Welcoming 2011 in Barcelona

Along La Ramblas

Between dinner and the New Year the heart of Barcelona has been barricaded. Cops in yellow vests stand in pairs, checking bags, behaviour and drunken mishaps. The shift has just kicked in; the cops still have a sense of humour. They laugh and joke. “Happy New Year,” I call out, zipping my bag shut. “Same to you!” he answers like he means it, before turning away to argue with a man who doesn’t understand him.

On Placa Catalunya
They sit with many others along the edge of the fountain. She has salt and pepper shoulder length hair. He has a short silver crop. They are dressed in that simple but effortless manner of the rich. I wonder why they are out on the square and not in an ornate, warm room. Like the others, they too hold plastic glasses, filled with a dark liquid – maybe wine, maybe something stronger. They sit quietly, sipping their drink and people watching; when they catch the other’s eye, they smile.

Off Placa Catalunya
A drunken girl, American by accent, is dressed in an off-shoulder dress and nothing warm. She stops at a crossing and leans into the man she is with. Her movements are as slurred as her words, “I so love it that we are here right now!” The man, not American, and not very interested, answers her glossy puckered lips with an impassive, “uhuh.”

Near Barri Gotić
“Go vomit, and then come back and I take you.” He looks like an old hippie forced into ´regular´ clothes. “If you vomit,” he goes on, “you pay me 200 Euros.” 200 Euros for a 7 Euro cab ride. “200 Euros or I call police.” Still unsure if this is a joke, we agree. On the way to the apartment he tells us about his colleagues driving cabs stained by thrown-up bits around the city. “I’m sorry, but I hope you understand why I demand this.” We roll down the window, take gulps of fresh winter air. We don’t throw up. It’s a good start to 2011.

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