From time to time we ask artist friends and goof-balls to do a guest blog of some art show/ trip/ bonfire/ hospital visit/ tooth ache/ whatever for some entertainment fun joys... Below is one from our friend Andreas Trolf who does some art things for the skate company Coda, writes for numerous skate mags and is also in on some secret tv arangements. Needless to say he's a Fecal Pal and we were pleased when he wanted to guest blog a recent trip he took to Spain. -Trippe
Intrepid Explorer: the Life and Times of Me
words and photos by Andreas Trolf
Hello. It's me, Andreas. Perhaps you'll remember me from my previous fecal posts, such as the one in which I learned taxidermy, or did homemade tattoos, or took a trip to Maine. And while those blogs were obviously entertaining and informative (not to mention controversial!), I feel that this latest entry will provide not only hours upon hours of amusement, but will also educate the reader; particularly with regard to Europe, America's peaceful neighbor to the North!
I now invite you to sit back, perhaps enjoy a nice cup of tea (if it's evening time, maybe go ahead and have one of those nice herbal teas you keep in the back of the kitchen cabinet), and prepare to be dazzled by the strange and exciting island continent of Spain, a nation in which is spoken not one, but three foreign languages! In Spain you will encounter a race of strange and exotic people known as "Spaniards." Marvel as we explore Spain's vast and drunken landscape with actual natives! Gasp as we ride skateboards with them! Laugh with us as we point out hilarious cultural differences! And finally, gain a deeper understanding of the world we all share-short and tall alike; the wealthy and ultra-wealthy peacefully coexisting in their floating sky-villas; and horses, you'll learn to live with horses. So pay close attention, starting... right now:
In order to reach the fabled land of Spain from my home in America, I had to endure an arduous trek (mostly via aeroplane, although sometimes by horseless carriage) across nine time zones, which included a 12-hour layover in New York, during which time I enjoyed lunch with my Mommy. But the real first stop on my adventure was Paris, the Big Windy Apple of 1,000 Lights! This ancient city is home to Parisians (or "parisiennes," as they sometimes call themselves), who speak a strange dialect of English known only as "French." In addition to this oddity, their economy is no longer barter-based (such as the economy of France's closest ally in the recent Anglo-Norman Peasant Wars [2002-2003], the Kingdom of Great Britain), but rather they rely on a strangely named unit of currency, the Euro. Luckily for you, the reader, am I versed in many languages of the Old World and was able to exchange some of my real, American money for some of the brightly colored and arbitrarily valued Euros (they have 2 Euro coins which fit snugly in your pocket, but also the lesser-known and less popular 5,000 Euro pieces which weigh 100 Kilograms and are roughly 2 meters in diameter, hewn from fine alabaster).
My first stop was the infamous Pere LaChaise Cemetery, which was brought to Paris from Istanbul, Turkey, in 1986 and is rumored to be over 3,000 years old. Inside its fabled walls reside some of France's preeminent deceased citizens, and Jim Morrison, a little known American poet and drug enthusiast. Most people who are able to find this reclusive cemetery travel there in order to place flowers upon Morrison's grave. Then again, most people are idiots.
The day I went the cemetery staff was opening old graves for which the upkeep fee had not been paid.
The bodies formerly interred therein were then unceremoniously dumped into a nearby river. The stench was overpowering, but still I was able to pilfer a valuable necklace from one of the corpses! Kudos to me!
My main purpose for visiting this illustrious necropolis was to discover the tomb of an obscure French writer and homosexual, Marcel Proust, which I found hidden away in a small yet elegant lane towards the back of the cemetery.
Monsieur Proust's neighbor was slightly better dressed, I'm sad to report.
Almost as soon as I'd found the object of my search, the heavens, pregnant with greasy French rain, opened up. Not one to be so easily deterred from acting sullen and gloomy in a graveyard, I let my inner goth take the reins and I proceeded to skulk about, keeping company only with the several hundred ravens that had taken to following me around (note: a group of ravens or crows is called a "murder," while a group of foxes is called a "skulk").
