Note No. 19

June 23, 2009

Each hand grasping a rail, I spiral downwards at a dizzying rate, the music increasing with each floor until I have done all seven, my head spinning and the beat reaching its crescendo as I cross the lobby and open the heavy, glass door to the awakening city outside. Across the intersection to the pedestrian zone I run, beginning the climb upward, past the restaurant where I had my first meal here, past the first flat I ever lived in, past my first boss’s office, past the post office from which I first sent mail home.

Up, up, up I go, turning onto the street where my friend, Noah, used to live and where we made many a meal and listened to many an album. Lungs burning, legs screaming, I am running now, feeling the glances and stares of bystanders who no doubt wonder why anyone would be doing this incline at anything more than a stroll. Even I am wondering where the energy is coming from.

Then I am turning left and going down, down, down, past the tourists hiking up the opposite way to the famous Park Güell, and back up, up, up, getting ever closer to my favorite park, the one where I often came to play ping pong with a friend before work or to have a picnic alone on a bench or just to get some exercise.

Today, it is nearly empty, not like on the weekend, when everyone is out with their dogs and children, because it is sunny and when, unlike today, they do not have to be at work. Past the little old ladies walking their dogs I go, until I have wound up and around and up and around to the very top, where the city suddenly spreads out for 180 degrees, all the way from the three factory towers in Badalona on the left to Montjüic on the right, the middle a beautiful mess of gouges and cuts and angles, a menagerie of browns and whites and reds with a glimmering thread of blue sea that you can see on a clear day, lining the top of it all.

Then it’s back down, down, down, all the way back to the street.

Don’t turn left. Go straight.

I glance left and see the nearly vertical hill that I came down and straight I go.
Hola,” says a young man with clear eyes and blond hair.
Ojalá!

Across the busy lanes I go, down to the cozy maze of narrow streets, a familiar nest of routes that lead to hidden plazas, far from the roar of General Mitre. Turn me around and around in here and I will still find my way out. Left and right and left again I turn, passing the storefronts and restaurant sandwich boards and gates and balconies that used to color the landscape of my morning route to and from my 8am Monday-Wednesday-Friday class at the base of Tibidabo.

Across Plaza del Sol I go, the blossoms of the magnolia trees bringing back the smells of my childhood and the music from my headphones still creating my very own soundtrack for this tour, yet I can think only of Chambao, with whom I first became familiar in this exact spot, when a barman was blasting it one sunny afternoon as he opened shop. I had asked him who it was and he wrote it in my little notebook to find and download later, the album becoming an icon of living here so that when I first moved away, I could not play it for the painful knot that would swell up in my chest.

Out of the plaza, I am crossing Torrent de l’Olla, where I once spent a Friday evening posing for a drawing class, and where I often hiked to reach the public library at the top, spending hours reading newspapers and listening to CDs and browsing the travel books.

Don’t go down too far. It’ll be crowded.

Cutting through the less frequented streets, I avoid the market where I would come to buy cinnamon and I am near the YMCA where I used to volunteer on Tuesdays or Thursdays, helping grade-schoolers do their homework, much of it in English, some of it math. Finally, I dip down to Travessera de Gracia and find a break in traffic to dart across, leaping onto the curb just as a line of cars passes. Over my music, I hear the clang, clang, clang of metal on metal as the gas guys try to peddle the large, orange canisters of fuel they sell from the backs of trucks.
I turn left and enter the plaza where I used to come every few days for fresh produce, and where I might find myself any hour of the day, seeking a wireless signal from a bench when ours was not working at home.

Cutting down a tiny street, I pass the place I once viewed during an apartment hunt and actually considered renting, even though it had no shower, just a spigot coming out of the wall over the toilet.
Turning right, I am back on a busy thoroughfare, passing the second flat in which I lived, staying for about six months with a nice Catalan gal who spoke English and her stinky kitten that stole my earrings.

Then it’s back to the pedestrian zone where I started, across the pavement where I would begin many a morning commute, and back up, up, up the spiral staircase, finally winding to the top, chest heaving as I buzz the bell and wait for my mom’s face to appear as she swings the door open to welcome me back home.

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