justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Friday, March 30, 2012

Comida Chronicles: Part II

After a 29M delay, Comida Chronicles is back. Without a vengeance. 

The Dog Is Hot
Barrio: El Raval
Address: Carrer de Joaquin Costa, 47
Price Range: Pretty cheap, around 3.50 a dog

Yeah I wrote about this place before. Yeah the hot dogs are amazing. Yeah, I still find myself thinking about their TDIH's 10 sauces you can throw on any dog. Yeah, just like in the rest of the Spain their Coca-Cola tastes better than it does in the United States*.

The sole downside to TDIH is that the only available seating is a stack of neon-hue-spray-painted wooden cubes – which only seat two and aren’t that comfortable. But they sure do look cool as shit!

On the opposing wall of the neon cubes, is a staircase leading to a small, open mezzanine that hangs above the counter. The back of the always-empty mezzanine level is lined with what appears to be a glass office that’s always shielded by closed blinds. With hopes of discovering a secret hot-dog utopia lined with pillows, I asked if it was possible ascend into said mezzanine, but the TDIH employee, snickered and said no.

So I can only assume that behind the blinds is the same thing that is atop every nightclub in every movie ever: a cache of assault rifles, piles of cocaine, and lots of strippers feeding stacks of money into those cool counting machines. All of which makes sense as to why I was not allowed up there.

*I’ve been told this is because the soda here doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup as it does in the States, where the government subsidizes the corn industry, which over-produces corn. This results in high fructose corn syrup being used in Coca-Cola, which apparently diminishes the taste.

I should probably fact check that or at least look at the Coca-Cola can sitting 5 inches from me as I type this. But that Coca-Cola can is mysteriously written in German and I don’t feel like fact checking. Plus the person who told me that once lived in the United States for 8 months, so he has to know what he’s talking about.

Oviso/ Can Nabo
Barrio: Gótico
Address: Carrer d'Arai, 5 / Carrer Nou de Sant Francesc, 25
Price: Cheap

I grouped them together because their ran by the same company that operates four spots in town, two of them being bars (one boasts itself as BCN’s official “after-skate”). I’ve only been to their food-serving-non-k-grinding spots, Oviso and Can Nabo.

If you were high and wanted a place with good, cheap food and a spot where you could forever stare at oddly-painted walls, I’d recommend Oviso. Their burger is not the best in the world, but it’s big, damn good, and it’s only €5. Their pizza is also spooktacular, while their crepes were the only thing I’ve had that I didn’t like. But if you do somehow fuck up and accidentally get the crepes just focus on the massive peacock paintings that cover the wall and you'll be at least mildly happy.

Be warned that Oviso is cash only and they only accept one form of currency. This may seem like common sense, but I once brought some weird relatives there, who tried to pay the bill with €30 and 8USD. This was before I reminded them that just like the rest of the first world, this European restaurant will only take it’s home country’s currency and we’d have to hit an ATM like a normal human being.

I’ve only been to Can Nabo once, but their braised rabbit was really good. Also their menu del dia is available at night and is only €6, which means Sarah and I each had a three-course-dinner with drinks for €12. I just broke that down in case you were unable to multiple 6 by 2, the trick was the “3” in three-course meal was not actually part of the equation. You’re welcome.

Also, if you’re a drug/hot dog kingpin reading this from the secret lair inside The Dog Is Hot and you want to make sure the feds or rival drug/hot dog dealers are not in a Barnawood restaurant before you try it out yourself. Well fear not because their site has a live video stream from the inside of each restaurant.


I apologize to all five of you who were eagerly awaiting a restaurant review post, but I was on strike with the rest of the country -- and I was out taking pictures of all the destruction.

While 90% of the protesters were peaceful in their marches against labor reform, the other 10% brought the senseless ruckus.

You can view all my pictures from 29M (which stands for 29th of March) here and I've run a few of my favorites below.

According to the mayor 300 of these trash containers were burned.

I liked taking photos of BCN's traffic control signs pointing out the obvious, "Center city traffic is restricted because of protests", as in the photo below.

The same goes for this picture.

This one reminds me of the paintball-mode cheat code for Nintendo 64's Goldeneye 007.

Anarchists. Ruthless enough to destroy your bank. Kind enough to carefully not desecrate the picture of the girl with Down Syndrome.
These guys (the anarchists, not people with Down Syndrome) were dedicated though, as I was a few miles away from downtown and every single street-side ATM was destroyed.

This photo came out nicely. I couldn't understand 90% of the protesters chants, so Sarah gets the quote of the day with, "I don't like this. I've only seen civic unrest in the first version of The Sims."

If you're wondering if I made up for missing out on Tucson's '97 and '01 basketball-related riots by wearing my Cats shorts yesterday. Don't worry I beared down.

I also got to check off "being in a riot" from my bucket list. I was careful to not get directly in the center of the action, but even getting near it was a bit scary as the riot police in BCN don't use pepper spray but instead disperse crowds by driving their tank-style trucks full speed at crowds. A tactic which results in crowds of running in every which direction at any given moment. Somehow the police only arrested 41 people, which seems awful low in my mind.

Any shop that foolishly tried to stay open during the strike was met with a crowd of protesters who would scream and throw shit at the shop until it closed down. In some cases patrons were essentially trapped in cafes. Other shops would stay open with their gate down, only letting in customers one at a time.

Throughout the day I referred to the city as Summer Streets, a reference to NYC's Summer Streets, which is Park Avenue is closed to traffic and only open to pedestrians and cyclists. BCN's 29M Streets closed almost the entire downtown to traffic, allowing Sarah and I to roll through the entire downtown on streets that are normally heavily congested.

If you want to lose more faith in humanity, you can watch a video of BCN's main train station being ransacked. The video also features one brave train station worker regaining his footing after being sprayed down, only to be knocked out right afterward....Here's the local paper's photo gallery. Check the rest of my photos.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comida Chronicals Part I

I’m going to start writing up all the restaurants I’ve been to over my first three months in Barcelona. Furthermore I’m going to set the bar way too high with my first entry, which I doubt I’ll be able to top.

Pizzas L'Avia 
Barrio: El Raval 
Address: Carrer La Cera 33
Price Range: Insanely Cheap

Like most my love affairs, this one was spawned by cheap empanadas, a mountain of which are piled inside the front window to L'Avia to allure passersby like a cute puppy that’s loaded with juicy ground beef and shaped like a half moon. OK, so maybe it’s not that similar to a puppy.

And like any relationship, L’Avia and I have had our ups and downs, such as when they unexpectedly raised their prices from €1.20 to €1.30 per empanada. I decided to let this sly as Mario was the first to introduce me to crema Catalana, which is the exact same as Crème brûlée, so I figure I owed him one. 

In addition to said empanadas, the fun is in trying to figure each other out. And with the shop’s owner, Mario, there is a lot to figure out. 

Mario’s a portly, bald-headed old Uruguayan who is always there, an impressive feat, since it’s one of the few spot in BCN that’s seems to never close. It's open until 1 am or later six days a week for lunch and dinner with no siestas. It wasn’t until my third visit that I noticed the collection of books sitting on top of the glass cooler showcasing what appears to be every kind of Latin food known to man. 

The books were all written by Mario Mariano Pérez Ruiz. For a moment I wondered if the same man who bakes 12 different kinds of empanadas and cracks jokes at everyone who walks in his restaurant could also be the author of books dissecting the Voynich Manuscript, Pythagoras, Free Mason Society, as well as a collection of short stories he collected while the Barcelona metro system. Then I poked inside one of his book’s jackets to find a picture of the same bald-headed, bespectacled man that stood behind the counter. 

I was not really sure where to go from here, except obviously to Google, which first revealed that although he has a complex understanding of any and all conspiracies related to the pyramid on the back of American dollar bill, his web design skills – or ability to find someone to design his website – are not quite on the same level. 

Secondly I found an interview with Mario, which would be an extremely dense read in English and has proved even more challenging to read in Spanish.

I’ve roughly translated excerpts to understand he’s initiated into the Freemasony and… well I’ll just let this speak for itself.
Miquel: But that is remote viewing ...
Mario: Yes. The above time remote viewing is the geometric figure. And there is another association secret in the U.S. that uses this method to travel in time and space. To leave the body ... prove to be true are asked to bring a little order there. And if there are cases.
Miguel: Yeah of course ....
Mario: No documentation but if there are cases. When Noriega, before entering his house, did astral travel to see what's there. He described that conformed to what is found when they entered.
Again I’m not sure I’d be able to fully grasp all this if it was written in perfect English. I obviously have so many questions, mainly where he finds time to write these novels while he works 100 hours a week.

Additionally I found a Spanish-written blog that echoed my experience with L’Avia to a T. At the end of his post he writes:
Releo todo esto. Temo por mi vida. Me siento rodeado. Lamentablemente, debo regresar por otro alfajor más. Puede ser una trampa, lo sé, pero no tengo otra opción. Iré mañana. Recen por mí.
I reread all this (in reference the aforementioned interview). I fear for my life. I am surrounded. Unfortunately, I must return for another sweet dessert. It can be a trap, I know, but I have no choice. I'll go tomorrow. Pray for me.

Sure I miss my Lower East Side empanadas, which came with a side of Boricua slang, but it turns out conspiracy intellect complements the savory pastries just as well. Plus L'Avia sells bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon or champagne for €4.50. I really can’t afford not to eat here. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

London, Bristol & Slide Rocks

Some times you want go to a place where everybody knows your name. Other times you’ll settle for a place where two people know your name.

The latter is exactly why I went to England, the only place in Europe where someone actually knows me (aside from the person I'm engaged to). Also, the whole wanting-to-see-England-at-some-point-in-my-life thing motivated the trip.

In an effort to not forget where I came from, I used an American invention called the airplane to get from Barcelona to London. Then I took a grip of public transit to get from London Gatwick to my friend Carl’s apartment at 2:30 am.

In addition to knowing my name, Carl is a super nice person, who gave me a lot of sight-seeing advice despite the fact that he had to be up and ready for work at 6 am. Once I got up, I hit the first-time-in-the-city staples of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Both got an "ehh" from me, but that might just because I'm from a land where Big Bens generally suck.

Then I walked into what I thought was Tate Modern, but really was Tate Britain. The highlight was a massive concave mirror that flipped everything backward (or in mirror-talk would it be an “un-mirror image?”) and upside down. It’s true what they say about funhouse mirrors being much better in Britain.

After a heavy-ass porkchop meal paired with a local chocolate milk, I headed to the Imperial War Museum. The museum featured a walk-through trench warfare exhibit, which was fun. They also had a room that shook so you could feel what it was like to be in a bunker during a German blitzkrieg attack. The old adage about NFL Blitz ’99 being more fun than a simulated blitzkrieg attack also rings true.

I then bounced to Camden, which I felt was just like NYC’s St. Mark’s Place, except it was 20 times St. Mark's size and lacked a pair of 2 Bros. It did have a shitty pizza stand that sold me some deliciously mediocre garlic bread, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I spent the next day in Carl’s neighborhood of Haggerston, home to Haggerston Park, which is home to Hackney City Farm, which is home to some interesting livestock. After observing the collection of sows and goats, I watched a little kid chase after a hen, which was even more adorable than it sounds.

Before exiting the farm, I picked up a pair of Hackney City Farm mugs for Carl as a thanks-for-giving-me-a-roof-to-sleep-under/house-warming gift, and I picked up a HCF t-shirt for myself. If you find yourself wondering if this is the same Hackney London that is the hometown of Idris Elba who played Stringer Bell on the The Wire, well you’d be correct. You’d also be right in thinking that the street cred of the mugs and shirt has sky-rocketed (on the streed cred index that exists in my head) since I learned they can be loosely associated with Stringer Bell.

After leaving the farm, I sat on a bench and watched 7-year-olds play soccer. Their coach made the entire trip to London worth it as he stood in midfield instructing the kids while chain smoking. I really wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t have my camera on me. I also realized it’s probably best not to take a picture of a group of 7-year-old boys you have no relation to.

Post park, Carl and his girlfriend walked me along a canal which recently turned up actress’ torso. Fortunately I was able to concentrate on the innocent little kids chasing hens and not lose my faith in world where brother mutilate their siblings before dumping them in canals. That is until those innocent little kids grow up to be Stringer Bell.

After a quick bout of canal mourning we loaded up on a silly amount of delicious food from a farmer’s market and enjoyed the spoils of our foodie tour with a picnic in the park. Carl and I then tossed a frisbee back and forth and talked about great TV shows. I then had some epiphany about how I can hang out with friends in England and talk about TV or sit on my mom's couch and talk about TV. The epiphany is still only 25% thought out.

That night I bounced to Bristol, to meet up with my former roommate in Buenos Aires, Tom, who's actually a Scot who lives in England. On Tom’s Wikipedia page that exists solely in my head, he’s listed as the only one of my friend’s that I’ve seen on three continents.

If you’ve ever spent a lot of time at an office job reading New York Times 36 Hours in ____, and fantasized about traveling to a non-major city that doesn’t have a whole lot to do but has some pretty things to look at, well Bristol would be a good place to start your travels.

It’s also true that you don’t really get Massive Attack or Portishead until you’ve been to Bristol. Even if your only familiarity with both groups comes from Wiki-ing Bristol and realizing both groups are from Bristol. The same goes for Banksy. And to a lesser extent suspension bridges over gorges.

Tom lives in the neighborhood of Stokescroft, which is famous for the Tesco riots, which occurred when the chain grocery store opened in the uber-indie neighborhood. Please enjoy these photos from the riot. There is also a massive mural encouraging everyone to boycott the Tesco, because, hey, 93% of everyone is doing it…

As a long-time advocate of chain grocery stores, I visited the Tesco. However I later atoned by having a meal at Cafe Kino, a vegan restaurant co-op where the workers volunteer their time. I still don’t get it. And the food was pretty much sucked. If you’re in Stokescroft, I’d recommend sticking to the six-pack of cinnamon-raisin bagels from Tesco, it’s a much better bang for your buck.

Bristol claims to be the most bike-friendly town in England. And it was, except that I had difficulty going against 25 years of instincts that tell me to look out for cars coming from the right side of the road. I really could have used that mirror from London that flips everything around, but I somehow managed to survive without it.

Biking along Bristol’s docks is very pretty, as is having a pint on the Grain Barge while the sun sets.

I also cycled along the Bristol-to-Bath bikepath, which aside from rhyming nicely, is a very easy 14-mile ride connecting the two towns. Bath is famous for its Roman bath, which was better than I thought it would be despite the fact that you cannot actually bathe in the bath. The rest of Bath is rather lame and filled with tourist-trap shit geared toward 60-year-old women.

Somehow I lived 20+ years in Arizona, yet never went to Slide Rock. Yet within 24 hours of being in Bristol, I hit up their slide rock, which isn’t quite as pretty as Sedona’s, but it does have the suspension bridge backdrop.

This is my first encounter with slide art.

This is some bullshit Greenway in London that doesn't have a 64th St. or Fry's.

This is a photo of a photo of a man eating eel. I ate eel in London, but not like that.

I like that they board up housing project windows with faces.

A pretty dock in Bristol.


Roman Bath in Bath.

Wow. What an exquisite early Banksy piece.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Illuminating Interview

Here's my
Gelf Magazine interview with professional funny person Mark Sam Rosenthal. Mark Sam's a Comedy Central writer, who also makes plays that look good from the short YouTube highlights I've seen.

The concept behind his most recent play I Light Up My Life is brilliant. Despite having starred in a Travelocity commercial (which only ran in the UK, and recently was declared the 44th gayest ad ever) and acted in a porno, Mark Sam still hadn't quite "made it big" (in the "become a mega-celebrity" way, not in reference to his porn career. Aaayyoo). So Mark Sam decided to create his own glowing preemptive celebrity autobiography and then adapt the novel -- one that only exists in his head -- into a play that would further glorify his life.

I didn't know about his play when I lived in NYC, which is unfortunate. Especially my last theater experience left a bad taste in my mouth as when I went to see Killing John Grisham, it was actually really good, despite my general disdain for theater. The terrible part is that Killing John Grisham was written by a kid my age, which of course made me resent him and hate myself for not having accomplished what he had. Even worse, I wrote KJG's creator, who is Sarah's friend, a very complimentary Facebook message. The bastard never wrote me back. All that to say I wish my last NYC play could have been Mark Sam's and not the other guy's... and I'm still bitter.

Tangent aside, Mark Sam is really nice, not just because he wrote me back... well mainly because he wrote me back and made for a entertaining interview. Additionally the article also let me work in one of my favorite shitty-and-vaguely homophobic jokes, which I got to use in that beautiful window that was right after New York legalized gay marriage and before I got engaged. A time when I could tell Sarah that I never wanted to get married because "that shit is for homos." Let the record show that I'm all for homosexuals and I hope they one day have the same amount, if not more, rights than heterosexuals -- I was just very fond of my own joke, thus proving why I should leave all humor to professional comedians.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

For Cambridge & K.R.I.T.

I know absolutely nothing about the rapper Big K.R.I.T., except that my friend Cambridge Steve really, really likes him; and that K.R.I.T.’s Wikipedia page is underwhelming by a rapper’s standards.

I'm not sure Steve still reads my blog because 1) it’s hard to follow a site that sporadically updates every two years, and 2) Steve goes to med school at Penn. So I imagine my infrequent gibberish takes a backseat to the more pressing issues of exams and listening to K.R.I.T.’s bevy of mixtapes.

However, if Steve or Big K.R.I.T. are reading this, I want you both to know that I’m thinking of you as I snack on these surprisingly buttery Krititas.

I’m also thinking about assembling a coffee table book composed of the silliest entries on rappers’ Wikipedia pages. But I’m more focused on figuring out where my next bottle of Krititas will come from.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Boring Baloncesto

Because up-to-the-second sports updates are for suckers, here is a recount from a meaningless game I went to 40 days ago. Yes, Ricky Rubio used to play for this team, he doesn't any more, but his picture is still better than anything I shot from the game.

Upon walking into the Palau Blaugrana, a badly dated stadium that sits in the shadows of the gigantic football stadium Camp Nou, you get the feeling that even though the basketball club, and every sport under the FCB umbrella, share the mantra "Mes Que Un Club;" really they're all a bit more "Menos Que Un Club" in comparison to the one that counts Leo Messi as its star.

But I'm a basketball fan first and living on a tight budget as well, so it made sense to see a basketball game, before I dove into the madness of FC Barcelona soccer/fútbol/futbol. This is despite the fact that the biggest star currently on the FCB basketball roster is Juan Carlos Navarro. The man spent just one year in the NBA playing for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, where he averaged 10.9 points and some other boring stats. But more importantly it was there that he played under Marc Iavaroni, whose son once jammed out in high school guitar sessions with my friend Sep. Boom! Five degrees of separation.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t get to see Juan Carlos as he was sitting the game out because the Liga-leading FCB were playing the league's shittiest team, UCAM Murcia (as of today they're 17th in the 18-team league).

I bought the cheapest ticket figuring I'd be able to upgrade my seat once I got in, but the Catalans are crafty I tell ya, and I was sat in a section that was separated by a 20-foot jump from the rest of the stadium. My seat was directly next to Sang Culé, one of two crazed fan sections loaded with flags, drums, and people who gave much more of a shit about the game than everyone else in the stadium.

