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At night the door on my neighbor's apartment clacked open and shut. All night, the spring-loaded screen swung open -- reeeeeek -- and slammed back shut -- clack ! Marco, the landlord who spoke some English, said that the people in 14 were drug dealers, but he couldn't just throw them out. "Tha's why de door open and shut during de night," he said and clapped his hands like a garden gate. His gray leather gloves had turned green on the palms and fingers. While I talked to him, he picked weeds from a concrete box of pitiful flowers and vegetables. "I can' do nutting," he said, panting and sweating.

Outside Marco's garden were the twisted graffiti streets of Barcelona. Five blocks from the tourist area were the schoolyards, yellow tile doorsteps, and the smell of piss that was bad in December and overbearing in July. Inside the gates, Marco owned the only five-foot-square patch of green vegetation from the dry canal to Las Ramblas.

During the day Marco picked his back yard clean and painted cracked patches on the walls until 3:00 in the afternoon, when he'd sit the seat of his brown polyester pants down on the blue steel chair in the courtyard and pour tall glasses of sangria from stout cardboard boxes. During "futbol" season, he'd look in through the brown screen covering his window and watch the game while he sat in the sun and swatted flies from his sweaty brow.

After work I caught him out there, numb and smiling. "Marco!" I yelled. "Number 14 keeps me up all night. I tell them to be quiet, but they ignore me. You gotta kick them out." Marco's padded brown fingers clutched a thick white cloth that he used to pat his forehead.

"I tell you secret," he said and waved me over to sit in the steel patio chair next to him. He poured sangria into his green plastic mug and slid it over the worn wood table top with chipping and peeling blue paint. I sipped at the dry crimson liquid from his cup and he leaned in close. His breath smelled of fruit and booze, and he said, "Da kid in 14," he looked to me for a sign of recognition. I raised a brow. "Hees father own dis place." Marco's hand waved to signify the complex, his garden, Marco's TV, the steel chairs, the cup, the sangria, and the world. "I take care of it," he rang out. "I work de garden, fix de broke sinks, and after," he said, pointing his finger up. "I sit here, watch futbol, and have a sangria. I don't want no trouble. And, that's how it is."

And that's how it was.


Thursday, February 9

Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island

CBS 8:00 p.m. So the group has been split up into four tribes: young men, older men, young women, and older women. You'd think that the younger groups would have an advantage over the other groups until you remember this is lame-ass Survivor and every week the immunity challenge is going to be something along the lines of " Name All the Symptoms of Menopause and Then Light a Fire ."

Kathy Griffin Is...Not Nicole Kidman

BRAVO 9:00 p.m. Kathy Griffin is almost the living embodiment of a Zen Koan. Without being famous, she would not be famous. Without knowing famous people, she would not know famous people.

Friday, February 10

XX Olympic Winter Games

NBC 8:00 p.m. Sure, anyone can write their name in the snow, but the Olympic Rings? I know what I'm training for come Winter Games XXI.

Saturday, February 11

Big Daddy (1999)

USA 5:00 p.m. Adam Sandler's face makes my butt itch. It's like phantom-limb syndrome experienced by war veterans who've lost a leg.

The Green Mile (1999)

ABC 8:00 p.m. In this movie, Michael Clarke Duncan cures people of their ailments by sucking it out of them with his mouth. My question is, what if someone has mouth-herpes? If after locking lips and curing the patient of his cold sores, does Mike pull back to reveal an itchy bump on his own yap? Could he pull his lower lip over his top lip and cure himself?

Sunday, February 12

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

ABC 7:00 p.m. Ty Pennington is like Pee Wee Herman with a Skilsaw and a megaphone.

Monday, February 13

40 Most Shocking Celebrity Mugshots

VH1 6:00 p.m. Who was honestly shocked by Gary Busey's bedraggled puss after he got picked up by the cops? About the only thing he could do to astonish me now is use "esoteric" correctly in a sentence.

Tuesday, February 14

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

USA 8:00 p.m. In the "final days" -- after the electricity is shut off, before they kick your door in -- you'll clutch your tiny Pomeranian to your chest. You will tell yourself it's to comfort the dog, but the growing stain in your crotch belies your intentions.

Wednesday, February 15

Chris Angel: Mindfreak

A&E 10:00 p.m. Anthony Olivieri: Magician Slapper. Nice to meet you.

Thursday, February 16

More than Meets the Eye: The Joan Brock Story

LMN 8:00 p.m. Is she a Transformer? My interest is officially piqued!

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