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8/19/2003

I can’t write, and it’s Barcelona’s fault.

There are so many things to blame, really. The heat, for one – here in the house and down on the street it’s all the same, and neither electric fan nor sea-breeze matters much, really. So you sit slicked with sweat in front of the stereo, or you trudge, stooped and obsessively mopping your brow, down the street, or you while away the hours at a not-too-distant café, reading El Pais as best you can and secretly grateful that the waiter is taking half a fucking hour to return with your check, because what do you really have to do, anyway? Besides, it’s shady here.

Or maybe you go to the beach for a mid-afternoon hour, thinking after all, it’s only a 20 minute walk away, and you’ll be home by six, but by the time you get there it’s so damned refreshing, between the clean(ish), swift-moving shallows and the actual, honest-to-goodness wind off the water, and one euro beers from the mini-mart – two euros if you’re sucker or lazy enough to buy from one of the roving Pakistanis (who ply their trade with strange, birdlike cries just begging to be sampled: fanta, cerveza fria, papas, chips -- agua wadder beer?), which you will inevitably do and then lie to your Argentine friend and say it was only one euro fifty when he looks over and chastises you, laughing, for your giri, or tourist, ways – and not to be machista but there are women playing paddle-ball in thongs, for God’s sake (and men in Speedos too, just to offer equal time for any libidinous but men-preferring readers out there), and so before you know it the sun has gone down behind the city, and in the brushed dusk-light bouncing off the water and the grey toytown of Barceloneta brushing the beach with its scruffy whiskers, your arms (if you’re as Anglo as I) are registering redness. And so you gather your things, your wet towel clutching a layer of sand as resolutely as a kid with a lollipop, your day-old copy of El Pais damper and sandier but not much more read, your paperback of Robert Hughes’ Barcelona dog-eared in preparation for a blog entry that will get written, well, if not tonight, soon, anyway, and you wander back to the city satisfied, and not a little dazed, and probably by the time you reach the Born district you’ll decide that it’s time for a lemonade, or just make that a clara (since half-lemonade and half-beer is basically just lemonade anyway), and you’ll sit there in the plaza, marveling at the Eiffel-like latticing of the nearby train station, and wincing at the nth version of “Redemption Song” you’ve had to endure a dreadlocked busker sing since you arrived however many months ago (wondering if that’s something they picked up in order to better target the summer-abroad fraternity/sorority market, or if it’s just something that hippies the world over just can’t get enough of), and you’ll attempt, finally, to make the cute waitress at Sandwich and Friends (the cheesier of the three terraza cafes, certainly, what with its Custo-inspired graphics of Ibiza-ready women in mirrored shades, but it does have the cute waitress in its favor) understand that there’s something significant in the way you say “Gracias” to her arrival with the change, looking at her meaningfully and then just as meaningfully looking down at your sneakers or at that suddenly very interesting tree on the plaza’s edge when she turns on a brisk heel and walks back into her house of brushed steel and cheesy murals. And then, with a guilty illumination of the clock on your mobile, you’ll head home, a short meandering walk through flocks of unsteady tourists, climb the three deadly flights of stairs to your apartment, take the beer out of the freezer and pour it into half a glass of half-frozen Fanta, and plop yourself in the sagging chair in front of the fan and the stereo and the infernal DSL connection broadcasting deadlines from two, maybe three continents, and sweat some more.

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