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.