Oh Ye Old Men of Barcelona

I had to go meet somebody in Gràcia, but I didn’t want to take the metro. I decided to walk up the Ramblas, even though they are hopelessly crowded and, to be perfectly honest, ugly in some sort of way. There’s nothing really that would attract your attention, there’s only fast food, plastic stuff and other atrocities. Yes, the flowers smell nice, but other than that … Still I enjoyed the crowd, the noises, the chatter of tourists from all over the world. The merchants at Rambla dels Estudis are not allowed to sell birds anymore, but they are still selling other animals at some of the vending booths. I saw small turtles in a box and some sort of rodents in cages. I doubt that’s legal, but …

Further up the Rambla, where there are no more kiosks and booths, close to the entrance of the metro station Placa de Catalunya, there are heavy grey metal chairs at both sides. People sit there and discuss daily business. It’s mostly old people, and mostly men, old men, viejitos, abuelitos. And they seem really old, too old to do anything besides from sitting and chatting. They are sweet, though. There’s this one guy who looks fantastic, he was wearing purple trousers that day and a suit coat, and his black shirt was unbuttoned down to where his chest hair grows. He was also wearing really cool sunglasses, mirrored pilot-style glasses. He was talking to his compañeros, hot-bloodedly, passionately, making his statement with a vengeance, but still smiling, smirking, laughing. He looked like straight out of Kusturica’s “Black Cat, White Cat”, just like the Grga-character.

After my meeting I went strolling through the city, and when I had returned back to the Barrí, I decided to sit down at Placa de St Josep Oriol and have a cigarette. Next to me there was this old guy in a striped t-shirt. White hair, not chubby really, but kind of compact. Not too tall, his belly was showing under his shirt. Cheeks you’d like to squeeze. And winking eyes. I think he considered himself to be of Picasso’s kindred. He was an artist, too, and he asked me if I’d like a portrait. I said no because I was broke, otherwise I maybe even would have paid him to paint my portrait just because I thought he was cool. So we were chatting a bit, about this and that, smoking, too. He explained he preferred to paint women because they have more hair than man – usually – and because he was interested in the structure, volume and movement of female hair. I knew he preferred to paint women because he just simply was a lady’s man. When he told me he was looking for a woman to procreate with, I didn’t know what to say. Well, he asked me if I would marry him. The fact that I don’t live in Barcelona meant nothing to him, so I told him I was in love with somebody else. Then we made a deal: if I ever were to be single again, I would come to Barcelona and look for him. He has a house at the Costa Brava where we could live. He painted my portrait and gave me the picture as a farewell gift.

After I had rested a bit, I took a walk through the narrow streets of the Barrí Gótic and La Ribera, looking for a small flamenco store. I couldn’t find it, so just kept walking, looking at the display windows of tiny old second-hand bookshops and other stores selling sweets, vintage stuff and so on. At one corner I stopped to take a picture of the sombrerería, a beautiful, antique hat store, because I like the word: som-bre-re-ría. I turned around the corner and wanted to find a good spot from where to catch the lettering. There I noticed this old, almost ancient fragile creature looking at shoes. I didn’t dare to breathe or to move so as not to disturb him while he was looking at the finely crafted leather shoes he probably wasn’t able to afford. I just took the picture, and instead of focusing on the lettering of the sombrerería, I unintentionally focused on him. I walked away in the other direction quickly.

old men of barcelona

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