Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Today I got lost in a labyrinth. I stood, puzzled, at fork after fork, as children scampered underfoot, some cheating by contorting their nimble bodies between the hedges.

Finally making it to the center,  where 10 more paths were now visible, Dani, our “guide” for the day and Yi-Hsiu (‘Isho’),  his bud and Dim’s classmate waved to us from a bridge in the distance, content that they had already finished. I squealed with delight, setting out to finish the maze.

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

Dani and Yi-Hsiu at Parc del Laberint dHorta

Dani and Yi-Hsiu at Parc del Laberint d'Horta

Other things that have made me happy as of late:
1. Got to see the Thermals at BeCool club this Saturday, a great alternative band from Portland, and whom I  missed when they came on tour to NY.

2. Improving my tortilla skillz. Had some peeps over on Friday for dinner. This time the tortilla only slightly cracked at the critical moment of flippage, which was easily covered up by herbs. Thank god for herbs. And copious amounts of wine brought by very generous guests.

3. Dim on bike. Thought I’d never see the day. He joined the city’s bike-share program, called Bicing, and finally got to try it out today.

Dim rollin on Bici

Dim rollin' on Bici


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About two weeks ago Barcelona celebrated La Mercè, which is the largest, most important holiday for the city. I meant to write about it then, but it took me some time to recover.  Also, Katy and Paul were here for a special birthday visit from Holland  and we were somewhat busy eating tapas.

Some notable events of the festival we saw included: the correfoc, a pyromusical, and a Go Team! concert.  What is a correfoc, you ask? I was initially under the impression that its a parade with fireworks, but that’s sort of like saying that methamphetamine is like a cup of coffee. From Wikipedia:

    Correfocs are amongst the most striking of Catalonia’s festive events: “devils” play with fire and with the people. These devils are not the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive, dancing to the sound of the drums and the traditional gralla, while they set off their fireworks.

Turns out it’s the day the devil comes out and scares the crap our of Nina. Imagine about 40 troupes of people, 20 per troupe, all dressed in costumes that involve devil horns, pushing 20 foot tall paper mache dragons, who spit 20 or so rounds of roman candles on the hoards of surrounding spectators. For about 5 hours. I’m hazy on the origins, but the most notable aspect of the correfoc– running under the firework sparks, started after the Franco regime was over. That year the local children decided to run into the firework sparks, instead of away from them, and so the tradition began. All the locals, who were clearly more prepared than us, came wearing hoodies, bandanas, and long sleeved clothing. Dmitry, Katy, Paul and I cowered and screamed like little girls each time a dragon approached. I’m pretty sure I singed a few hairs on my arms, and the audio sensation was what I image residents of a city under siege feel–the earth shaking, the sky lit up in a thousand places, eardrums popping, running and yelling, endorphins flowing through your body ripping your heart to pieces.

Fire breathing dragon

Fire breathing dragon

Running for my life

Running for my life

Little Damian

Little Damian

Between the madness, we made it out to the beach a few times. Turns out even the quiet bay in Barcelona gets some gnarley waves, and the surfers come out of the woodworks.

Katy & Paul vs. the wave

Katy & Paul vs. the wave

The city spared no expense at the finale fireworks ceremony. This “pyromusical” was exactly that. Music started to play– lots of American doo wop for some weird reason, and to its beat explosions of colors and stardust sprayed across the sky, illuminating the palacial looking Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in the distance. The fountain in Placa Espanya was in on the game, and the water jumped and changed colors to the rhythm as well.

My favorite part was towards the end, when after an announcement, sparklers magically materialzed in the hands of the thousands of spectators (save us four) and everyone waved along. So beautiful!

I hate to pit my fave cities against one another, but I think Mercè wins over the NY Halloween parade.

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I recently discovered Dan Bern, a shoe in for Bob Dylan, albeit with a better voice (hah! I said it) and more sardonic lyrics. Sitting on the train coming back from Molló, I was listening to his song “King of the World,” which reminded me of a similarly-themed poem I stole from an old Harper’s Magazine found at a coffee shop in Huaraz, Peru. Read the poem, then listen to the song, and tell me you wouldn’t want to rule the world for a day or two.

The Orange

by Benjamin Rosenbaum

An orange ruled the world.

It was an unexpected thing, the temporary abdication of Heavenly Providence, entrusting the whole matter to a simple orange.

The orange, in a grove in Florida, humbly accepted the honor. The other oranges, the birds, and the men in their tractors wept with joy; the tractors’ motors rumbled hymns of praise.

Airplane pilots passing over would circle the grove and tell their passengers, “Below us is the grove where the orange who rules the world grows on a simple branch.” And the passengers would be silent with awe.

The governor of Florida declared every day a holiday. On summer afternoons the Dalai Lama would come to the grove and sit with the orange, and talk about life.

