Exiled from Main Street XXXX: for M.O.
“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/the floors are falling out from everybody I know” —“Bloodbuzz Ohio,” The National
Not long after touching down, the thought occurred to me that perhaps there was a reason most 40 year olds don’t decide to backpack through Europe. After four days of Beck’s for breakfast in Germany, I already felt sapped of energy and hobbled.
Not to mention the reappearance of a long-lost ailment that suddenly returned: an anal fissure that had me repeatedly filling the bowl in a way that brought to mind Jackson Pollock.
Our German friends had booked us a hotel in the heart of Barcelona, a one-star hotel, one in which we arrived at after midnight to find that its main feature was its pungent stench of recent fumigation. Thus we spent our first hours attempting to find a more hospitable place via their complimentary dial-up. The keycard for our room stated that checkout was midnight, and since we were weary, we then decided to figure it out tomorrow.
The phone, of course, rang at noon, alerting us that it was checkout. We grabbed our bags amidst the bum’s rush and were booted into the hot Barcelona streets.
Luckily, we eventually found an Internet kiosk. My friend Michael was convinced he found the perfect place, one closer to the Primavera Sound Music Festival — our reason for being there — so he booked it for two nights.
We celebrated by taking a cab. The driver — who spoke little English — sped off through the city, past the Sagrada Famalia, past the City Centre, past, ultimately, the city limits of Barcelona. The meter read 30 euros as we wondered what to do.
We ended up being deposited at the Hotel Algaba in Castelldefels — a beautiful seaside city itself — but not Barcelona, in fact a city that sat at the opposite spectrum of the music festival.
Tired as we were, recon was in order. We immediately headed back to Barcelona to figure out how long it would take: three buses and a couple of hours was the unfortunate answer. Learning as much, on the way back to Castelldefels we stopped off at the Placa de Catalunya, where in no time police would send 99 young people to the hospital for protesting recent elections and rampant unemployment. Just prior to that, we had boarded our last bus back to our accidentally adopted residence.
It was early in the morning already, and my feet were a bloody mass of hemorrhaging blisters. That’s what I was thinking about when the bus driver halted at the outskirts of Barcelona and indicated in Catalan, “Last stop.”
There, we were exiled to a place that, if Europe had cows, one would have sauntered by long before we saw any car. Michael spied a billboard in the distance that featured a straight line connecting an encircled “A” and “B” with underneath it the slogan, “Reinventamos la formula,” which is what we seemed to be doing.
Our final bus arrived as if from a dream 20 minutes later and carried us to bed. We awoke the next morning needing to plan our next move. Unbeknownst to us, Barcelona was set to play Manchester in the Champions Final, and as a result, finding a bed was impossible. After hours of trying, we resigned ourselves to staying by the airport.
My nerves frayed, the day gone and still in the wrong city, we had to hustle. The lines at the venue the previous night were staggering, which meant bussing into the city and paying for a cab the remainder of the way. Unbelievably, there was no line this night. Thus as the sun set into the Mediterranean sea, we made our way to the last of 11 stages as The National, a band with Cincinnati roots, testified.
Michael lit up a joint and, as soon as I hit it, I began to pat myself on the back. I had just seen the band a week before at Music Hall, and although it hadn’t been easy — my feet were raw bacon — I had nonetheless made it. Not too many people I know could have pulled it off. I had the impression that I was finally getting somewhere.
The National were solid as usual, although the set list — understandably perhaps — was familiar. Regardless, I was proud to see that so many found meaning in their songs.
Towards the end of their set, I had to piss. I stood in line for the Port-O-Lets until it was my turn to pick a poison. Sheepishly, I opened the door to discover that some asshole had draped toilet paper over its seat — so as not to have to sit on it — and, as such, left behind a log large enough to build a cabin.
I closed the door while retching, thinking, well I suppose that’s the difference between the boys from The National and me. One indignity after another...
I attempted to put the image out of mind with a drink and ready myself for the main course, Pulp —“Common People,” to be sure, becoming that much more salient, despite the fact that I couldn’t dance anymore than Jarvis Cocker could hit his high notes.
And, after the festival, I found myself miles from home and watching as empty trams inexplicably pulled away from the venue as hundreds of stranded concertgoers pounded on the doors — this while only days away from having my bag stolen with my iPad, digital camera and, most importantly, my passport in it — thinking this:
Flanigan, you really need to raise your profile, if not your game. You really do.
CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: firstname.lastname@example.org