London and Beyond

Probably the best thing about Elf School was that we met Sarah. We decided early on that she must be an elf herself. Who else would be such a fantastic generous person and such a fantastic host? Finding and picking us up in Brixton. Giving us her sofa bed to use, keys, hanging out with me when HY was down south in Brighton visiting old friends. She was just great and a very interesting person, having been an overseas correspondent in Afghanistan and other amazing places for many years.
With HY away and my luggage lost, there was no way to recharge my amp, I was fated to be a normal tourist in London, which meant walking around and seeing the famous sites like Big Ben, Parliament, the South side of the river which seems more like Disneyland than London, with all the tourists on a feeding frenzy. And seeing that marvel called the British Museum. Leave it to the British to categorize history like that and give examples, real examples taken from real places, so it comes to life. Of course the biggest marvel is how ignorant I am. I hadn’t even heard of many of these civilizations (nor they me to be fair) and here they were creating these incredible artifacts. I could spend weeks there,especially the tours where you can really get the inside stories. The museum itself is amazing too, from a presentation and lighting point of view. And it’s free, as it should be, after all the British stole that stuff from around the world anyway. I went there twice.
Also when i was there I had the chance to see 2 great movies, “the Big Lebowski” which i had somehow managed to miss all these years and a movie in the theater called “Begin Again”. It was eerily like the movie “Once” except set in New York” and it was made by the same guy, I think they should have called it “Twice”. But I loved it anyway. I guess I’m a sucker for teacher movies and unknown musicians making it big movies. Hmmmmmmm I wonder why. .When HY came back on Thursday, it gave us a chance to play some street music. What better place to do it than in Brixton. Honestly, I had never heard of Brixton before, but wow, what a wild and crazy place. Filled with lots of West Indian people, Rastas, and Africans, along with a sprinkling of whites, and white hipsters, the place was seething with energy. Just watching the exotic hair-dos were enough to keep me fascinated. The energy was slightly dangerous. Such a mix -n-match your bad, drugged out people, elegant people, super excited people, super cool people, people from the old countries, etc. …..what a place.
We found a place to play right on the corner. It was far from ideal, way too loud for that, but the area in the square nearby was occupied by a very large gathering celebrating the opening of the Black Cultural Archive. They were having a celebration along with music, poetry, dance, and even an invocation by a medicine woman (read witch, read strong woman) which was being translated into the sacred language of yoruba in real time. It was great and we watched for quite a while, but in the end we wanted to play. So we crossed the street and played on the corner. All the amazing people just looked puzzled. You guys are really good. What are you doing here though. go over there. Even the cop walked by slowly eyeing us. I thought, oh oh, but he just said the same thing. Why are you playing here? Everyone goes over there. In the end after about an hour, we bowed to social pressure and did move over in front of the Ritzy theater, where there was an outdoor cafe and people seemed resigned to the fact that street music was part of the experience. What was unusual for them though was to hear nice mellow jazz. They were used to music of a more wild and random nature, like digeradoo or some strange African instruments with kazoo or jaw-harp. We sat down on a little ledge in front of e theater and started playing. It was fun to get looks from all the interesting people walking by, many of whom would stop traffic in almost any other place in the Western world. Sarah showed up and she was all smiles, no doubt relieved that we weren’t absolutely terrible and that some lunatics were staying in her living room. Two pretty black women were standing some distance from us, dancing and smiling. They seemed to be our first Brixton fans. Turned out, one of them was a singer and we gave her the mic and she started singing up a storm. Her style was different from HY’s, more funky and soulful, whereas HY’s voice was more pure and feeling. We had a great time with them and even gathered a bit of a crowd. We even gathered a bit of change, but it’s not about the money of course. Later we went to a pricey Ethiopian restaurant (they charged 5 dollars for a bottle of water…that’s not pricey, that’s ripping off! ) that nonetheless had very good food. My pleasure to give Sarah her first experience with Ethiopian food. The next morning we were off to our next destination, Prague. It held some great treasures and disappointments for us.

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