Plaza Cataluña (xixerone.com)
When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
I’d decided to go to Barcelona in search of the meaning of life. Who am I kidding? It was because I’d spotted this beautiful girl in London two weeks earlier: Sun-bleached hair, sky-blue eyes. I’d walked cockily up to her, and said, “California, right?”
“Perdona?” she’d replied.
Once I’d suavely removed my foot from my mouth, I discovered Gabriella was, 1) from Barcelona, and 2) delighted to meet an American (go figure). She invited me to visit her in sunny España (which, in fact, looks a lot like sunny SoCal). We were obviously soul mates. There might or might not be a God in heaven, but there definitely was a Gabriella in Barcelona.
It was impossible hitching a ride out of Lyons amid a thousand other outstretched thumbs. So I stopped trying, and gave all my raisins and Bonbel cheese to some skinny Krishna kids who were flat broke and chanted out. We talked about God, or, well, I did. They mostly just ate. Then I found a bus depot, and bought a ticket to Barcelona.
I sat next to a Spanish kid named Daniel, and his grandpa Tito across the aisle. Daniel and I talked a lot at first because it was exciting to be going somewhere, anywhere. But then after an hour, they cut the lights inside and it was dark outside, so we drifted off into, as I cleverly put it, an “eslumber.” To which Daniel replied, “That does not mean anything en español, señor Mitch.”
I doubt if I could ever have so thoroughly mastered Spanish if it hadn’t been for Daniel. The moment we awoke, we began to teach me Spanish. I wrote in my journal:
For ten hours we spoke!
We spoke till we were hoarse
nay, till we were furry
and feathers clung to our throats
and grandpa had to laugh.
And when we stopped we stole
big blue handfuls of grapes
in the south of France.
Then we ate some more Spanish
while the Pyrenees came up and washed over us
carrying us deep into the
castle-dotted seas of Cataluña.
And all the while the autobús
burped and hollered
and punched its way down
the skinny isles of Spanish villages,
through city lanes of verdant green
on walls of powdering stone,
where there were balconies and dresses
and wet undershirts strung overhead
like a festival in the sun.
We finally arrive in Barcelona, the land of la chica bonita
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