Barcelona rocks.  Even if your trip coincides with nonstop chill drizzle.  (And, today, chill thunderstorms.)  We’re relying on Let’s Go: Barcelona, written by Harvard students, which is a bit of a kick as, back before you could phone home for anything other than an arm and a leg — let alone Skype home for free — I was myself such a student, charged with updating the sections on Ireland, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.  (There was a country called Yugoslavia.)  At the time, there was only one book in the Lets Go series — Let’s Go: The Student Guide to Europe — and our “editors” for those three countries had, as far as anyone could tell, “gone missing” (not, presumably, in any sinister way . . . more like falling in love or discovering hash or who knows why they hadn’t mailed in their copy).  Off I went to Ireland, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia, speaking passable English and laughable Russian, to update the restaurant and hotel listings.  The quality of the effort has improved significantly since then.

I’ll spare you any kind of ordered account, but just to give you a sense of it, my friend and I went out for an 11pm dinner last night (Sunday night) and, after deciding that the mussels place recommended in Let’s Go looked a little peaked so close to midnight, walked along the drizzly Via Grande or whatever it’s called (only one of us speaks Spanish and he is not me, por favor), one of the city’s many spectacular tree-lined boulevards (but wait til you see the many spectacular narrow shop-lined medieval alleyways or ride the spectacularly pleasant modern metro), and came upon a large and lively two-level tapas place, ordered a dozen amazing little items and a couple of Bitburgers and, as things were winding down, noticed from our second-storey perch a couple of streamers blowing up from the street outside.  We were well back from the windows so couldn’t see what was causing their ends to be fluttering skyward from the wet pavement perhaps 15 feet below.  So now the beers are drained, we’ve finished photographing and eating our tapas (my friend photographs everything he eats), the 41,35 Euro bill is paid (they use decimal commas instead of points; that much Spanish I speak), it’s one-ish, and back out on the chilly and drizzling street in front of the restaurant we see the source of the streamers, which had been knotted and were no longer streaming: a man holding a roll of bathroom tissue, with a hat for coins by his feet, had constructed an elaborate and rather appealing 13-foot sculpture, sturdy in its way, and somehow withstanding the light drizzle (could Charmin do this?), upflated by virtue of its having been anchored to a large rectangular metal exhaust grate cut into the sidewalk:

toilet paper sculpture

Home by two, write my column, and off to bed.  It’s barely midnight East Coast time, though six a.m. in Spain.

And while we’re at it . . .


Spain has long had marriage equality.  France wrote it into law last week.  This is the ultimate conservative position: why should the government interfere with your freedom to marry the person you love?  That would be as anti-libertarian as interfering with a religious group’s freedom to condemn those government-issued licenses as unholy.  Both should be free to do what they want.  There are now 14 countries, I think, and nearly as many American states, recognizing this.

Whom you love is not really a choice. So any nation dedicated to liberty and the pursuit of happiness — as some think ours should be — might want to hop on the bandwagon.

The idea that you can change your sexual orientation was propounded perhaps most impressively by a psychiatrist named Charles Socarides.  His son Richard, as irony would have it, was this nation’s first openly gay White House liaison to the LGBT community.  The New York Times once profiled them jointly.  Charles has passed on, but Richard reminisces on the relationship in this recent six-minute clip.


Charles Socarides was wrong.  You don’t get to choose your sexual orientation.

Yes, there is an “ex-gay” movement that argues otherwise.  But for quite a while it was led by John Paulk, who now writes:

A Formal Public Apology

by John Paulk

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God. . . .

John Paulk

Funny how fundamental premises, long and firmly held, can be so wrong.  The premise that the Earth is flat.  (Well just look at it!)  The premise that you can choose your sexual orientation.  The premise that the wealthy should be lightly taxed because they are the job creators (irrefutably debunked here). The premise for the Republican insistence on austerity, which turns out to have been based on a series of Excel spreadsheet errors that no one disputes were errors.  Toilet-paper sculptures all, supported by hot air.



Comments are closed.