Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's a beautiful sunny spring afternoon in Barcelona, and of course I went down to the Plaza Rovira for some coffee and the newspaper. Of course there were people all over the place, that's one of the attractive things about Barcelona. Lots of old folks walking their little old chubby dogs. Not so many kids playing with their dads watching them, but at least there are a couple. The Pakistanis banging on their orange butane tanks which they're carting around on a dolly in order to alert the customers they're out there. Teenagers wearing lots of makeup. Quite a few couples without kids.

Lots of people at the sidewalk cafes. Lots of people buying lottery tickets at the Bar Vall, since there's a drawing of the Primitiva. Folks either overdressed--leather jackets--or underdressed--tank tops--for the weather. I'm wearing blue jeans and a cotton sweater and am comfortable. Chat for a moment with Pedro the drunk guy, who's a friend of mine. He's a Communist but likes John Ford, Charlie Parker, and Dos Passos, so we get along just fine. Nobody in the pet store where I pick up the monthly huge bag of catfood, but they've got really cute baby gerbils. Can't get any, not with five cats. There's a crowd in the Bodega Manolo doing the traditional weekend pre-lunch "vermut", in which they drink either straight Martini red (yecch) or beer and eat salty snacks like anchovies and potato chips. At the Manolo they also have potatoes with allioli and steamed mussels with garlic and parsley.

They're widening the sidewalks on Torrente Flores, our main up-and-down street, but of course nobody's at work, it's Saturday, so there's a ditch along one side of the street that's just sitting there. I checked out the birds; we've got four main urban bird species, your plain old standard pigeon, your basic normal sparrow, ring-necked doves, and these green parakeets that supposedly are native to Argentina. I especially like the parakeets. We also have seagulls, but you don't see many up here three miles away from the harbor. The harbor is a lot cleaner than it used to be, by the way; there are several different kinds of fish living there now. They've also done at least something about dumping raw sewage into the sea, though they need to do a lot more work with water purification. Barcelona is flanked by two rivers, which are of course glorified streams, the Llobregat on the left and the Besos on the right. They used to be really filthy, the Besos was a dead river that could not support any life. Now they're a lot cleaner, and a fairly attractive park has been installed along the Besos. It ain't the Seine or even the Tiber, but it doesn't stink any more.

Anyway, I took my bike out and rode up and down the side streets for about half an hour. Lots of spring cleaning going on, all the balconies wide open. I look dorky in my helmet, but you really do need to wear one because there's no telling when you might get nailed by a butane truck or a sixteen-year-old on a moped. It's kind of a crappy old bike, but a friend of ours gave it to me and I've got a sentimental attachment to it. And, besides, it's not like I'm riding in the Tour de France or anything.

Oh, I got a new computer, it was about time. I bought the previous box secondhand in 2000, and all the other stuff, monitor, etc. was from 1996. The monitor barely worked, Internet was incredibly slow, and the damn thing kept crashing. Also, Murph bought this computer game that wouldn't even work on that computer, and that's when you know your setup is obsolete. This one's much nicer. Cost me €800, bottom-of-the-line laptop, and I got the latest Norton security thing as well, since I had a bunch of adware and junk on the old computer and I don't want to get any of that crap on this one.

The TV thing went OK, though there were too many people. The question was what we thought about the Zapatero administration, and I kept it short and sweet and said that Zap had jumped from being a US-UK ally to a France-Germany ally, and that France and Germany then abandoned Zap. leaving him with only Cuba and Venezuela for friends. I said the Iraq pullout was a bad idea and that Spain was now internationally isolated. I said Zap's error was putting Spain on the wrong side of history. Last thing I managed to say was that I didn't think Gonzalez and Fernandez Ordoñez would have carried out a foreign policy like that of Zap and Moratinos. The deal was they wanted people to comment on a variety of issues, and most of the invitees were critical from the left and there to talk about gay marriage or whatever. It would have been better if they'd spread it out over five days and given, say, 15 minutes each to family issues, religious issues, economic issues, foreign policy, and education / social services issues, for example, over the whole week, rather than jamming it all into 30 minutes on Friday.

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