Monthly Archives: February 2012

Never Forget

Friday night and I went to bed before midnight, I must be getting old. Good news is I woke up this morning feeling like going for a walk so I cooked myself a champion breakfast and jumped in the Tube to go all the way to Victoria Station, and from there, walked to Westminster Cathedral, a place I use to pay a visit every now and then. This is probably the only church I’ve been to since I moved to London and for some reason, I keep going back to it. There’s something about it that I like. I actually remember going there almost a year ago, on April 22 in the morning, in a similar head space as today’s, looking for a little bit of Divine encouragement… I needed it then and I sort of needed it now so I decided to pop by and spend some quiet time with my thoughts and hopes.

Shortly after, I met Ross and his girlfriend for a walk around Soho and along the way we discovered the most amazing gelateria ever: it’s called Scoop and it rules. I had a small cup of Cioccolato Fondente (which apparently has some venezuelan cocoa in it) and Biscotto, the two together make an ace combination. Give it a try if you ever go, you won’t be dissappointed. Anyway, we finished our cups and hit the streets again, only to stop 5 minutes later to get into this very nice second hand shop called Reckless Records, packed with some amazing vinyls. I saw a mint copy of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” (pressed on 180-gram heavy vinyl, whatever that means) priced in 12 quid, which is not bad, and a BB King’s greatest hits collection in 4 pounds, which I hope to get tomorrow when I go back to the shop to have a proper look at the records they have on sale. I tell you, having a turntable is more exciting than I thought.

As we walked around Soho, I also discovered this lovely comic shop called Gosh!, which I also want to go back to when I have a bit more time. It has a pretty gay name (as you would expect, considering where’s located) but make no mistake, the stuff they have inside is fantastic. On the counter they had the first two issues of The Comix Readera publication defined by its creators as “Underground Alternative Independent Satirical Carnivalesque Comix Entertaiment”. Pretty cool, uh? I barely browsed through one of the issues so I can’t really tell if the actual content is any good (the illustrations and style of it are very nice, though) but I did see the price and I must admit that I was quite surprised: each issue is £1. One pound? For a very decent piece of art, that’s a bargain. Further research led to this:

Comix Reader #3 Exhibition and Launch Party, Friday 2nd March, 7pm

“The Comix Reader is in part an attempt to recapture some of the free spirit of the underground press, and is also an experiment in publishing : 9,000 copies paid for and distributed by the artists. Printed on newsprint and costing only £1, it’s accessible to fans of the art form and hopefully also intriguing to people who might not have read many comics.”

In other words, for only 3 pounds I can get the whole collection AND free drinks. I love these guys already. If my stupid attention deficit doesn’t betrays me, I will make sure to go to the Launch Party, take some pics and write something about it especially for all of you, millions of people around the world, reading this blog. In the meantime, I would share with you a couple of websites I’ve been digging lately; some of you might be familiar with them already but I hope that at least one of you haven’t heard of them and find them as exciting and inspiring and addictive as I do. The first one is ConsumeConsume, a collection of images that range from interesting, funny or breathtaking to disturbing, shocking or very very odd. Sometimes it’s everything all together. Click on the link, I bet you can’t help to browse through all its 88 pages in one go.

The other one is called fuck you very much and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Basically, it’s about two friends who keep a visual diary and use pictures they find all over the Internet to covey their thoughts on everything, a very simple idea that works beautifully. I was showing it to one of my housemates today and when she saw the February 13 entry, she remembered this video about a couple of guys who bought a lion cub at Harrods, back in 1969, and decided to take him home. They nurtured him but he quickly became too big for their flat so they tried to reintroduce him to Africa, which they managed to do, and a year later they wanted to visit him but they were told the lion, a grown-up by now, was too wild and wouldn’t remember them. They didn’t give a fuck and decided to go anyway…

Now, I must be quite sentimental these days but I think this piece of footage is incredibly moving. It made me ponder for a minute the passing of time and how it affects us, how it might or might not change us, but mostly, it made me think of how those unmatchable bonds we get to establish with certain people could actually survive distance and time, laying there, latent, just waiting to sparkle again. Somehow, I found myself relating to that.

Right, enough of this already. Go back to whatever you were doing, I’m off to check if I still have a penis and a pair of testicles.

Wish me luck.

Back to my swing

If I was asked to sum up my week with a picture (I honestly can’t come up with a good reason why somebody would ask me to do that but lets just pretend someone just did), I would probably pick this one…

You know, you were in your little swing, enjoying the view, having a nice time, actually looking forward to a few things, and all of a sudden you found yourself in the air, looking like a fool, having nothing to hold on to, not really sure of what to do, not really knowing how did you end up there, only certain that you will eventually land on the floor, get a few bruises, and inmediately will need to stand up, all covered in dust and a bit confused, pretending nothing happened and trying not to cry, to go back to your swing and give it a try one more time, even if the damn thing didn’t behave the way you expected. That’s how life works, I guess. Fortunately enough, I’ve never been in the middle of a really tough situation (knock on wood, hey), this has just been a badish week at the playground, but still, I have realized that some pretty average earthly setbacks can actually dislocate me a bit and even bring out a good bunch of insecurities and fears I don’t feel particularly thrilled about. I embrace them, of course, and try to face them and learn whatever I can in the process, but I really wouldn’t mind them to get the fuck out of my head and never come back.

