Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alone and Homeless in the Med. - Part 2

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Welcome back to trumpettravels.  Don't forget that's ONE WORD if you're google searching for me or telling a friend about how you've been enjoying this blog.  I've had some really nice comments from readers who have probably found me through the cruise critic website.  One reader asked if I could blog shorter, but more frequently.  I wish I could, but there's a reason why I do it the way I do.  I work full time now and I have a son and wife, who is expecting our second.  Things are hectic here and the only time I have to blog is on a Saturday or Sunday, if I can sort out all my housework and make sure we are ready for next week.  So time is an issue, and I don't have enough time during the week.

Another reason is that after ten years it actually takes some effort to close the door, shut off the darned TV and internet poker (for free only!) and concentrate on my memories.  You know my family doesn't know most of what has happened to me in the last 11 years or so?  I have shoe boxes full of beautiful photographs that I've literally never looked at. For me it was always about experiencing the adventure, not the trophies to brag about.  I'm keeping the same mindset with my new adventure, my wife and son.  Once I'm settled in (blogging), I enjoy conjuring up these travels and thinking about them. I'm a terrible typer and I hate doing the physical writing.

My last post left off where I had my trumpet and some clothes and I was dropped in Barcelona between contracts.  If you want to read it click here: Cruise Ship Crew Member Blog.  It was ten or eleven AM and I set out into Catalonia to find a place to stay.  Internet was not really that big then (2001) and Expedia and American sites didn't work in Europe.  I went to a tourist kiosk to inquire about hotels or hostels and was informed of something very unusual: Formula 1 racing was in town so alot of the hotels were full.  I was thinking about NASCAR and how a couple os cars shouldn't be a big deal, but apparently F1 racing in Europe is a HUGE deal! Wouldn't you know that every single hotel in the entire city was booked?

Well, it was early and I was only 24 so it didn't worry me much.  I mean, the OLYMPICS were held in Barcelona and that was a pretty big event, right?  And there were trains, there were so many options.  I spent the day strolling up and down the Ramblas, researched the night's entertainment and found a jazz club that would be showing a concert by Lew Tabacin at a place called La Cova de Drac. I went for lunch at a wine cellar that had free tastings in the old town and bought a city map.  I would be spending ten days in Barcelona and I wanted to make the best of it. Churches, museums, sites, sounds, tastes and nightlife were all things I wanted to experience.

Coming out of lunch I started to walk as the city shut down for "siesta." I should've rested, too, but as I'm not accustomed to sleeping for a few hours in the afternoon, I walked around while everybody in town ate, drank, and rested.  I went to Sagrada Familia and learned about that amazing church.  It was started 150 years ago and still isn't finished.  Generations of local families hand down their trades to family and there are a few there who have direct lineage to the workers who broke ground at the site.  That is pretty amazing to think 30-40 years AFTER they broke ground on this church a young artist from Malaga named Ruiz came into town and failed to get work.  He made posters for the Carnival and his favortie - bullfights.  Unable to make a living, he went to visit his friend in Paris where he started to sell his first works.  He had a big show in Paris to announce his new identity - Picasso.

The church is magnificent.  Decades after the idea was conceived the city handed over the stalling project to one of the city's jewels: Gaudi.  Gaudi took this idea for a traditional church and brought a whole new light to the concept.  Every square inch of the cathedral is rife with symbolism and stories.  I only know because I mixed in with guided tours and listened to the guide.  I didn't want to pay for the tour but boy was it worth it!
Stolling around the city, I looked at my map and scoped out my venue for the show. It was a few miles away in Muntaner. I continued to search for a hotel but kept hearing the same thing over and over, "the entire city is sold out." I couldn't get any information on how far a hotel would be.  I mean, if Boston or New York is "sold out" ther eis always a Motel 6 in Jersey or Waltham, right?  Really, nobody was any help.  I had so much energy, I didn't care.  Stopping at a few bars along the way to sample some local beers I headed up to Muntaner.  It was quite a hike, but I managed. 

