I have decided that this city is magical. There is some kind of surprise around every corner. And it’s all bizarre.
This weekend was la fiesta de la Mercé, which is another one of those Virgin Mary’s, except that this one happens to be the biggest festival of the year in Barcelona. One million visitors attended the festival this year, down from a staggering two million last year, according to El País. But, nevertheless, one million extra people in the city is out of control.
Every night was a late night, and even at 5 in the morning, the streets are filled. The first night (Friday), we tried to go to a discotec, but gave up and went to Forum, an industrial zone of the city that was supposed to have some free concerts. It ends up that free concerts means about 250.000 people. We did not get to see much before everything shut down at 5 a.m., so we headed to the beach with the intention of watching the sunrise. When we got there, there was a long line of boulders leading into the sea, and we decided it would be a good idea to walk to the end of them. Long story short, a huge wave came and knocked Tony and Hana off their feet and drenched me — all of us in our business casual attire (well, I had jeans and a button-down shirt, which is nice for me). After we realized that we had not died, we decided to leave the ocean to itself. Mediterranean water really makes your clothes smell awful, by the way.
Most of the time for the rest of the festival was just spent partying and watching concerts and seeing strange things. The festival culminated with some friends and I going wine tasting and seeing a fireworks show, during which I found myself on top of a 20-foot high concrete block that held flagpoles in the middle of a sea of thousands and thousands of people (as you can see in the photo).
The most interesting thing about this show is that the theme of the festival this year was jazz, so they kicked the show off with Scott Joplin (St. Louis), played a song by Louis Armstrong about St. Louis (though I don’t think it was the St. Louis Blues), and, of course, played some Miles (St. Louis). It really made me proud of my city to hear our influence all the way across the world in front of so many people. I am willing to bet that many of the drunken people in the crowd were drunk on Budweiser, as well.
I have been going out a lot lately, and I am going out again tonight. There is just so much to see and the city is so comfortable. The party is in the streets here. Nobody hangs out in each other’s apartments — they meet each other at a café or bar. Or in a plaça. Everything a person could want is walking around in the streets with you, and the things that are missing, people make for themselves (such as a bathroom). But that’s okay, because BCNeta, the public cleaning and trash removal service, has the workforce the size of a small army. Everywhere you turn, there is a BCNeta truck picking up trash or spraying the garbage (and … things … ) off the sidewalks and streets. Putting a ton of people to work and keeping things clean at the same time seems much more efficient to me than repaving highways and causing massive traffic while your city drowns in garbage and people are afraid to walk in the streets, but who am I to judge?
Peaches is playing a show here tomorrow night, and I think I am going to go. Yo La Tengo and Violent Femmes are also coming through while I am here. This city pulls a lot of big acts, but then again it was voted number one party city in the world last year (which the natives here hated, by the way).
The language is coming along slowly, and it really eats away at you every time someone loses patience with you or treats you like crap because I can’t really speak their language. I guess they get that here a lot more than we do in the states, or at least in Missouri, so I can understand. Plus, their preferred language is Catalán, so me speaking some butchered Castellano to them is probably not very appealing. But either way, at least I am trying. The British don’t even do that, from what I can tell, but let’s not start talking about those guys (they hate them here).
But I am getting through this. I want to see if I can get a permit to perform on the streets, but they might not let me because my student visa says I cannot work. But street performing is different, right? I’ll let you all know how that goes.
It’s nearly dinner, and there is still so much I know I have left out about this weekend. Ask me some time, I guess.
El grupo en Parque de Güell, a park designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi.