Wednesday, September 16, 2009

15 September 2009 – Diagonal

I’m living in a tourist town. I suppose there have always been tourists in my prior locales (hippies looking for Bob Dylan’s house and alcoholics looking for the Summit Brewery) but never like in Barcelona. Everyone confused on the subway is a tourist. Everyone with a disposable camera is a tourist. Everyone white at the beach is a tourist. I have nothing against tourists. I was attracted to this city while a tourist; however, it is just hard to comprehend that I live in a place that is so cool, hoards of people pay thousands of dollars to vacation in my neighborhood. [Note: I am now on…anyone can stay in my neighborhood—on my couch—for free.]
Yesterday, I finally felt comfortable enough to interrupt some tourists and give them some practical advice. I was going for a run and for some reason decided to run down Passeig de Gracia—the street with all the designer handbag shops. While stopped at a red light, I watched a trio of American tourists as they tried to figure out which direction they were facing. It was a long light, hence a long debate. Just as the light turned green, I walked over to them and said, “Southeast.”
They were shocked. I’m not sure if they were surprised that I spoke like an American or that they had been so conspicuous that everyone heard their conversation. Whatever the case they promptly turned around and headed towards some Gaudi attraction. Everyday I have multiple opportunities to aid tourists. It is fun. I am going to do it more often.
This brings me to another topic…Gaudi. Gaudi was an influential architect who lived roughly 100 years ago. He designed a number of buildings in Barcelona, all of which look very contemporary and original even today. Now, I agree that the buildings are very awe-inspiring and atypical. Despite this, I can’t comprehend why people suddenly become interested in architecture when they come to Barcelona. In most places I doubt the hundreds of thousands of soccer moms and prepubescent suburban boys would care less about the appearance of a building, but in Barcelona, they pay big bucks to tour Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. It has been established that while in Barcelona, you need to see Gaudi. For this reason people will go and take pictures where they are told to do so. If these buildings were in Akron, Ohio, I doubt they’d receive any attention.

8 September 2009 – IESE

Today marked a new era in my daily commute, the era of subway. For years, I’ve anticipated the day when I’d arrive to work via subway. Ever since my first metro ride at the age of seven in Washington DC, I have envisioned myself amongst the bustle of the commuters, navigating the packed transfer tunnels while being completely oblivious to everyone else. I figured the day would come sooner or later, and today on my way home from class, I realized that I was a subway commuter.
Like everyone, I’ve technically been commuting my whole life. Throughout grade school and high school, I walked every day, rain or shine, -20 or +85. In college I graduated to a bicycle which saw many spills on the icy roads between Minneapolis and St. Paul. After a bicycle theft and a new job, I purchased my first transit pass and became an advocate for MSP public transportation. One of the few downfalls with Minneapolis is its public transit. The spread out nature of the city prevents an efficient or effective subway system, limiting my commute solely to buses and to the occasional light rail ride (depending where I woke up). Then I moved to Barcelona, experimented with the different routes to class, and decided to become a subway commuter.
To get to class each morning, I walk five minutes to the Verdageur station. I take the Blue Line to Sants Estacio where I transfer to the Green Line, a few short stops to my ultimate station, Palau Reial. From Palau Reial, it is a fifteen minute walk—up hill—to campus. I could take a more direct bus route, requiring zero transfers, in the same amount of time; however, I have chosen the first route because I enjoy the opportunity to get a mild walk in each morning. Every good commute—even one on an immaculate subway system—still should require a good walk.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Walden Pond

For my eighteenth birthday, my brother gave me a well worn copy of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. In the front cover he inscribed, “You need to be 18 to really read this.” I’m not sure if he was right. I remember forcing myself through the book. Though some parts stuck out, my mind wandered through a majority of the book.

Tonight, over eight years after my initial reading, I finished reading Walden Pond for the third time. Each reading has brought different meaning to me as if I was reading a completely different book. Though I find parts to be quite antiquated (sorry Henry, but I have an additional 150 years of science to refute some of your deep thoughts), I know of few books which can elicit such reflection. This past reading brought even more reflection, thanks largely to having recently lived my own Walden experiment.

Early on, Thoreau discusses why he went into the woods. His response provoked thoughts of my summer in the wilderness. My reasons for hiking this summer parallel Thoreau’s explanations: “live deliberately,” “learn what it [nature] had to teach,” “suck out all the marrow of life.” After three readings, I finally understand why Thoreau wrote these famous lines. He wrote these for the doubters, for those who could not fathom a need to break from the status quo. He doesn’t need to convince me on the merits of going into the woods; I already know and have his whole book to understand his motives. However, without a whole chapter of beautiful prose defending his actions, people would keep questioning him…and I bet they still did.

I can relate to Thoreau. Since returning from the wilderness, the most common question I have received was, “Why?” I have given a number of responses, but I don’t think I have ever convinced my questioner. It is unexplainable. But if Thoreau was ultimately permitted to write a canned response, so can I. Here is my pathetic attempt to describe my summer:

I went into the woods to be reminded of my past. By entering the woods, I returned to Eden. I saw how things were and was reminded how simple they still truly are. It’s easy to forget what is important amidst life’s grind. The woods are honest. That is why I went there.