Bellying Up to Barcelona

As the The One and I touched down in Barcelona after that inhumane flight on Lufthansa, the worst airline I’ve ever flown, we were indeed ready to shrug off the cramped seats, terse personnel, and wailing infants and dig in to the dining scene. I had a list of restaurants given to me by everyone from Amanda Hesser to Anya von Bremzen to a friend of Mark Bittman. I wasn’t messing around.

But you know how they say that if you want to make God laugh, make plans? Well, if you want to see him roll on the floor in fits of hysteria, make travel arrangements with me.

Within a 48-hour period in Barcelona, a colossal demonstration for Catalonian independence, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1984, coincided with Spain’s magisterial win of the World Cup, clogging every restaurant and tapas joint with enough people and smoke to cause a panic attack. Then, thanks to lingering tourists who decided to extend their stay in Barcelona, restaurants suddenly had capricious schedules, opening when they were supposed to be closed, closing when they were supposed to be opened. Read more »

Where You Going? Barcelona? Oh.

If you remember the lyrics of “Company” by Stephen Sondheim you’re dating yourself—or are a theater geek. But it’s an apt description of my leaving for Barcelona, the first part of my fiftieth birthday celebration/vacation. Utter indifference and a trifle of irritation. It’s not that I’m not excited about going to Spain or sharing the trip with The One. It’s all the stuff that goes into getting there. Travel would be wonderful if it weren’t for the traveling. I feel like a cranky old carnival lion that’s been poked and prodded and forced to jump through a bunch of hoops before he can finally sit down, relax, and eat a huge amount of animal flesh (in my case, turkey and mayo on ciabatta). And I present exhibit A, the photo of myself above in Newark International Airport before I left, after having battled a deranged NYC cabbie, an incorrect New Jersey Transit train schedule, indifferent Lufthansa personnel, and a heat wave so bad it caused the air train at the airport to break down.

Every time I travel, I tell myself that this time will be different. This time I’ll act civilized, normal, and give myself plenty of time to prepare. I imagine The One and me—like those folks in those god-awful General Mills International Coffee commercials from the ’80s—cupping warm mugs, the cats figure-eighting around our legs, as we laugh over our upcoming trip and grow misty-eyed over past ones. Read more »

If It’s July Fourth, It Must Be Deborah’s

Fourth of July is a bit of a sad holiday for me. I’m reminded of my friend Deborah Murphy, who passed away far, far too young several years ago. It’s not that she died on the Fourth, or was born on the Fourth for that matter, but that she owned the Fourth. Entirely, consummately, possessively.

In my circle of friends, we’ve come to a hard-won détente about hosting holidays, and pity the man who tries to wrest them from us. The calendar: Thanksgiving is shared between us and our friends the Rosellis. Canadian Thanksgiving is a no-brainer; it goes to Danny, our goose-loving expat. Christmas is all Gingy. She contends not only with friends, but her entire clan of in-laws lolling about the house from sun up to sundown. The one holiday no one laid claim to was July Fourth. So about a decade ago, Deborah tucked it under her wing and nursed it from a wobbly gathering of a few nibbles by the pool to a brute of a daylong, never-ending feast that put all-you-can-eat joints to shame. Read more »

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