Chapter Six
October - November, 1999

The soundtrack for this chapter should be a little number from the VengaBoys (think Ace of Base on happy pills):

"We're going to Ibiza, back to the island.
We're gonna have a party, in the Mediterranean Sea."

Ibiza is one of the Balleric Islands off the southern coast of Spain. Formerly strategically important to Spain as a barrier against seaborne attacks, these islands have become a vacation destination for Europeans. Mallorca has been hosting these vacations for generations now, but Ibiza has recently gotten most of the press. This is where you go to party.

Fortieth birthdays are rather significant events, and one of our group was celebrating. So the rest of us pulled together to get him what he wanted, what he really, really wanted, for his birthday: a trip to Ibiza and a visit from some family members. And of course, we couldn't let him go by himself, so we all went to Spain for the weekend.

What we didn't know was that the season for parties had ended with September. We arrived in Mallorca, ready to catch the ferry to Ibiza, and when we asked the locals about the scene and what was best, they gave us looks like we were all crazy Americans.

"There's nothing going on. Ibiza's all closed up. No one's there."

Oh. Well. You don't say. Now what?

Move the party to Mallorca, naturally. After all, we had Flat Eric with us, and he only needs to show up somewhere and there's an instant party.

Mallorca, of course, also has a tourist season, which was mostly over. The locals were coming back out from their summer of hiding and were reclaiming their territory. But on the outskirts of Palma, the capital city, it was obvious that this was a summer place, and October just didn't qualify. We'd found a house with a large yard and a swimming pool out back which was especially for Germans on vacation. The instructions for everything were handwritten in German, the TV was linked to German satellite programming.

And along our entire block, we were the only people there. This dog was one of our next door neighbors. He was never very happy to see us and tended to broadcast his displeasure to anyone who would listen. The entire street was like this: large Mediterranean houses surrounded by fences and guarded by at least one dog, sometimes three or four. The half mile walk to the corner store to call a taxi and get a ride into Palma was lined with dogs of all shapes and sizes, all equally vocal in their defense of property. The fences seemed sturdy, but since there was no traffic to speak of, we usually walked down the middle of the street.

The walk to the corner store was a frequent event, all of us meandering together down the desolate streets. The house we stayed at had no telephone (no hot water either, but that's an entirely different matter), and the only cell phone we carried was fussy about when it would work and for how long. At the corner, the propriators would call the cabs and we'd buy coffee and ice cream while we waited.

Palma is a strange mix of old Spain and tourism. Boats from around the world fill the harbor and a carefully preserved city wall with empty cannon-niches lines the waterfront. The wall fades into a promenade of ultra-modern bars and clubs, each competing for the business walking past, playing the top European hits at the highest possible volume. Three cheers for the border-crossing power of MTV and Lou Bega ("Mambo Number Five").

But if you round the corner and go up a side street just one block, or walk beyond the designated tourist zone, you encounter an entirely different Palma. This is the Palma the locals know: tiny streets, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, billboards, graffiti, parallel parking zones, flower-filled plazas and fountains in the middle of the street. Europe may come here to party, but there is an entire population who make this place their home.

Saturday we did our best to explore Palma, wandering through what felt like huge portions of the city, but which was probably only a small chunk of it which we crossed through a dozen times. We found hidden squares we couldn't locate on the map; we found major department stores where there were cigars and Swatches. There were liquor shops to check out and ask in broken Spanish if they knew where we could find absynthe, the green liquor favored by ex-patriot American authors and partiers in the know from the 1920's. There were streets so narrow getting a car down them would be nearly impossible, and there were some streets which simply gave up the idea of cars altogether and folded themselves into stairways.

Please notice Flat Eric's yellow legs dangling in front of the gentleman on the right. We carried him everywhere we went, and sometimes he chose the next direction. He was enjoying a peak in his celebrity and would sometimes need to stop and wave at passing cars who had honked in recognition of him and his status. At one point, I was carrying Eric while we explored an area packed with young Spaniards waiting for sunset outside the bars and clubs. I've never felt so famous.

It was 2am when we decided to go dancing. Two clubs, one dozen taxis, a cut lip, three glow-in-the-dark dancers, and a handful of cheese baguettes later, there were five of us left, dancing as the sun came up, dripping bits of the Mediterranean over the Palma harbor. We finally convinced Flat Eric it was time to call it a night as the club was shutting down, turning on the big flourescent lights, illuminating the night's collection of leftovers and accidents littered across all three levels.

Since Eric didn't think we should sleep yet, we hopped in the pool back at the villa. And got out as fast as possible as we discovered that the pool was as unheated as the showers. People make the strangest, loudest noises when they are exiting large, cold bodies of water. I think I achieved a new record in the volume of chattering teeth.

We opted to stay in Sunday night, choosing a good, old-fashioned BBQ birthday and stocked up on all the BBQ necessities: wine, Corona, Smirnoff, Red Bull. Oh, and an assortment of meats and vegies. After lots of culinary input from all hands (this group is full of food fanatics, and our imported Americans came from the Bay Area restaurant scene), we sat down to a lovely dinner in the chilly Spanish night. We ate by candlelight, former poolside decorations moved to the table to compensate for the lack of outdoor lightbulbs, and with a soundtrack piped out of the brave laptop computer that came to Spain.

This is the part where the cameras disappear and the story becomes even stranger. I'll just say that no one can predict what may happen when food and drink, brilliant people and goofy toys get together. If anyone had wandered down our deserted street in the small hours of Monday, they would have discovered something as bizarre and troubling as any Halloween ghouls' after-party. And perhaps they too would understand that some things that happen on Mallorca are best left there.

Chapter Seven

Ian Gilman / Germany Journal
DolciDeleria / Germany Journal
Copyright 1998-2013, Ian Gilman & Christina Willott