakes off when grinding buds. Moon rocks are like breaded chicken cutlets of weed. It’s weed rolled in increasingly stronger forms of weed. They are strong, to put it mildly. I grinded up some flower and moon rock, rolled a J and watched the Nets; chatting with travelers from all over the world. Making new travel friends and making new weed friends, two of my favorite types of friends. I made friends with a Swedish couple, local Spaniards and an English dominatrix; not bad for a first day. The Swedish couple asked if I was in town for the game and I sheepishly asked which game. Tomorrow was El Classico, Madrid and Barcelona in the game of the year. I’d never been to a futbol/soccer game, their equivalent of the Super Bowl sounded like it would be a good first impression. I splurged and bought tenth row tickets, unfortunately the dominatrix was not available to join us.
I have been to more American football/basketball/hockey/baseball games than I can count. I’ve always been a casual sports fan who loved going to games, my father and brother have always been big sports fans. No game I have ever been to can compare to El Classico. The official total was that there were 93,265 people in attendance to see what I am told was the biggest rivalry in sports. To put it in perspective, sell out crowds in most American pro-sports arenas are around 20k people. College football is the only thing that comes close in the States, and I’d never been to any of the big college stadiums. This was four times the size of the biggest games I’d ever been to. Both teams scored on the goal I was sitting near, the game ended in a tie. It was electric. Americans see a tie as potentially worse than a loss. Not these Spaniards, the vibe was the opposite. It was more like nobody lost. Everyone was celebrating. It was the most joyous sporting experience of my life. More than ninety-three thousand people, all singing songs and drinking beers from start to finish. Unlike American sports, where you might high five a stranger who’s rooting for the same team as you. These guys were hugging their neighbors, no matter who they were rooting for. The food options were limited. Concession stands sold beers in small and very large cups. Some of them also offered pretzels, most of them didn’t. I didn’t see any fighting or hostility. None, none at all,
not even hand gestures. No shouting matches. No fist fights. This was the biggest departure from American culture I’d ever seen. Back home my teams’ biggest rivals are the Rangers and the Knicks. Rangers fans are the worst fans in New York City. Philly fans have a bad reputation but a Ranger fan will happily fight them for it. Madrid and Barcelona fans? They were hugging each other, spilling beers and talking friendly shit. It was beautiful. That’s what sport is supposed to be. It’s supposed to bring us together. The Olympics were started so countries could show off their might without killing each other. Somehow sport has become one of the things we use to divide us. An American sports fanatic will fight you on behalf of his favorite team. I didn’t see that in Europe, I didn’t see anyone throwing beers at apposing fans and calling them horrible names. Madrid fans didn’t harass me for wearing a FCB jacket. They fucking hugged me. The only downside was the amount of beer on the floor, these Spaniards spilled a lot of beer. Ruined my sneakers.
Back at Gothic Quarter I found a nice tapas spot that was super cheap, it became a regular stop for a quick bite. I also found a great cafe with fresh juices and friendly staff, it became my breakfast spot. Despite being on the top floor in what seemed like the highest point of Barcelona, I had terrible cell phone service in the flat. That cafe became my office. While having a pastry and checking my email, I noticed the couple who rented me the flat lurking outside, no matter where I went in the Gothic Quarter they weren’t far behind. I wrote it off as coincidence, I didn’t think they were following me around. They were.
My friends are not known for their punctuality and they missed their Thursday flight, so they arrived Friday night instead. Through a yoga friend I was able to make hard to get reservations and we went right to dinner at Tickets. We got really high and ate what may have been the best dinner of my life. Some of the courses were so good we had them again. Dessert, wine, scotch… we had a great night and planned for a museum day for Saturday. Obviously, we overslept. I wake up hungover to a flurry of messages from my hosts that escalated to accusations of theft of services. Services that were, of course, illegal to provide. I try to message them back but my phone can’t establish a solid connection. When I leave to go to the cafe my hosts are not only out in the hall, they have their ears up to the door and stumble into to the flat when I open it. She starts yelling, right away. Her shrill broken English rattles off the time my friends arrived, when we left, when we got back, where we went. They knew our entire evening and demanded to know why they hadn’t been paid yet, especially after such a “costly dinner.” They refused to listen to reason, that I wasn’t paying for three weeks when they’d be there for three days. He gets in my face for using the word “fuck” around his woman. He almost very valiantly found himself tumbling down a lot of stairs and my friends recorded the whole thing from two angles. I insisted I would not remain calm with two people screaming at me and they better leave before I call the police to report the illegal short term rental. What I didn’t know about Barcelona, they were strict on AirBnBs and I was not staying the required 30 days for certification. They didn’t offer 30 day rentals. The local authorities were so strict about it, had I not reported them I’d have gotten a fine. Foolish of them to put me in a position that I had to report them. I also sent the report to AirBnB, that my friends and I now feared for our safety from these stalkers. He’s on video telling his “woman” (his words, not mine) he’s always wanted to fight an American, in Spanish; to which I responded, “lo entendí.”
While my friends and I waited for the authorities to figure it out, we ate some mushrooms and went to the Picasso Museum. Micro-dosing and museum hopping is my favorite past time and I was really excited to thoroughly enjoy Picasso. The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is a very special museum. It’s the first museum made for an artist in that artist’s lifetime. Picasso once challenged the city to give him a museum, so he could fill it. They did, he did. There’s 4,251 Picassos in a giant medieval palace, made of five adjoining palaces. With a 3,500 piece permanent collection, it is the biggest and most complete in the world. They even have a number of what I call “Probably Picassos.” As legend has it, after his studio was robbed he stopped signing his paintings. He’d sign them once they were sold, because they were worthless without his signature. When we were there they had an exhibit dedicated to his single line drawings. One of Picasso’s many phases was that art didn’t always need to be complicated. He argued he could make something beautiful in ninety-seconds and made a big series of single line drawings of various animals. In a micro-dosed moment of inspiration I decided we should all get single line art tattoos, the suggestion met with micro-dosed wide eyed enthusiasm. I knew just the space, there was a tattoo parlor that shared a courtyard with the tapas place I’d been going to. We stopped by and made an appointment for the
following evening. Even in micro-dosed glee, we knew to sleep on the decision to get a tattoo. Each of us woke up excited to follow through, we made it a Gaudi day with a tattoo appointments in the evening. We visited Sagrada da Familia first, Gaudi called it “Cathedral of the Poor” and I liked that better. Beyond the marvel in architecture, the really impressive part about it is that it created a century’s worth of jobs. Construction began in 1915 and it’s scheduled for completion in 2026. He created something he’d never see completed. He built his house on a hill overlooking the project, and turned the grounds into a magnificent park. I wondered allowed if Gaudi’s overly ornate Art Nuevo style is where we got the term gaudy. With the marvels of modern technology I was able to research it then and there, no. But, they do both come from the same latin root “Gaudēre,” meaning “to joy.” I liked that, his work is certainly joyous. The more the tours dove into his un-married life and strict catholicism I wondered allowed if he was uncomfortable with his sexuality. Was he praying the Gaudi away? My friends were amused, the other members of the tour were not.
On their final night we ate tapas, got tattoos and drank Spanish wine on the beach. There’s photo evidence that we climbed the jungle gym but I don’t remember doing it. I do remember getting an e-mail from AirBnB, offering me a refund for the illegal rental. Our next bottle of wine was a fancy one! They left Monday morning, behind schedule, and I documenting how clean I left the apartment. I chose an Adults Only option on HotelTonight and didn’t notice it was marketing itself specifically to the Gaudi crowd until I checked in. The stationary billed it as “hetero-friendly” and I have to admit, they were very welcoming.