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The American Dream In Europe and The New Spain
by Gregory Wilde  /  non-fiction  /  23 Mar 2008

The American dream in Europe is caput. Over. Finished. Ancient history. I'm not going to be the next Hemingway, and neither are you. The dream – a life abroad in Europe, meeting beautiful people, living the expatriate lifestyle – is a fantasy only a few dare dream.

Reality is, the euro is too strong, jobs are in high demand among locals, and writing the next Moveable Feast seems more like a cartoon than practical idea. The people I have met thus far are locals, and tourists -- from England, America, Australia, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Korea, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Russia, and China. We are all in the same boat. Some of us are traveling through, and there are those that come to Europe with the American European Dream: to find a job, spouse, a home, and a new life.

The awful truth is those that venture out into the great unknown of Europe will eventually discover that the life they read about and see in motion pictures is pure fiction. Gone are the memories of finding a job in Western Europe without good references, visas, and a fantastic amount of cash. The artists of today cannot afford to live the life of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. The early 1900's are far over. Now we have the inquisitive cultures from South America, the Middle East, India, China, Japan, and Korea to compete with. The countries that are winning the expatriate race are those who stand nothing to lose.

Americans have a great amount to gamble with, and possibly spoil, with illusive decisions. If Americans decide to move to Spain, or Germany, or Italy, or England, there is a vast amount of courage that is required, a good deal of fate, combined with excellent people skills, and the skill of working your way into situations that give you the greatest bang for your buck. In every instance, you would have to be lucky, extremely personable or conniving, and take advantage of what the locals have to offer. You must abandon all self-respect as a person and become a huckster. You must sell yourself to everyone, pinch the most out of them, and then, maybe, success is in your back pocket, along with a long list of revengeful locals.

The afternoons at the cafes writing masterpieces over crisp afternoon sunsets have faded into something of a dream. Today, coffee at any café is at least 1.20 euro, and to sit down like your favorite writers did, well, that coffee goes up to at least 3 euro, or even 4. You must be a great writer, thinker, philosopher, or trust-fund child to afford such extravagances… just to leap into the chair of Hemingway! Paris is too expensive, even for those who live in Paris, and if you dream of walking down the Seine with an idea to sell of a story that reads as well as the 20th century Lost Generation writers, by all means… go for it.

Today, I sit at the top of my hostel in Barcelona, at the edge of town, drinking .30 beers from cans, with warm orange juice from a carton, and a bag of dry unsalted chips. The weather is wonderful, and the voices echo through the alleyways across the streets below. Old women throw open their curtains, screaming at the kids on the street, and then a breeze hits my face just right. Clotheslines deck rooftops and windowsills; plants decorate patios, antennas and satellite dishes stick into the sky from bright orange rooftops, and balconies sit vacant, ready for Saturday night. Here there are no dreams of fast cars, luxury houses, girls in leather jackets and boots, or lobster dinners. Instead, the streets sit bare and silent, with the occasional voice speaking Barcelona Spanish from the near-distance. The ocean seems a few miles away, a salty mist in my eyes. There are no writers here today. No visionaries, nor artists, or painters, or inventors. Instead, we are here -- the youth -- recovering from last night's parade of pubs where the second world of Barcelona begins. And you cannot live both worlds. You either live the day, explore the buildings, parks, museums, culture -- or you live the night -- drinking 1.30 euro shots, 10 or 15 later, staggering through the streets laughing at the way everything looks, including yourself. Spain is the home of binge drinking. You are either a part of the crowd, or you don't get involved.

As for me, I sit in the middle, if there is such a thing. I try to understand the desire to get drunk in 30 minutes, just to throw it up two hours later, only to poison yourself for a modest and uncomfortable situation. I admit I drink more than the average person does, but I remember the reason why I drink, and there is a limit to every desire.

Saturday afternoon in Spain reads like a wonderful novel. The streets are fairly empty now, and the locals are home, or have left for another town further down the train tracks. The city has quieted down, and it is now a seemingly livable place. I can hear the heartbeat, the slow thump of Barcelona's blood gushing through its veins and into its heart and into its brain. The greatest parts of Spain are the examples that cannot be explained in words. It is like looking at a sunset and describing to an old blind man why it is so beautiful and different from all the sunsets that have come before. Spain is unique. It is a country moving forward, but also sitting comfortably in the past. It has embraced its roots, the history, the era of Franco, and has jumped into the future in passionate and resonate strides. Adjacent to the ancient steps, that climb up to the palace doors, are escalators. You can choose what Spain you want -- the old or the new.

I have not seen a country embrace the past and the future so well. The government here is remarkable, and the city is safe, clean, and respectable. Train stations are efficient, and extremely modern. Gone are the old flickering boards that display departures and arrivals. In the Barcelona Sants Estacio, there are technologies giving up-to-date train statistics, with hundreds of bilingual RENFE train station employees ready to assist your every question. Spain has moved away from its old world fascist past and into the horizon of the next superpower of Europe. In ten years time, I would not be surprised if Spain was the new Germany, or England, or France. A country that has grown the best, has kept itself affordable and livable, is Spain.

Hello to the future of Europe.

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