Monday, September 27, 2010

wrote this last night, but the internet was angry

Got back from Barcelona about an hour ago. It was good.

Random thoughts:

1. At the beginning of the summer, when I started reading feminist blogs, I came across a lot of articles about being catcalled, hit on, or otherwise treated aggressively by men in public spaces. I remember reading those articles and feeling -- I don't know -- puzzled -- even wistful -- because I had no experience with that sort of event. I guess that I hit an optimum crux in the U.S. at the ideal point of "lives in the right sort of town" and "average-looking enough." Now, thanks to Granada, (a little bit) Madrid and Paris, and especially Barcelona, I can relate. And I can now understand why this type of behavior pisses most women the hell off. Maybe there exist men who yell at you on the street who are actually trying to pay you a compliment. Maybe. These mythical beings have not yet been located. The majority, regardless of what words they actually use, are saying, "I see that you are woman, I see that you are smaller than me, and I want you to know that and be scared." It has fuck-all to do with how you look -- Spain is filled with gorgeous women, and I'm sure not one of them. It has everything to do with who men think they can get away with intimidating.

Moral of this story: Not that many men-type people read this blog, but do not ever catcall a woman and expect her to be flattered. If you don't realize you just made a veiled threat, you're a moron. If you don't care, you're a monster. Either way, you are shit and I want nothing to do with you.

(Side note: I become really unreasonably angry when someone approaches me -- particularly a young man -- with a clear intent to take advantage of me in some way -- pickpocket, scam, whatever. I haven't quite gotten a reign on this yet.)

2. I don't draw like an architect. I sketched for a cumulative 3-4 hours on this trip mostly inside museums. It was fun and somewhat less stressful than trying to navigate the streets of Barcelona (or any city where pulling out a map or looking lost and confused makes you a big fat target.) I even broke out the measure-proportions-with-the-pen trick for increased accuracy. For me, these drawings were pretty good. But I've seen how "real architects" draw (and artists/artisans that "real architects" adore) and what I do isn't it. I draw in pen because I draw for myself, and I want the drawing to last. Architects seem overjoyed by the fuzziness a pencil brings to a page. I tend to get wrapped up in details; architects care about overall form. I use feathery, piece-y lines to make my way around an object; architects use stronger contours. (That was made worse this trip by the fact that my pens were running out of ink.) I can't draw a damn line straight because my hands shake. I also press really hard on the pen, whereas most architects have a light touch. (I generalize, of course.) My drawings are -- what would be a good word? -- coarse. Not bad, per se, but coarse. I feel to a certain extent that I hid behind some natural talent (not a lot -- I've encountered people who are drawing savants before) during college, such that I never really developed my skills past mediocre.

To some extent, this is irrelevant -- I'm going to keep practicing drawing in any case. It just makes me feel . . . grim. Sketchbooks chock full of spur-of-the-moment vignettes of my travels that capture the "spirit of a place" are not in my near future. Sketchbooks with a few pages of heavily labored-over drawings are a fact of the present. . .

3. I'm starting to hate parks, such as Montjuic (park on the hill in Barcelona.) They're like game reserves for predators who hunt people. (I didn't have a bad experience in Montjuic; the lack of visibility on the streets that cut through just freaked me out.)

4. The most famous buildings in Barcelona (at least, based on an MIT architecture education) were both kind of "meh" for me -- Sagrada Familia and the Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. Sure, I liked them (would have liked the latter more if it had been open), but they didn't fill me with glee. I liked la Pedrera, an apartment building (hah! how spectacularly inelegant that sounds compared to the reality) designed by Gaudi, and the Museum of the City and its excavated Roman ruins the best. Oh! The roof of la Pedrera! In spite of all the chain link to keep us from falling to our deaths, it was wondrous.

5. Unexpectedly I felt less jumpy on the winding streets of the Ciutat Vella, the medieval portion of Barcelona, than on the straight and wide avenues of L'Eixample, the 19th century development, though my guidebook assured me it should be the other way around in terms of where bags are usually snatched. I haven't quite figured this out yet, but I think it has to do with the number of friendly-looking people around -- there were a lot of pairs of men in L'Eixample (who set off the "POTENTIAL MUGGERS" alarm in my sad little brain), but way more young women, families with small children, and elderly people in the Ciutat Vella.


7. I hate frosted flakes. They mixed them in with my corn flakes this morning, though it was complimentary so I probably shouldn't complain.

8. I LOVE DONER KEBAB. I had two from the same place. They were 3.50 euros apiece. Each one was a delicious pocket of toasted sesame pita bread stuffed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, roast chicken, and yogurt sauce. Words do not describe how tasty this was.

9. Catalan pronunciation makes me indignant for some reason. This makes no sense, as English has possibly the worst spelling-to-pronunciation relationship ever. However, the straightforward pronunciation of Castilian (Spanish) doubtless set me up for a disappointment. Batllo = pronounced By-oh. Oy.

10. I bought what I think is a bracelet at the cathedral. It was next to the rosaries, which I know you're not supposed to wear as necklaces, but this, though it has a repeating pattern of crosses and perchance is supposed to be used as a modified rosary, has an elastic band, which makes me think it is a bracelet. Maybe.

11. They were singing the mass when I visited the cathedral. They didn't kick out the tourists (like in Sacre Coeur in Paris) but they did have the front of the cathedral roped off (not like Sacre Coeur) so we had less opportunity to be annoying. Also they had television screens broadcasting the priest behind the choir so the back of the cathedral could watch the mass too, which I thought was very clever.

12. There were three blonde college-age American guys sitting next to me on the train to the airport, two of whom ended up on the same flight as me back to Madrid. I eavesdropped unashamedly on their conversation and found out they went to school in St. Louis. They actually mentioned Creighton whilst chatting. It felt weirdly nice to sit and listen to Midwestern English for a bit.

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