When they stay, I try to deal with them the best way I can. Sometimes I smile and it works, other times I smile and I kid no one. I hate when that happens. I hate being there, looking California and feeling Minesotta, but at the same time, finding myself in that state of mind usually puts things in perspective and pats me on the back, giving me that bit of extra hope I need to tell myself things are gonna be alright. I’m sure they will.

I’ll go back to my swing, it’s Friday.

I (heart) motorboating

There’s something about vinyl records that I have learnt to appreciate over last few months, particularly by working with Ross. His amazing collection, which he has passionately put together over the years buying rare issues all over the world, features a wide range of releases, some of them quite popular and easy to find and others very unique items any decent collector would kill for. There are thousands of them; all sizes, colours and shapes, carefully archived all over his house. Some of them even remain unopened, perfectly sealed, just as he bought them years ago. True collectors know what I’m talking about.

Looking back, it’s quite interesting that thanks to his quenchless passion for records is that I actually got to meet him in the first place, 11 years ago. He was shooting Iron Maiden on his Brave New World Tour and happened to be with them in Buenos Aires, the city I decided to lose my Iron Maiden virginity in, back in January 2001. Some of my argentinian friends were inside the hotel the band was staying at, so I went in too and after meeting the whole band in a corridor (long story I might write something about in the future), I ran into Ross, whom I must confess I didn’t know much about at the time. I just knew he was the guy behind all those classic Iron Maiden pictures I was so familiar with. Actually, I remember carrying with me a rock magazine that day, some Iron Maiden special edition issue packed with his photographs, so after hesitating for a bit I finally asked him if it would be much of a problem to sign it for me. He did without perspiring a single drop of ego and after chatting for a while, he asked me if I knew where to buy vinyl records in town.

I asked my local friends and they said we were not too far from a very popular record shop, so we agreed to take him. We walked for half and hour and when we finally got to the place, Ross started sweating like crazy. His face went white and if you looked carefully, you could have seen his body shaking a bit. I asked him if he was alright, he replied: “I need to go back to the hotel! Now!” What? I didn’t understand. Why would he want to go back to the hotel if we had just walked for 30 minutes to get to the bloody shop? “I’m shitting my pants”, he said, “I need you to get me in a cab back to my hotel. Seriously”. I felt like laughing but at the same time, I could relate with that feeling of desperation you get when your body gives you the chills as a warning of what is to come if you don’t hurry the fuck up and find a toilet right away. I’ve experienced many times in the past and it totally sucks balls.

I rushed out of the shop, stopped a cab, got him in and told the driver: “You better get this man to the Sheraton Hotel as fast as you can, otherwise you’ll have a very hard time cleaning your back seat”. He understood perfectly. Later on that day, I met with Ross again and man, he looked relieved. He told me he has just been to Mexico and the food they have had there now had everyone in the band and crew making fluky visits to the toilet. We laughed about the episode (we still do) and at the end he gave me his card, to keep in touch. And we did. Eventually I moved to London, we became friends and I ended up working with him, managing his Facebook page and helping him sort out his archive for his new website soon to be launched. At some point, he asked me to come up with ideas for the FB page and I suggested we should put up pictures of his record collection, as I’ve always thought it’s material worth sharing. He has so many cool records, with amazing covers and inner sleeves, that as a fan it would be just great to have a look at these things, not to mention the fact that inevitably one would end up discovering music and albums that otherwise would be very difficult to come across with.

In the process, I kind of understood what’s really exciting about vinyl beyond the “it sounds better than digital” bollocks. True, it certainly has a distinctive sound but I think that’s partly because the music featured in all those classic records has unique sound of its own anyway; it was produced and recorded differently so anything that has been produced and recorded afterwards, when digital took over, will always feel like it’s missing that characteristic signature. Put simple: if you play me an Arctic Monkeys record on CD and then you take me to another room and play me the same record on vinyl, my uneducated ear probably won’t sense a major difference. Anyway, my point is that you don’t collect records only because of their particular sound, it’s also because of what they embody as a creative form of expression, that most of the times seems to go beyond music itself. This is about the artist that made the cover, about the people who printed it, about the crafting of the packaging and the shape and colour of the vinyl, about the company that made it available to an audience, about what it represented at a given time in history. It’s that complex.

