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Buying into the Barcelona lifestyle

24 October, 2008 (02:48) | Living in Europe | By: admin

I’m back in Barcelona already. A weekend in the countryside goes by in a blur. A highlight moment was Mark and I played and sang Caminitos for Sara’s mother, Conchita. She was delighted. We have won her heart. She has beautiful blue eyes, surprisingly sharp eyes that takes in all details.

Back to the city, to tennis, to bicing. I have a favorite destination when I just go out for an easy ride, to a park I call Secret Turtle Park, or simply Parque Tortuga in Spanish. I found out recently the real name of the Park is Tuduri, which sounds like the word turtle, but I have no idea what it means.

This park is modest in size, but is perfectly balanced within itself, with a nice, fairly modern kids play area which is not easily visible from anywhere in the park, which is great. There’s a big, green, well kept dogs designated area, a maze, a coffee shop selling salads and bocadillos, and there’s a small lake (Llac Tuduri) with a lily pond full of snapping turtles and tadpoles and other pond inhabitants, like the big bird that lives here.

I make the acquaintance of a dapper 83 year old man at the park who reminds me of the recently deceased Paul Newman. I notice him across the lake, standing in his 3 piece suit with hat and cane. I am sitting on one of the many convenient wrought iron benches that adorn the lakeside. The benches are made for 2 or 3 people to sit on, but with my bike and so many other benches, no one ever joins me. I bask in the warm autumn sunlight. The man walks over to my side of the lake and stands in front of me gazing into the water. I am thinking to myself that this gentleman seems dignified but also nostalgic. When he turns my way our gazes connect so I smile and ask if he’d like to share the bench. He graciously accepts and sits on my bench. We have a conversation about the park. His name is Albino, “like the Pope who only reigned for 1 month” he says. “Albino’s claim to fame is he was the shortest reigning Pope. He died of a heart attack 2 weeks into being Pope,” and grins for effect. “I am named after this pope”.

I am delighted by this man. He has lived in this neighborhood for over 70 years, he says, and the Park is pretty much the same layout as when he was a boy. He always loved the lake (its really a pond) as a kid. He would catch tadpoles. In those days kids were allowed to go in the lake, there were no snapping turtles.
“I used to catch tadpoles as a kid too,” I told him. “I would bring the tadpoles home and much to my mother’s horror I would hatch them into little frogs, which had me running around the house with a ‘fly jar to catch flies in.”
He laughs, so I add,
“I would catch the flies dumb enough to get trapped on our numerous window panes. Once in my jar, I would shake the jar around until the fly was too stunned to fly. Then I would feed it to my frog.”

Albino lives a few blocks down the street. He has 2 daughters about my age and a 47 year old son “who is a banker,” he says proudly. His wife is alive but only leaves the house for shopping or visiting with her grandkids. “she doesn’t enjoy a nice walk to the park anymore” he says with a shrug. “But I do. It does me good to breathe in the fresh air, immerse myself in the green, look into the lake to see what critters are in view.”

He looks at me with growing appreciation. “You are a beautiful woman,” he says, not flirtatiously but appreciatively, like he is only now beginning to see me. He asks where I live, When I tell him in Gracia, that I like to ride my bike to that park for much the same reasons as he, we share a moment – 2 people in pursuit of the simple pleasures in life.

He says, “I like Gracia. After the war there was a very healthy nightlife in Gracia and also around La Rambla. In Gracia there were clubs which had live music play; jazz, honky tonk, tango…all the latest music trends. Casa Fuster, on Gran de Gracia was *the* place for live dance orchestras, who would come from as far away as Argentina and America. When I told Albino I was Italian he informed me that there were lots of great Italian live dance orchestras that would play at Casa Fuster, back in the day.

We sit a bit longer, exchanging pleasantries.
“My husband doesn’t like bicycles but we do play tennis together”.
Albino is pleased to hear we have chosen Barcelona for our home because we fell in love with the city and the people, not because we had to. “Not many people get to choose the country they live in” he says. “I do not blame you for choosing Barcelona. We all know she is the greatest enchantress.”

As I say goodbye I reiterate, “this conversation we have shared is exactly what I mean about loving this city. I return home honored and enriched by this exchange.”
He bows and kisses my hand, exactly the way a dapper octogenarian would in a storybook.

Later I am home and look up Pope Albino in WIkipedia and am informed that indeed there was a Pope who reigned under the name Juan Paul I but was born with the name Albino. He reigned from the 26th of August to the 28th September 1978.

from Wikipedia:

The first Pope to bear two names, John Paul I died 34 days after his election, making his the shortest pontificate since Leo XI’s in the April of 1605.

After Albino’s election, the mood appears to have been one of widespread optimism and John Paul established himself by taking the names of his two predecessors – John XXIII and Paul VI – to represent a combination of their qualities: one progressive, the other traditional. Eschewing the normally lavish coronation, John Paul quickly captured the media’s support with an unplanned press conference, but this hopeful mood ended with his sudden death, of a heart attack, a few weeks later; there had been no time to implement any policies. He was succeeded by John Paul II.

I am home now and realize just how lucky Mark and I are to be able to appreciate the pace and simplicity of life here without the limits of 80% of the inhabitants of Barcelona. The average person here is what they call “the milleuristas” making an average of one thousand euros a month. Its hard to believe. Even the highest paid jobs pay less in Spain than the same job in almost any other European country. While the global economic crisis grabs the headlines, our websites fluorish, have not to date reflected any lessening of income, in fact, as the dollar itself grows stronger it is like getting a raise for us, because we are an American Company. We can afford to pay our mortgage, travel, live well. We have befriended a lot of Catal├áns, have worked our way into the fabric of life in this city. We fit well into the local art scene, are constantly inspired by life itself.