The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The other day I was watching my 4-year old son playing with his friends in the local park and had the privilage to witness a very curious form of behavior that I could probably use as the basis for a sociology thesis.

Nic is an incorrigible magpie and will grab at anything that catches his eye. It's a habit that drives CS crazy as she's quite the cleanliness Mum. So, the series of events went like this:

- Nic spies a cigarette butt, picks it up and starts examining it with utter fascination.
- His friend looks on and noticing Nic's interest, immediately makes a grab for it.
- Nic resists and this makes the friend insist even more until the two are practically wrestling over it.
- Other friends gather round like hungry jackals and hover there, hoping against hope that the precious item might fly out during the scuffle and they can make off with it.
- At no point does it occur to any of them that (a) it is actually just a filthy squashed cigarette butt and (b) this being a park in Spain, there are probably dozens more lying on the ground within a few feet of them.
- The fact that Nic and his friend want this thing means that THEY want it too.

This can only mean one of two things:

Either children are born with the deep economic understanding of stock market traders and possess an innate appreciation of what defines true value i.e. that which other people are prepared to pay.

Or stock market traders are trained to act like a bunch of petulant children who fight jealously over a bunch of crap which as often as not, has no intrinsic value whatsoever.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Obits and Pieces Nº 4: La Pilarica

Well this little series is beginning to feel a bit tired and samey so I've decided to let it go. However, it would be a crime to kiss the endeavour goodbye without mentioning one more old haunt, as it is perhaps the establishment that most belongs here.

If you ever happen to be tooling around the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona on some backstreet safari, you might come across a beautiful little square called Plaça Sant Just. You've done well, there are three gems on this square that are worth consideration, the church, a top-notch restaurant (L'Academia) and a rather classy cocktail bar (The Ginger). But if you take the narrow street that leads from the square to the larger Sant Jaume Street, you might spot a disheveled, shuttered barfront topped with an upsidedown sign. Now to save you from doing a handstand and making yourselves a laughably easy mark for the local pickpockets, I can tell you now that PILARICA is the word that stands inverted before you.*

Many seasons have come and gone since the Pilarica drained its last keg and left its modestly-sized but ferociously loyal clientele with nothing more than a few fuzzy warm memories and a bruise on the heart. The gang never quite recovered from the Diaspora that followed its demise and although we did occasionally invite eachother to parties and the like, we eventually drifted apart.

The bar itself was unashamedly 'guiri' and about the size of a postage stamp. Guiri by the way, is a derogative Spanish word for foreigner and to be fair, the Pilarica was usually replete with anglophones. Occasionally we would condescend to share the evening with a native but if he couldn't speak the lingo and/or keep up with the banter and wit, he generally got bored and eventually ended up shagging off in a huff. Most of us were English teachers and got paid to pander to students all day. Damned if we were going to make an effort to talk to a local in our precious leisure time, unless of course she was seriously cute.

In its heyday, walking into the Pilarica was a bit like walking into a sitcom. The same crowd was always there and to coin a phrase, everybody knew your name. We did read like a quirky character checklist too. There was the intellectual bore, the brash loud American, the unstable coke-sniffer, the Israeli guy who probably worked for Mossad and the busty flirtatious vixen who half-enticed, half-terrified all the men.

Two very amiable English blokes ran the gaff but never at the same time - there wasn't enough room behind the bar. One of them was Andy, a guy who was far too English and nice for his own good, although this did bestow on him a wonderfully shy and self-effacing sense of humour. At the end of an evening when you handed over the pittance that you owed him for the deluge of beer that you'd guzzled, he'd actually apologize. If you left a tip, he'd stare at it with feigned awe and say "Oooh, there'll be meat in my soup tonight!" One of those joke that fortunately becomes a comforting ritual before it stops being funny. Someone once said that the English don't have soul; they have understatement - go figure.

The venue even had a special influence on my personal life. I was frequenting it just about the same time that CS and I started going out. Now I certainly wouldn't say that CS was a bit of a control freak because she might catch wind of it and then my life wouldn't be worth living. So I wouldn't say that. At all. Never. Ever. But having (not) said that, it is true that for her, this bar was the other woman. We weren't living together at the time so, much to her chagrin, she didn't always know where I was. Whenever she found out that I'd been at the Pilarica, she'd fly into a bizarre jealous rage. The strange thing is, she knew I didn't go there to cruise women - it was the bar itself that was the focus of her fury.

So in the end, I figured that immunization was the only solution and began inviting CS to the bar in small doses. Of course, within a couple of weeks, she was enjoying herself there more than I ever did and was far more popular.

The place really was damn small all the same. I kid you not when I say that you never had to lose the train of a conversation for having to go for a piddle because you could hear every word that was being said (and drunken inhibition allowing, could often make a contribution yourself) from the confines of the solitary bog.

The Pilarica was also a regular touchstone for the people who crewed the luxary yachts that dropped by Barcelona quite frequently. A more fascinating bunch of tax-dodgers you'll never meet. They'd come in for several nights in a row, cut loose and then disappear for several months only to return with stories of fables far-off lands and the latest wannabe top model their millionaire bosses were shagging. For some reason, it was always the chefs who talked biggest and drank hardest. I reckon it was because they didn't have to appear spritely on the deck the next morning. Anyway, I usually just sat patiently and listened. It's never wise to piss off a rambling dipso who knows how to use sharp knives.

Eventually though, the neighbours started complaining about the noise and Andy began having health problems. Finally the night came along where Andy had to padlock the shutter for the last time and among Barcelona's vast constellation of drinking holes, one very tiny but intensly bright star faded out. It truly was like losing a dear friend.

So I salute you Pilarica, for your likes will never be seen again.

* Oh tragedy upon tragedy. Since beginning this diatribe, I have been down the street where the ruins of the old Pilarica once proudly stood. What I found was far more depressing than a sad shut-up old bar. They've opened up a poncey wine bar on that sacred site, a pox upon them. Not having a Molotov cocktail handy, I had to settle for spitting on the ground and incanting a Gypsy curse. May they suffer for their sacrilege!