July 18th, 2013
Today I would defy the city of Barcelona, the country of Spain, the fascist police , descendents of Franco and all who seek to rule by fear. I had a score to settle with Spain that went back to 1989 when the police beat me up and broke my wrist and changed the course of my life forever. I would play my saxophone in public in Barcelona. I would even the score. Even though I had been warned by fellow street musicians that you could only play if you had written permission and then only at a particular place and time, I had found the perfect place to play. I had heard there was a magic fountain here, from Thursday to Sunday. It was a large water fountain in front of the glorious Museum of Catalan Art in the Espanya neighborhood, that could change the power, direction, and type of spray. This combined with changing colors of red, blue, green, yellow and all combinations, and music that was played over loudspeakers, produced a fantastic effect. The water, sometimes rising in columns, sometimes an amorphous mist, sometimes geometric shapes, lit with lights producing the stunning colors sometimes seemed to follow the music and the effect was glorious. Thousands of people came out to enjoy the show which lasted for hours. Most people only stayed for 30 minutes or so, because after a while even glorious can get boring. Therefore there was a constant flow of people in and out of the place. It was perfect for street music, yet no one was there. I wondered if it hadnt been discovered by both the other street artists or the police. I had my amp and my sax so I decided to try it.
I didnt exactly thrill the people of Barcelona. Most people walked on by. The amp was too quiet and anyway, most people were not interested. They were here on vacation with their friends, what did they want with a saxophone player? But for me it was ok. I was playing music, I could see the fountain yet I was far enough away that I couldnt hear the fountain music, and of course, I could watch the people. A few people stopped to listen, and a few kids stopped and were mesmerized.
In any event, nobody seemed to mind.
Still, I started to feel a little lonely. Everyone there was with a group or a family, and all I had was my music. I tried to focus on the music, the beautiful colors and shapes, but I couldnt help feeling a little down.
There was a Gypsy family with some young gypsy children. You can pick Gypsies out in a second. They acted different. They didnt seem to follow normal rules of behavior. I could see right away the kids were trouble. As soon as I saw them I could see they just wanted to torment me. They were like little evil gremlins. They came up and stood in front of me with that bad look in their eyes. They were some of the homliest children I had ever seen too. Not quite human, missing links, like little trolls. There was a little boy about 6 and his sister of about 4. They kept trying to grab my instrument and amp. I kept telling them “I wll tell your mother if you are not good”. Finally I went over there and there she was, an old gypsy woman, head wrapped in a shawl, sitting there as I think she did every night, sitting and letting her kids run up and down the wide busy and bother people. I told her her kids were being bad. She half-heartledly scolded them for a second. then they ran away. She really didnt care. The kids were monsters big time. They were like those dogs that are so homely they look cute. The little boy, the less disgusting of the 2 started dancing to my music in a funny way. Maybe he thought it would bother me but, I gave him the thumbs up. He smiled a little. Oh, poor pathtic life form. Ok maybe he just needed a little love. He started dancing more in a wild way. I modeled for him how to dance, listening and following more to the music. He tried it and looked back at me. I shook my head yes and he smiled. His sister continued to be a devil. Finally after another song, I couldnt stand her anymore, so I put my horn away and left to go closer to the fountain. The little boy ran after me with an imploring look in his eyes and Isignaled I would be back later. Near the fountain it was like being near the center of a hurricane. The water was changing and the colors moving around. Sometimes the wind would shift as the water shot high in the air, and those closest to the fountain got sprayed and rushed back and everyone would mock panic. It was exciting and high energy. Somehow though it just made me feel more distant, because everyone was watching it together with their friends, and I was alone. Still, I watched until it was almost time to go on the subway. Sometimes traveling alone can be hard.
