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July 2007

The smile from the girl on the grass

On my fourth and final week in Barcelona, I've yet to write anything about it.  The reason for this is two-fold: 1) Sincere doubt that anybody out there should actually care about my personal travel adventures, 2) too much to say combined with a profound difficulty in choosing that which is worthy of mention.

After all, the experience of travel is a profoundly personal one.  Travel affects our lives, but ultimately in unpredictable and quirky ways: the food that we cook upon returning home, the way we might choose to structure our days differently, the way one walks into a bar differently, and the way we miss that which was never ours to miss.

What finally inspired me to write?  I was walking back from the beach today alone, wearing my flip-flops, a white t-shirt, my new sunglasses, and listening to the song "In the Waiting Line" by Zero 7.  What an amazing chill-out tune that is.  I never listened to it before, and only discovered it in this moment because I noticed that I have the Garden State Soundtrack on my iPod.  So just before I reached the Metro station, I noticed two young girls laying on their backs in the grass on a small hill just off the sidewalk.  It isn't that the girls were attractive or anything -- it wasn't about that -- but one of them looked at me gently with the wind flowing through her blond hair.  I must have smiled slightly at her, because she gave me a big smile...a smile that acknowledged the beauty of the scene she had created.  We shared a clear moment of understanding that life can be filled with simple beauty.

I guess Barcelona is about lots of hot Metro walks and cool Metro rides (the only air-conditioned subway system I've yet to experience).  It is about simply dressed people living their lives in public: greeting friends with a kiss on the beach, jamming or dancing or tumbling with friends in the park, drinking in a stylish restaurant if one can afford it or outside by a fountain if not.  In Barcelona, I have lived comfortably close to others...where communication is subtle and sometimes only imaginary, where nobody speaks English (and sometimes not even Spanish...mostly Catalan), but it's all OK.  It isn't that people are overly friendly.  In fact, locals seem rather tired and serious at times...close to tears at others.  But beneath the surface they seem to be beautiful, if perhaps rather simple people.  Maybe its a gentle, educated simplicity, as opposed to a loud, obnoxious one.

I guess it is appropriate that the smile from the girl in the grass inspired my first (only?) Barcelona post.  Because amidst the expensive food, the clean palm-tree lined beaches, the designer shops, and the extravagant architecture, Barcelona is really about a subtle, understanding glance from a stranger.