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Old 03-28-10, 08:28 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Trapped-Please send money
Posts: 1,888
Blog Entries: 15
Lurk Barcelona.

I'm in Barcelona, sharing a small room with a one legged American with literary pretensions. Still --even two legged people need crutches of one sort or another to hold themselves up to people . I forgive him which is big of me I'll admit.

I arrived in my shared room in the middle of the day, lent my stilts against the wall and noticed his artificial leg leaning against the other. He was still asleep, or pretending to be. I know that feeling, the disappointment of the inevitable roommate. I quickly left for a short walk and coffee, returning a hour later to find him sitting up and prepared to banter.

He confided that when travelling and overhearing an American accent, he cringes,- afraid of the potential crassness of his countrymen. I mentioned an American two doors down, who was reading Hemingway- to try to reassure him,- but he pooh poohed- both the writer and the reader by implication as lightweight. I told him he was full of insecure, elitist bullshit and he's been face down on his bed ever since.

Barcelona's a tough city, every day you can find tear- streaked tourists numbly trying to comprehend that they've just been shown a knife and robbed of their wallets, or their bag stolen from beside them at the Railway station, or , less seriously , been sold hashish that is in fact---Junkie turd.

There's this buxom princess that approaches unsuspecting marks and grabs their hands and pushes them onto her breasts and while her mark is in shock-- she pick-pockets him and hands the goods to a guy who, passes behind her while she does it.

It's a beautiful move, with just the right amount of cruelty, humor and heartbreak. To walk the streets with all the money in the world sitting in your back pocket can be scary , but I , more than most have an occupation that is a sort of insurance.

I'm a clown you see- and when robbed-as I have been. I have only to go out onto the street, gather a crowd, entertain them briefly and have funds at the end of it to continue my haphazard existence. Obviously harder some days than others.

To be more precise I am a clown on stilts, removed from the ordinary man by a meter... I Totter...I dance...I make mischief. I am, in sort, professionally unhappy, which is maybe why I snapped at the one legged chaps dismissal of Hemingway as lightweight. I ask you----Really... as if there is a point, as if intelligence is related to happiness. I don't want to sound cynical, I admit life is pointless, but so is death--and while life may be temporarily pointless, I have a suspicion that death is permanent.

But it contains a range of experience for intelligent and dull alike that you cannot hope not to enjoy . As I write this I am aware I am a jaded cheerleader on the games fringe.

I met my friends, fellow performers and we wander around feeling like rascals. Afterwards alone, the strange barbarism of Barcelona reasserts itself. The old woman absently chewing on a piece of bread as she stands on the footpath, gazing dully through the laundromat window, her urine running down from under from under her ragged dress and following me like liquid fingers as I walk away from her down the hill. The other woman, who suddenly, violently exclaims as she swivels, swings and with her open palm venomously slaps the wall beside her transfixed with rage glaring at the wall at the point of impact

Or the man I wished I hadn't seen, his face deformed yet smooth, one side tear-dropping down his neck, his brown eyes numbed to the startled disgust that springs involuntarily from my first glance. He walked quickly past me and ominous childhood dreams crept back.

I was scared for myself-proof that life's worth living.

The second time I plonked myself down in the room with the one legged American I had more sympathy, empathy and respect for the legless existence because I myself was a cripple. I had just hopped 2 blocks, carrying my stilts and bagged costume and then hopped 6 flights of stairs still laden.

I had a badly swollen ankle, I had rolled it very badly on a breakwater where luxury yachts moored next to an exclusive nightclub 20 miles out of Barcelona.

I was approached on the street by a well dressed Spaniard on the Ramblas who asked what I cost for a night's work. This I just realise, is my first European gig.
I had worked nightclub and corporate and Arts festivals at that point so quoted X worth of the local currency.
Not phased I was to give my address and get picked up the following evening. I was just told it was a nightclub and it was a little out of town.

I was picked up well before sunset in a sedan and taken out to the coast somewhere. There was a nightclub, isolated on the coast with it's own breakwater and jetty for luxury yachts to dock.

It was big, many theme rooms, some roofless. It was a major investment and I came to learn it was some large corporate hospitality expense tax writeoff and that the guy who ran it had been the person to initially approach me.

