Archive for the ‘Random anecdotes’ Category


Long gone are the times when receiving a single red rose felt romantic to me. The single red rose always makes me think of my dad. He had a classic romanticism about him, very old-fashioned in that respect. He never gave us bunches of flowers or even a dozen. Just one red rose. Always red. Always beautiful. I would hang each rose upside down over the years to dry and save them, my own addiction to the romance of it all I guess. I would not be surprised if I actually have them in storage with all my scrapbook albums in San Diego.

Unfortunately, now when I think of single red roses I feel far from romantic. They seem generic and cheap. I blame the fact that I work, reside and party in the center of Barcelona, which has become this dirty circus of pickpocketers, street vendors and hookers. It’s not so far off from the Tijuana border when you are stuck in traffic and have people at your window every other second trying to sell you packs of chicle or huge ceramic statues of Bart Simpson. Those border experiences taught me well: roll up the window, put on the air conditioning and turn up the radio full blast. Do NOT make eye contact.

In Barcelona there is a huge market of selling obnoxious trinkets to tourists. Can’t blame them really, since the reality is that drunk tourists tend to get a kick out of the Mexican sombreros (ummm…should someone tell them they are not in Mexico?) and blinding shiny things that go round and round and round. It’s not just on the street that you are harassed, however. Mainly men, and the odd end woman here and there, follow you into bars and restaurants to sell you cheap fluorescent glow in the dark paraphernalia and naked women dancing on cigarette lighters. And roses. Single red roses wrapped in plastic. Single red roses have become more colorful cheap paraphernalia.

photo by Lorna Palmer

The roses in and of themselves are not what tick me off. I like roses. It is the persistent vendors that never give you peace who drive me mad. There is a game you learn here. It goes something like this. No, gracias. No, gracias. They leave one on your table and walk away. Un regalo para la mujer guapa. And then they come back. Of course they come back. Of course they are not out to gift roses to strangers. Again, you said, no, gracias followed by a firm No! And then you just stop making eye contact and ignore them until they walk away. Five minutes later a different one will approach you and the game happens all over again. It’s gets old real quick.

I’ve grown to despise the rose sellers. And as a result, the roses. Until…last night.

My friend and I were in Sugar, this dodgy red bar just behind Plaza Real, having the last drink of the night. We befriended an American guy who was sitting by himself at the bar, sort of staring on longingly at the groups of people laughing around him. He looked lonely. And more importantly, my friend fancied him. So being the good wing woman that I am, I called him over for a brief introduction. Turns out his friends were at the bar next door but the drinks were cheaper at Sugar, so he had come over to down a couple cheap drinks. Been there, done that. Totally not going to judge. After just a few minute conversation, his friends came looking for him and they took off.

But before he left, he did something that left a lasting impression. A rose vendor came into the bar and approached us. Following protocol, he shoved the bunch of single roses into our faces. Before he could utter a persuasive word, and much before I started the No, gracias game, this American boy grabbed the bunch of roses and shoved them into his nose. He closed his eyes, took a long inhale and then returned the roses to the man and said thank you. The vendor, totally confused, turned around and walked away.

Upon seeing my shocked response, the American boy explained himself. He said he too used to get angry with these guys, and he realized that pleading did not make them go away. So he decided to make their presence worthwhile. Roses smell very nice. As long as they stood there and shoved roses into his face, he would enjoy their beautiful aroma and therefore make the experience a pleasant one. And the extra bonus was that it scares away the vendor. With that, he smiled and walk away.

As the New Year approaches, I am keeping his advice in mind. Not only for the rose vendors, but for all the uncomfortable or annoying situations that life could throw me in the upcoming year. It is refreshing to remind myself that there is something beautiful in everything. I just need to find it, embrace (or inhale) it, and what then remains after the annoyance of the situation passes is just the beautiful bit.

Thanks random stranger for the great life lesson!

Photo by Lorna Palmer


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Sitting in front of the computer screen at work today, with just a slight trace of a hangover from last night’s festivities, I dreamed of a turkish durum with goat cheese. In the US, ‘greasy spoon’ is more like Mexican food takeout or Burger King. But here in Barcelona it’s kebabs and family all the way.

I have been forced to watch my few pennies these past couple of months, which means I’ve been eating at home without indulging too much in restaurants or take away food. But today, with 1,60 EUR in my bank account and just 4,78 EUR of spare change in my wallet, I decided to splurge and give in to my durum needs.

Paying in exact change, with not enough left over for even a drink, I took my warm durum to the plaza to sit on a bench in the breeze beneath the trees to enjoy this special gift I was allowing myself today. A reward of sorts.

There were two Spanish punkis also sitting there enjoying the breezes of the plaza, them and their 2 grungy looking dogs. The large black dog lifted its nose as I unwrapped my seasoned chicken wrap, and instantly came to my side. She stared at my food, snout just about a foot away. I spoke to her softly, in Spanish, saying sorry sweetie but you can’t have any. She didn’t budge. I spoke to her again, now using words like “no” and “go away” and looked over to her owners, the punki couple, hoping they would call back their mutt. Finally the guy comes walking over and I think, great. He’ll come get his dog and let me eat in peace.

Much to my surprise, rather than pulling the dog away he instead approached me, also stood about one foot away from my food, and asked if he could have a bite of my durum. He was hungry, he told me. Now, on occasion and when I actually feel that someone’s situation is less fortunate than mine I sometimes do give my food to people. But this guy did not appear to be struggling in any way, shape or form. He was a young Spanish guy wearing a theatrical cap and striped tights. And I really really really wanted my food today. I kindly, with an uncertain smile, said that I did not feel comfortable allowing him, or his dog, to bite into my food. Sorry. Now please go away. He did. And finally took the dog with him.

His girlfriend had been drinking from the fountain in the plaza, and three bites after her boyfriend left me, she then came over to me and asked for a euro.

And then the shit hit the fan.

Smile-less and now speaking in a fairly loud voice, I put the durum in my lap so as to have my hands free to wave around to make my point more clear. I spoke loud enough for not only her boyfriend and dogs to hear, but I’m pretty sure the attic apartment dwellers in the plaza could also hear me. And this is what I said:

“I have 1,60 EUR in my bank account right now. I used the last 4,78 EUR that I scrounged up in small change at the bottom of my purse in order to buy this durum. I am working part-time, don’t have unemployment benefits from the government, or rich family members that give me allowances so that I can dress like a clown and steal from people in nice plazas who are actually trying to get off their lazy asses and make some hard-earned cash. Don’t you dare ask me for anything else. Now, please, all of you leave me alone and let me finish off this juicy, delicious durum in peace!”

Needless to say, the punkis left me in peace. A couple people walking by stopped and stared for a few brief moments. But I didn’t care. The juice from the sauces was running down my arm, and I had still have a few enjoyable bites left, dammit. I stared at them while I took my last bite. I licked my fingers and smiled and rinsed my hands off in the fountain before walking away from them.

A couple hours later, while walking home from work, I saw two guys trying to rob a girl on my street. She was sitting down on a ledge with a traveler’s backpack and her purse. One guy was trying to distract her with a map and his buddy came around the back and gently pulled away her purse and started to walk away slowly. I shouted at them, the girl jumped up and went after the buddy with the bag. He ended up dropping the bag and the two guys walked off, not without first giving me some major dirty and threatening looks. With her bag in hand, she screamed after them, “Rob the rich you assholes!” Turns out she was not a tourist after all. She lives on this street and was just back from holiday. Having lost her keys, she was locked out and sitting there worrying about what to do.

Dear punkis and thieves of Barcelona: Don’t fuck with me on a bad day. Punk me and I’ll punk you back!

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