What it’s like to be an American abroad in the time of Trump.
If you want to see some phenomenal English stand-up in Barcelona, you need to hunt down the Hush Hush Comedy show wherever they are. This particular night, they occupied the basement of the Casa Gracia, a funky hostel with a basement that looks like someone turned an old 1920’s art-deco bank vault into a bar. At the bottom of the stairs is a donkey fountain with the water pouring out of its giant donkey-dong. If you linger, you’ll hear a toilet flush and someone will come out of a nearly-hidden unisex bathroom to wash their hands in the sink, which is carved into the donkey’s stomach. You’ll notice that the water they’ve just washed their hands with is what trickles out of the foot-long dong into a basin below.
If you continue past the schlong-donkey, pay €5 to the super-chill American guy at the door, and stuff your bag into a locker (€1 buys you the key and you get that € back when you’re done), you’ll find yourself in a cave of a performance space/bar. Comedians perform surrounded by audience members who drape themselves wherever they can find room- on a low stool, a bench, or cross-legged on the ground. If you haven’t arrived early enough for a seat, you can stand by the bar. It’s a fire hazard, but it’s intimate. It feels like hanging out in someone’s living room.
American host Hannah Becker works the room like your best friend hosting a house party (“Guys! Shut up!”). Hannah founded Hush Hush along with Lucy Martí to ensure that there would be a quality English-speaking show run by women still in Barcelona after a similar show called Just Kidding closed. Tonight, she introduces an English comedian. He steps gingerly over people on his way to the stage. Above cheers, he yells — “Where are all my fellow Brits!”
Whoops and hollers from the Brits.
“And how about our Americans? Where are the Americans tonight?”
… Crickets. I half-raise my hand and give a little woo! but quickly lower it back down into my lap when I don’t receive any back-up.
I know for a fact that there were plenty of Americans in that audience. If you ever move abroad, you’ll be shocked at how your senses become acutely attuned to the sound of your own accent in the same way that blind people get super-human dolphin-bat hearing. I often find myself pointing people out to my Spanish boyfriend.
“That guy was American,” I’ll whisper to him in a restaurant.
“How can you tell?”
“He said he wants to get shit-faced and he called his friend an asshole.”
“You do say ‘ass’ a lot.”
“That we do, Cutie-Patootie.”
“…I don’t know what that means.”
Anyway, the Americans in the audience that night were feeling shy. I looked around and saw a couple people laughing nervously into their drinks.
The comedian smirked. “Yeah, not so loud about it now, are you?!”
No, sir, we are not.
There’s no denying it. It’s embarrassing to be an American abroad these days. And not just because of Trump and all the human rights atrocities, though that is a significant aspect of it.
The first week that news broke about the family separation policy on the U.S./Mexico border, I was devastated. Protests were breaking out all over the U.S., but all I could do was listen feverishly to news podcasts and donate to various legal councils that were doing their best to represent those families in court.
I’d kind of assumed that my friends here in Spain (Catalonia, if we’re being politically correct) weren’t paying attention to any of this. They had their own crazy politics to deal with and I don’t like to assume that North America’s news is the world's news. I’ve gotten enough blank stares at my pop culture references to put me in my place.
But the weekend all this border news was breaking, I went over to my boyfriend’s place and noticed that his flatmate was looking pretty depressed.
“You ok?” I asked her. “Rough week at work?”
“No. I mean, yes, always. But no.”