I approached him, he grinned, shook my hand, nodded respectfully, called someone to show me a dressing room and issued my instructions.
"Do what you want."

This guy was effortlessly cool. A Spanish Fonzie with that European calm self satisfaction us new-worlders cannot match.

I looked around, they had a roofless theme-room deep in the complex that was 12 foot deep in foam with Gaudi-like pillars and ceramic tiling. There was a cosy little house bar, an enormous multi-level main room, tropical rooms, industrial styled rooms, a casual restaurant area facing the sea.

I got ready and went out and did my thing, I went long, why not? I like my elevated position, I roamed and danced and played and hid and ridiculed. There was a lot of ground to cover I worked three hours then dismounted, cleaned up and went to visit the boss in the house bar to get paid and secure whatever ride home.

The advantage in dealing with advanced coolness is that it challenges you to expand your own cool.
The boss thanked me for a job well done ordered me a drink and pulled out a billfold.
I thanked him for the opportunity to work in such a stunning venue.
He replied with a little history of the place and just as he did so he put my fee down on the bar between us.
I did not take my eyes off his, I was attentive to him and not distracted by my fee between us. It seemed like the coolest thing to do, and basically polite.

He paused, smiled at me, another fluid movement and his billfold was in his hand, he made some general complimentary remark and while doing so doubled my fee.

I smiled and looked away. We were playing. It was a great game.

He handed me a roll of drink tickets, not two or three, not five or ten, a roll of about 60 drink tickets and suggested I go enjoy myself and get back to him around dawn for an arranged lift home.

That I did. I enjoy multi faceted venues personally because I can spend my recreational time simply rotating and observing. It doesn't look out of place that you are isolated when you appear to be purposefully moving and so I ambled from room to room. I knew nobody and as long as that continued I could pretend to be a thin preoccupied Spaniard.

I had a tendency to react more manically physically the more I drank. I presume it's something to do with the seduction of risk taking behaviours. I had a pass that enabled me to go anywhere, I went out onto the breakwater to play, passing the guards who glanced at me indifferently.

The breakwater was made of great three pronged concrete shapes piled deep in a line out into the bay. I bounded from prong to prong and clambered around happily. I pondered some time staring out to sea. I had a pocket full of money and as first European gigs went I considered this a gift. I was drunk.

On the way back in I misstepped and rolled my ankle with my full weight, a white flash of pain followed by nausea and an ominous throb.
I stayed there where I was for a good 30 minutes, I should have got ice on it sooner. I hobbled in, went back to my dressing room and convinced myself it wasn't broken. I was going to have to rest it for days until the swelling reduced and the bruising subsided enough for me to wear stilts again.

Eventually I got my ride back, I was downplaying the injury, hard to do when you cannot use a leg but easier if you happen to be seated in a car. I assured my designated driver I was fine being dropped off a couple of blocks from my hotel at the nearest main road as he had suggested. I pushed my stuff out, thanked him and he pulled away.

The sun was out but not yet fiercely hot, I was exhausted, throbbing, hungover and strangely cheerful. I slung my bag over one shoulder, my stilts over the other and commenced hopping. Laden hopping is not easy. I rested frequently, lent my stilts against a wall and watched the curious glances from the early Sunday morning passers by. I took it about 30 yards at a time, it took close to an hour.

The hotel was quiet. I stood panting at the base of six flights of stairs, I needed a shower but I needed to be horizontal more. Those six flights were deep into my reserve tank of stamina. Hopping on my right foot one step at a time.

I got to my shared room, the one legged gent was sleeping, his crutches and artificial leg propped up against the wall next to his bed.
I propped mine up similarly and fell into bed.


I stayed in that room the better part of 4 days, I'd go out for nearby food once a day. My one legged room-mate had no pity, I'd showed him none and what's more my condition was temporary. I admired his nonchalant use of his fake appendage if not his personality. He checked out shortly afterwards. I stayed 5 days until I could work again, realising how precarious a physical skilled occupation can be when coupled with recklessness.
At the time that was merely an observation, I'm still unsure whether I've really learnt that lesson.
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