The game itself was wildly boring. UCAM Murcia kept it close for the first five minutes before FCB’s B-squad began blowing them out. The only player on FCB who was fun to watch was CJ Wallace, not Biggie’s kid, but rather an anglo-looking dude who went to Princeton. He was the only American on the team, and appropriately enough, he was the only one to be wearing a silly arm sleeve. The only other thing of note for the game was that FCB’s roster includes Boniface N’Dong, which I guess is kinda funny.

FCB lead by 40+ for most of the game. I tried talking to this guy next to me about the team and basketball in Barcelona. The guy was more concerned with telling me about the time his 14-year-old son made six consecutive threes for his high school. And honestly that tale was much more exciting than anything we saw on the court that night.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Circ Training

“Are you a professional circus performer?” asked the receptionist of La Central del Circ.

“No,” I responded, just before I died a little bit inside.

I never thought I wanted to be a circus performer, but that was until I discovered Barcelona’s circus performer training center tucked in El Parc del Forum. It was there that my eyes were opened to a world where people swing from giant hula hoops suspended 30 feet in the air, or dangle themselves from giant ropes over foam pits that I thought only existed in Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory.

I grabbed every brochure available at La Central, then made a resolve (that I’ll probably not keep) to one day try out the guest pass that the kind receptionist told me was available to circus pros as well as mortals.

I left the building astounded and terribly frustrated that I was not a part of this not-so secret society. Everyone there was so happy. It’s the only part of Barcelona where nobody locks their bikes because circus performers don’t steal from one another and it would be stupid to try to steal a member's bike because you can’t escape from somebody on stilts.

I began venting my frustration toward Sarah, who wears the oversized-inseam pants that are popular here. I resorted back to middle-school derogatory terms and called her a poser for dressing like the hippie performers despite her inability to balance herself on one arm.

Then I channeled my anger into a massive hamster wheel that sits just outside La Central. More so than the shitty education, I’m upset that the US school system didn’t provide every school with a human-sized hamster wheel.

But wait El Parc del Forum tiene mas!!! I’m yet to visit the park on a weekend or in season, but every time I go, I'm blown away.

It has a ridiculously big urban obstacle course.

A faux-halfpipe that stretches for a mile.

That really impressive solar panel pictured in the top of this post.

A zipline that pulls wakeboarders. If I don't become a circus performer (something that has 100% chance of happening), I'd be happy to be the guy who sits on the water all day, listening to rap music, while controlling the zipline. His job seemed really nice.

An overpriced ride that involves rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball.

My friend here told me the whole park was built for an art installation that featured a four-story-tall robot, but Google and Wikipedia can’t back this claim up (however there is good stuff in here). I’m also a little weary because if Spain ever got their hands on Robosaurus technology, I’m pretty sure it would have been a big story in the States.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Donkeys, Dancing & Hot Dogs

I haven't a clue how someone could ever throw out such a lovable-looking stuffed donkey. But at least they gave it a nice final resting place.

If you enjoy The Hora, but feel it is an elitist dance meant only for those privileged enough to have access to chairs... well then, you'll love La Sardana. Catalunya's regional dance involves all the fun of circular formations made by holding hands, but with far more limited movement, and none of that chair bullshit.

My first interaction with the exotic dance began when I noticed a band of 10 wind instruments set up in a plaza. Actually, I don't quite remember if there were exactly 10 wind instruments, but Wikipedia tells me that's the norm, so let's roll with it. Just as the music began 20 senior citizens plopped their jackets and purses in a pile and joined hands to begin La Sardana. Just so it's clear, when I say "20 senior citizens," I mean old people, not 20 men with the last name "Citizen."

Soon after the music began, Dave Chappelle's an-instrument-for-every-race theory promptly went into effect. Upon hearing the sound of exactly 10 wind instruments, Catalans crept from every corner to join hands and shuffle their feet about. The highlight was a cane-toting old lady who stood just outside the group doing the dance by herself. When their was a momentary break in the song, she threw her cane in the middle and joined in. We all wept tears of joy.

