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miércoles, 24 de septiembre de 2008

Surfing the city

I'm reading a book by Nick Hornby, Slam (2007), and his main character, a teenager, tells something about London that reminded me of Bucharest right away:
Whoever invented skating is a genius, in my opinion. London gets in the way of every other sport. There are tiny little patched of green where you can play football, or golf, or whatever, and the concrete is trying to eat them away. So you play these games in spite of the city and, really, it would be better if you lived just about anywhere else, out in the countryside, or the suburbs, or some place like Australia. But skating you do because of the city. We need as much concrete and as many stairs and ramps and benches and pavements as you've got. And when the world's been completely paved over, we'll be the only athletes left, and there will be statues of famous skaters all over the world, and the Olympics will just be a million of different skating competitions, and then the people might actually watch. I will, anyway.
It sounds so right... But then, why don't I bump into skaters around here so often? Maybe Bucharest is a step further (or behind)... There's no lack of pavement, but of smooth pavement; plenty of stairs and ramps, but discontinuous ones, shabby and full of holes.

Just an idea.

I know I must be patient with this in-construction, promising city, but some days it's difficult, I get tired... Sorry about that.

lunes, 22 de septiembre de 2008

Happy Birthday, Leo!

Leonard Cohen turned 74 years old, and he did it on the stage, in Bucharest, yesterday (21st September), and I was lucky enough to be there... A great concert, a long concert (almost 3 hours!): yes, that´s right, he´s 74 years old and can still perform during 3 hours... Looking happy, enjoying what he does, making us, who can´t sing but can listen, to enjoy ourselves too. A lively concert, but also a farewell concert; he´s not a dumb, he knows it well. We are not dumb either, at least not so dumb not to know it too. Thus, for those of you who couldn´t come along, for those of you who would have come along, also for you were meant his last words at the end of the concert: "Thank you for keeping my songs alive all these years".

But hey, maybe you still can go, share some time with Leonard Cohen and his great backup musicians, as the Leonard Cohen World Tour 2008-2009 hasn´t finished yet! He didn´t leave Europe yet! Take your chance! They are still new venues to be added for 2009... But in the meantime, I will share with you some moments of the concert (all my gratitude to the anonymous "You Tubers", in this case drstana...):

Of course, he sang one of my favourites, "First We Take Manhattan". A great singer has always great followers: my Spanish friends will know "Manhattan", from Omega album (Morente/Lagartija Nick), which deserves a wider audience:


And although he didn't sing another of my favourites, Boogie Street, I didn't mind that much: maybe I can't sing, but I have learned to hum quietly, and in my heart I always will be back, and back, and back to Boogie Street...

miércoles, 10 de septiembre de 2008

Let's go "parking"

I live in a city where walking is not allowed... or at least so it seems some days, when pedestrians have to walk on the road because cars took over the pathways, when construction sites melt down destructively and invade the streets, when you can't look up at the beautiful faсades because you're too busy watching the floor... However, I somewhat cannot be completely mad at a city with such huge and nice parks. Bucharest may be a highly polluted city, but I think it might be the greenest polluted city I've ever been.

When the streets push you out, and you don't feel like staying at home, there's two things you can do in Bucharest: either you go shopping or you go "parking". There's many parks scattered around the city: huge forests like Herastrau, wide meadows like Titan or Tineretului, English gardens like Cismigiu or Botanic Garden. Lively parks, all-age parks where you can find children and mothers, old people spending the day (sad people spending the night), teenagers, couples, dog owners and disowned dogs, birds, frogs...

Bikes everywhere; the very bikes you hardly see on the bycicle lanes. Teenagers playing ball, badmington: pensioners playing backgammon, draughts or chess. Ponds with boats and terraces and, very often, a small amusement park with some some roller coasters, jumping beds and bumber cars. On Sundays, an orchestra plays folk music at Cismigiu.

There's a couple of things I've seen people doing in Bucharest parks I hadn't seen before, not in Spain. Right now, I can recall three. One: Romanians do like a lot cotton sugar, not only children but also grown ups buy and eat it (I think I haven't since I was 10 or even less). Two: you can weight yourself, there's some people that sells sweeties, pop corn or sweet corn, there's painters and cartoonists, and there's also other people that let you weight yourself on a bathroom scale. Three: a weird "park" sport, like a tennis doubles match, but using a football ball and feet. I've asked around and none was able to give me a clue on the rules.

I love to wander around these parks, dodging bikes and scatters, listening the distant hum made by 20 games of chess being played at the same time in some clear beyond the trees, wondering if I am already too old to eat pink sugar cotton... or maybe just too Spanish.

martes, 2 de septiembre de 2008

Torre de Paracaidismo (Parachute Tower)

¿Alguien quiere saltar?

Esta torre de entrenamiento para saltos en paracaídas está en Cluj; hay otra en Bucarest, aunque en peor estado... He encontrado algunas referencias sobre existencia de torres similares en Bakú (Azebaiján), Katowice (Polonia) y algunas bases militares de Estados Unidos. Poco más. Es ya tan raro encontrar algo poco documentado en la web que casi me parece desenterrar un pedacito de historia...

La información (poca y fragmentada) que he encontrado en la web es, en cualquier caso, bastante curiosa. Al parecer, este tipo de torres se construyeron entre los años 30 y 40, y se han llegado a utilizar hasta los 80 para entrenamiento de paracaidistas (fundamentalmente para entrenamiento militar). La idea es de origen ruso (¿por qué será que no me sorprende?). Allí se habían utilizado desde los años 20, con la estructura de madera; un comandante estadounidense avispado, James H. Strong, vio el negocio, diseñó un prototipo de una versión mejorada con estructura de metal y se aseguró la patente para Estados Unidos. Vendió varias al ejército en Estados Unidos... ¡y en Rumania! (¿Guerra Fría bolsillo caliente?). Pero muy pronto se empezaron a construir no sólo como equipamiento militar, sino como entretenimiento... La más famosa parece ser una en Coney Island, que ya nació con ese propósito, y que llaman "la Torre Eiffel de Brooklyn". También hubo una, al parecer, en el Gorki Park de Moscú. Quién lo iba a pensar, así que hasta los Parques de Atracciones deben una parte de su desarrollo a la innovación militar...

Wanna jump?

This is a parachute jump training tower situated in Cluj; there's another one I've seen in Bucharest, but in much worse shape. I found in the Internet some reference to similar towers in Katowice
(Poland), Baku (Azebaijan) and US military bases, but no more. Nowadays it is so strange to find something that has less than 1.000 references in Google that I feel as if I was unveiling a hidden secret from past...

The few and fragmented information I found is, in any case, quite amusing. Apparently, thse kind of towers were built in 1930s-40s, and were used for training (military, mainly) of parachutists. The Russians invented this training system (that doesn't surprise me, somehow), using wooden structures for military training of pilots since the 20s. James H. Strong, a smart US Comander swa the business opportunity, designed a prototype with a metallic structure and obtained the US patent for it. He sold severla to US army... and to Romania! (Cold War?). Very soon he started to adapt them to be used also for entertainment; the most famous one, in Coney Island ("the Brooklyn Eiffel Tower") was built for that purpose from the very beginning. It also used to be one of this kind in Moscow Gorki Park... Who could think that even Adventure Parks owe their development to military innovation...

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