By Cooper Malin, Central Oregon Community College
Tuesday. We were taken via the metro to a stop just short of the base of Mount Tibidabo. It is Tuesday, our second day in Barcelona, and our excitement is still just one step ahead of our jetlag. The climb from the metro to the trailhead was steep. And it seemed that the steeper the incline, the wealthier the homes. Without any conscious effort on my part, I suddenly become Jay Gatz. I looked on the homes with not jealousy, but interest. They posed a challenge for me. I wanted to live in one of those homes. But not simply live in one of them, anyone can live in those homes, but I wanted to own one. I wanted to purchase one with my hard earned euros. Made from the lucrative comic business. By that point the incline had risen drastically and I needed to pay attention to where I was putting my feet.
Tibi dabo is from a Latin Vulgate Bible verse and means, I will give to you, said to Jesus by the Devil. This was said from a very high mountain, and overlooked all of the riches of all the cities, and was meant to tempt Jesus. Local tradition believes it to be the aforementioned very high mountain from the Bible. Mount Tibidabo is the highest mountain in the Serra de Collserola. But I thought that it was too beautiful to image that at one point Satan stood there. That’s supposing that Satan is a classless plebeian without taste and style. And if as the stories say, Jesus did most of his work in and around Jerusalem, getting to Barcelona would have been a trip and a half. Especially in the year 33 AD. One must imagine then that it was the Devil himself who chose that spot in which to tempt Jesus. And I could not blame him.
The view was incredible. The hike offered us an opportunity to intimately experience the natural flora of the region and the vibrancy of the greens and the pastel browns was breathtaking. Barcelona is a city of 1.6 million people, tucked between a mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a city by every definition of the word, and to be taken from that for just a second so as to experience the contrast between the two beautiful locals was exactly what us expatriates needed. I looked over the city, and out across that water, and for a second I could imagine the scene. I could imagine a meeting between two men 1,982 years ago where one was offered this, and all the rest of it, and I like to believe that Jesus hesitated for just a second. For that is how amazing it all was from up there.
Public transportation is a magical world full of opportunity, freedom, conservation, and the wide variety of human odors. I walk the platforms with a false sort of confidence, which is my attempt at seeming like a local. I believe that my red beard may be giving me away. I wandered into a metro this morning with my backpack and directions to a comic book store written down in my notes. I listened to a podcast, Radiolab, as I wavered coolly with the swaying subway. It felt as though I had done this all my life. And instead of feeling anxious or nervous that I may miss my stop, or that I might have to deal with an unknown situation, I truly was confident. Back home I love to listen to my podcasts as I walk through the streets. And this felt no different. It was within that routine that I was made to feel good about something so far removed from my everyday life. And that has been the case countless times throughout the trip so far. Despite ordering my café con leche, and finding my seat in a bistro in Barcelona, all in Spanish, is oftentimes daunting, I have done this hundreds of times before. And no matter the language, I know how to get a cup of coffee. And that feels good.
Saturday. I read more of the book that I brought with me, Moby Dick, this morning over a cup of coffee. Stubb, one of the mates aboard the Pequod, killed the first sperm whale of the expedition. Melville was describing the skin of a sperm whale, and particularly that of a bull sperm whale, and how its flesh is marked with hundreds of mysterious and ancient lines. He describes these markings as hieroglyphics. For Melville, they tell intricate tales of the unknown depths of our ocean. A bull sperm whale wears the evidence of hundreds of journeys and deeds that man will never know, nor understand. And so I left the apartment and went off to make a few markings of my own.
And it was to a comic book shop that I went. The place is called Fatbottoms, and sells local zines and underground comix. But before I could find that store, I stumbled into a squat, cramped used book store. I cannot for the life of me remember what it is called. The books were in Spanish and Catalan, and were arranged according to no system that I could comprehend. Inside I found Jorge Luis Borges and Albert Camus, but it was in a basket upon the floor beneath a small bedside table that I found what I instantly knew would take me back to that store again and again during my stay. The basket was filled with old alternative comics written, illustrated, and published right here in Barcelona.
I invaded the apartment of the other students and bombarded them with stories of the day’s exploits. The three of us continued the conversation down to a neighborhood café and restaurant. We ate like Spaniards. The menu of the day was ordered and we did not leave the table until three hours had passed. For after all, it is Saturday and it was lunchtime.