Day 18: Mr. Fancy Pants

by Eli Hodapp

The mysteriously vague email I got from the folks at the Nudie store yesterday turned out to be because they finally got a pair of selvage lab pants in, and they were saving them for me. I originally intended on buying these as a birthday present to myself, a prize for shedding so much weight, and a trophy of conquering Barcelona by myself. But, as I totally underestimated just how rare these jeans are, plans changed a bit- You can’t just wander in and pick a pair up, they’re all made (and destroyed) by hand, so quantities couldn’t possibly be more limited, especially considering just how hard to come by even normal Nudie jeans are.

These jeans are seriously just perfect. Definitely the crown jewel in my denim snob collection. Although, I should probably look into selling some of my Nudie fat pants when I get back to the USA. The selvage pair of Regular Ralfs I have seem to be in particularly high demand since they stopped making them. Who knew there’d be such a vibrant market for used pants?

In substantially less fun news, just as I was going to bed last night I got another email from my Mom that my Dad was admitted to the hospital in Florida again. This all happened at around 11:00 PM Barcelona time, so I wasn’t able to get the low down on what was happening, largely because it seems to take an entire day to be seen by a doctor once you roll up into the emergency room.

My Mom mentioned potential surgery, an entire new battery of testing, and all this other stuff that I wish I was there for. I slept poorly last night, since “Hey, your Dad is in the hospital again and you’re 5,000 miles away” is pretty high up there on a list of the most unsettling things you can hear before bed. Today has just involved a whole lot of sitting around waiting for it to be late enough there to call someone to find out what happened. This time difference really sucks sometimes.

At 8:00 AM Florida time I finally got in touch with my Mom, and it still seems like no one knows anything. This is a multi-layer problem because my Dad’s doctors and all of his charts are in Chicago and the doctor he’d previously worked with at the hospital in Florida doesn’t work weekends, so he’s essentially a new patient to the weekend staff. Right now it sounds like whatever intestinal blockage or kink my Dad has might need to be operated on. They’re also not sure just yet if it even is (or was) a blockage, or if this is some kind of new cancer growth, chemotherapy or radiation scar tissue, or who knows what else.

On the up side, at least my parents wasted no time in getting my Dad back in the hospital as soon as he wasn’t feeling well. If nothing else, I’m happy they’ve at least gotten that wake up call in that you can’t sit around feeling like something is wrong for a week as a cancer patient. I’m in a holding pattern yet again, not really comfortable being so far away, but not really sure what to do next. I guess once again “wait and see” seems to be the best plan of attack.

Anyway, on the subject of human mortality, the next scheduled stop on my wild and crazy tour of Barcelona is going to be the Museu de Carrosses Fúnebres, or, roughly translated, the “Museum of Funeral Floats.” I can hardly find any information about it, and it seems like it’s less of a “museum” and more of a basement in an old Spanish funeral home full of stuff you can see if you come at the right time and talk to the right person. I’ve got no idea how it’s curated, but it sounds like they’ve got all sorts of old horse-drawn funeral carriages of all shapes, sizes, and types, along with all sorts of other similarly themed things.

What I really hope to see is a safety coffin. I first learned about these in Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, and I’ve wanted to see a real one ever since. The story of these goes something like this: In the 18th and 19th centuries when cholera was ravaging everything, there was a real fear of being buried alive. Edgar Allen Poe even played upon this in his short story “The Premature Burial,” originally published in the mid 1800’s.

I’ve read a few conflicting theories as to why this all came about, but they all basically seem to surround the fact that medical science of the day didn’t entirely have that great of a grasp of when you were alive and when you were actually dead. It seems a few people were actually incorrectly pronounced dead and buried alive, but the widespread fear of the phenomenon seemed to have more to do with newspapers (and authors like Poe) blowing the whole thing out of proportion than some widespread epidemic of live burials.

The safety coffin, quite simply, is a coffin with a string that runs down inside of it which is connected to a bell on the outside. The idea being, if you find yourself buried alive, you just tug on the string, ring the bell, and everyone knows you’re not actually dead. There was a considerable amount of ingenuity that went into these coffins, some even going as far as rigging up bells above ground that would still function once you’re actually buried.

I seriously just love Victorian-era technology, and these crazy solutions people came up with to problems that might not have even ever really existed. I’m not sure if these sorts of things would make their way down to Barcelona or not, but Spain was faced with the same cholera problems of everywhere else, and I’m not sure the medical science of the day would’ve been any more or less advanced than the rest of Europe. Most of the stories of safety coffins seem to be centralized around more northern Europe, but, who knows.

I figure, if there’s a place where I’ll be able to see one of these in Barcelona, it’ll be at the Museu de Carrosses Fúnebres.