My sojourn in the land of France proved to be a short one, as Spain's siren song was already audible, calling to me over the vast European countryside. And so I made haste for the fabled land of bulls and senoritas... Upon arriving at my first stop, Barcelona (founded in 1924 by Antonio Gaudi and home to noted Spanish author, Dan Brown), I was met by a young lady named Claire Dalquie, who is remarkable for being French yet living in Spain. Claire was gracious enough to invite me into her home for the duration of my stay in her city. Thank you, Claire. Or, to coin the vernacular, Gracias por todos las pescados!
The next day, I was glad to encounter American reinforcements and was joined on my trip by Tim Nargis and Eric Jones (the noted anthropologist). Our first order of business was to attend a museum exhibit on the Chernobyl tragedy which befell the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Now, I don't usually go in for "education" and things of that nature, but I was promised photos of animals which had been deformed by exposure to radiation, and so of course I went. And let me assure you, I was not let down!
Imagine how adorably small the baby's radiation suit is? Awwwww! And the gas mask! Cuuute!
Why, hello there, Mr. Two-Headed Cow!
And good day to you, Mrs. Drooling-Unrecognizable-Animal!
This exhibit was a stark and ugly reminder of the power that can be so horribly unleashed when solar energy plants such as Chernobyl have accidents. So let us all place our faith in the safe and reliable power source of the future: nuclear energy!
Here is my first actual photograph of Spain. This is a Spanish street, known there as a "calle," which, contrary to its appearance, is pronounced "ka-yay." See how close the Spanish buildings are set to one another? This is to confuse invading armies and allow the citizens to rapidly block off streets in order to trap the soldiers and then pour boiling oil upon them! Woe to the army that believes it can invade Spain!
The next day we met one of our three Spanish skateboard guides, Alex Castaneda. Alex is a former resident of San Francisco, though he is decidedly Spanish in his attitudes: he enjoys sleeping until noon and dating Swedish girls. We went skateboarding all around the city, culminating in a sweaty and exhausting stop at Barcelona's lone skatepark, Guinagueta, which was built in 1894 by Dutch missionaries and my other friend, Jose Noro. It is at the top of a hill, affording a luxurious view of other hills and also some roads.
Later that evening, we went to enjoy some of Barcelona's fabled nightlife. The bars and pubs are sort of different in Barcelona in that they're almost all theme bars. Some have an outer space theme, while others favor the Africa veldt. My personal favorite was Tequilas, which is devoted to 1980s heavy metal culture. The walls were bedecked with vinyl albums that you could choose from and the bartender would then play for your enjoyment.
Being a heavy metal aficionado, I was already familiar with most of the bands but some of them baffled even me. I think Cancer would even baffle Angela Boatwright, the world's foremost authority on heavy metal. Seriously, Cancer? And although the cover of the TNT album is much, much gayer, I'd heard of them before.
Then we walked around town, which is a frequent pastime of Barcelonans: just walking. No destination necessary. I would have found this somewhat ridiculous and tedious were it not for the helpful Arab men on every street corner who gladly give you one of the many beers they carry around in exchange for 1 Euro. These are called street beers and are one of the reasons why I truly love Barcelona. Before arriving back at Claire's "casa," we made a quick detour through a local playground where we proceeded to act stupid, a ritual that would be repeated almost nightly. Above is Tim. Below is Claire with ducks. Followed by another Tim (Reilly), falling down.
After spending a few nights in Barcelona, we decided to hire a car and drive clear across the entire island of Spain. This is a dangerous undertaking and we were met at each turn by stern disapproval and discouragement. Finally, though, we obtained a car under false pretenses (I told the woman at the rental agency that I needed to drive out of town to watch a bullfight, a favorite pastime of the bloodthirsty Spaniards) and set off, braving the desolate desert interior of the nation and the roving gangs of leather-clad bikers who repeatedly tried to steal our water rations.
