Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Barefoot in Barcelona, part II

Although my long runs up into the parque nacional St. Pere were wonderful, things ´back at the ranch´ were not going to well. The woman I was renting a room from (via airbnb.com) Teresa, was not liking my barefoot lifestyle. This is an older woman, a widow, renting out rooms in her apartment as here way of making some money, since she´s from Uruguay. Her apartment was not the greatest. Dark and kind of dingy, but in a nice quiet neighborhood. I think it was kind of on the low rent side of housing, and old. That said, she had some quirks regarding certain things about it, most especially her bathtub. She and I had some discussion about my barefeet leaving some grunge in the tub after showers. I didn´t really think anything was too bad, and did try to make sure any black stuff was thouroughly washed away, but she got really upset when she found anything wrong with her 15 year old bathtub. Also, she didn´t actually say anything until she saw me, about two weeks in, actually leaving the apartment barefoot. But, I tried again to be real thorough about cleaning when I showered. Still, this wasn´t the only thing she´s confronted me on: She also claimed that the oranges I was eating were leaving little specks on her marble kitchen floor, and that the vinagre and baking soda that I wash my hair with was corroding her bathtub.

I think something else was going on, something bigger, about her maybe just not liking me, or not liking my ´naturalista´ (her term) lifestyle. The first two weeks seemed to go fine, and and I would help her around the house sometimes. But she finally made a proclamation that I couldn´t keep running barefoot if I wanted to stay. I think now that maybe she wanted me to actually leave, but couldn´t bring herself to say that, because we´d kind had an agreement that I would be staying there for two months. Also, perhaps, she was torn about having a steady income from me, since her other borders tended to stay for a weekend or a week.

That wasn´t acceptable to me, but I offered to be even more careful about cleaning the bathtub after runs, which I already felt was ridiculous, but I just didn´t want to have to try and find another place to live, since tourist season had started and finding something long term would be almost impossible.

Anyways, with that understanding, and because she and I kept missing each other, I ended up leaving her a good portion of the remaining rent, in cash, in an envelope. Which was fine, except then she then gave me an ultimatum, that I could not run barefoot any more. So, I felt that was not fair of her, yet I knew I wasn´t going to get my money back. That is, if I say screw it, and just left, she would not refund my money, because she would claim that she´s already made plans for me to be there, and I´d be treating her unfairly by leaving. Grr.

(Also, at this time she accused me of stealing food from her morning breakfasts for others. I was able to prove to her that it was in fact one of the young amercan borders in another room who had done it, while drinking. Still, that fact that she automatically thought it was me showed me what she thought of me.)

But, I buckled down and agreed to not run barefoot. That killed me. And, created a stress that started to affect my whole stay there. I just dreaded coming back to the place. So, I actually cheated and wore my huaraches out of the aparement, then took them off. Actually for the parque nacional I needed to wear huaraches. But, I felt that since she had broken our contract, that I was justified in doing what was good for me.

Still, the stress of living there was just unpleasant. I just did not even like being there, and avoided her as much as possible. that also meant I was running less. So, after a week of that, I decided to just leave, and eat the rest of the time I´d paid for. Staying there wasn´t worth it, even though I knew that I´d have to be staying at noisy hostels, and paying way more rent. I still maybe not running as much as I´d like.

But, what happened was that I was forced to reevaluate my plan. I decided to just leave Barcelona. And where else did I want to go in Spain? Well, the island of Mallorca was right off the coast a bit, and I¨d always wanted to go, and Barcelona was the closest city. I wasn´t going to get any closer. And there was a ferry too. I was in.

I felt like a spy. I didn´t tell Teresa. I didn´t want any wierd money demands from her. I´d paid for another week. She´s broken our contract. I´d tried to be nice. She was treating my like a teenager. I just didn´t even want to talk to her anymore. I bought my ferry ticket, and planned to go the next morning.

Interestingly, that night, I returned at about midnight, and found my key wouldn´t work. Teresa had stayed up late in order to talk to me. She again had found dirt streaks in her bathtub, and that was too much, she couldn´t take any more. She informed me that I could stay until the 10th, which is how long I´d paid for, but after that that I would have to go. She said all this as if she were making a huge sacrifice on her part, but since I knew I was leaving already anyways, I was finally able to stand back and look at the big picture, that I´d been wasting my energy with this poor old woman, and that I should have left sooner.

Also, I wonder: should I have been up front about my barefoot running? I feel like no, that it´s just something I do, and I dont´have to give excuses for it, to anyone. yet, maybe telling her would have...not sure, prevented problems? but maybe not? I think she would have said yes to the two month´s stay, and we still would have had problems.

As long as I´m complaining, I´ll share another negative running related incident. I was coming back from a long run up in the park. It had rained all day, which was nice for the running, keeping me cool, but I´d also gotten my t-shirt sopping wet, so had it hanging off my waterbottle carrier belt.

Now, something I´d noticed is that no one ever goes shirtless in Spain. Or, not anytime in the city. A couple older gentelmen up in the park would go shirtless, but even up there the younger guys always wore shirts. Even on a super sunny day. So, I figured it was a left over thing from the Franco years, a conservative holdover, from being a strict catholic country. So when I was in the city, in in park Montjuic, I´d keep my shirt on, not wanting to be too disrespectful, though being barefoot kind of threw that idea out of wack anyways.

Anyways, on this day, the rain had kind of let up by the time I was returning back into town, but my shirt was sopping, and I just didn´t not want to wear it for the 45 minutes back to Teresa´s place. So, for that day I just ran shirtless along the main running route, Avenida Diagonal, knowing I looked a little odd with no shirt nor shoes. Ok, fine. I´ll be the sacrificial wierdo. Not like I live here.

But, in a smaller city park near the apartment, this strange man saw me coming and flagged down, telling me to stop. He looks about my age, not super built, but with some muscle on his arms, and dress not in a suit, but not super casual either. My spider sense was going off though, because of the expression on his face, kind of angry. I wondered if he was drunk, or kinda crazy, or both.

He told me he was an undercover cop. Now, I´d actually seen some undercover cops bust some pickpockets down on La Rambla, so knew that they existed. But, here? in a regular city park, far from the tourist center? He never actually presented ID though. But his behavior was very aggressive. He pushed me, and grabbed my arm at one point. He informed me that it´s against the law to not have a shirt. Not sure if he was a cop or not, I showed him that I had one, though explaining to him about it being wet cotton was beyond my spanish. He also looked at my barefeet, but didn´t actually say anything about them.

He then grabbed my left arm, pointing at my tattoo and saying that it was acceptable. That was it. I pulled my arm away and backed up. Then he tried to tell me that he had only been joking. Whatever dude. Even if he was a cop, he was acting was too inappropreatly.

So, I just ran away. He tried to get me to stay, but I just ignored him at that point. As I left he yelled after me that the next time, the next day, I should be wearing a shirt.

Strange. I´m not sure if there is a law or not, but it was just another example of not really feeling very welcome there in Barcelona.

The good news is, Mallorca if barefoot running heaven, which I´ll write about in my next post.