…where there is smoke…
Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona suggests that love is not supposed to make sense. Each character who seems to have a committed relationship is tempted by a passionate, senseless love. And, it not the committed love which lasts, since it ends up being corrupted by passionate love, but it is passionate love which persists in a ebb and flow of partnership between two. Barcelona is a tertiary character, a back drop. Allen’s position on love, and passionate love, may be supported by his autobiography. His own passion lead him to leave a sensible love, for a less sensible, yet clearly sustainable one.
My details are very different. Marco and I enjoyed a quiet day on his birthday punctuated by loud firecrackers. From about noon until the next morning Marco’s birthday or San Juan, as we later found out, is one of the biggest party days in Barcelona. San Juan marks the start of the summer. And, it is an excuse to toss firecrackers at people, and to let little kids light them on their own. The attitude around lighting and enjoying firecrackers is pretty cavalier. Marco is not a fan of celebrating his birthday, so we had a low key afternoon of gluten free sandwiches at Bread and Circuses, followed by some avant garde cinema at the Cultural Center, and another quick trip to Bormuth for tournedos. No fireworks for us.
At about 5:30 I awoke to the smell of burning. I walked into our kitchen which was full of smoke. It smelled not of wood smoke, but of plastic smoke. I could hear people banging on doors, evacuating our neighbours. We grabbed our passports, and left. Outside, the bombers (the Spanish firefighters) were already working on putting out the fire which had erupted next door. Only later did we find out that the tarp from the construction of our building had caught on fire too. The tarp was aflame from the first to the fourth floor; we were on the fourth, and only a few feet away from where the flames were (given the melted remnants). When we returned to our apartment everything was coated in soot, not even the adjacent rooms were spared–even our toothbrushes were black. We missed the fireworks, but I guess they did not miss us. Javier, who we were renting from, was very apologetic; he is Latin American and explained that he expected Spain to be more…perhaps civilized, or more responsible. Barcelona was not just our back drop, it made its passion known, in its own way.
A highlight of our time in Barcelona was a trip to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion which was built as the German Pavilion for an international exhibition in 1929. I love modernist structures. I enjoy visiting churches, and ruins (especially Roman) etc. but modernism gets me every time. The multidimensional, gilded, highly decorated surfaces of other styles tell you what they are; they dazzle you, and move you. Modernism does not offer any tricks of the eye, or tell any stories. It gives you space.