Here’s Elio Leturia in Charleston’s local rag (if you don’t want to register, just hit the Stop button on your browser as soon as the page has loaded):
BARCELONA, SPAIN–Sure, it’s the hot city to visit, but I was able to explore Barcelona through the smoke — literally.
Smoking doesn’t seem to be considered as much of a threat on the coast of Catalonia. It’s more a national pastime. Barcelonians inhale between meals, at the airport, at cafes, at the grocery, as soon as they wake up and just before they descend into bed very, very late at night.
They smoke between dinner courses: Your salad comes? Puff. A salmon fillet? Puff. A creamy dessert and espresso? Puff, puff.
If you’re looking for a smoke-free environment, try Starbucks. There are three of them, the only smoke-free places I found in Barcelona.
Smoke is one of the reasons I hardly ever go to city centre bars, which are mostly tiny and without decent airco. The other is service. An incomprehensibly rude Argentine barman in l’Ascensor almost caused a global conflagration during a brief bar crawl the other night by insisting on addressing my fervently Catalan girlfriend in broken English. That’s the kind of thing you’ll find in any number of other fleece-the-tourist establishments here, so go to the suburbs or to villages away from the coast, where you’ll get treated well. Or, if the worst comes to the worst, go to Starbucks.
One of the reasons I read the US regional press is that much of it – I’m not referring in particular to this article – is pretty good. Here I’ve stopped reading La Vanguardia, basically because it tends to omit the juicy stories and employs a bunch of semi-literates to produce poorly sourced puffery reflecting the interests of the ruling caste. Someone left the Sunday edition here yesterday and, since the cat wouldn’t go anywhere near it, I opened it. John Chappell knocks it down and kicks it hard here, but there were a couple of things that stood out for me.
Firstly there was the report on the alleged suicide & drive-by cremation in Manila of Joan Cogul, part of the Unió Democrática kleptocracy and chief suspect in a multi-million fraud involving the local tourist authority. As Leslie Crawford of the FT reports, death and resurrection in Spanish fraud cases is nothing new, but what I liked about La Vanguardia’s coverage was the notion that their confirmation of the gun-in-mouth hypothesis (first presented as a heart attack – an easy mistake to make) would somehow carry weight. What? La Vanguardia, ~public voice of the establishment to which Cogul belonged?
Secondly there was a craven defence by deadbeat “ombudsman” Josep Maria Casasús of some anti-Semite who persists in referring to the IDF as “the Jewish army” and the Israeli government as “the Hebrew authorities.” Casasús is, of course, the guy who just wasn’t interested in doing anything about his colleague, Rafael Ramos, plagiarist, fantasist, and London correspondent of LaVan despite apparently lacking basic English skills. Interestingly, someone told me the other day that Casasús once wrote a doctoral thesis on conservative writer Josep Pla, who of course was fired by Barcelona paper La Publicidad in 1920 for plagiarising everything he filed as their Paris correspondent. I presume that Casasús, too, is a smoker.
If you’re interested in local corruption – as well as a bunch of other more cheerful stuff – you should be reading John Barras’ Barcelona Business, currently a monthly publication aimed at folks like you and me.
- Casasús and the curse of the French
It sounds like Josep Maria Casasús, alleged ombudsman for La Vanguardia, is going around telling folks that I’m an American secret agent for asking him four months ago to do something about the paper’s plagiarising, fictionalising, semi-literate London correspondent, Rafael Ramos. John Chappell – who bravely reads the paper on Sunday – has the details of today’s explosion, and you’ll find a what-happened-when archive in my ethics section.
- Hacks getting caught
Franco Alemán over at HispaLibertas has very kindly passed on this article. In it Chicago Tribune ombudsman Don Wycliff tells the sorry tale of how, following an alert from Tim Blair, they had to get rid of Uli Schmetzer. Schmetzer had been with the paper for 20 years, but when he was caught fabricating an interview …
- Who ombuds the ombudsman?
Josep Maria Casasús, the La Vanguardia ombudsman to whom I complained almost four months ago re Rafael Ramos, wrote back last Friday, telling me that the information provided in the electronic address – that’s the 80s term for URL – was insufficient to reach a conclusion of plagiarism. He also asked me to come and meet him, bringing unspecified documents. I’ve written back asking him:
- Smoking Mary: herbal fumes and disease prevention
Mare de Déu Fumadora, Mother of God Smoker, is a local name used in Arenys de Mar on Catalonia’s Maresme coast for the day before yesterday’s feast of the Immaculate Conception, la Purísima. According to the much-maligned Jordi Bilbeny, this is the day when children were allowed to smoke by their parents (picture of kiddie smoking):