coming into barcelona, i told lady “barcelona best be nicer to us this time since we’re giving her a second chance.”
the barcelona gods laughed, then picked my pocket.
then sent us off to a never ending bus-land of the lost and damned.
entering the subway car at the train station, two twenty-something spanish thugs body blocked me into the door, kept batting my body back and forth, my backpack against the door preventing me from turning around. as soon as they turned and walked away, i flashed “pickpocket” and felt my back pocket. it was empty. they’d taken my notebook i use to jot blog notes, directions, expenses, and potential poetry lines. boy are they going to be disappointed, unless they’re would-be poets, accountants, or blog monsters. the last note in the notebook was about a begging scam at the beziers train station. maybe it’ll give them a new line of work. their technique was so blatant and brutal… i’d always read how subtle and deft pickpockets were.
barcelona seems crude. last time here on our way out someone told us we had bird shit on our backpacks. we thanked him and took care of it ourselves. later, lady read online that’s a barcelona scam – they throw birdshit-like gunk on you, then pick your pocket while helping you clean it off.
coming up from the subway, the bus stop we were looking for was the first thing we saw. waited 30 minutes and the bus came by – and kept right on going. so we walked to another stop and caught it an hour later. we figured we’d know where to get off because we’d taken it from the same hotel last time we were here 5 months ago. wrong wrong wrong. the bus goes out one route, returns another. we recognized nothing, and the stops had no names on them. eventually we get off in the dark in unknown territory way past where we want to be. flagged a lucky cab for only $13 and finally get to the hotel – a 3 and a half hour journey that should have taken 30 minutes.
during all this, lady and i are way sick nasal dripping coughing mucous machines who hurt all over and are tired from no sleep the night before due to colds we picked up in paris.
when we arrived, we were so bushed we went next door to mcdonald’s for take out. they even ripped us off – gave lady the wrong salad and didn’t give me my fries or coke.
barcelona is the city i like least of all the cities i’ve ever been in, and i’ve been in a few these past 61 years. it’s a city of thuggish pickpockets, birdshit throwers, bad architecture, and insane buses. it’s also the first city where neither of us speak a word of the language.
on both trips here, we came from france. in both cases the comfortable fast clean civilized french trains ended at the spanish border where we got on dirty uncomfortable hard-seated over-crowded noisy spanish trains. even the passing country-side differs – france is too neatly domesticated, spain more decayed and poor… though to fair, the high mountain spanish country between barcelona and madrid is gorgeous. of course, i’ve gotten more interesting blogs out of spain than i did france – chaos is always more reportable.
the beziers, france, train station begging scam i mentioned: a nice polite arab man comes up and hands you a xeroxed paper showing his two children whom he needs help feeding. on our way to paris i gave him $2. when he saw the amount of change in my hand he suggested i give more. told him no. this time i saw a different young arab handing out the same xerox, only with different children. so i watched him. eventually he went back to two others who also had piles of xeroxes; he sat down while one of them went out to work the suckers. now i tell the beggers to bugger off unless they look dirty, needy, hungry, desperate. still, i’d rather lose some money to a scam than leave a person in genuine need. but the problem is is lady and i are running our money down – these 14 months have cost us $75 a day, and the money from selling our studio is running out. we may be beggars soon ourselves. if so, we’ve found a lot of teachers along our way. in paris, i watched the young boy who begged money from lady. he returned to an extremely well fed well dressed arab lady.
how does one tell the disparate desperate from dastardly desperados?