Have you ever had your name chanted on a crowded boardwalk in a foreign country? I have. Here’s my story . . .
Barcelona, Spain is an amazing city. It’s culture, food, architecture, nightlife and street performers are virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world. Not to mention its beaches . . . and the people who make the beach their place of business (Yes, I am talking about drug dealers).
His hair was in dreads. And for no other reason but that he looked eerily similar to Bob Marley, whose famous mug graced the front of his shirt. He was deeply tanned and his bare feet were as dirty as the knees of his baggy pants from walking and working in the wet sand. But if you were to think he was a bum you’d be wrong. He was a drug dealer. And a clever one at that.
You see, this guy didn’t just peddle pot. He was an artist too. His plan was simple, yet effective – use his artisitc ability to attract prospective customers. I’m by no means condoning the dealing of drugs, but this guy had a good thing going. Seriously, how can you resist wanting to get a closer look at a HUGE dog or dragon made out of sand?
His name was Matthew and our first conversation went something like this:
Me: “Nice sand sculptures. How long did those take you to build?”
Matthew: “Not long. Hey man, you want some grass?”
Me: “No thanks, bro.”
And that was it. From sand sculptures to drugs in ten seconds flat.
With the sun out, and the sand warm beneath our feet, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beaches of Barcelona drinking warm Spanish beer and fending off propositions for “Massageys” from the small Asian women scurrying up and down the beach. The groups of tourists and locals came and went – some clothed and others leaving nothing to the imagination – but all providing great foder for people watching.
As the sun retreated into the ocean and the boardwalk filled with people eager to experience Barcelona’s renowned nightlife, we pulled ourselves from our comfortable spots in the sand, grabbed our remaining beers and began the trek back to our hostile. Weaving my way towards the boardwalk, remaining beers in hand, I realized three things:
- Awkwardly carrying three beers through the throngs of foot traffic on Las Ramblas would be a pain.
- Matthew was slaving away creating another sand sculpture.
- It was hot and he was probably thirsty.
Always looking to improve foreign relations, I stopped and offered the beer to Matthew. His response was priceless. Pure amazement and gratitude as he immediately cracked one open. We made small talk as he drank. He told me his name was Matthew and that he was originally from Germany, but now called Barcelona home. Matthew then asked my name and I told him Joe. His response: “Joe . . . Like G.I. Joe?!” After telling him that I was from the state of Washington, we shook hands and I merged into the stream of people on the crowded boardwalk. As I walked away I turned around and saw Matthew, to the bewilderment of many onlookers, pumping both hands in the air and chanting “G.I. Joe! G.I. Joe! Washington State! Washington State!”
Chances are, I’ll never see Matthew again. But you can bet I’ll always remember that evening on the boardwalk in Barcelona. And that is exactly what I love about traveling. New places, activities and experiences are only part of the story. Traveling is about the people you meet. Because it’s the stories you create with those people that you’ll always remember.