Arriving at 5pm or so the place was closed.  I asked around, and the place would open at 9 or whenever the show was.  Luckily, right next door, there was a bar and cafe.  I sat outside and had some beers.  Around 6 or so it started to get crowded and some kids started to bring in music equipment.  Everyone knew each other and felt like a family, it was a really small cafe.  The kids started to play and I moved inside to listen.  They really were not very good, just basic chords and "jam band" stuff. A fter some liquid courage I asked if I could sit in.  They couldn't really understand, but I just whipped out the trumpet and they were thrilled.  I sat in and the room that had been ignoring me for suddenly lit up.  After 30 minutes, they took a break and all of a sudden I was not allowed to pay for beers anymore. I noticed a well-dressed man standing in the door for a while watching, but the band started up again and got me up there and I was happy playing.  At 8:30pm I knew the show was going to start soon so I headed next door to the Cove du Drac.  I paid my overpriced entrance and with it came a free drink.  Having my fill of beers, I order a gin and tonic.

There's something you should know about ordering drinks in Barcelona.  The waiter came with a glass of ice, a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic water.  He took the gin and started pouring, looking at me. It was 1/4 full, then 1/2, then more and more. The waiter then slowed and said, "Enough?"  And I said, "Yeah, of course."  He told me that I was supposed to tell him to stop!  This is crazy coming from the US - home of the watered down drink.

The band come out and started to play and to my surprise the waiter came back with a tray full of money.  I was confused.  He said, "The owner is an American trumpet player and said your money is no good here."  Can you believe it?  Nothing like that has really ever happened to me before or since. I stayed and heard the show - AMAZING. At the end of the show the staff started to take all the tables and chairs and throw them in these cages toward the side that I hadn't noticed.

The crowd cleared out and at midnight a bunch of kids showed up and the place turned into a disco!  How bizarre!  I danced a little bit, but I was so drunk and tired that the whole scene kind of freaked me out.  My table from the jazz thing was a booth in the corner and some Spanish girls came and when they found out I was America I was a big star.  It was a little too much effort and without any place to take anyone home to was rather pointless.

I gathered my backpack and trumpet and headed out, after thanking the owner for such a great night.  I started walking aroung this suburb of Barcelona, largely residential, and suddenly it struck me how tired I was.  I had been up at 5-6am that day to sign off the cruise ship, lugged my bags to the Lladro shop and had my first beer at noon.  Carry the trumpet around the entire city was tiring. After roaming around not really knowing what to do I came to a conlusion.

I was in Spain. I was in a safe area. I was dead tired. It was night. I could not stay awake any longer. All hotels were completely full. I had to pee.

I didn't want to pee on the street - this was actually a nice, classy neighborhood. Instead I went down a driveway of a small apartment building, rounded the corner and quickly began to relieve myself.  Suddenly it sounded as if I was peeing on a snoring man.  I could hear extremely loud snoring coming from a 4' X 4' vent which was only 2 feet from me! I was in midstream so I couldn't stop but I swear he must've been only inches from me. 

Looking around, I noticed a ledge that was about four feet tall with some bushed or landscaping in it.  The whole ledge was only 4-5 feet wide.  It was here that I threw my trumpet, backpack and camera and I climbed up.  Taking out a sweatshirt from my bag and using some tee shirts as a pillow it was near the snoring man I practically peed on behind the bushes where I slept that first night in Barcelona.

That was day one of a ten day adventure!  Don't worry, I lived to blog about it.  Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this you can "like me" on facebook and share it with your friends.  Add me to your Google Reader
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Lastly, I was removed from the cruise critic website for shameless self promotion.  If anyone is in a forum and they are covering something that I talk about here, feel free to mention my blog and do a link.  The traffic really helps with my motivation to keep going.

Well, that was the FIRST night I was homeless in Barcelona and trust me it only gets better.