Open letter to squatters who took over the building in the plaza near where I live

Dear squatters who took over the building in the plaza near where I live,

I have a few bones to pick with you.

First, I know you think you are making a statement by breaking into and occupying private property. I know this because I actually dated a few boys who squatted when I went to University in England oh so very long ago. I thought they were cool and edgy and sometimes I even stayed in them with said boyfriends and the rest of the punk rockers or otherwise who lived in such establishments. I can forgive the old me for these beliefs and actions because I was 17 and liberal and, it goes without saying, ignorant. Sure, many of you may be in your early or mid twenties, but more than a handful of you appear to be well beyond that.

I understand the feelings of camaraderie and maybe even power of a group that believes it is “beating the system”. But you guys, you are too old for this. You don’t even have any system here to beat. The state gives you money every month even though you have never had a job in your life (at least not that you told the government about) and your healthcare (albeit at standards far too low for my taste) is free. You will also get retirement money, having never paid taxes in your life. It won’t be much but enough to buy that nasty beer I always see you drinking and the occasional baguette.

You can steal electricity and water and even hang your laundry out so that we see you actually DO laundry, but the entire neighborhood still thinks that you are dirty and an eyesore and are pissed that you just lowered their property value by hanging your ridiculous signs off your balconies. Like any of us in the neighborhood give a shit what you think you stand for. We see all the booze bottles and trash piled outside your doors every day.

Second. A word about your adopted hair-dos. I know you believe you are being edgy with the business in the front, party in the back hair-dos, but I hate to break it to you (OK that’s a lie, I’ve been dying to tell every single one of you this) but mullets are not progressive. You did not invent this hair do. The Germans have embraced this contemptible look for nearly 30 years. Mullets are, in fact, passe. They have had their heyday, and just because you were little kids during it’s near decade in the spotlight, you can’t lay claim.

Oh sure, you fancy them up by making them more disgusting than a straightforward, brushable shag by adding dreadlocks to the party in the back. Sometimes, you only have a clump growing out of the middle of the back of your head. I have to tell you that either way, the dirty clumps of hair sprouting out the back of your cranium resemble sprouting long, uncoiled poops. Hiding beads and metal bits in the them does not distinguish from plain old poop coming out of the back of your head, it just adds to the effect.

And that is really all the time I have for you.

Sincerely, Me.

Edit: here is a shining example of the hair style in this post…

And here is a spy shot I took while waiting in line at the market of one the squatters nasty feet:

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Have a Sh*tty Xmas.

It’s Navidad time here in Barcelona (aka Xmas to us North Americans), and of course that means many, many days off for the Spaniards. For example, I am at the tail end of a 5 day weekend.  Which would be great if I were working and if anything was actually open. But other than quite a few street markets selling jamon, antiques, and yes, Xmas stuff, the pickings are slim.

Usually I am not one to acknowledge this time of year other than to make fun of what a scrooge I am and to let others berate me because of my generalized annoyance at all things referencing this holiday. Which I enjoy, by the way.

Take for example the Xmas tree my father made for me last year. Tumbleweed, spray painted black. Cardboard and duct tape base. I think this is an accurate reflection of my spirit of Xmas.

That being said, there are a couple of traditions here I like because they either a) are slightly obscene or b) rather violent and slightly obscene. Thusly, I find them pardonable.

First we have the crapping log (El Caga Tió). This is a log with a face and hat that children beat with a stick while demanding and threatening it to shit turrons (sickeningly sweet nougat, served up in slab form), cheese and hazelnuts. For real, those three things. They even have a song in Catalan that goes like this:

Caga tío, (crap, log!)
caga turró, (crap torrons,)
avellanes i mató,( hazelnuts and cheese,)
si no cagues bé (if you don’t crap well)
et daré un cop de bastó (I’ll give you a smack with a stick.)
¡caga tió! (so crap, log!)

The log wears a blanket and is beaten by children while they sing. Then the blanket is removed to reveal the treats and shared among those present. In some versions of this event the log is then thrown into the fireplace and burned.

Here is a stack of  smiling logs awaiting their fate at a market.The second tradition has to do with the Nativity scene, which most households build. These consist of more than the baby Jesus and a handful of holy rolling onlookers. These are a full blown affair with hills, lakes, barns with animals, farmers, and abundance of food being prepared and it is all quite realistic, for example you can buy farmers slitting the throats of pigs on tables, complete with a pool of blood on the ground. Or toothless old ladies spinning yarn. Or ironmongers hammering horseshoes. The choices are endless.

Or, you can create a more bible oriented nativity,set in the desert, complete with elephants, camels and chariots. In any nativity you’ll find devils, angles; usually a priest or two.

