Monday, August 16, 2010

This Party's on Fire!

Cubelles 2010

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in my first party-- or, festa mayor-- of Cubelles. In Catalonia, each city, town (and neighborhood for that matter) reserves a week each summer to celebrate their individual heritage. As David has spent the vast majority of his summers in Cubelles, this party is as much of a tradition as any holiday you or I know and love.

Who knew they had maypoles in Spain?

Going into the experience, I hadn't a clue what to expect. David had explained the affair by telling me that there would be fireworks, people dancing with giant sparklers and ultimately a huge party in a plaza near his parents' apartment. Since fireworks and the like are nothing new to me, I focused more on the party, bracing myself for a Spanish-style extravaganza that would inevitably go on into the wee hours of the morn. What I wasn't prepared for was a rich anthropological experience that not only left an impression me, but also opened my eyes to a vast cultural identity of Catalonia that extends far beyond Gaudí and Sangría.

Amazingly they performed this same dance the morning after the party. And let's just say it wasn't a quiet performance.

Prior to the fireworks and much-anticipated street gathering, David and I went to the historical downtown of Cubelles to see the traditional performances seen above. As the festivities transitioned from quaint folk dances into unrelenting and mind-boggling pyrotechnics, I began to feel like I was in a special on the Discovery channel. What to David and his friends was such a normal and mundane aspect of the annual celebrations (that they haven't even bothered to attend in many years) to me was an awakening. It's moments like these, that still occur after having more or less adapted to my surroundings, that make me feel more alive than ever and ecstatically grateful that I've been handed this new life.

The pink, female dragon has lost her flame in her old age, but now carries the gift of turbocharged, watery breath, which amply moistened the left side of my head later on.

Now, as I previously mentioned, David had told me about the Correfocs, some kind of "fire dance". He described men dancing with around with fireworks... "like sparklers" he described. HA. When a group of tiny children bearing protective, devil-looking costumes began to roam the plaza with spinning "sparklers" only a little larger than I'd imagined, I thought "Well, awwww, how cute!"

The crowd began to back away from the plaza as the second, now slightly taller group took the stage.

Shortly after, they brought in the big guns: full grown men equipped with what could easily be mistaken for weapons of mass destruction.

Anyone else getting a slightly satanic vibe from this all?

And as that apparently wasn't enough to clear the joint, all hail the Dragon!

No communal celebration is complete without a parade. All of that fiery goodness went on the move, bouncing sparks all over the maze of centuries-old narrow streets. The dancers, the dragons, the music all accompanied. Also present were Charlie, the legendary clown (apparently), and the Cubelles giants! (I assure you I am just as lost as you are.)

Hide your children!

This image is just so intense.

After the parade, some resting and dinner with David's family, we met up with his friends and arrived at the beach just in time to see the fireworks. We were closer than I had ever been to the ignition point, as they were set off right on the beach. I saw so many types of fireworks that I had never seen before! The show was the perfect length and very entertaining. I had a flashback to a similar scenario on a certain New Years Eve in a certain other foreign continent and was brought to tears by this perfect fairy tale moment that I had been denied just a few years ago. Everything was perfection. And the evening had just begun.

My favorites were these, which were shot off from beneath the water.

After the fireworks, we gathered with more friends to watch the encore of the correfocs.

These children are encouraged to play with fire.

Have you ever gotten sparks in your eye, Gabriel? It burrrrns.

At that point, some of the core Cubelles guys headed to Patrick's parents' apartment to get the drink on. I met Patrick when I was in Barcelona before celebrating San Juan. He's part of this amazing French family that speak a bazillion languages and live all over the world.

At his place, after taking some Jello shots that his sister had made (you should have seen the faces on the rest of them as they struggled to comprehend this foreign concept), she excused herself and her Portuguese boyfriend to the apartment of Gerard (also present) where the "older crowd" would be hanging out. We made ourselves comfortable on the terrace and played an amazing drinking dice game that was strikingly similar to many drinking games I knew from back home.

When David and my two liter bottles of vodka and orange Fanta were about halfway depleted, we went upstairs to gather the other troops, and then headed back towards the beach for the main event.

The bands played everything from American oldies to local Catalonian music to the Black Eyed Peas. I won't go into much detail as this post is already reaching novella lengths, but I will add that I played the part of the infamous Gloria this year, who is well known for her annual "upset" in the streets of Cubelles. Oh yes, good times.

I will also say this: during the entire party, which for us stretched on until just about sunset, I didn't once think about being in a foreign country. I didn't once think about language barriers. It was all about fun and drink and friends and celebrating all of the wonder that life has to offer. This is my life, as every day is for each of you. And in the end all that matters is whether or not we've made the most of it. I'll cherish this night for the rest of my life, and am already anxious for Cubelles 2011!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Charles Theodore Roosevelt Gard Ambrona III

What is this strange creature?
This is a Charles Theodore Roosevelt Gard Ambrona III!

