As I looked out the window of the 757 I marveled at the most beautiful cloud formation I had ever seen. The sun lay behind a dark cloud with rays spreading in the mist and being caught by another lower cloud that seemed to explode upwards. The cloud glowed at the edges and converted the transmitted light to a rainbow of colors. Behind the entire scene a display of amber and yellow extended to the horizon. I stretched out comfortably in the WWT exit-row seat and prepared for a long flight to London on the way to Barcelona.
This year I picked Barcelona, Spain as my WWT target for a lot of reasons, some logical, some not, and it was a great place to spend a week and a half. I used just about every principle of the WWT and even discovered a new one that I will report later.
In a few days I visited a lot of museums, statues, churches, fountains and gardens and walked about a thousand miles. I mastered the subway, the taxis, and the buses, and my Spanish was good enough to keep me from starving to death. (Actually, they speak Catalonian in Barcelona, which apparently is no more different from Spanish than is my poor Spanish pronunciation anyway.) I could read both of the languages, Catalonian and Castillion, and my spelling is so poor that I was never sure which was which.
I had a lot of interesting experiences, mostly good or at least educational. The Fundacio (Foundation) of Joan Miro is a gallery of the art of Joan Miro, one of Spain’s better known modern artists after Picasso (and maybe Dali). Miro was a charlaton if there ever was one in art. Unlike Picasso, he apparently never did learn to draw. Not a single work of art in the entire gallery is a likeness to anything. I did find one painting I liked only to find out it was not done by Miro. In the Miro park is a huge statue called "Woman and Bird" . It is about the ugliest sculpture in Europe and it is difficult to imagine how such an artist becomes famous and collectable. Nevertheless, I am glad to have seen his work, though I do lament over the waste of valuable gallery wall space. Fortunately Spain produced some REAL artists like Picasso, El Greco, Carravagio, Velesquaz, Goya, and Dali whose works I also saw.
I was fortunate enough to have studied art under a master as a child and was painting with oils at age 7. I owe a great debt to Miss Corrine Houston, my teacher, who gave me a capacity to love both art and music. Although I continued to use art as therapy throughout my life I abandoned formal training after the age of 10. In recent years my rediscovery of art quickly made it an important part of my life again.
The study of art history and appreciation provides a framework and a sequence so that art is not so confusing. I used to hear people discussing their favorite art works and I was totally impressed to see several people in the conversation familiar with a specific painting by Picasso or Titian or any one of a dozen other artists. I made the following discovery that provided me with great relief: Anyone who takes art history or reads any art history books gets exposure to the SAME artists and the SAME art pieces. The art world has agreed on a small number of art works that are the ones to discuss. If you want to sound like an expert and make profound contributions to a conversation on art you can read one paper back and find yourself comfortable. If you don’t have time to take art history and appreciation, I recommend the book "Instant Art History". I wouldn’t exactly call people who discuss art at parties "phonies" but take my word for it, they arent’ scholars either. Read the book and memorize a few tables and you will be able to outalk most of the people you meet at cocktail parties. After reading the book then you will be able, like me, to call Miro a charlaton and not feel too uncultured.
The most valuable lesson drawing has taught me is that I had forgotten to really look at things. I have begun to rediscover some amazing relationships. The eyes are half way between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. The thumb comes out of the hand at a place I would not have guessed. Drawing has forced me to see details that I had habitually overlooked; I find myself more interested in looking at the universe around me, and everything is starting to be beautiful.
Many times I have marveled at the magnificent Gothic cathedrals of Europe, which typically involved massive amounts of labor and time over centuries. I wondered what modern day architectural feat could compare with the Gothic Cathedral phenomenon. I found such a feat in the Sacrada Familia, a cathedral that was started in the early 1800’s and continuing today. This structure, taken over early by the famous architect, Gaudi, employs the modern "Gaudi" style. So it is not simply another bigger better Gothic cathedral. The structure uses modern techniques and sculpture resulting in one of the most striking structures in existence anywhere. Eight towers extend up to 300 meters in height, and eventually there will be twelve (one for each apostle) and a really tall one in the middle (which must be the one for Jesus). Spiraling stairs inside allow visitor access to balconies, crosswalks, and elevated modern sculpture. Coming down the spiraling staircase is somewhat terrifying when one realizes that there is no wall, and a man sized hole in the middle that is clear all the way to the bottom. I had to hug the outer wall and not think about the hole in the middle. I could not understand why more people don’t freeze up on this route. Gaudi, himself is buried in the crypt. I spent almost two days and an evening exploring this structure, which is lit up at night.