We fought them off valiantly, sometimes barely escaping with our lives and canteens, and in the morning we arrived in the lost city of Algorta, in the mysterious Basque region that rises out of the Atlantic Ocean once every dozen years, home to the mysterious and powerful Basque people, a race of super strong beings with moody eyes. Also, it is home to La Kantera, a lovely skatepark directly on the Atlantic coast, as well as Javier Mendizabal, our Basque friend and excellent skateboarder. Hurrah!
We arrived early in the misty morning on the shores of Algorta, its sheer cliffs overlooking the vast windswept Atlantic, our constant companion in the north and a stark reminder of life's ultimate futility. Lesser men might have crumbled at merely gazing upon its terrible majesty. We took a nap in one of the bowls. I was tired. Later we went swimming.
A little while later, Javi showed up and we got down to some serious skateboard action. Tim did a neat trick where he made his ankle swell up to double its normal size and turn purple. Well done, sir. At the end of the day's skating, we ventured into Algorta proper where we enjoyed a Spanish delicacy known as "bocadillos," which is a loaf of bread with various things stuffed inside. It somewhat resembles our own American sandwich. Javi and his girlfriend, Africa, and our other friend Fernando took us on a tour of the city and then after many, many bottles of an interesting drink which the Spaniards call "cervesa," we slept the sleep of tired explorers at Javi's parent's house.
The next morning we ventured into the Basque capital, Bilbao, a bleak industrial city inhabited mostly by small people with large, hairy feet. I had been informed by the interweb that the Guggenheim family had commissioned a large enclosure within the city in which they had cleverly arranged various pieces of contemporary art, so as to educate and enlighten the city's populace. Naturally, I wished to view this magnificent edifice, designed by the great 17th century Italian sculptor, Francesco Gehry. The topiary garden shrubbery was engineered by New York based landscaper Jeff Koons, famous for his Halloween hedge mazes throughout northeastern New York State.
It was Monday and so, naturally, it was closed.
The museum appeared to be surrounded by water, but upon closer inspection it turned out that I was mistaken. Which I usually am, because I often jump to ridiculous conclusions. There were, however, some lovely ponds that flowed very slowly into Bilbao's brown, polluted river. When I saw this, I announced my intention to "capture the moment" via photography, which caused Eric and Tim to deride me for being too emo. But I say screw those guys and their inability to feel emotions. Lousy cyborgs.
When I came to the back of the museum, I encountered a 50 foot-tall spider that seemed to be attacking passersby. I was scared but, luckily, I was again mistaken, as it was only a huge sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, an incredibly old French woman. I like this photo because it looks like the bridge in the background is a spider web. I'm amused by things like that.
Moving on... Since Bilbao smells strongly of sulphur and is home to large packs of feral dogs, we decided to leave posthaste. Our next stop was only an hour away by motorcar: the city of San Sebastian! San Sebastian is one of those places where your most pressing concern is how to manage all of your leisure time. It is a town directly on the Atlantic, bisected by a cruel river (some say it flows with the tears of St. Sebastian himself!), home to some of the best surfing in the world and many, many people riding haphazardly about on small motor scooters. In San Sebastian, we stayed with our colleague Dani, who owns Flow Skateboard shop in the heart of olde San Sebastian directly behind a stately cathedral and across the street from our new favorite bar. In many ways San Sebastian is a traditional Basque town: many street signs are in Basque and many people speak it, although most of these people are old and are regularly made fools of in public ceremonies. I will now take a moment to address the subject of the Basque language. The Basque people claim that their language is the oldest known language on the European continent (which I suppose it is, since the Druids went missing); it looks strangely like a cross between Spanish and Russian, although I'm told they like to dispute this. The Basque people, like their distant cousins in Quebec, have been, over the years, attempting to secede from their motherland and set up their own autonomous, sovereign government. The regular Spanish government doesn't want this, so occasionally the Basque separatist group, the ETA, will blow something up. Lately though, there hasn't been much blowing up of things and the Basque people have been expressing their regional identity through the magic of traditional costumes, such as the three young ladies below.
