I attached my sunrise-viewing plans the way environmental legislation is tucked away on page 200 of a war bill. Maybe if I masked my plan of waiting in the mountains until 7 A.M. to watch the sunlight flood Barcelona as a wild night of club-hopping then I could find people to go with me to kill the time.
My plans that night single-handedly summed up the good and down sides to backpacking in Europe on your own. On the bright side if you want to wait in the residential mountainside to watch the sun come up, then no one’s going to stop you. But on the down side, no one’s going to come with you.
Unleashing a blitzkrieg of bad jokes and semi-amusing travel stories throughout the youth hostel turned up a group of three Dutch travelers spending a weekend away from college. I wonder if Europeans appreciate the fact that if you want to take a quick jaunt to anywhere else in Europe for the weekend then you, well, can. I don’t think a conversation like that’s ever taken place in the U.S.: “Hey I’m having a kegger this weekend, you down?” “Love to, but I just got invited to the Riviera for the day, how about on Sunday?” “Yeah, I’ll have a new keg by then.”
The Dutch kids I met were two attractive girls and a nerdy guy and it was nice to see that being the “hanger-on-friend who’s like her brother, who desperately wants to sleep with his female friends but is too nice of a friend,” I had met my European counterpart. One of the girls’ names looked like it had started out as Mary but then went through an affirmative action program to use the least used letters in English. The guy’s name, if it were a word, would be used to lay a death blow in any Scrabble game and the other girls’ name was Anna. Anna looked like Jessica Simpson if she came from a country where everyone looks like Jessica Simpson.
I Name that Tune bluffed them to saying they could hang out as late as 4 A.M. If the city was anywhere close the party town it was rumored to be, there’d surely be someplace open where I could kill the last three hours. Figuring I’d be left alone for a good amount of time I stuffed a small notebook in my pocket so I could practice looking like a writer.
Being a white, geeky, Northeastern Jewish writer, techno clubs are my natural habitat as much as your average Cops suspect in the Yale Club. But it was vacation, it was Spain, there were girls, it was fun and, besides, cynical jokes rooted in nebbishness don’t translate to Spanish well. We danced and drank and had a better time than I ever would have imagined (there’s probably a moral there). Before I knew it, half the night had been killed and it was time for Hey You, Hey You and Anna to leave.
On our way out we got a flyer for a nearby club open all night but I failed to convince the others to come along. I marched up the gravel path and arrived at what looked like a teenager’s millionaire parents were gone for the weekend and decided to throw a party, but greasy older people had gotten word. Being American seemed to excuse my failure to match the dress code and I stumbled into a Spanish dive bar: a lively dance club with beautiful people and energetic music. I grabbed a beer, I found a corner, I took out my notebook and that weird guy who sits in the corner of clubs and bars creeping out all the happy people was finally me.
I still had about two more hours until the sunrise I wanted to catch from the mountains, so I honed in on the paper and started what would surely be the next great American novel: “Blah blah blah, me so drunk…drunk-o, bebo mucho cerveza, donde esta my friends-o, estoy un loser baby, una hora until el sol esta in my face-o, Spanish, beer, booze, it’s cheap, cheap-o, dancing booze beer blaaaahhhh,”
The prose was rudely interrupted by a mustached man in his thirties who looked like he’d be vanquished by Antonio Banderes. He had a partying demeanor and said something probably along the lines of, “Why is this dance club inspiring a diary entry?” No one told me before this trip that Catalan, not the Spanish I learned in school, is the language of Barcelona. I tried blurting out, “Estoy esperar hasta el sol en la mañana,” but he responded with the comprehending nod and laugh that one gives when they don’t understand a foreigner.
I returned to my Hemmingway impression but was interrupted five minutes later by a waitress placing a beer in front of me. I looked up confused but she was already gesturing towards dance club man who was gave the Spanish equivalent of the thumbs up from the bar on the far side of the room. I shrugged and tried to use body language to convey “Thanks, but not gay, but cool with it if you are,” and probably did a bad job.
I tried unearthing the Spanish classes I never thought I’d need (Yo no soy homosexual, I am not gay permanently; Yo no estoy homosexual, I am not gay tonight. I’d need to remember this), but the man never tried hitting on me.
Instead, three beautiful women suddenly joined me in my corner as though I had just been invaded by the VIP area. They spoke to me in English as well as I could speak Spanish, but it didn’t matter because anything I said was met with an uproar of laughter.
“Me gusta mi viaje,” I said like reading from a textbook. I was met with a round of laughs, smiles, girls’ hands brushing across my legs, looks of admiration and more free drinks from the man who was now pointing to us while talking to the bartender like he owned the place, and that’s when it dawned on me.
“Anything you want, is free,” the hulking bartender said in his best impression of being nice. More girls joined us, more free drinks came our way, I was literally the center of the party when the man walked past one more time and gestured at the notebook, “Buena revista, si?”
Revista…revista…review! Good review. The guy was the owner all along and took a foreigner writing alone in his late-night bar as a travel reporter.
“Si, amigo,” I replied before stumbling out of the bar armed with confidence and phone numbers just in time to watch one of the most beautiful sunrises in my life.