However, now I know better: sometimes you really can trace it all back to a phone call. Neither the caller nor the subject matter was by any means unusual — it was the Boston — based agency that represented me, giving me my newest assignment. A weeklong hair and makeup job for IBM in Barcelona, it had the allure of an escape from the drab and drear of mid-March Provincetown. As a beautician who specialized in commercial photography, I had spent most of the last decade trigger-happy with a can of hairspray and a powder puff.
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However, now I know better: sometimes you really can trace it all back to a phone call. Neither the caller nor the subject matter was by any means unusual — it was the Boston — based agency that represented me, giving me my newest assignment.
A weeklong hair and makeup job for IBM in Barcelona, it had the allure of an escape from the drab and drear of mid-March Provincetown. As a beautician who specialized in commercial photography, I had spent most of the last decade trigger-happy with a can of hairspray and a powder puff. And somehow, along my merry way, I had also cofounded a company. Named Team, it was an agency that represented artists who worked, in one capacity or another, in the photography and advertising industries.
The concept was both convenience and strength in numbers. Normally, an advertising exec needed to make about half a dozen phone calls to pull together a photo shoot. What my company did was turn those six calls into one. Makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, location scouts, production managers, food stylists — we had it all under one roof. But good as it had been to me, my initial euphoria at being part of the fashion industry I had always worshipped as spectator was starting to wane.
I had learned that celebrities were just people with name recognition, and photo shoots were as tedious as board meetings, once you had been to hundreds of them.
Ten years of crafting updos and vanquishing shiny noses had driven me to uncharacteristic self-analysis. Was this really how I wanted to spend the rest of my life?
Maybe not, but for now I knew one thing: I was going to Spain. I loved traveling for work, eagerly snapping up what the industry called "go-away jobs. But lately I found myself becoming more jaded by my globe-trotting. It was boredom. I had increasingly noticed a sinister sameness about each of these foreign cities. Before my very eyes, every place was turning into every place else.
I fervently hoped that Barcelona would prove to be the exception. I sighed with disappointment and slumped against the hot vinyl seat of the taxi. Other than the flamenco music on the radio and the blinding glare of the Catalan sun, so far Barcelona felt about as foreign to me as Boston. Tacky billboards advertising electronics and cheap hotels flashed by my window at an alarming rate. Maybe it was time for me to settle down. Maybe I needed the white picket fence and the Weber grill after all.
A mere five minutes later, my cynicism forgotten, I was as mesmerized by the view as a midwesterner crossing the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. To my left loomed the impressive bulk of the Olympic Stadium, capped off by a towering white spire that was an unlikely mating of futuristic space station and computer-generated sculpture.
To my right, the Mediterranean. I was dazzled not only by the turquoise shimmer of the sea but by the hundreds of boats lining the docks. Suddenly, I was as excited as a little kid on his first field trip. The architecture spanned centuries of design — gothic intermingled with modernist, contemporary coalesced with classic. It could have been jarring to the senses, but as I would later learn, Barcelona had a way of turning the incongruous into the harmonious.
It looked like the European city I had always dreamed of but, of late, had despaired of ever finding. I was captivated. My eight-hour days of grooming models and painting faces put a dent in what little time I had to prowl the city. However, even with the constraints of the IBM gig cutting into my tourist time, I still sampled enough of the Barcelona lifestyle to grow ever more enamored. With a population of nearly two million spread out over sixty square miles, Barcelona is segmented into dozens of neighborhoods, each possessed of its own particular charm.
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