july 31, 2013

On the streets of Heraklion, there’s a nice pedestrian walkway, where tourists from all around the world stroll after tough days of sight seeing. Heralklion has the honor being the most beseiged city in the world.  From 1648 to 1669 the Ottamans held the city captive until it finally fell. It changed hands from Muslim to Christian many times. Also nearby are the ancient ruins of Knosses are some of the oldest in the world.

Along the main pedestrian way, named August 25th, because on that date the Ottaman rulers, gunned down hundreds of innocent civilians seemingly without provocation, there are all kinds of street performers too, including me. Romana the Piano Puppet is my favorite. At first you look at it and say, ok, a puppet is playing the piano big deal. Then you look closer and you see that somehow that puppetier is making the puppet feel the music. And if you watch the puppet closely you can feel the music through the puppet Romona. It’s quite mesmerizing in fact. Puppets always are mesmerizing especially to children. What is it about them? Do we project our own thoughts and feelings on the puppets and thus give it a life more real than anything that exists in reality. Later I talk to the puppetier.  She is shy and awkward. She talks about the puppet in the 3rd person. “yes Romona really feels the music.”  I ask her to play with me. I know that Romana can feel my music too? She finally says yes but later when I return she says she doesnt have time. She has to go and work. she is preparing a puppet Horror Show for adults in September and has to make all the puppets herself.  We talk about meeting someday and playing but of course that is just talk. Her friend comes up later. She introduces herself as a puppet. “What a lovely puppet you are. The best one yet.” We joke like this for awhile. her friend says all of her friends are artists but she is not, she is a programmer who doesnt want to do that anymore. . “maybe you are like Gertrude Stein.  You know an inspirer of the artists.” She smiles and considers that. She says that she really wants to play the cello and will take lessons soon. I tell her my theory that it takes 2 years to learn an instrument. We agree to meet in 2 years exactly on this date and play together, with puppets. A grand extravaganza.

The gypsies are all around. You see the children, some of them as lovely as they can be (the cuter the better) walking up to open door restaurants and cafes and asking for money.  The young ones are still beautiful people, the older ones get focused and insitent on money and you cant have fun with them. “Give me money. “ Is all they will say. An older girl, maybe 15 comes up and sits next to me as I play. “Give me money”. Ok I will give you ½ Euro when someone gives me some money.  5 minutes later someone drops a 2 Euro coin in my hat. I take it up and give her 50 cents. She looks at me like I am cheating her. “Give me half. Give me a Euro.” “No. you asked for 50 cents and I gave it to you.” She never lets up and I continue saying the same thing too. “I gave you money.” “She looks at me evenly with a strange look. “ You are rich”. Its the kind of look I imagine that gypsy fortune tellers learn. Maybe she is psychic, because she is right, I am rich. At least by her standards. But logically she has no way to know that. Still I wonder, “Is she psychic”?  Finally she leaves and is replaced by 3 younger kids who just enjoy the music. One of them it turns out is the sister of the one that just left and she is a monster just like her sister. Really a bad girl, sometimes hitting or hurting the other 2. She seems to have no awareness of proper boundares or behavior. One of them is really beautiful and unfortunately she must have watched some xrated videos and learned to dance “sexy” slapping her but and posing provacatively. She is really good at it and it is rather embarassing, which is probably why she does it. Her friend another girl of about 8 is one of the cutest and most charming little girls I have ever met. Everything she does is with utter grace, although she is rather shy. They really listen to my music for about 15 minutes which is a long time. They have never heard anything like it. After that, I encourage them to dance and they start dancing to the music, which is great. Passers-by dont know what to make of it but a lot of people are smiling. We have a great  time together and I promise them that we will get something to eat if I make any money. Probabaly because of the fun we are having and they are so cute, we do make some money. When its time I say lets go eat. Walking up the road, they are full of suggestions, “Coke, Crepe, Ice Cream.” I am determined not to get them junk though. I go to an outdoor cafe where they have delicious spinach pie. I buy 2 and we divide them into 4 pieces. They dont know how to eat them, they keep trying to cut them with a knife and fork.  The waitress and I keep telling them to pick it up , but they dont want to.  Finally they get the hang of it. Being the kids they are they dont like the spinach pie much so I finally break down and get them ice cream. As our time is coming to a close I see them morphing  back into their former gypsy selves, “Give us money.” “No food is better. “ “No money is better.” Im sure their gypsy parents insist that they bring home money each day. Who knows maybe they get beatten. But for a few minutes at least with me, they are just great kids (except for the monster who is just a great monster). As we leave, I look back, and they are back to walking up to seated patrons and begging for money.

I see a man who looks like a longtime traveler. He has a suitcase and an instrument tied to it. I ask if he wants to play. He says he wants to but he has to make some money for the bus and for food so he will paint.  He looks like a man in deep meditation and bows after.  I shrug and walk on. Later I see that he is one of these spray can painters, who can make amazing other-worldly pictures in a few minutes by using some basic painting techniques of masking, scrapping etc. It really is amazing and in no time he has enough for everything he needs.  Later we talk. “wow, you can travel anywhere and make money. Its amazing.” “he looks at me as if from a great distance. “I dont need money. I need only food and weed.” Still I think he is a very spiritual man.

Later walking on further, I see a young guitarist singing and playing old rock songs. I ask him to play but he just shakes his head no so I walk on. There is a place on the next block (not too many spots here) so I set up. But I can still hear him faintly. I should move on but I dont think there is any other place so I sit down and vow to play softly. I play awhile. Different people come and go, but the most amazing is these 2 Romanian guys. One on accordian and one on guitar. They are so good, they are amazing. They can play anything and they can play circles around me. They are laughing and singing and joking, just a barrel full of laughs. We play one song then they go on their way, playing at the open cafes and restaurants, making good money and having a great time.

later I get tired of playing alone and go back to that singer/guitarist. I dont ask, just start playing. We finish the song and he unloads. “You know I didnt like the way you played so close to me”. I told him I was sorry. He and his friends were a little angry, but we played another song and they were smiling and laughing. Music forgives all. We were the best of friends now. “He did you see those Rumanian guys? They were amazing.” “Yes, but they were Rumanian. They grow up with that from age 2. They can do anything they want.” Wow. I learned something. I didnt know the Rumaninas were the kings of music.  It was time to go home. Tomorrow I would go to a small village called Houtedsi where there was an allnight festival for 4 nights. I would probably meet a lot of great musicians there. Time to rest up.  



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