Category Archives: Fucoloro In Europe

Lived in St. Louis. Lived in Galesburg. Now in Barcelona … and what of it?

The Looney Tunes tour — a lost post

Upon remaking this blog, I stumbled on the below blog post that I had left unfinished and forgot about. Here it is, reconstructed as best I could.

So a lot has happened in the span of time between last post and this one. As you can see from my photo above, I went to Paris. I also went to Florence, Pisa, Gerona, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Brussels. Tomorrow I leave for a two week trip throughout Spain. Then I come back on the 19th.

Below is me in front of Notre Dame. The bells were really much more incredible than I could have imagined. They have all gone well out of tune from each other (I do not know if they were ever in tune, though) and, when they ring, they create this incredible atonal mess for minutes. Many tourists were making fun of how out of tune they were, which I found hilarious.

We, of course, checked out the Eiffel Tower as well. There were a lot of stairs.

At the top of the tower.

In the park of Montmartre with an excellent view of the city. We came back late at night. We were sitting on the stairs with a bunch of young locals and tourists when some American girl started screaming and yelling that this guy had grabbed her purse. I turned and he ran right past me and hopped over a fence into the closed park and got away. She started crying and it was pretty awkward.

I still don’t know why I didn’t do something to stop him.

Back in Barcelona, this is a hedge labyrinth in the “north” of the city. I put north in quotes because all maps of the city line it up in a way so that the ocean is on the south, but that is not exactly true. We just started saying north and south as it appeared on the maps, but it was not actually true. It’s interesting how easy you can buy into a system of navigation and orientation even though you know it is false.

Italy, near Florence. Roman ruins of a theater a spa and whatever I am walking around in. Florence was pretty awesome, I must say.



Florence from the Duomo.

Inside


Outside

The hostel in Florence was covered wall-to-wall with drawings, paintings and writings in tons of different languages. I wrote a Big Muddy Records thing on one wall. Here is Alexis writing “gullible” on the ceiling.


The 10 liter beer. Apparently it is a cultural drink in the city of Florence, or at least at the American student bar we went to. You drink it with a group of friends who each have a long piece of PVC pipe.

Around this point in the trip, the Cardinals had gotten to the World Series. It was interesting because I could not tell if I was getting more homesick, or if following the games had actually made me feel better. Several nights, friends and I would take a computer into the streets and walk around until we found a wireless signal that did not have a password. We would then sit down around the computer and stream the radio feed and listen. Games started around 2 a.m. I did not sleep much.

Around this time, as I was missing my sister so much, my mother sends me the link to a video. Here are some screen shots.

Hilarious.

 

Below is a photo from a really strange Halloween party that David, our assistant guy threw at his place. If you have ever seen L’auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment), the place was that to the letter. Young people from all over lived there with little privacy, but a lot of fun.

I’ll leave this post with a photo of me looking awesome playing my guitar on the curb by my apartment.



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One month later, the dust begins to settle

I have been in this city for a while now, and things are beginning to calm down for me. I have been staying in room more often lately, doing stuff on the computer or whatever people do when they stay inside instead of going out into the streets and exploring. I feel like it’s a phase. I guess it’s the closest thing to homesick I am going to get. I miss people at home and all that, but also really like it here.

I am not depressed or anything. It’s great. I think I am going to some crazy discothèque tonight, so that should be fun. The only problem with discos here is that nobody dances. It’s kind of like during puberty when it was totally embarrassing to be caught dancing. Instead, you are supposed to walk through the masses of people and not smile.

Lame. Most of the time it’s just really, really bad techno music, too. This video (which was not made by anyone I know) is a bad example of the music they play in these places. This must have been a pretty high class place.

We are also making plans to go to Brussels and Amsterdam, which should also be quite neat. I was planning on staying an extra term if I could get certain things figured out with Knox, but I am beginning to doubt that is going to happen. It’s not out of the question, but odds are I will be in Galesburg for cold, cold winter term.

God Bless This Town.

But Barcelona has not completely run out of surprises yet. Just the other week some friends and I were wondering around my neighborhood when we stumbled into this circus club/bar thing. It was one of the craziest things I have ever seen: You walk down this hallway with all those circus mirrors that make you look fat and upside down and things like that, then there is a giant devil clown statue thing, then they play a bunch of old American Music and have really old swings for bar stools. The walls were absolutely covered with creepy circus things. It was great.

Also, my backpack got stolen while I was at Barceloneta beach. There was nothing important in it, except for my copy of The Sandman in Spanish. Jerk.


