Normally I wouldn’t do this; I’m sure I’m going to regret having told you all my secret weakness for hooking me into a professional assignment. But it’s a story and it was too blatant to ignore. Someone must know so, well, ok, then. I’ll tell you.
When I hear my boss talking crazy like this, it grabs my attention savagely:
“I need you to go to Barcelona. Now, I know this is really last notice, but a client needs asolutionarchitectblahblahblah whateverwhateverwhatever. But it’s in Barcelona. Would you be able to be there next week?”
Oh major software company with giant appetite for revenue.
When will you learn?
You had me at “Barcelona”. I mean, I know that this is probably just the begging and that a year from now I’ll be choosing which European capitals are good enough for me and which are not…but are you kidding? At this point I’d staple my tongue to an alligator for 5 bucks – you think I won’t go to Barcelona on your dime? Who cares who the client is? And who the hell needs more than a week to prepare? Who the hell needs more than a couple hours to pack and get to the airport?
Just buy me the tickets and pay for everything and you’ve got yourself a consultant.
The football game in the corporate Hilton that the company had paid for was playing as if it were on fast forward. Barcelona was up 1-0 on Leon by the time I looked up. I was literally sitting under the TV, which explained finally and once and for all why everyone had been staring at me for the last 30 minutes. I knew it wasn’t the client’s spreadsheets they were cheering on, but I work hard and I play hard and, dammit, I was focused.
But looking up changed that. Touches came and went as if the ball were on fire. I had never seen anything like this: and Ronaldinho was on the bench. It would’ve been madness to hear, but to see it was something else entirely. I’d never seen so many white people without English accents cheering for a futbol game in my life. American businessmen and women, old people on vacation from Arizona, all creeds and breeds of white westerners were taken with the speed of this game, the velocity and the control with which these Spaniards controlled la pelota, and for a moment there, Brazil had nothing on them.
For a moment. Let’s not get crazy with this.
The passing was precise and the dribbling was fanatic. No goals were scored except the one majestic scissor-kick from the far post. This was evidence of jedi-play at work if I’ve ever seen it. But the handling, and like I say, the speed, it left nothing to the imagination. Barco had stripped _futball_naked and I stared at it with excitement, like a 13 year-old seeing the faint outline of a nipple through a bikini for the first time, excited for the moment but somewhere in his mind worried that it will never be quite the same after this.
Oh well. Live hard. Die young. Go Barca!
I wandered the old Quarter of Barcelona for an hour or so after I’d found a hotel for the night. There was a festival in town and somehow I’d missed the memo that every European and his neighbor’s hot Polish sister comes to Barcelona for this thing called La Merce. Consequently, it’s naar impossible to find a hotel in the city. But you know me, readers — I’m unstoppable…
The truth is that we don’t know what we will find around the corner. We don’t know what clouds will look down at us, what skies will peer. We don’t know what door will be unlocked or what walls we’ll face and have to climb or turn back. What we do know is that the sun will always smile down on us, will always be a step ahead, even if we’re below the clouds and can’t see it. We know that we choose, either to turn left or right, or else do what the man from that other hostel says, which is to turn around and head out of town where the challenges are few and the rewards even fewer. And maybe there you’ll find a place to stay for the night.
But I’m a man of rewards, great and plentiful, and I don’t do out of town.
With two bags and a leather jacket in the heat and humidity of a Barcelona night I follow the streets, then, the sweat beading at my temple — my thin Mediterranean shirt soaked with rogue streamers. I follow it all to where it runs and then I follow that: the cobblestones, the trickle of European waters down the central gutters on narrow gothic streets of ancient roman cities. They have no end but the sea, and neither does the will of the mind. And where there is no end there is bound to be an answer… at least statistically.
Let’s see what this city has for me… and what else I can take…
_**Barcelona, Spain — September, 2007
Diagonal Hilton, lobby**_