Chapter 04: Something Witty This Way Comes

Uncle Jimmy!

Miss you. Say hi to my Mom if you see her. Assuming, you know, that I’m wrong about the afterlife. 🙂

I noticed tonight that a strange thing has been happening to me. Apparently I have been very ‘efficient’ with my memories of this place. Everything that I take as a faithful reckoning from the last trip seems to have been whittled down and made more compact somehow. Stripped of all of the minor details so as to keep the core memory only. But now that I’m walking in my old footsteps, those parings previously left on the floor are coming back and filling in blanks I forgot that I had.

It’s funny, because after I went back home to Florida two years ago, I somehow didn’t mentally store things like the sounds of scooters reverberating loudly throughout the narrow streets. Or that sudden waft of sewer gas from the aging systems. But those sensations and observations are still very much here, and my minimized memories are slowly becoming whole again.

I wonder why my mind did that?

Another “I forgot” is the noise everywhere. Spaniards are loud. Not just in voice, but in everything. They have this ability to enjoy life in a high-decibel environment without issue. Quiet almost seems to bother them. I had stripped that memory out as well. So now I’m being bombarded with clamor from all sides, and I am seriously counting the days until I acclimate again. I must have done it before, because it’s not something I remember as being an issue.. But it’s very much my current reality. And sadly, my being semi-deaf isn’t helping.

Funny thing. I’m starting this letter just one day after the last one. I’ve been ‘in country’ for around 48 hours now, and I just realized that I’m already ‘semi-forgetting’ Florida. At least as far as day-to-day goes. I was just putting something in the washing machine a moment ago when it kind of hit me that it felt normal, and I couldn’t really remember how I did it back in the States, just two days ago. So yea, this transition from the new to the old and back to the new that I wrote about last letter is getting kinda funky. I’m not really sure which way is home anymore.

OK, time has passed for me, but not you. I had put this letter aside for a couple of days while I went and experienced even more of Barcelona and beyond.

Let me start with an observation close to my heart. Beer.

Back in Miami, or anywhere else in the States for that matter, you sidle up to a bar and will probably see a long row of draft handles. You decide which of that nearly endless selection you want and order it. It then comes in whatever mug or glass that establishment uses. And if you’re in a dive bar, maybe it comes in a pitcher with a plastic bag of ice floating in it.

In Spain, you don’t order by the brand. Well, not usually. Brand selection is for bottles only, which no one really drinks. If you want a draft here, you order by the size. (They usually only have one brand to pull from anyway).

‘Una caña’ means the smallest size, usually 8-10 ounces. If you want more, you order ‘un doble’ or ‘grande’, which is typically twice the size, but not always. And there are several others … copa, jarra, pinta, tubo. You can guess at those amounts.

It’s actually kinda fun. The beer is always a decent draft lager, and thus your only decision is how much do you want. And this helps because a lot of folks like to have a beer with breakfast, so a ‘cup’ is usually more than enough to start one’s day. Usually.

In other current news, I am still battling ‘rubber leg syndrome’. Coming from a life where I basically only needed my lower extremities to propel me from house to car, all of this walking is very alien. And somehow, even my upper body is struggling. Everything just feels tired. Sucks to be my age. But, at least I’m alive. (Sorry, easy joke).

Nikki and I were chatting about it, (the walking, not your death), and we both really feel the effect. And even though I decided to fix my movement problems back in 2017, I just decided to decide it again. Once I get myself back into enough shape to be easily self-propelling once more, I must keep it that way. But for now, I’ll just impatiently wait for the day when the aches and groans go away.

OK, I guess I need to apologize for the random zig-zags of this letter. It truly hasn’t been straight forward or normal. Which mimics the way I feel right now. Life is whirling as time catches up with what I see on the clock.

This morning marks the start of the sixth day of the adventure. And a light switch was flipped last night. I think I finally and truly came back to Barcelona.

Yes, that is a confusing statement. It did seem to make a little more sense in the wee hours of last night’s darkness, and might have also been a little fueled by the beer I spoke of earlier. So let me take you through the evening in an attempt to explain.

We went to a “Expat Meetup” at a place called the Polaroid Bar. A throwback-themed joint that pays homage to American 80’s pop culture. The group that was meeting there was comprised of citizens of other countries who are currently living or visiting in Barcelona. It’s a way to meet new folks and see old friends. So in we walk and start chatting, introducing ourselves, when a guy says “I know you”. And he did, from two years prior. Then Nikki sees another dude and says the same thing to him, that she knew him. And that instantly turned my face red.

Two years ago, we went on a picnic with a similar group. There was a guy there who we really enjoyed talking to. He was from Syria, didn’t drink, and made the funniest jokes about how everyone always asks him to bring the hummus. Just a few weeks ago, before we came on this trip, we were laughing about hoping to run into him again … and suddenly here he was.

That doesn’t explain the red face part, does it?

During that picnic, I ‘might’ have had a few too many beers. I ‘might’ have kicked my shoes off and wandered all around the park in my socks. And others might have been concerned and repeatedly queried Nikki to see if I was OK. She, of course, told them that I always walked drunkenly in my socks back home too.

It apparently is how I am known here now.

So anyway, there I was, chatting away with some strangers and catching up with others whom I had met years past, when it started to hit me. That I was finally finding my way back to the Barcelona that I had until recently only distantly craved.

Like I mentioned previously, I really didn’t know what to expect when I was planning this trip. What I would feel, and when. But somehow, it turned out that the simple, easy, and ever-present act of connecting with humans from all cultures, ages, and backgrounds during that first trip defined this city for me.

Barcelona was simply … the people.

So as I was walking back to the apartment at the end of the night, my remembrances were really starting to gel again. Life was good. All around me was the city that I had so deeply once embraced. By the time I staggered (yes more beer was had) home, the transition was complete. My mindset was now firmly returned. I had somehow accidentally found exactly what I didn’t know I had been looking for.

OK, with that, it’s time to close this rambling pile of tired-brain words. And also to really start this trip. I really dislike that I took almost a whole week out of it, being so silly about finding this and feeling that. But I’ve also never before rebooted an adventure. This trip isn’t a jump into a fresh pool, after all. So maybe this semi-whiny first week is just a required part of my new story.

Well, adventure awaits this weekend. I’ll write to you again soon after. And stay tuned for an even grander letter after that, for I’m going back to Africa!

Love, Rick