Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ramblas Ramblings

Daily life on La Rambla is an everchanging, unchanging process.  First, there are tourists, tourists, and some more tourists whether it's midnight, noon, or anywhere in between.  There were a lot of people in various costumes attempting to engage tourists into interacting with them: exchanging photo ops for a few euros.  Several women were princesses in elegant and colorful gowns.  Two were mythical winged creatures, one of which so frightened a woman that she fell flat onto her behind.  Fortunately she had a sense of humor about it all.  Another man was portraying himself as a baby in a buggy.  All of his body other than his head was hidden in the buggy.  A couple painted completely from head to toe in contrasting blues and greens rode on mounted bikes with skulls on the handlebars.  There were two guys close to each other who portrayed Johnny Depp's movie characters Edward Scissorhands and the pirate, Captain Jack.  Perhaps the most popular character was the headless person sitting in a chair with a hat suspended above where his head should have been.  Young children were particularly taken with him. 

There were the countless purveyors of postcards, periodicals, plants, birds, ice cream, souvenirs, whistles, and the local food products such as wine, sangria, beer, and tapas.  If you sit down at a table on a terrace, it costs more than if you stood at the bar or took it to go.

The Erotic Museum hasn't changed much from the first time we were here, and it is directly across the street  from La Boqueteria, the local market, with perfect piles of endless varieties of fruit, nuts, vegetables, candy, beans, breads, eggs, fish, seafood, and meats.  It is the easiest place to buy your picnic lunch..

Austin and Jim became fascinated with the shell game grifters.  It looks so easy to spot under which tiny box that tiny white pea of a ball is hiding.  "Look at that...that tourist over there just won a 50 Euro bill!"  Having a room three floors above the walkway let Austin get some close up views with John's camera.  Soon he could identify two other shills working with the shell box handler.  One was a tall, dark haired German tourist with a bag slung over his shoulder.  He was always the easy winner.  We wondered how many times he won that same 50 Euro bill over the course of the day as we saw him two days in a row winning.  Another was the young woman who would give a little hand gesture to the shell handler to point out those with more than simple curiosity, whereupon, he would move closer and show the 50 Euro bill he was willing to pay you if you played the game and won. 

Austin said that when the police were headed their way, the grifters simply melted into the crowd in opposing directions then meet up about a 100 feet away after the police had moved on down the street.  Perhaps there was a fourth person who kept a lookout.

Jim and I saw a game going on this afternoon about 2 PM.  Two young twenty-something girls were thoroughly caught up in the action.  The shell handler "fumbled" the boxes and made sure the girls "thought" they knew where the ball was located.  They each reached deep into their bags and pulled out a 50 Euro bill to match the one the handler had in his hand because they were "sure" they knew where the ball was, and the handler was going to pay them double if they won.  It seemed a sure thing to them.  I was an arm's length behind them saying, "Rick Steves says, "You'll never win. "  I was outshouted by the shills, but then I did not want them to notice me. 

Of course, they did not win.  When the handler revealed that there was no tiny white ball under their chosen box, they uttered little gasps of dismay.  The other shills in the crowd attempted to console them.  Hopefully, they learned a lesson about a sure thing.  Later, discussing these observations and events, it was revealed that a couple in our group had experienced something similar in their life and had lost or given up in time so they did not lose.  Hopefully, we disabused Austin of his desire to beat those guys by choosing the other box.

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