I finally ate at The Dog Is Hot today. This has been something I have been meaning to do for two months now, but all my previous efforts to eat there were foiled by the powerful force known as "Fuck it, I'll just eat a pb&j sandwich and save some money."

I got the Texas Dog (barbacoa, cebolla frita, queso fundido, y bacon) and the Sampa Dog (pure de patatas, maiz, cebolla frita, queso fundido, y patatas paja). Sarah got a chili dog, which is shown on the right. Both were exceptionally good.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Santa Butano

I half-wrote this blog three weeks ago. But now I'm running it now to create some Lost-style tangled timeline. Enjoy.

Sarah and I recently moved from our El Raval digs to a two-bedroom apartment in El Borne. We were quite excited to move from our studio in Raval to a spacious spot in the more upscale barrio of Borne, but we neglected to acknowledge the fact that we were moving into an place with no central heat.

We got instantly screwed when a Siberian cold front slapped us in the face with blistering cold for our first two weeks in the new spot. I quickly learned the life lesson that while an extra bedroom is good for 1) storing empty suitcases 2) hammering out ~60 pushups and ~100 crunches when I want to get ripped but don't feel comfortable getting ripped in front of Sarah (this is an event that occurs once every two weeks, because any more would be overkill), the said bedroom won't keep you warm at night. Or during the day. Or any time.

The house came with a butane-tank powered space heater, which would have been nice if our subletters didn't leave us with an empty tank. My reaction was to buy a couple of shitty, small electronic space heaters instead of investing in one large one. This didn't turn out to be my smartest move ever, but the heaters worked. Sort of.

Finally after days of carrying space heaters from room to room and wearing no less than four layers at any given time, we got more butane... and that's where this story gets mind-bogglingly awesome, at least in my humble opinion.

Getting butane in Spain is not the easiest feet. Well actually it is. But before I get to why it is and istn't, let me rewind one month into a mythical time when I was living in El Raval. Every day while sitting at home, either being sick, having the same existential crisis I could/would be having at an office desk, and/or generally enjoying myself and actually realizing how great Barcelona is, I'd hear an inaudible chant. The scream came at all hours of the day. At first I thought it was futbol related, then I thought it might be mosque-y.

Finally one day I was outside and I heard the chant, I immediately stopped an old lady and asked her what this mysterious chanting dude was saying.

She told me he was selling butane and yelling "Betano" because he couldn't pronounce "Butano." Mystery solved. This felt especially great because when you have no job and next to no purpose in life, you got to take the small victories when you can. Deciphering the chant... Solid. Spending the entire day to run an errand that I would've achieved during my lunch break at work... Fuck yeah. The time I found a 1-euro coin on the ground. I'm really killing it!

Yet during my time in Raval, the daily chants of "Betano" meant nothing to me, since I had central heating and didn't own a hot air balloon.

Before we got our current apartment and before the deep freeze of 2012, the subletter explained that I'd be needing to get Butano to power the stove, hot water heater, and space heater. It was a fairly simple process, listen for Sr. Butano, call him up the apartment, don't by any means let him in the apartment, give him a cup of water (if you're feeling kind), and give him 20 euros.

Yet somehow we could never track down Sr. Butano. Days would pass and we'd never hear him. Or we'd hear the loud clinking -- in Borne, the Butano guys have evolved past chanting, to banging a wrench against the dull-orange steel tanks -- and I'd jump onto our terrace only to not be able to see the guy.

Finally on one faithful day, the stars aligned in the same beautiful way those four carbon atoms align with 10 hydrogen atoms, and Sr. Butano was on my block the same time I was home. I heard the loud clanking, quickly leapt for the balcony, and contacted him from six floors up. The last time I was this giddy was just before I bit into my final Chic-Fil-A sandwich in the States.