They may look quaint to you, but given the chance these girls would murder you and everyone you hold dear (if you happened to be a member of Spain's federal government). In lieu of exploring the city the next day, we went skateboarding. I don't really want to bore you with skate photos, but it warrants mentioning that San Sebastian has lovely architecture for riding skateboards.
The next day the skies once again issued forth prodigiously with rain. Luckily, San Sebastian's umbrella industry is second to none. This shop sold only umbrellas, all made from the tanned hides of Spain's last remaining herd of wild bulls.
Above is a photo of Dani and Eric. This photo was taken, once again, while drinking beers in public, which appears to be Spain's national hobby. Well, according to my research, it's either that or napping. Both seem to be enjoyed with equal ferocity.
The next morning Dani took us to the very top of a very tall hill overlooking the scenic inlet that forms his hometown. At the top of this hill is an ancient castle, where the dictator Franco lived when he wasn't busy being a fascist and telling people what they could and couldn't name their children. Legend has it that Franco was murdered in the castle one stormy night; poisoned by his mistress so that she would be free to date other dictators. Some say that on quiet, moonlit nights you can still hear him roaming the halls of his castle. Others say that this is a lie invented by the San Sebastian Tourist Council and that the abandoned castle had been converted into a spooky amusement park in the mid-1960s. You be the judge:
Do haunted castles have bumper cars?
Or tests of manly strength featuring a werewolf, a Dracula, a witch, and a skull?
On the other hand, a casa encantada and a casa del terror could support either theory.
Giant ape doors could also go either way, I suppose. Draw your own conclusions.
We also encountered wild bands of ponies roaming the castle grounds. I know what you're probably thinking: how magical! An abandoned castle with ponies! Well, that's where you're wrong. These ponies were surely the steeds of Lucifer himself. They snarled as we tried to approach them. They frothed at their tooth-filled mouths. One had something written on his flank in spray paint. In short, ponies are disgusting, filthy animals which should be avoided at all costs.
Here is Tim pretending to fuck one.
Since we were at the top of a hill, it was only fitting that one of us skated the 5 miles downhill back into town. The task was left to me and I powerslid most of the way; not because I am a pussy, but because I didn't want to fall. See? Totally not pussy.
Once we were back in town we did some more exploring, since I was curious to note the customs and traditional garb of the natives.
I found the citizens of San Sebastian to wear the worst shirts ever made. Possibly, this is some sort of ritual clothing worn in order to appease angry deities, but I have not been able to ascertain this as fact. As the day wore on, we became hungry and found ourselves in need of alcohol. Walking through the old quarter of San Sebastian, we procured some traditional meats and cheeses as well as a cider drink, which, although it is reputed to have once been made from the distilled blood of Portuguese invaders, was made only from apples. Much to my disappointment.
Here our friend Acier pours some of the bloodless cider into a glass for his girlfriend, Laura, while we all relax high up in the hills overlooking the Atlantic and contemplate our eventual deaths.
After we'd seen all there was to see of the northern part of Spain, we once again ventured into the nation's interior in order to return to Barcelona and the fabled Mediterranean Sea and its many sirens and mermaids (and mermen!).
This time, we drove during the day. And let me be the first to tell you what a harsh and forbidding landscape we encountered once we left the coast! I've been informed by various reliable sources that the Spanish countryside served as the scenic backdrop for many Clint Eastwood westerns. There were also many, many giant sculpted bulls dotting the land.
The bulls, as you are no doubt aware, are a symbol of Spain's stubborn nature as well as a testament to the nation's world-class metal smiths. Notice the anatomical detail! The horns, the hooves, the balls! Stupendous!
Arriving in Barcelona, we were invited by Jose Noro and his girlfriend, Laura, to join them for a barbecue. Since I pride myself first and foremost on being a gracious guest, we stopped at a market so as not to show up empty handed. We brought beers and some of these adorable chocolates, endorsed by an African child.
Apparently, Spain is not as hung up as America when it comes to hilarious racial stereotyping. While there, I also discovered delicious chocolate snack treats called Filipinos, which may be more ridiculously racist even than Nabisco Cheese Nips and the new Keebler Curry Pakis that everyone seems to be so fond of these days. But still, we purchased the beer and isn't that what really counts?