But in any Nativity, there is always a Caganer. This translates to “shitter” and it is exactly that: some dude taking a poo right in the nativity. Yep. And there are lots to choose from. From traditional Catalan figures to famous people to politicians to cartoon characters.

Notice how every single figurine is squatting...?

But it gets better. Not only is the Caganer squatting with pants down, he (or she) always features a pile of poo just under the naked, protruding rear. (Click here to view other celebrity caganers, or buy one for your own nativity. Or whatever.) And sometimes, perhaps it’s a charming new trend, a nativity also features a Pixaner, which translates quite simply to “pisser”.

You can bet my mom will be receiving a Caga tio, a Caganer and a Pixaner for Xmas. They will be added to her Xmas decorations, along side her Incredible Hulk snorkle that decorated her tree last year.

Because nothing says Christmas like poop.

“Cycling” culture observed

I’m slightly interested in velodrome racing, not because I care for fixed gear bikes so much, and certainly not because I give a crap about this whole culture suddenly surrounding these racing bikes, but because it’s another form of racing and it’s on a track, which I tend to like.

So of course I took note of the recent spike in popularity of fixed gear bikes on the streets in Barcelona and even in Italy. Not that I was unaware of this super-trend happening in the US – Basically, anything hip and underground on the West coast of the US will turn up in Europe with about a two year delay. So to see them In Barcelona meant the trend had absolutely exploded in the US.

Still, it did not prepare me for the ridiculous saturation of fixed bikes and anything related to them among the hipster culture in SoCal during my latest visit. The local velodrome, which for years featured small crowds of, well, normal people, is suddenly full of dudes sporting quasi mullets and handlebar mustaches (a real mullet would be going too far), chunky crafter chicks, and every variety of skinny, stony-faced, corduroy clad enthusiast drinking micro brews in the stands to watch their friend race, and, more importantly, check out the accessories on each others fixies they rode to the velodrome.

I think the racing, and perhaps even the bikes themselves, are merely an accessory to their own coolness for this crowd. For example, the racers seemed to be participating in more of a fashion show than actually racing, wearing things like woolly striped arm warmers (probably knitted by those same crafter girls), modified “racing” jeans, and ironic beards. And the fact that some of the racers weigh upwards of 200 pounds makes me question their dedication or even real interest in cycling for the sake of the sport. The bike itself is less important than the attitude and attire of the person on it.

I am no bike snob, but  I solemnly vow to never ride a fixed gear bike on the street. Or maybe, just never ride one at all.

And you will never catch me wearing striped arm warmers.

Shoot me down

Sometimes the enactments I get for why my request should not be obliged are in fact, worth the shoot down.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the boyfriend the following question: If  my shoulder acts up at the races, could he take me to see  Dr. Costa? (You know, Costa, the guy who saved Mick Doohan’s leg…) I mean, who wouldn’t want to be treated by Dr. Costa if given the opportunity? And I kind of have the opportunity.  So I was half planning what kind of ultra strenuous workout I could do without breaking my collarbone for the fourth time but just far enough to, you know,  mistake some muscle pain for nerve pain.

So boyfriend responds to my request in his special English: “He is coming old. And maybe crazy, it’s better you don’t see him but other doctor. Costa, he walk around like…he think to be a Dio, you know?” He then stretched his arms up and away from his body, olympian style, puffing out his chest, sticking out his lower lip, and turning his face skyward to strike an arrogant deity pose, which he held then reposed several times. While wearing only tighty whities and bright blue flip flops.

And that constituted a “no” .

So worth it.

The Beach.

Dear Italians:

I know it’s the weekend and very shortly you will no longer be able to resist the urge to mentally just check-the-fuck-out and bake in the sun for 8 hours straight. You can go ahead and spend 3 hours in single lane traffic to get to the beach. By all means, pay to park on the street because you are in a hurry to get to that narrow strip of sand and the waveless, salty sea that looks  like a lake. You might come back to find a movable sign that says No Parking where your car used to be (this happened to me – the cops do it – nothing you can do about it), but that isn’t the point.

No, I know you are eager to get your 10 Euro umbrella and 5 Euro beach chair and find space near the bar so you can hear the music and a grilled sandwich and a beer is never far away. It’s all good.

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But I want you to take a moment, take a deep, cleansing breath and prepare your sunbaked brains to absorb some crucial information.

No matter how much of a rush you may be in …
No matter what your friend Flavio Flav says …

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Do not carry that fanny pack slung over your shoulder as a man-purse. Even if it is a Prada fanny pack. In fact, just don’t carry a fanny pack at all.

Trust me on this. It will totally fuck up your game at the rolling gelato stand.

OK pumpkins?

Now go play.