Within moments of buzzing him in, the featherweight guy had ascended six flights of steep steps to arrive at my door. I still have no fucking clue how he got up so quickly while carrying an insanely heavy steel tank.

As instructed I had a glass of water waiting for him. He gave me the tank. I handed him the empty one and a 20 bill. It was like some kind of reverse Santa where instead of coming down the chimney, this magical man came up 96 steps.

Maybe it was because the deep freeze altered our brains, but this was one of the greatest experiences of our short Spanish trip. I was amazed he drank the water and everything worked exactly as our subletter said it would. Sarah was amazed we'd have heat. The whole process was entirely too much fun. Sarah asked if we could buy butano every day. If only we could.

Now we have an underwhelming butane space heater that works about the same as the electric space heaters, except now I get to worry about what continuously inhaling butane fumes is doing to my brain. All I can do is pray that never corrects the out of control saratonin levels that Sr. Butano induced.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A • M • I • G • O • S

Sarah and I have no friends. At least none that live in the same country as us. We'd like to have friends because we only talk to each other and it's gotten to the point where I often have conversations with inanimate objects around the apartment. This isn't so bad because some times I practice my Spanish with the washing machine, but it's still far from ideal.

Besides our supremely high standards for any form of an acquaintance, our lack of friends comes from me being an introvert and the language barrier constantly foiling Sarah's outgoingness. Also the fact that we stay in most nights and watch The Wire doesn't help. I've been to two MeetUp.com meet-ups in hopes of making a friend, but both the events kinda sucked in my humble opinion.

I've made a semi-friend in the form of a local art gallery owner who's originally from California. He's a really, really nice guy, but he's got two kids, a real life, and is almost twice my age , which means he probably doesn't have the time or interest to sit around and breakdown every lyric of Murs' 3:16 The 9th Edition.

But Sarah and I almost have a friend in Kia, who we met two weeks ago at a grow shop, which is of course the best place to meet new friends. She's Italian, but speaks fluent English, so we can communicate easily. After Sarah and her talked for a while, the two exchanged numbers, which meant we might actually see her again.

The following Monday Sarah texted her to invite her over for dinner. Then we anxiously waited... and waited for a response, getting to relive all the pre-relationship fun of intensely over thinking a text message.

Finally she responded and said she couldn't do dinner, but she'd come over afterward. Perhaps we were too forward with the dinner invite. Maybe she wasn't ready for a full-on dinner date. Either way we were ecstatic that she at least wanted to hang out with us, so we played it cool by waiting a good 20 minutes before texting her back.

Then she out-cooled us, by not texting back until 9:30 that night to let us know she was on her way. I'm not sure how else to break down the fascinating facts I learned about Kia, than by jotting down a "Top 7 Interesting Things About Kia List."

7. She says "Mama Mia!" a lot. I didn't think real-life Italians, let alone ones that weren't fat old ladies, actually said "Mama Mia!"

6. She spent good part of the night telling us about some Avatar-style Italians who live in trees and fight the government.

5. She couldn't do dinner because she was fasting for Shiva, a Hindu holiday that apparently forbids eating.

4. She grew up in Turin, Italy but has since lived in Copenhagen, Berlin, and various parts of Spain. Her primary factor in determining where she lives is the country's laws concerning marijuana.

3. She chain smokes weed, hash, or hash-and-weed joints. I've met people who smoke all of the aforementioned drugs, but I've never met anyone who immediately lights another joint after smoking her fourth in 30 minutes.

2. In a manner that can only be related to the way magician pulls a 20-foot-long tissue out of his pocket, Kia sat down, then began to pull at least 10 different bags of pot, hash, and pre-rolled joints from various parts of her bra.

1. She has not gone to school since she was 16. Now at the age of 26, she's going back to school for the first time. What kind of school you ask? A music production/DJ academy in Ibiza.

Sarah and I still are not sure if Kia actually wants to be our friend or just our drug dealer, but either way we're going to keep buying grams off her 5 euro at a time until she stops hanging out with us.