In Cordoba, Spain, away from the tourist clog around the Mesquita and the rambling alleyways of the whitewashed Juderia, there is a residential neighborhood that falls mostly silent after 10:00 pm, where the paint is a little cracked and the busses whoosh by a little faster, ambivalent to the cowering pedestrians on the street corners.
This is where we find the rock bar.
We are guided here by a pamphlet that D___ finds in the train station, a low-budget, hand-scrawled affair with a decent map and recommendations written in only passable English. It touts itself as the guide for the cool kids, and we are entranced.
We find it on the map, but also by following the thumping music, and the cigarette smoke of a few slumping locals outside. Inside, the mostly empty room shudders to the sound of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough,” which is broadcast over a couple of enormous TV monitors. Pastel-hued prints of the Beatles, Aerosmith, and Zepplin cover the walls. Above the bar on a shelf sits a drum set, and above that, the words ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE lined up in block letters.
The beer is cheap. The wifi password is “IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE.” When D___ asks the bartender for it, he replies in English, “Imagine all de people,” and D___ isn’t sure which language, or which spelling to use. Our technology-obsessed, internet-parched minds compel us to figure it out, and we do, determined that those few minutes of flowing email, of Instagram that is truly instant, have made it worth the trip.
By our second beer, the bar starts to fill and the music changes. Baby-boomers in sundresses and loafers dance with their arms around each other. A girl saunters by wearing a t-shirt with an enormous jeweled butterfly on the front. Michael Jackson has disappeared from the monitor and gives way to bands we don’t recognize. One is shown in a video clip from the 80s, the lead singer dressed up as a mock version of an American teenager — letterman jacket, pleated jeans — and sitting in front of an enormous keyboard. The song is a play on 1950s doo-wop, sung in Spanish. Another band is called Tennessee, and they play in a Manfred Men-ish style, all of them wearing sunglasses.
“I think we should go,” says D___, finishing his second beer.
I check my email for another minute, not wanting to let go of that moment of precious connection.
Earlier, we’d eaten cheap tapas on the wide, square Plaza de la Corredera with a half-moon hanging over us in an empty, black sky. A passle of little girls raced around us, shrieking over a game with rules we didn’t understand, their parents nearby at metal tables, smoking and finishing their beers. Someone’s little dog, off the leash for a few minutes, panted for our leftovers. The houses along the Plaza were mostly shuttered, their owners on their late-summer vacations in France or Italy or New York, but the conversation hummed below anyway, for everyone left behind. In the rock bar, we wished we were back there. Or maybe we wished we could duplicate the feeling of that place and bring it everywhere, to the rock bar and back, and home again — a sense of the familiar and easy in uneasy places.