Thursday, May 18, 2006
Vamos a Canaletes
Last night was a big night for soccer: the night of the European championship. Barcelona was playing Arsenal, a team from London, and the match took place in Paris. Andrew and I went to a small bar in a weird shopping mall near the beach, which friends of his from school had rented out for the evening. Because the bar was full only of Andrew’s classmates, there were approximately 60 men and around 7 women, a typical ratio.
London scored early on, and as the first half ended and the clock in the second half steadily ticked away, the Barcelona team—and I’ll attempt to make a critical comment about a sporting event here—panicked and started playing desperately, missing all their shots. There was a lot of drama on both sides, with players who were barely bumped making sweeping, dramatic falls to the ground, often punctuated with rolling, writhing, and grimacing. I gasped each time, thinking the player looks to be in genuine pain, while everyone in the bar yells things along the lines of “Faker!” at the TV.
With only minutes to go in the match, Barcelona scored. Everyone in the bar leapt to their feet—so violently and ecstatically that the projector shooting the game onto the large screen was knocked down and broken, along with a hanging lamp. A mall security guard appeared, but not out of alarm: he stood at the doorway of the bar to watch the rest of the match. We watched the remainder of the match—which saw another goal for Barcelona, clinching the victory—on the small TV in the corner of the bar.
A waiter came to our table to clear some plates and beer bottles, and I leaned around him to keep watching. Andrew looked at me, eyes wide, disbelieving. “I’ve never seen you do that,” he said. “You’re really watching! You really like it!” He pointed out that it took four sports to find one I can actually get into—he’s taken me to a hockey game, a basketball game, and countless baseball games (which I do enjoy, in my way), and I’ve watched football on TV; but I’m always doing something else that occupies most of my attention, like talking (at the games) or crocheting (when watching on TV). This genuine engagement was a landmark event.
After the second goal was scored, the Spanish men in the room began chanting “Vamos a Canaletes!”—“We go to the Canaletes fountain!” The Canaletes fountain is at one end of La Rambla, near Placa Catalunya, and legend holds that drinking from the fountain ensures you’ll return to Barcelona. The fountain is tiny, like a small, ornate water fountain. But this was to be the gathering place for thousands and thousands of people.
Rather than take the Metro to Canaletes, Andrew and I got in a car with three of his friends. This turned out to be a scary decision. The city had gone completely crazy; people were leaning out of windows, screaming and weaving all over the place; revelers on the sidewalks were running everywhere; and two other friends on motos were swarming around our car. At one point, one nearly fell off his moto, under our tires, and our driver slammed on his brakes to stop from crushing him. “Put your seatbelt on,” Andrew whispered to me. I began groping and prodding around near the guy sitting next to me, trying to find the belt. “I’m sorry,” I said. “This is very American, but I need to put my seatbelt on.”
Once we made it to La Rambla, along with hordes of other people making their way to Canaletes, we let the group go. They were headed into the heart of the crowd, and Andrew and I were content to keep a healthy distance. Flares, fireworks, and explosions were increasing in intensity, and the crowd was growing fast. The scaling of lampposts and newspaper kiosks had begun in earnest. The tall trees and the wrought-iron balcony railings on the buildings lining La Rambla made dancing, smoky shadows in the bright pink light from the flares.
We took it all in, then headed home. We walked back to Placa Espanya, amidst happy but much less crazy crowds, hearing more explosions in the distance. Suddenly, we heard a small crack very close to us, and Andrew stopped, horrified. “Oh no,” he said. “My collar stay!” He had been carrying my bag for me, and the strap, resting on the edge of his collar, had broken his “collar stay” in half. It was a small casualty of the evening.