Jose greeted us with a slab of meat, which I'm told is a traditional Catalan greeting. Also, Consolidated recently decided to turn Jose pro, for which I'm very proud of him.
Later that night after eating to excess at Jose and Laura's apartment, Jose took us out to a strange nightclub. The lights were dim and a loud, screechy musical combo was on a stage screaming at the club's patrons. I was intrigued by this, since apparently we were expected to pay for the privilege of being screamed at. How very strange.
Despite their generally sub-par skill at playing their instruments, I truly enjoyed the drummer's little hat. These young chaps called themselves "Eyaculacion Post-mortem," which I'm not sure really means what I think it means. Some of the concertgoers really seemed to enjoy the performance. These people mostly had very interesting haircuts, possibly as the result of a lost bet. But who am I to judge? I am here merely to observe. Jose, on the other hand, was eager to make new friends. Which he accomplished with astounding ease.
After the first band finished, a traditional Spanish athlete took the stage and proceeded to work the crowd into a frenzy by reciting verses from the oeuvre of Spain's poet laureate, William Carlos Williams (also, an avid Greco-Roman wrestling enthusiast).
Or perhaps it was his troupe of saucy backup dancers that caused the frenzy. Who can say? I myself was captivated by the mirrored brassiere of the young lady on the right. It was like staring at twin disco balls, only they bounced up and down instead of rotating.
As a grand finale, the luchador produced a ukulele and dazzled the crowd with a display of his virtuosity.
The evening, of course, was a wild success. The next day, bright and early, we set off to encounter more of Barcelona's vibrant culture. The city itself is many, many dozens of years old (although official records do not exist), and in that time it has developed rituals and pastimes you're not likely to find anywhere else.
Our first stop was a unique and motley gathering of people from all walks of life-from the lowliest pauper to the wealthiest spice merchant-engaged in primitive barter for piles of timeworn detritus. Claire told me this was called a "flea market," and let me tell you, that name is totally misleading. There were few if any fleas for sale. Mostly, I found naked, hairless dolls.
I can't imagine what child would want to play with this little fellow as he obviously has hygiene issues.
This doll must have served as a fertility fetish for some long forgotten culture. Doesn't it just ooze baby making?
Since Spain is a land of dubious morality, there was also a vendor of homosexual dolls.
Later that day, Jose decided to take us on a drive through some of Barcelona's suburbs. We came across this pyramid, an obvious homage to Spain's former Egyptian overlords who controlled the land in the 15th century and actually financed Christopher Columbus's expedition to discover India, which he did. I found no suitable explanation for the stream of water. Perhaps it is some form of primitive internet. Likely, we shall never know.
That evening, Claire remarked that my beard had grown wild beyond all reason. She proved this to me by inserting approximately three dozen sharp sticks into the beard while I dozed on the couch.
Upon waking, I ran to the bathroom with a pair of scissors. Claire went down by the beach and hopped on one leg to celebrate a victory for personal grooming.
We then roamed into the night to yet another theme bar. This one, strangely enough, was in an Egyptian theme-yet another homage to the country's former rulers. Tim, Claire, and I drank many large cervesas. This is Kiki, one of many young Swedish women who have immigrated to Spain in recent years to pursue careers in barmaiding.
The next morning, Eric, Tim, and I ventured to Barcelona's quaint farmers market, located in the heart of the quaint Ramblas, a quaint area virtually unknown to drunken British tourists. There you can buy every fruit and vegetable known to man in every color of the rainbow, some of which are unimagined outside of Spain, such as the acrimony and the persnicket.
Or, if you enjoy cute bunny rabbits, you'll find those there as well. The nice people at the market were even kind enough to remove the bunnies' fur since it was really hot out that day.
Also, it's not considered impolite to eat horses in Spain. I'm told it tastes like chicken. Giant, hairy chicken with hooves instead of chicken feet. Delicious, and not nearly as gamy as zebra.
