The List




40. Bar Ramon

February 18, 2019
Bar Ramon in Sant Antoni, Barcelona.

She clearly hates me. One insightful day, he will as well. In fact, a whole bloodline of bitter renouncers will probably blame that derelict forefather as they be laying on the couch, ranting to their shrewd shrink about why they suffer deep of social phobia and cannot allow themselves the pleasure of being around bars. A bunch of sober bores, these future descendants of mine.

I really can't blame them. I am just a deeply troubling fun guy to be around with. Perhaps one of the greatest and most fascinating characters to ever walked this humble earth that we first perceived as flat, then modified to round and then decided to destroy is indeed me. Because personally, and this I write from the bottom of my self-opinionated heart, I really believe that I am the greatest company I ever had and will have. Of course, a few years back there was that guy called Ron that I met in Kolkata who got high through a homemade light bulb vaporiser and who shared wild stories from when he saw the Stones at Altamont back in 1969. He was quite intense. But after him; it’s definitely me. It just seems as if we have so much things in common, me and myself. The bars, the drinking and the total lack of understanding when to call it a night. It is just such great fun. It truly is. Somewhere in my self-lying reservoir of relating to the surrounding world I can however see that none of us are that easy to be with. Definitely not to live with, invest in or for that matter depend on. I mean, the bars, the drinking and the total lack of understanding when to call it a night. Family wise, those guys are a hard nut to crack.

You may wonder why you are reading this unexplainable drivel. This I fully understand. It does not make the weirdest of sense. But as I inexplicably decided ten articles ago, every tenth milestone on this blog is supposed to take all of you nonexistent readers out there behind the scenes of this ill-omened venture of mine and therefore I am now going to guide you through something that is rather pivotal in my world; the delicate relation of family and bars. So let us gaze down from above and reflect on what it really means to undertake such an insurmountable journey that aims to cover a whole world full of different bar cultures while still trying to live up to the norms of what makes a safe and dependable family-man.

Because one thing is sure. It is not easy to live with an obsession like this. Every semi-respectful piece of bone within me keeps aching of filth and shame as I try to convince my fiancee to schedule our much needed vacation in Mexico City. “Why in heaven’s name would we want spend our beach holiday in the most populous metropole of the Western Hemisphere?”, she burst out in anger. “It does not even have a beach!”. Disgraced and humiliated I retreat to a lonesome world of fantasising about the historical cantinas of the Mexican capital that I hope I one day will be able to proclaim as explored. And so the madness goes on. Perhaps I can manipulate our tickets from Copenhagen to the Sun Coast of Spain with a deranged transit in Moscow? And what about the Twin Cities for New Years? “Twin Cities? Who the hell goes with their family to freezing Minnesota in the middle of the winter?”, I hear her screaming in the back of my head. Well, disturbed bar aficionados may well have the tendency to do.

And yes, I need to carry on with this scheming nonsense. There is so little time for so many bars. Neither am I fortunate enough to count this critical enterprise as my job. This is really just an expensive stupid hobby. Of course, I can see how family life would come as a much simpler task if I would just hang around the garage, playing with model trains or whatever those ageing men do back in there as they slowly vanish into the defeating claws of grumpy male elderhood. But truth to be told, I don't drink that cup of tea. In fact, I don't drink tea at all. And frankly, I would just like to take the opportunity and quote Dan Ackroyd and Jim Belushi when they with total conviction declared that they were on a mission from God. Me too. That’s how ruthlessly fanatical I am prepared to get.

So we are stuck with these conniving shenanigans of mine. At every dreadful shopping stop on the family weekend trip, daddy suddenly disappears for twenty minutes, just to return content with another sample and two rosy cheeks. The works of an immoral character? Perhaps. As I ask my dear family members if they want some more heavy gravy for that sedative turkey that I dubiously prepared them so I can vanish out into the night while they be sleeping like innocent lambs, I do of course suffer a tiny bit of some good old remorse. And I do have the ability to understand the raised eyebrows of the unforgiving mob of political correctness when I confess that my son must hold the Guinness record of how many bars a three year old kid may have visited during his brief time on this earth. It is of course nothing but a tragic scandal even though it makes this corrupt father a bit warm of pride.