I visited a lot of other works by Gaudi, including Guell Park, Casa Mil (La Pedrero) and others. One of the most spectacular sights were the fountains at the Royal Palace that included lights and music at night. Other night time adventures included strolls down the famous Ramblas, an old river bed that has now become a long pedestrian street loaded with sidewalk cafes, mimes, entertainers and almost anything one can imagine, including the Barcelona museum of erotica (which I never got around to attending : ).
The National Gallery and the Palace were other highlights of the trip. I also enjoyed the food and never tired of Paella, a wonderful local rice dish made with saffron and various additions. When I took Jonathan to Europe a few years ago, he always searched out the McDonalds. From the hotel email machine, I informed him that Barcelona has 18 McDonalds, and I was enjoying not eating in every single one of them.
I am always amazed by the coincidences or synchronicity we encounter in life and this vacation was full of them on both sides and in the middle. Sipping coffee in a coffee shop in the old Gothic quarter, of Barcelona with friends, I commented that I liked looking in all the shops but I had not seen anything I would want to buy. One of them told me that I must buy something, so I jokingly commented that I would buy some nice holograms if they showed up. Leaving the coffee shop, I encountered a square named St. Jaume Square (Catalonian for my name). Leading away from it among another half dozen streets was Calle St. Jaume, which I chose to walk because it was named after me : : ). As it could only happen to me, the first store on the street at Jaume 1 is Museu D;Holographia-Barcelona. I looked up to the sky and said to "God, you really enjoy doing this kind of stuff to me, don’t you"?
Every time something like this happens (like every day) I think that movies like "The Matrix" and "The Thirteenth Floor" may be more realistic that we think. Any minute I expect to wander in somewhere where the program runs out and see a bunch of electrons and black space.
I bought a couple of novel holograms before continuing to spend the next hour walking around the beautiful Gothic district, which also includes the St. Jaume cathedral, first built around 400. The bones of one of the saints are interred here as well as a plaque denoting Columbus, who brought 6 natives from America to be baptized here in 1493. It is a sobering thought that Columbus, like me, watched the geese that have been wandering around in the cloisters since the place was founded, 500 years before he discovered the country where I was born. It must have sounded funny to the Indians when Columbus told them, "No, your God is the wrong one. Mine is really the right one. You have been sinning and I need to soak your head so the devil will leave you alone."
The English part of the trip will be completed in a separate journal. Nevertheless, I had an interesting experience that I find extremely fascinating for some reason, so I will relate it to you here.
I watched an interaction between two Canterbury locals that underlines the needless angst that often takes place in our world. Near the Canterbury Castle, next to a large public car park (parking lot) sits a small shop that doubles as a post office, where I stopped in to buy a bottle of water. While looking at water options, a troubled man entered the store and asked the shopkeeper, an elder gentleman of Indian origin, if he could change a bill for him to use for the car park. With this question the shopkeeper got rather upset and took the man by the arm to the front door to show him a small sign in the window. The sign, scribbled in small letters read.
"NO CHANGE WILL BE GIVEN FOR THE CAR PARK. HOWEVER, IF YOU BUY SOMETHING FROM THE STORE OR POST OFFICE, I WILL GIVE YOU CHANGE."
Then he proceeded to explain how hundreds of people come into his store asking for change each day and take up his time and change. A rather lengthy interchange continued between the two, angst continuing to build, the change seeking gentleman asking where he could get change and the storekeeper continuing his complaint. Finally, the man stormed off in despair to look for change elsewhere.
I wonder why neither man had been able to see two obvious alternatives that would win for both. First, of course, is the most obvious solution was simply to buy something that would be of use later, like stamps, a coke, an apple. Why did the man refuse to do this and instead go storming into the street to repeat the event in yet another store? Probably because he was so caught up in conflict and being a victim that he could not concentrate on the real goal of getting change. (The store keeper assured him that no one in any of the stores would give him change).
After leaving the store, I thought of an even better alternative and I almost returned with it as a suggestion to the storekeeper. Why not hang a large sign outside that stated, "Change for the CAR PARK, only 10 pence" ? This would have converted the need into a business opportunity, provided a service , and produced a profit for the store. Instead the storekeeper was concentrating on being a victim as well.
With two easy solutions available, the man went from store to store asking for change. I considered buying something else so I could get enough change for the man myself. On the other hand, this problem will persist, until someone concentrates on a permanent solution. I do want to go back and offer my solution some day. However, do people really search for conflict or ways to remain a victim? I reckon this is most likely the way wars start.
More to write more about.
Subways, buses, taxis
Casa Mille-roof top
Passieg de Gracia
Debonair Flight from Barcelona to London.