I also went to Sitches, which is about 45 min south of Barçe by train. It’s kind of a high classish beach vacationy place, and it was nice. I also went to Lloret del Mar and Tossa del Mar, which are these vacationy beach places, but this was part of the program. It was a good time, but I am just not interested in these little tourist towns. I like cities. I did get a couple good photos while I was there, though.


Or, if you want one less contrasty:
There was also this random statue of Ginger Rogers. I think she made a movie here once.
Here’s my short film in her honor (scroll real fast to watch it)

Fascinating!

I bought a guitar for €65 and am going to try to be a músico ambulante, or a street performer musician person. I need a hat, though, or people will not know that I want their money. And that is one funny thing about this city — they do not sell hats. I have searched at least 100 stores for a hat and have turned up nothing. I am thinking about cutting some holes in one of my socks so that it looks cool and torn up and putting my shoe out in front of me. I am trying to learn bad Spanish pop songs and play them kind of American country-ish because I only know songs in English, and those don’t get you a whole lot of money. If nothing else at least I will make myself laugh and then go home.

Classes are really easy and kind of dumb, except for Losada. This man teaches my art history class, but we really have not talked about art history at all yet. He’s in his 70’s and pretty much just sits in front of the class and makes up fabulous lies about himself for an hour and a half twice a week. It’s incredible. I think he was kind of a big deal critic in Europe earlier in his life, but he hasn’t really told us about that. He usually just talks about how he never gets sick because he takes 6 garlic supplements a day. Or how he was pronounced dead once, but some doctor thought that maybe he could still be brought back and saved his life, so Losada bought him a nice bottle of wine. He likes wine, he says, but he only drinks good wine, so he says, and never more than two glasses at a time. He claims he has only been drunk once in his life.

Liar.

He also claims to own 10,000 CDs. And not only does he make up facts about his own life, but when we talk about art history, he makes that up, too. He taught us a lesson pinpointing the moment in history in which art was created, and for some reason I feel like he doesn’t actually know that. But that’s not important.

Oh, and Universitat de Barcelona is an incredible place.

Yeah, that’s my school.

TorrentSpy.com has the Daily Show and Colbert Report every day after it airs, so I have been trying to download and watch it every day. And it has been awesome. But that has nothing to with Spain, so I will leave it at that.

I have no idea if I am getting any better at this language. It doesn’t really feel like it, but oh well. I am not having any trouble getting around. And I had an interesting conversation with this Portuguese man who saw me walking down the street with my guitar and tried to get me to sell it to him for €20. I told him I didn’t want to and that I liked it, but he didn’t seem to process this idea. So he then proceeded to tell me about how awesome Portugal is for about 15 minutes as I stood there listening awkwardly.

Yeah, this city still has some surprises up its sleeve, I think.

Here’s Tony, Hana and I during La Mercé after we were almost swept out to sea on that rock bluff thingHere is yet another photo from London where Olivia and I look really freaking cool on the underground.

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Correfoc videos

This is part of the festival. It’s called Correfoc, which is Catalán for Run of Fire or Fire Run or something like that. These are the demons being driven back to hell the day before the actual feast day.

I, however, thought this was going to be Sunday instead of Saturday and totally missed it. But you should watch them anyway because they are crazy. Those sparks will actually burn you, so you have to get out of the way. Like I said before, this city is so awesome. I can’t believe I missed this.

–Tom



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La Mercé … Mary, mother of god

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.

–Tom

El grupo en Parque de Güell, a park designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi.


Katie, Jason, yo y Alicia somewhere in the streets by a bar.


More people from the location above, except with some guy who happened to be walking by. See if you can find who doesn’t belong.

Tony, Sam, Anne y yo in an Italian restaurant by my apartment on a rainy night. They have pizzas for 5€.


Tony Alicia y yo somewhere. I am pretty sure I was having fun when this was taken, though it does not look like it.

A la playa con Anita. I’m sure we were just asked about 50 times if we wanted either a massage or some hashish.

I do not know why this tall thing was walking down the street. I think they wanted us to follow them.

This is the restaurant in the hotel where we stayed for the first week. We ate here every night. The food was not very good.

La playa, again. I think this is the first time we went. I don’t know why I always seem to be in the background of photos.


More photos from London. Me, Olivia and tony in front of Tower Castle or something like that. It’s right by the Tower Bridge, which is way cool.

Me in front of an old thing.

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Nothing to do with Spain

Okay, this has nothing to do with Spain, but I just feel that I need to let everybody know how awesome the world is.

Read this.

That’s right. I have a new hero, and his name is Zhang Xinyan.