A hard reality for some to swallow is that obnoxious diehards like myself often tend get away with our indecent ways. We are so blindly determined in our erratic strivings that we are ready to do anything in our power to get what we want. It is really quite frightening. Let us just recall Bar Ramon in Barcelona. Time of wrongdoing; August 2017. We spent a week in the Catalan capital and I had promised myself and everyone affected that I was going to lower my gard and fully focus on the joy of being together with the ones that means the most. With this I obviously failed. The big city holds too many distractions. Like this wonderful little piece of neighbourhood love in boisterous Sant Antoni. It really got under my skin. Not at all an impossible place to enjoy as a family considering that the Mediterranean cultures charmingly don't despise kids in public and also conveniently located just a couple of blocks from where we lived, still in my world a deeply disturbing element of impossible reach. Because of its opening time at 8:30 in the night I always found myself passing by on our way home while carrying a dog-tired child who after each extensive day of going fully berserk on the beach was in a desperate need of getting tucked directly to bed, alternately being offered a warming straitjacket for the mild Catalan evening breeze. Always filled to the brim with locals in the know, Bar Ramon thus stood there almost mocking me night after night as I goggled enviously through the windows and kept listening to the soothing symphony of clattering plates and blithe laughter inside. “Oh, you brutal and indifferent world”, I thought to myself each time before continuing home to stir myself a decadent nightcap of baby formula.

But as mentioned before, shameless rogues as myself always prevail. One night I was also given my opportunity. She with a migraine and he with an alarming hangup on watching The Wheels on the Bus go round and round twenty times too many. If anytime, this was surely my moment to break free. I decided to brave up and pop the critical question and after she had given me an aggrieved but consenting nod to abandon all ludicrous attempts of playing the card of a steadfast patriarch of any sound moderations, my treacherous persona was soon squeezed in at the cramped counter at Bar Ramon. A bit feverish of expectations, I quickly downed two cañas and observed the moment around me. This was surely it. Iberian bar culture as it transcendently rises above everything the inferior world around it claims as a triumph of the social. It is all very obvious and it is all so simple. This part of the world contains that self-evident idea of owning the right to the night. It knows how to nurture the everlasting dialogue. There is that confident action of savouring world class produce while simply standing up and in the end of the day I guess all this stems out from an untroubled blend of blue-collar street cred and aristocratic flair. Long live the peninsula is what I would propose as a toast.

Ironically, Bar Ramon turned out to be the definite highlight of the week. Perhaps the whole summer. Every single expression of the insecure contempt that I usually hold for Barcelona being an anxious city of silk-stocking egomania had to be put aside on a night like this. It was all too convincing. The unpretentious but amusing hosting by brother and sister David and Yolanda, both of them grandchildren to Ramón Estalella who founded this bar in 1939. The enviable freshness of the Mediterranean Sea as the four whopping prawns on my plate had been grilled to a stage of unforgettable perfection, served only with half a lemon plus the painful recognition that this city knows how to cook like no other. The dark hypnotic voice of John Lee Hooker as he kept murmuring through the speakers, a natural detail considering that both he and Bo Diddley got their old guitars hanging in this blues fanatic house of joy. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Between many unsuspected riffs, that’s an encore.

And what great time we had, me and my corrupt self. As the night got older and ribs of rabbit got washed down with peppery red, we enjoyed every second and as we eventually crowned the magic with a generous glass of the local digestive ratafia, we toasted to our well-being and precious time together on this earth. Of course we couldn’t stop at this point so after Bar Ramon’s closing we headed further on for an absinth-fuelled adventure at our beloved Bar Marsella in El Raval. Eventually, the night ended up with us wandering the grand avenues of Eixample for hours, discussing the great mysteries of life while getting lit up on the small funky roach we deliberately had saved for a magic moment like this. A ll in all a great duo, all in all a great night.

Enfin, here comes the morals. Or at least my spineless way of saying I am sorry. Because I did of course not perform the day after. And honestly, a lot of days are like that. Honestly, it is something that is burying me in guilt. They deserve so much more. Both of them. Between the distractions and the absence, he is too young to understand why his father is Skyping to him from a hotel room in Lima just because he has a personal quest (read ghost) that is too incomprehensible for anyone to understand. And she is the best thing that ever happened to me. Still I let my egoistic venture stand in the way of the dedication our life together most definitely requires and deserves. I am indeed a fool of gargantuan proportions. What's worse, I magically tend to self-pity about it.

Still I need to point at passion. Without this, I believe we are nothing. I might have a strange and destructive one coming at me but it is nevertheless too powerful to ignore. I love bars. I love places like Bar Ramon. They make me live and live good. Therefore I will keep going. This I will do until it all comes to an end. I may of course run the risk of having to face the consequences and future verdicts of my kins but I really see no choice. Just observe this current world of half-ass pretenders and lifeless compromisers. As a father to a son and to a daughter about to be born, what other example can I possibly try to draw?

Bar Ramon, Carrer del Comte Borrell, 81, 08015 Barcelona, Spain.