I just spent about 5 minutes closing out all of the new "stickies" Charlie had created whilst exploring the functions of my macbook's keyboard. And... there he goes again...

David and I acquired Charlie the last time we were in Cubelles (I would happily link to that important and eventful excursion, however, three weeks later I still haven't gotten around to blogging about it). David, his mother and I had just seen Eclipse in a little cinema in Vilanova. As we approached the apartment, David noticed a tiny kitten in the courtyard, following what would could be assumed to be his mother (however dissimilar in appearance... this cat was fuuuugly).

In a passing comment, David suggested we take it in. His mother suggested luring it with tuna, or some other cliched feline vice. An hour later, our hands smelling of tuna and our patience expired from searching in the clump of shrubs, grass and trees seen in the foreground below, we had a new little creature in our hands. A dirty one at that.

Though only about three weeks old, our new friend (who would remain nameless for almost another week) had acquired quite the hunger with the living on the streets and all. So we fed him.

First thing the next morning, we took him to the vet. He checked out just fine, and we stocked up on all kinds of goodies. There was no backing out now! Then it was time to take care of that dingy, odorous coat. Our little boy behaved like a champ!

And the next day, he was already making himself at home in the apartment which we were still adjusting to calling ours. I must add that I think his presence has actually strengthened that sense of belonging. Three's family!

After a couple of days, I regret to admit that his lure began to fade a little. All of the biting and scratching kind of canceled out his entertaining little quirks. He hated being held, and wanted nothing to do with us except for when he was in destroy play mode. All of the things that made my other cat, Franklin Josephine Roosevelt Gard Ambrona III, so special to me were completely absent in this new substitute. And I was the one who had to spend all day with him alone!

Slowly, I began to realize that it's not his fault. Kittens are, by nature, hellions! They grow through various rambunctious and destructive phases, not of all which are particularly adorable. I started finding things in him that I did admire... things we sort of have in common. For instance, he's always casting aside the traditional notions of what's acceptable by society's standards and discovering for himself what works for him.

Why not lay behind the ugly couch cushion? Who says I have to lay on it! This is like the cat world equivalent of the time in high school when my friend Christine and I decided it would be perfectly reasonable to "go out for coffee" in Canada.

The other day I was taking a bath and trying desperately to recall what Frankie J was like as a kitten. I remember certain things, but not much. Then it hit me, one of his most defining traits he possessed when he was about Charles' age! He loved to lick and chew on my hair! Anytime I was sitting on the sofa, he'd be laying behind me, gnawing away. I'd often wake up with my hair and pillow drenched in cat saliva. The same day I came across this realization, Charles picked up the habit! It was a sign!

And you've got to appreciate his initiative. While I was choosing photos for this very post, I found myself confronted with an obstacle of sorts. Charles wanted attention.

Hopefully, when the time comes for Charlie's big brother to make the trip across the pond, the two can find peace in sharing a home and two daddies!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sneak Peak

I believe that a few weeks ago I made a little promise, a promise to give a video "grand" tour of my apartment. Many of you (familiars) have seen photographs of the place in various stages of incompletion. I wanted to wait for the icing on the cake before giving it its grand reveal: the paint. Due to some recent splurges and setbacks, as well as the consistent heat and humidity, the painting will have to wait. Though I do not have that tour today, what I can offer you is a sneak peak.

It seems every day things shift around a little. As if echoing David and I, our belongings search for that sense of "home."

As I mentioned before, we couldn't help but give into a few impulse buys that make our home feel a bit... cozier.

And like many people when first starting out, we have that "extra room" which we're almost entirely neglecting until we get the important parts of the new place up to par. It's a bit of a dumping zone until we have the necessary money and organization to convert it into our ideal office/guest room/closet.

I have to say, the place has felt like home right from the start. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that where ever David is feels like home to me, but it's nice to notice that feeling grow. Every day I'm more comfortable, not only in the apartment, but in this neighborhood, in this city. I've got this whacky notion that one of these days, I'll blend in here just fine.

If you like what you see so far, just wait until our vision is truly realised!

B10 Opening Ceremony

The European Athletic Championships are taking place here in Barcelona this year. David and I have caught several of the events on TV. They commenced on July 26 in the Olympic Stadium, which rests atop Montjuïc, a large hill that also boasts the Palau Nacional (National Palace) and the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain). David and I watched the breathtaking opening ceremony live in HD. I was particularly moved by this sequence, which begins at around 8:20 in the video below...

...and concludes here...

I don't know what it is about this unique combination of acrobatics, fountains, lighting and music, but it almost brings me to tears! What a unique way to represent such a unique city! I'm definitely going to have to go check out the fountain show soon. Even without the acrobatics, I'm sure it'll be something to blog about!