Adiós Catalonia

It’s been thirty-eight years since I rambled around Ramblas, twice on vacation from Vienna. It’s pretty much the main street of downtown Barcelona, a wide thoroughfare mainly for walking and eating and being seen. A central promenade flanked by two narrow, one-way streets on either side for vehicles like delivery trucks and such, the left one going down the street towards the Christopher Columbus statue, and the right one going up to Plaza Catalunia. All along are cafes and shops of every kind, and on the promenade part are occasional carts selling books, flowers, birds and tourist miscellanea.
This is where I attended a small and short riot one night about 9:00PM – police in vans against marchers armed with Molotov cocktails and Socialist Workers Brigade banners. The marchers came chanting down one of the narrow side-streets and flooded onto the promenade, spreading their banners and making the usual Socialist noise – you could tell by the cadence who they were, but the banners helped. Local Spaniards seeing this scattered and ran down the streets like a flock of birds, ladies pushing baby carriages, men in suits running. The Police showed up to contain the demonstration, driving their trucks straight up onto the walking area. One group furled its banner and went up into a building, to emerge on the roof-deck waving the banner and throwing Molotov cocktails down at the police vans. Four or five flaming missiles in all. I ducked into a shop doorway to observe, and was joined by an excited Swiss guy who exclaimed he had been shot (at) by the Police. He wanted me to check his eye where a fragment of a rubber bullet had ricocheted. He had a minor red mark on his cheek and was basically OK, but insisted, “They can’t do this to me, I’m Swiss!” After the excitement had died down and the people had re-emerged, we went into a bar for a shot of cognac and espresso – an early Spanish precursor to Red Bull and Vodka. It was an exciting night.
And I’ll probably never return.

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Sun! (and travel)

The bi-polar weather around here is amazing, with a big difference between the Western Slope and the Bay – but the days are getting longer by the minute, and daffodils are in bloom everywhere up here, including on The Embankment at the Ranch.
Drove down Tuesday and spent part of Wednesday with Dad until he got tired of me being there, literally. We spent the evening wading into the piles of paperwork on the kitchen table, figuring out the different accounts and how the money flowed, and sending email notices to far-flung friends. I grilled a steak on my grill-pan that I had brought with me, and it turned out very nice. We talked as we went through the papers, and we choked-up only a few times.
He went to bed early while I stayed up till about 11:00PM when I found a missing link to one past-due billing notice (Mom was correct and they have to fix it), and the soon-due Property Tax bill.
In the morning I got up at 6:00 and went down-stairs to dig-out the coffee-maker and brew a small pot of coffee – and I kept at the paperwork: medical stuff into one stack, billing statements and receipts into another, and Tax documents into a separate basket – and to-shred stuff into a large bin. Dad got up around 7:00 and said it was the first time he had been able to sleep-in that late in years.
We went into the living room and more cleanup began, mostly of old India stuff, but including a discussion about the old derelict 90’s-era TV in the corner which he wanted removed, and identified a few more things to haul-out: an old broken printer and a non-functional garage-sale “shredder” of the old “strip-style” that Mom had acquired. We got the property tax bill written-out and just needed two things – stamps and a working shredder. So we went to Costco.
He used the cart as a walker helping to keep upright in the bright outdoor sunshine, moving from the truck to the brightly lit and bustling interior, but the input of sensations and the effort was a bit much and he got tired. We paused and sat on a metal bench by the Pharmacy. He noted how the powder-coated metal bench would leave grill-marks on your ass after a short sit-down and was NOT the kind of memorial bench we might get for Mom… With a stamp on the bill we went to a late lunch at the Fishmarket, we both got the light-eater’s plate, skewer of rockfish with sliced tomatoes. He mentioned that I might run into traffic traveling home, and I said, “So you had enough of me?” I think I just wore him out, so we took our leftovers and went home.
I loaded the truck with the heavy old 30″ tube-TV and the other stuff, threw a tarp over it, said our good-byes and drove off, wading into the awful-awful terrible BayAryan afternoon rush-hour traffic. At 3:45 It was a parking lot all the way through Milpitas, and my gas gauge showed 1/4 tank as I rolled along at 10mph for mile after mile. Got to Pleasanton and filled-up and hit the road again where things were marginally better, 30mph-ish with bursts up to 50mph. This is awful “togetherness” is shit I do not miss. Eventually things cleared up even more in the EastBay, and getting over the bridge at Benicia the traffic was flowing pretty good at 75mph and better all the way past Dixon, through Davis where the cops were out ticketing (two cars), across the flooded Yolo Bypass, through the dismal bustle of Sacramento, and up into the hills to home at 7:45.