When the time came for the orange to be picked, none of the migrant workers would do it: they went on strike. The foremen wept. The other oranges swore they would turn sour. But the orange who ruled the world said, “No, my friends; it is time.”

Finally a man from Chicago, with a heart as windy and cold as Lake Michigan in wintertime, was brought in. He put down his briefcase, climbed up on a ladder, and picked the orange. The birds were silent and the clouds had gone away. The orange thanked the man from Chicago.

They say that when the orange went through the national produce processing and distribution system, certain machines turned to gold, truck drivers had epiphanies, aging rural store managers called their estranged lesbian daughters on Wall Street and all was forgiven.

I bought the orange who ruled the world for 39 cents at Safeway three days ago, and for three days he sat in my fruit basket and was my teacher. Today, he told me, “it is time,” and I ate him.

Now we are on our own again.

[source: Benjamin Rosenbaum, Harper’s Magazine, Nov 2002. http://www.benjaminrosenbaum.com/stories/orange.html%5D


King Of The World by Dan Bern

listen to the song here

Mr. Dan Bern

Mr. Dan Bern

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And we`re back folks! After a few weeks on the road and one more getting settled in Buenos Aires,  I can finally share some stories.

This post goes out to my girl Yelena because GnR`s ”I Used to Love Her” just came on.  (Hi Lenchick!)

So….as I mentioned Dim and I happen to find ourselves in chilly Buenos Aires at the moment. Its the capital of Argentina. Its filled with super hip people who wear leather boots,  smoke many cigarettes, and constantly sound like they´re shushing me because they substitute the `y´ sound in Spanish for `sh´ (shammar, instead of yamar for call).  There are lots of European looking buildings and Avenida 9 de Julio, which is the width of a New York block- the widest street in the world. Yeah! BA is also the capital of tango music and dance.  Yesterday we set out to visit a show, but after confronting an empty hall, decided to go home and try a more happening night later in the week. After walking through some sketchy blocks towards the subway,  Dim and I reconsidered, and flagged down a taxi. The driver turned out to be a big tango enthusiast, and offered to take us to a few other places.  We were a bit put off by the pricey entry fees: roughly $50US, but hey, when the taxi driver tells you that some things in life are worth it, you have to take him at his word.   La Ventana (the window) is a subterranean restaurant with a wine cellar feel, and supposedly one of the best tango bars in the city. It was filled with very well dressed spectators from Argentina,  Asia, Brazil, and who knows where else. Not bad for a Monday night. After drinking our allocated bottle of vino and munching on some jamon crudo and queso, the dancers came on. Or should I say the show started. There was an 8 piece orchestra, 4 tango couples, 2 singers, and an incredible group of native muscians & single dancer from the Peruvian/Argentinian antiplano who´s skillz made my head explode.

Long story short, its really awesome to be living here. My language school is in an old 4 story Baroque style ex-private residence of some wealthy person back in the 1800´s and very literally has golden toilets. Dmitry is taking private classes nearby, also in the center. In the afternoons we´ve been exploring the city´s many neighborhoods by foot,  checking out the museums,  and doing some window shopping. We live in a really fu hostel in the SoHo-like Palermo neighborhood. Whee! More soon…I leave you with some sexy moves. Tonight we´re taking a Tango class, so don´t freak out if I flop my legs around next time I see you.

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I´m officially in love with tango music. Its so super beautiful. Last week Laura, the woman who´s housing us, accompanied me to a trio– piano, contra bass, and accordion.  Amazing.

The dancing, however, still leaves my brain twisted into a pretzel. I don´t understand how people can get their legs to move that way.

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Mala Murga

A few days ago I was hanging outside on the patio with Daniel, a guy from Rome also staying at our hostel.  He´s a musician, and has been strumming his guitar on and off in the evenings. Back home he´s a drummer, but I guess the practice pads he brought don´t give quite the same soul satisfaction. Adding to the artistic look, he has a mop of very curly dark hair, usually tied in a high ponytail that bobs every time he nods his head.

He had brought a laptop, on which he made a daily survey of the Italian left wing newspapers and Facebook, and also had a stash of music. I asked him if he wouldn´t mind playing the music of groups he´s been with, and he willingly obliged. To my utter amazement, instead of some spanish rock or whatever, the speaker pumps the most inventive jazz-gypsey funk fusion I´ve heard in a very long time! He then went on to tell me that his main occupation over the past few years, and his reason for coming to Argentina is to get further inspiration for his Murga.

Daniel is a self identified Communist (the good kind), and as he explained this is a form of political protest musical theater. He started one in Rome, and has brought his group to dozens of political protests over the last few years. I´d never heard of Murgas before, but its started in the 70´s as a form of street performance during carnival in Uruguay to bring attention to the ongoing ills of slavery, and it took off in Argentina, and then Europe. Wonder what the anti-war protests wouldn´ve been like in New York if we had something like this?

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