Street musicians | The mail


The damn Argentine again! It is unbearable! I can not anymore! This week he has not forgiven the torture session any afternoon. Can’t you forget the corner of my street for a single day ?; Bilbao’s Casco Viejo is large (actually too small, in everything). Always play the same thing, in the same tone and in the same order, with the guitar amplifier at maximum volume. If I altered a single note I would notice, it is not an exaggeration. I know the monotonous and cloying repertoire of memory: I have it engraved on fire. It is dense as a cement puree, concrete as hate. The guy stands about twenty-five meters from my house. I live on a fourth floor, but I hear it as if I were giving the recital in front of me. And he always stays as long as he wants; sometimes it exceeds two hours. The municipal ordinance establishes that street musicians must not be in the same place for more than forty-five minutes. Also, they cannot play or sing with amplifiers, but neither does it, nor is it enforced. I usually muffle the murga of this and the other torturers watching a movie with the headphones also at maximum volume and even so I hear it in the background, it sneaks into my ears like the roaches under the doors. When I can’t take it anymore, I call the municipal police; they have to know my phone number by heart.

Sometimes the cops are funny. For a couple of days an enormous guy who must have been English tormented my street: he mumbled in something similar to English. He had a blanket over his shoulders and was blatantly crazy. He didn’t even ask for money in a clear way. He limited himself to singing, or rather to the bellowing of meaningless things that didn’t even look like songs. He decided to stand in the door of the bakery, just in front of my house. It was disturbing and tiresome to the point of satiety. I was going to call the municipal officials when I saw from the balcony two of them standing near the insane, ignoring him as if they didn’t see or hear him. I was outraged; I bothered going down to the street and went to talk to them. They were from the young, who are often even worse than the nasty and cute veterans. I told them that the guy’s alienated yelling was unbearable and please call him to order and silence. One of them, the clever of the two, listened for a moment to the subject’s gibberish orate and told me that it was not his competence because it was not his job to judge the quality of those who sing in the street.

The crazy people in the area are registered and they don’t need more. There is one who travels the neighborhood tirelessly at a fast pace while half chants half declaiming strange chants, perhaps religious, in an unknown language. As it does not stop, it bothers little. On weekends, he adds to the large group of black pedigrees that parade with tribal songs, dances, furious tamtams and a relentless slowness through each street, leaving none behind. They achieve a decibel level that would have freaked out the English riflemen who defended Rorke’s Drift from the Zulu horde. But the police say nothing to them, I suppose that in case the warning was taken by racism.

Regarding the Argentinean, sometimes they pay attention to me, they come and make him move from the place, and other times, the majority, no. As he will be at least sixty-five years old and have a certain reputation for playing well, they turn a blind eye. Let’s understand each other. I do not intend to prevent you from touching and depriving you of your modest livelihood. It is pretty screwed up being at your age on the street, hot or cold, in exchange for a few coins. But let him play without an amplifier, only for the people who pass in front of him and not for every living bug fifty meters around. That would suffice. That is the problem with the Argentine and the rest, the numerous street musicians armed with amplifiers who like that corner, for being a lot of people.

I look out onto the balcony. There it is, sitting down. Now touch the indigestible theme of the movie ‘Forbidden Games’. I have tried everything to get rid of him: from kindness with small handouts of five or ten euros, asking him to leave early because he had to work at home, “right here next door”, and not to offend him “because you play very well , but it is distracting and I have to be focused »(like a pill for broth; sometimes I am very asshole), going through the request that I lower the amplifier and respect the established time, even the bad ways and the threat barely veiled . For a few days I managed to get him to more or less listen to me and even to not show up some afternoons, but it always comes back, like rancor for an old offense. In the present he plays the time and with the volume that comes out of the eggs, every afternoon except Sundays; It will be for weekly rest or to keep party.