–Tom

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Gimmie that $500

Okay, so I found this student contest on the Skype website for the best Skype story 250 words or less, so I figured I would give it a shot. Here is what I came up with. I think it’s pretty hilarious, but I should warn you, this is not how I actually feel. It’s just a story I wrote, so don’t get freaked out by how sad the narrator is. I think it’s good for $500 in half.com spending …

There is a hint of paiea escaping the Barcelona kitchen down the hall, and my mother never cooked paiea. Seven hours of time difference, but it smells even stranger. A cold raspy “¡Cena, Tomás!” from the kitchen, and all I want is a burger. But when in Spain, I guess.
There is a difference between Spain and home, but I can’t put my finger on it. The ground in the Metro station is filthy, just like home, passers-by refuse to acknowledge your existence, just like at home, I guess the escalators only go up here, but that’s not it. The walls of the Metro walkway sing with the reverberations of a lonely man’s guitar, pulling me towards my train. As I toss a couple extra cents into his scuffed guitar case, he raises his heavily bearded face towards mine and winks. Nobody owns the blues, I guess.
Inside a phone booth in the middle of a thousands of people in Plaça Catalunya, I take out my wrinkled 20€ calling card to try to give my mother a quick ring. Just to hear her voice, right? “Esta tarjeta no tiene minutos, click.”
The rusty bed frame squeaks as I lay down, sweating because nobody uses air conditioning. I pick up my laptop — at least I can count on you — and open up Skype. Immediately, “Hello? Tom? I miss you, too. You know you are so lucky to be in Spain right now.”
Yeah, I guess she’s right.

It was so hard to get Skype into the story, so I just kind of tacked on the whole last bit for the sake of the contest. Maybe I’ll actually do something with the first part some day.

–Tom

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Fingernails and feeling at home

I just finished clipping my fingernails for the first time since I’ve been in Barcelona, and it seemed a profound moment in my trip. I guess you know you’re living somewhere once you cut your fingernails there. And my, it is so much easier to type now.
I am a little sunburned right now because I spent all day yesterday at the beach (la playa Barceloneta). I had a really good time, even though I thought I hated beaches. And either way, I needed to work on my powerful Mediterranean tan.
I have had these strange little orientation class things all week from 10 – 6 or so that are now over with. The first part was a Spanish vocab review kind of thing and the other part was an introduction to the Catalan lifestyle in which we discussed the differences between Catalunya and what we are used to, as well as studying a little Spanish political history and the Spanish constitution. I should say, though, that getting out of school at 6 is not necessarily late, as dinner is not until somewhere between 9 and 10. The sleeping and eating schedule here matches mine perfectly. Wake up around 9 or 10, eat breakfast (maybe). Then eat lunch at 2 and nap (maybe). Then eat dinner at 9 or 10. Then go to bed sometime after midnight, depending on how fun things are that night.
However, there is no snacking.
Life in the apartment is nice. I feel comfortable here now, even though it is a little embarrassing when I do not understand people. But that is the way it goes with understanding a language, I suppose.
The food is so good. They get into grilling this one pepper that I am not a fan of and fried bananas are kind of weird, but everything else tastes so good. And they give you a whole lot of it. I guess it’s a Mediterranean thing, but “nada más” somehow does not keep them from giving you more. And if you would like a little more, be careful how you word it. You may end up with another 3 pounds of food sitting in front of you.
I feel weird, though, because there are a lot of strange gender role issues that are hard at play in this society. The fascist dictator Franco ruled the country from the Spanish Civil War in the 30’s (ending with him on top in 1939) until his death in 1975. At the time of his death, Spanish civilization was somewhat preserved in 1939, at least as far as social revolutions go. While the Western world had the 60’s and all the sexual and feminist changes that came with it, Spain was stuck in a housewife system, more or less. Since then, the society has changed a whole lot in a very small period of time. In fact, it is now legal for homosexuals to get married in Spain, so in many ways, Spain has met and surpassed the United States as far as social change goes in half the time the States have had.
However, not to ignore sexism and gender role problems in the States, the gender role problems that are still persistent here seem worse. My señorita española will absolutely not let me wash my own dishes, for example. She does my laundry, cooks my food and washes my dishes. This is all part of the housing contract, so it would not be such a surprise to me if I were not living with a Swiss foreign exchange student who happens to be female. She helps set the table, wash dishes and even cook during nearly every meal. It makes me feel bad because I am not used to being removed from certain household responsibilities solely because I am male. However, this is the way it is in nearly all the households in Barcelona. Just a key difference, I suppose.
Well, it is off to the art museum, I think. Maybe I’ll be able to get some more pictures up here at some point, but I make no promises.
¡Hasta luego!

–Tom

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