Opening Act in Barcelona

For a brief moment when I wake this morning, to the sound of a mosquito zigzagging across my face, I experience that confusion of not knowing where I am. Not just believing that I am somewhere else, but forgetting where I am and how I got there. When realisation overcomes confusion, there’s nothing else to do but lie there and wait.

My window looks over what I know isn’t a courtyard, but I can’t find any other word to describe it and I’m sure one exists. It’s a perfect, concrete rectangular hole that has been sliced out of the middle of this building, stretching six floors down to the abyss. Narrow windows, carved into the walls like the days left of a sentence, spill the usual kitchen and bathroom rumours that provide me with the only clue of what life is doing downstairs on the streets. From the windows, threads of wire shoot out at various angles onto which sheets, towels and clothes cling in a desperate fight to prevent falling down into the dark and stinky doom.

The light is different. The smell is extraordinarily different.

When I open that door and walk out to Plaça del Pedró today, ready to start my new job, all the apprehensions, the excitement and uncertainty of the past few weeks will come with me. And while I can’t escape the burden of myself, I guess that with each step out the door, day by day, I’ll lose a little of something and gain a little of something else.

Landing in Barcelona

I’m swimming in the dour blue decor of Sydney International airport. Behind me, an afternoon American soap opera blares the vacuous platitudes of  those we-pay-our-writers-ten-dollars-an-hour plotlines. In front of me, the ashen faces are coming to terms with the next ten hours in economy class, imprisoned both by their fleeting predicament and such riveting dialogue as: “Abe found out the truth and thinks I’ve got something to do with it. Oh my God!” My flight was to be as uneventful as Abe’s eventual response, summed up simply with ‘bad food’, ‘no sleep’ and ‘aching legs’.

But words demand to be written, particularly when the words represent the universal lamentations of international travel. If humans are evolving, and implicit in this evolution is that we’re all growing taller, then no-one told Cathy Pacific. While there’s ample area for everything above the hips, the seats leave so little room for the rest of your body that every adjustment, scratch and lunge for the water bottle is like battling your way out of a polyethylene straightjacket. Only a touring troupe of contortionists would be the last to complain, and I’m certain that, after eight hours even those guys might feel the need to liberate themselves, run up and down the aisles and cry to the gods of joints and ligaments for clemency. I’m not overly tall for a human; I don’t stand above the crowds, never brush my head against the roofs of public transport facilities, and my knees are unaccustomed to being wedged against anything but my Levis when I squat, which isn’t very often…

So you can imagine my relief when the sleeping pills finally kick in.

OK, I’ll cease complaining. As much fun as it is being the plaintiff in a one-sided tirade detailing the injustices and human misery associated with moving around the planet, none of this is new to the commuting public, nor to me. Nevertheless, my next charitable donation will go to whatever society fights for the rights of battery hens; or to teleportation research, or to whoever approaches me in the street with a bucket and absurd costume first.

As the plane make its final turn, I gaze over Barcelona arising from its slumber. The light is new, and the city looks as if she’s staring into the sun-streaked mirror of the Mediterranean.”Last night was a blast. How’s my hair?” she says to me. I’m flying over my new home town and I wonder how the scales will balance. Will I regain the imagination I’d sledge-hammered into a corner in my head with drugs, love and the rhythm of routine? Can I ignite a sense of passion into my artistic, culinary and verbal output? Or is it escapism in disguise? To alter your life for experiences; to blow yourself into a dramatic change with a cyclone of amnesia, denial, fear and hope, is the ultimate masochistic act  – far greater than stapling your nipples to leather straps, although the risk of infection is about the same.

I type these words just after having landed at Barcelona airport – all baggage accounted for, guitar in one piece. I’m begging for a shower. There’s an unexpected feeling of calmness here at 10:30am. Outside, tourists are lighting up cigarettes, fuelled by the same fervour that rammed them through the customs gates. Every so often I hear snippets of French, Italian and English – all of which I can claim to understand at some level. The air smells clean. The aroma of strong coffee screws my nostrils like a rabid dog on heat. That’s where I’m headed first.