Part 2 July 19th, 2013
The next day, I decided to go down to the fountain again since it was kind of nice the night before, and the only alternative was to go to the center where young teenagers were wandering around drunk and excited. This time I did see a few other street performers. There was an old man dressed in clownish clothes, with a beautiful young Japanese woman. I asked him if he wanted some live music, but he said, no he had his act down with the music he knew. he did magic and comedy.The beautiful Japanese woman made balloons and also some comedy and seemed so sympathetic to me . I walked on and then I kind of regretted that I hadnt talked to her more. I just kept walking though. In a while I saw the monsters and their mother in their same spot. I said hi and the monster kids seemed happy to see me. I set up near them so they could hear me play one more song. The reaction was the same and I couldnt help feeling even lonlier than the day before. It seemed hopeless. I went to the center of the fountain area again. I tried talking to some of the people in groups but everyone already had their group. After a while I got tired of getting rejected and headed back. I felt really disconnected. Just then I saw the monster Gypsy boy. He was running to catch up to me. He was begging for me to play. But I just didnt feel like it really. The grotesque monster was walking next to me and before I knew what I was doing I grabbed his hand. The little devil grabbed my hand and looked at me with so much love that he almost looked human. Maybe it was the first time he ever had gotten a little love. Suddenly I too felt warm and connected. I had found someone who I mattered to, even if it was a little devil.I couldnt not play for him. I took out my horn and I started to play and he danced just like I had showed him the day before. I played another one, this time slower. The troll kept dancing in the same way. I showed him how to dance in a slower more fluid way and he picked it right up and smiled at me. He danced around as I played and suddenly people stopped and started taking pictures of us, him dancing nicely and me playing. I had found my place. After a few songs, I said goodbye to the boy who didnt want me to go and his mother and monster sister and walked back towards the subway. I thought about the Japanese woman and headed back to see if I could find her. By the time I got to where they had been, they were gone. I wondered why they had quit so early when the crowd was just peaking. I walked back to the subway and lo and behold, there they were. She saw me and smiled. They were just sitting and talking to some other people. I went up to them and asked why they had stopped. “The police arrested us and gave us a fine”. “Why?” “I dont know. The people were loving our act, and the police just made us stop.” I had heard about that but I didnt realize it actually happened. They looked really down. I asked them if I could borrow their amp so I could play (and impress the woman) They were afraid to do that though, as the police had said that the next time they would take their equiptment. I decided to play without an amp, so I asked for a request. The old clown said, “can you play New York, New York?” “Sure I can play New York, New York in Barcelona and next time I get to New York, New York, I will play Barcelona (if there is such a song, if not I will have to write it). After that the people who they had been talking to started setting up. It turned out that they were street performers in the art of something they called “cyr wheel”. I had never seen it before, but there was a large ring that looked like a giant hula hoop. It was much larger, perhaps 10 feet in diameter and it was made of heavy metal so that it weighed perhaps 100 pounds. They spun the wheel around either in one spot or so that it circled around some point in an orbit or perhaps 20 feet. Sometimes they would grab onto it and spin with it, so that they were inside the ring looking like that famous Da Vinci sketch. They did many tricks with it along with the music that they played. It was really amazing. I had never seen anything like it. The woman was graceful and the man was powerful. They took turns mesmerizing the crowds. I asked it they wanted some live music and they said sure. So I started playing along with their soundtrack, soon there were about 100 people watching. We were all enjoying it for about 10 minutes and thats when it happened. A powerful man in plain clothes came up and walked right up to me. “Stop playing now.” He flashed his badge. The acrobatic couple quickly grabbed the hats full of money and put them away and sat down. The cop went over and started to write a ticket out for them. To me he just said one word, “Passport”. I didnt have it with me, it was in my room. The couple started talking to the cop. They were talking for quite a long time in Spanish. I just waited nervously as my fate was being decided. Finally the cop smiled and shook hands with the acrobats. He didnt even look at me. He just walked by, which was fine with me. I went up to the couple and they explained that the cop had told them that if he saw any of us performing again, he would take our equiptment away and not give it back. That included my saxophone. That was it. I was done playing in Barcelona. And it was official, I didnt like Barcelona, and I didn’t like Spain. You win,Spain, I give up. Tomorrow I was on my way to a hopefully more welcoming place, Greece.