Jevon in Europe

This is Jevon in Europe again, somewhere in the Bay of Biscay or the Atlantic or whatever. They all tend to clash into one another after a while. Last time I was writing about the comic and manga availability over in the Euro neighbourhood, and in trying to get back to that comic shop in Barcelona that was right by the old seat of the Catalan Royal family, I ended up wandering the Gothic Quarter. All around are castle walls that could be mistaken for something out of Castle Greyskull, and up I went to La Ramblas and it reminded me of the Joseph Virek character in William Gibson’s “Count Zero.” In the novel, Virek projects himself to Marly within the Barcelona of her Art School days and there is the wonderful description of the many famous images of the city. Gaudi in particular, who is a genius IMHO. I love Gibson’s use of place and setting in his novels and they are always unbelievably evocative and being within that image was particularly evocative for me as I am a big admirer of Gibson’s work. Nevertheless, from what I learned about Barcelona as a city, and especially in terms of its growth, is a pretty apt choice of a place considering the idea and the setting of the Sprawl, which of course is where the trilogy of novels that “Count Zero” gets its name from is a part. Barcelona was originally Barcino, and was developed by the Romans as a trading port. The Romans put walls around the city as defenses, and it was those walls that were added to, enlarged, shaped and enlarged through out the centuries, which can be seen in the old Gothic Quarter, which is the part of the town that lied behind those city walls. Once the 19th Century began, Barcelona’s city planners began a plan of enlargement that finally knocked down the centuries old city walls. The city expanded outwards in earnest; swallowing up what were once autonomous villages and towns and incorporating them into the fold, much as the Sprawl in Gibson’s novels did. The tour guide I had that day described this process of enlargement as the smacking down of man made barriers and undergoing the process of enlargement into more natural ones. Those natural ones are the mountains and hills that hem in the current day Barcelona. However, with the Olympic games and with some recent building, the process of enlargement outwards onto those mountains is seeing the city even sprawling out onto those natural barriers that the tour guide described. The Olympics for example, saw the building of park space, stadiums, and facilities on top of Montjuic, which had served as a spot of fortifications for the military through much of Barcelona’s history. It had also been the site of an old Jewish settlement, but the Jewish population flocked down into the walled city and into that same man made enclosures and barriers that had previously kept the city contained. The point is that even these so-called natural barriers are now becoming conquered, and the city is able to sprawl outwards even more. Monaco has also done something similar in that they have piled rocks into the sea in order to expand their land outwards as they have been faced with the problem of even less space. Of course with the current problem with gas prices and the environment, movement becomes an issue, as it was speed of movement coupled with an expanding population that facilitated sprawling cities, as it did in Gibson’s novels. The question is now about the sustainability of these sprawling metropolises that is again imposing a barrier upon us. Will we continue sprawling outwards, overcoming the barriers that Barcelona has overcome? Or will we like a stretch elastic, grow outward to a state in which the band can no longer take the stress, and collapses, and breaks apart into fragments? Of course it is what becomes of those fragments and how they join back together again through interstitial communities that is apart of another one of Gibson’s trilogies, but perhaps I will write about that another time. Barcelona as a city though does offer a bit of a solution in that everything is kept useable. For example, even here in the old Gothic Quarter, people still live, work, play, and lounge about amongst what by all rights is an pen air museum. Even as the city has sprawled outwards, swallowing up cities and villages and stretching out as far as the eye can see, there is still a sense of keeping things, but also keeping them for usage. Just as the people in the Bridge Trilogy, another of Gibson’s series, would do with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Anyways, I am starting to ramble and I really should get back to work, as that is what I am technically on this floating hunk of pollution to do. In the meantime though, merci beaucoup.