Day 25: Adventures in Gracia, Featuring… Socialism?

by Eli Hodapp

Today started out like any good Saturday should: Waking up at first light hung over, pounding a fist full of Advil, chugging some water, and then sleeping until 2:00 in the afternoon. I’m not sure what it is about drinking absinthe, but it always results an absolutely wicked hang over the following day. I’m not sure what Toulouse-Lautrec’s trick was. Maybe he just never stopped drinking it. Although, after doing some research on the whole thing it seems he drank what’s referred to as an “Earthquake,” which is absinthe except instead of watering it down with water you water it down with… Cognac.

We’ll have to put that on the to do list.

Once I was finally functional, I got in the shower and headed over to Baluard for my morning1 croissant. I actually ended up trying the pizza they had there instead, and it was just as incredible as I was expecting it to be. It basically amounted to focaccia bread topped with some parmesan-heavy cheese mixture and tons of Iberian ham on top. It’s served cold, which I’d argue is one of the better ways to eat pizza. I waited in line behind the absolute worst group of Americans, who were not only totally indignant that the people there don’t speak English, but they took it upon themselves to absolutely demolish the basket of free sample bread while they waited.

I came back home and ate while watching the final episode of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Up until the final episode, I’d say that this was among the best new comedy series I’ve seen on TV. The writing is beyond clever, David Cross and Will Arnett are both spot on with their performances, and the way plot points are resolved you’d never see coming, which is why I was so excited to see how the series ended. The final episode basically just feels like I’m being trolled as the viewer. I sort of just want to go back and pretend that it was just a really good show that got cancelled after episode five in the second season.

Following that, I figured I should probably actually get out and do something today, so I decided I’d head over to the Nudie shop to get some jeans hemmed. I had bought some 10th anniversary Sharp Bengts which you’re supposed to wear with the bottom cuffed. This sort of drives me crazy, since all you’re doing wearing pants like that is showing off that you’re too much of a prole to have selvage jeans. That’s some serious high-level denim snobbery, but, whatever. They hem them for free, so there’s not much reason not to.

It didn’t really register at the time, but on the subway ride up to Gracia there was a dude on the train shouting a bunch of very charged political stuff. It was all in Catalan, so I was picking up about five percent of what he was saying but he kept mentioning socialism. I didn’t think much of it, while it seems sort of rare in Spain, I’m no stranger to creepy weirdos on the subway shouting stuff. This dude got off at Joanic, which is where I was getting off. I followed him up the stairs, and we parted ways as I headed to the Nudie shop.

By this time it was about 7:00 PM, so as I walked there I got to witness all the restaurants just starting to do their opening procedures. I’ve mentioned it before, but this transformation is one of my favorite things about Spain. It’s so cool seeing people roll up the metal shutters and see that what once was a slightly creepy looking graffitied wall is now a really slick looking restaurant.

One of the places that I found myself particularly drawn to as it was opening was a gelato place because it was just so bright inside, and they had the flavors in their cooler arranged like the color wheel. The girl rolling up the front shutters took notice that I did a triple take at this, and invited me in for a sample. I ended up getting a mixture of strawberry and pineapple, which were far better than I could even describe.

After that little detour I went and got my pants hemmed without issue. I’ve gotten friendly enough with the guys that work there that they didn’t charge me for it, and they even invited me to some crazy private gallery of some new limited edition collection of denim dyed with something called woad. As I understand it, woad predates indigo for dying things blue by thousands of years. The pricing for this “limited edition collection” falls squarely in the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” category. Regardless, I’ll go check it out, private showings of anything are usually pretty cool.

The  night was still really young when I left, especially by Spain standards. I really like Gracia, so I decided I’d randomly wander for a bit to see what I could find. I ended up stumbling across the movie theater a few people told me about, where there was a absolutely massive line forming to see Moneyball of all things. I randomly wandered some more, at which point I saw a ton of orange light and a bunch of people hanging out all the way at the end of this street.

Upon closer inspection, it was some sort of… I’m not even sure what to call it. At first glance, it was a concert. There was a proper stage setup, with a real band. When I got there they were doing all their sound tests, so I hung out to see what was going to happen. It was around this time that I noticed people setting up all sorts of other things, such as a cardboard model of a police car, complete with lights, and a ton of banners mentioning socialism, like the above photo.

That banner roughly translates to “15 years advancing towards socialism,” and I’m really not sure how this all ties together. My Spanish is pretty bad, but my Catalan is exponentially worse, and everyone there was speaking Catalan. I tried asking what was happening, but couldn’t really get any kind of coherent response that made sense. I can handle some basic Spanish, but discussing politics in Catalan is leagues beyond me.

So, I just sort of took it all in.

The band started playing, and while I couldn’t tell you what they were singing about, they seemed to be a pretty good Catalan punk/ska band. As soon as they started playing, people from all over began filtering in, and suddenly beer was materializing everywhere. Some random guy just handed me a plastic cup full, and the best I could tell, thanked me for coming. I still have no idea what is happening at this point.

Things got stranger.

I noticed that quite a few people in the crowd were dressed up as… I’m not even sure what they were supposed to be. They were costumes with horns, covered in various flame imagery, almost demonic in a way. These people had sticks which were about four feet long, with a nail pounded into one end sticking straight up. Attached to this nail was a clothes pin. These people then started play sword fighting while the band played, seemingly in time with the music.

I hung around for another half hour or so and then decided to bounce as the crowd was growing fairly large, and I still had no idea what was happening. Having just watched so much Todd Margaret, my imagination was running wild thinking of all these Todd Margaret-like situations where the Spanish riot police would come and bust up this political rally/concert/protest/whatever it was and I’m left attempting to explain in Spanish that I had no idea what was happening and just decided to hang out because some random guy gave me a beer. I’m not sure how believable that is.

Oh, and remember the crazy guy shouting in the subway? As I was leaving he was coming, only since I last saw him he somehow managed to conjure up no less than six dogs that he was dragging around. It was probably a good time to leave.

The subway ride back home was uneventful, although I did stop in to a really awesome kebab place for some felafel. I had aspirations to either go back to the absinthe bar or hit up The Fastnet, but eventually decided that I didn’t really want to do two all-night-drink-a-thons in a row, which probably was a good idea.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to work on my Spanish vocabulary so next time I find myself getting free beer at some kind of crazy ultra-socialist political rally I can at least figure out what’s happening.

  1. Well, afternoon, today. []