I'd hate to make it sound as if we did nothing but drink and explore on this trip. Because the truth is that exploring takes a lot out of you and some days we just sat around, biding our time until the proper moment. But I won't bore you with photos and reportage of us sitting leisurely around. That's boring. And I'm not in the business of boring people. One day we took a large red bus to the top of a hill, upon which was located scenic Parc Guell, a public park designed by Gaudi in his trademark style, which is, well, fairly gaudy.
Since I'm morally opposed (long story) to taking photos of buildings and architecture, I concentrated on taking photos of people taking photos. I'll bet whatever these fine folks are photographing is fucking awesome, though! Then we walked around some more. I even bought an ice pop.
In one narrow street, we encountered a giant Marmaduke bellowing at all passersby; asserting his authority. It is a little known fact that Spanish law states that a large dog must be appointed to at least one seat on each city council. Consequently, there are few cats in Spain and those that remain are currently seeking political asylum in the Canary Islands.
As night slowly descended upon the Mediterranean like a luxurious opaline curtain, we meandered back to Claire's apartment, satisfied with our day of traipsing about. Back home, we went up to the roof and smoked traditional Spanish cigarettes-the kind made of hash smuggled into the country from the nearby kingdom of Morocco (in the rear ends of Moroccan smugglers!).
The buildings on Claire's street were so closely set that their TV antennas mingled together like a forest of pointy trees without leaves. Also, you were able to walk from roof to roof for the length of the block. I had brief fantasies of being chased by the police and escaping by running along the rooftops since I am limber and agile.
The next evening, our friends Lou and Julian went out with us and we realized an astonishing resemblance between Julian and Tim.
We even managed to find a bar with a theme that suited me perfectly.
I feel that I would be remiss if I did not include a brief mention of a thriving cottage industry within Barcelona: human statue-ry. This grand tradition dates back to the Spanish Inquisition when alleged heretics disguised themselves as statues so as not to be tortured and killed. Many people are purported to have painted themselves bronze and stood still for well over 35 years. And now in modern day, no-longer-anti-Semitic Spain, this noble undertaking has been adopted by street performers.
These enterprising individuals clothe themselves in ever more elaborate costumes so as to resemble popular characters from the worlds of television or history. Then they stake out a location on a well-traversed thoroughfare and stand perfectly still, waiting for the money to roll in. This is an odd spectacle, but one which I've encountered before in my travels. And despite the undoubtedly rigorous preparation, the only true talent required for successful human statue-ry is the ability to stand utterly still for prolonged periods of time. Then, when a tourist chances to pass too closely the human statue will demand money. Brilliant. Some human statues I've seen include: (the above) centurion and Caesar; the Simpsons; Che Guevara (seriously); Ronaldinho; cowboys; the Marx Brothers; Adolf Hitler; "Weird" Al Yankovic; Tom Cruise (Risky Business-era); and Virginia Woolf. I would have liked to provide a better photograph of the statues, but then I would have had to pay them. And fuck that. But while out walking, I chanced upon another shop specializing in the sale of dolls. Only this shop sold only dolls of baby Jesus!
Now, I'm aware that people worship all sorts of whacky deities in this crazy world of ours. This, if nothing else, is something I've learned in the course of my travels. For instance: in Borneo, people worship warthogs as the spirits of their ancestors; in Germany almost 75% of the population are practicing Wiccans; and in our own United States, it might surprise you to learn that the entire population of Newport, Rhode Island worships a sentient super computer named Gary. But when looking at these baby Jesus dolls, I have to wonder: is it really wise to put your faith in a man-god who can't keep his own feet out of his mouth? Is it, Spain? I put the question to you. Get with the times Spain, Scientology is where it's at.
Anyhow, I suppose that's it. I hope that you managed to learn something during our brief time together. I know I have. I've learned to love again, so thank you for that.
Thank you also to the magical land of Spain.
Then I got on a plane again and went home. The movie was The Lake House, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, a trite and cloying tale of time travel and architecture.
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