The first time I spoke to the Argentine beyond the couple of sentences with the usual demands, it was an afternoon that I returned home with a full tank after a copious session of whites. So as I was farting, the silly idea occurred to me to approach his corner (yes, it is clear that it is his property) and make me likeable, to see if he liked me that way, he gave me a little more barracks and he managed not to appear so frequently. At the outset, I delicately deposited a two-euro coin into his guitar case; no more. Sympathy and one ticket at a time would have been too much. I stood before him with a smile-like rictus. He interrupted the tedious ‘Scarborough Fair’ and looked at me with patient annoyance, waiting for my new complaint. I don’t remember what nonsense I said to him to break the ice a bit between us, which was solid like that of an iceberg. I was smoking.

“Will you invite me for a cigarette, baby?”

I gave it to him, of course. And fire. “Kid” me, anyway. Standing in front of him, I realized this time that he was older than I had thought, perhaps he had already turned seventy. He told me that he was a draftsman in Buenos Aires, but that he found no job here. and had to throw a guitar on the street. I was aware that I was playing the repertoire as guided by a remote control (I wish I could handle it to turn it off, I yearned). I did not have the slightest empathy for him and I also thought that it was a lie, that he was not a draftsman, but that he had been a torturer with Videla. All his corsage to the detainees in the sinister School of Mechanics of the Navy until they could no longer and sang flat.

The Argentine and I talked about several other things while his cigarette lasted. He drained his fist down to the filter. As we said goodbye, he asked me if I had to work at home. I lied like a scoundrel.

ÍYes, well, awhile.

─Well, I’m leaving right now.

I went home satisfied with my management with the torturer. I was going to take a nap with my fists closed. I leaned out onto the balcony. In effect, the Argentine was picking up his stop and taking off. Maybe God did exist after all and he didn’t hate me all the time. But he had claimed victory very soon. While taking off my clothes in my room, a saxophone solo started playing so loud and close that it blew my mind. I went back to the balcony in my underwear and T-shirt. I couldn’t believe it! A guy was playing the sax with enthusiasm on the Armenian’s balcony! There is no God.

The Armenian lives in a hovel (a small office rented as a dwelling) with a balcony on the second floor of the house opposite. He is a grim and mean-spirited character (he looks a lot like the feverish-eyed fakir who sticks knives in Tintin’s album ‘The Blue Lotus’), like my age, and a lumpen painter; they say that he paints with his own blood, to see if they commission him the mural of a twilight with many reds. He’s a nasty and crazy guy, also a drunk. When lighting arrives at night, a daily habit, he usually gives up on the balcony to read aloud verses from the Koran for the empty street, and for me. He also likes to gather in his cave the cream of the pirates and fringes in the neighborhood, numerous as the elements of a plague. And that afternoon he had received the invitation from the saxophone player, who enjoyed having the people who passed by on the street look at him. Mine, like most of the streets of Casco Viejo, is not wide, so I had the sax, a young man, a stone’s throw away, difficult to miss. It seemed to me that he didn’t play at all bad, but that didn’t matter. With very bad milk and from my balcony, I shouted:

E Hey! Your! Shut up, fuck! Don’t suck!

The saxophone looked at me in surprise, stopped blowing the mouthpiece of the instrument and asked cheekily:

Ver Let’s see! Why?

I calibrated doing him as much damage as possible.

PorBecause you play very badly, man! You’re fucking everyone because you’re mediocre! A mediocre!

He especially accused the word “mediocre” repeated, as I supposed, and could not avoid the outraged face. He was a moment without knowing what to say and I took advantage of it to close the balcony abruptly. Then he gave me some classic insults that the closed balcony doors did not deprive me of hearing. Although I could no longer see him, I noticed that he was touched, hurt, and that if he could he would have tried to remove my liver, which for good service I will send to bury it apart with military honors. Stopped playing. During the brief rifirrafe the Armenian declined to appear in support of her guest.

The Argentine did not return the following afternoon, to my solace. But yes the next day. It was hit that I hit you two and a half hours with the amplifier at full capacity.

The author. Juan Bas

He was a scriptwriter for comics, humorous soap operas and TV series. He is the author of stories and novels (the last ‘The refuge of the scoundrels’) with which he has won several awards. He devised and directs Ja! International Festival of Literature and Art with Humor.

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