That’s why I’m so excited about my new turntable, the one I’ve got from Fran last week while I was in Madrid. It’s a Vestax Handy Track portable turntable, similar to one I’ve been quite obssesed with since last summer when I saw this 40-year old guy in a park, pouring a glass of wine for his beautiful lady, and then playing an Otis Redding record on his portable turntable while they both enjoyed the unusual british sun on a saturday picnic afternoon. I remember walking past them and standing there for a moment, thinking: “this absolutely fantastic. This guy really gets it”. Seven months after, here I am, with my own portable turntable. I’m only missing the beautiful girl and the sun, but hey, it’s a beginning. Sooner or later they will both get here. In the meantime, I’ve decided to start collecting records, cheap ones to be more precise. That’s right, I have set myself the challenge to find nice vinyls for less than 5 pounds, and let me tell you, I’m doing pretty good so far. Last week I went to JB’s Records, a place I’ve been to with Ross a couple of times in the past, and got myself this beauty…

Five pounds, can you believe it? It was in the sale basket, outnumbered by a bunch of  Status Quo albums, waiting for me to come to the rescue. It’s a fantastic record, better than most indie and pop albums out there, although I must say it goes by pretty quick. I need to get use to that. I played it yesterday for the fourth time since I bought it and there’s this one track I keep coming back to, over and over again: the classic “Got My Mojo Working” by the legendary Muddy Waters, which I actually been singing nonstop ever since. It’s just contagious. The rhythm, the melody, the cheerfulness of the piano… it makes you stop doing whatever you’re doing and start dancing. However, what I REALLY like about this tune is – as a brilliant mind rightly described it to me yesterday – Muddy’s motorboating. You know, that part in which he goes: “I got my bbblllrrrbbblllrrrbblrrrbrrrblrrrrr working”. I just can’t stop mimicking it, it’s loads of fun, particularly when cooking breakfast. Try it, you’ll love it.

I also got AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” for 8 pounds and although it’s not my favourite AC/DC record, it still has good songs in it and was fairly cheap so I took advantage of the portable turntable euphoria and put in the bag, too. It felt good. I’ve been thinking about it and realized that, somehow, this was something I always wanted to do. Every time I bumped into a record shop, I would always step inside and wander around, browsing through records I knew I wouldn’t buy, just because I was interested in looking at the artworks and the materials they were made of, at the shapes and the colours of the vinyls, at the posters and stickers that came inside; I wanted to feel what it was like to be a collector even if it was for a few moment, I was intrigued by this whole culture even though I knew I wasn’t part of it. I never knew exactly how it felt like until I bought these two records, the first ones of my collection, one I’m starting at age 31 in a city that breathes music of all sorts. I will take the weekends to drift around London hunting for nice records but I will try to be realistic and adjust my new-found hobby to my possibilities, there’s no room for foolish obsessions here. The rules are simple: I will always buy records I’m familiar with or that I suspect I might like (buying stuff just for the sake of it will be totally unacceptable) and I must get it for a fiver.

Now, if you excuse me, I have some dancing to do…

Spicing up my afternoon

Last monday I went to the British Music Experience, an interactive museum of popular music packed with information and memorabilia from british bands and artists. I got passes from Oliver (Ross’ son) as we wanted to go and take pictures of some of the shots Ross has on the “Gibson Through The Lens” exhibition, which features over sixty fine art prints from some of the world’s most respected rock photographers including Baron Wolman, Neal Preston, Mick Rock, Jim Marshall and of course, Mr. Ross Halfin himself.

The exhibition is quite good and there are some really really nice classic shots in there, if you have the chance to go, please do. It’s free and will run until February 29th, 2012. Then we got inside the actual museum, which holds an overwhelming amount of information that is difficult to process all in one go; pictures, memorabilia, short documentaries, interactive installations… there’s just too much going on and, to be honest, I felt like the way it was presented didn’t help me much. Maybe I just wan’t that keen on spending hours reading every single bit of text or listening to the millions of audio clips available, anyway. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I spotted, however, a few cool stuff in there, like Ozzy’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” cape (which I wouldn’t mind wearing on a daily basis) and the Spice Girls’ classic outfits, which made me think how hot Geri Halliwell should have actually looked in person back in the 90’s, her Union Jack mini-dress was pretty short and narrow. While being in front of the outfits, Alex (a friend who also came along with us), asked us which Spice Girl we would fuck if we had the chance. My first words after the enquiry were: “do you mean now or back then?” He replied: “well, I don’t know. Now and then, I guess”. I only could answer half the question as I don’t know how do they look now but assuming it was back then, making up my mind was quite easy. What I present to you now, dear reader, is a reenactment of my train of thought at the time, which developed in a couple of seconds: Ok, let’s see, I was always scared of Sporty Spice, Victoria Beckham has always been way too skinny for my taste and although Melanie B was kind of hot, I never quite liked her, so, final answer is: Geri and/or Baby Spice. Back then I would have been more than happy to fuck them both, no doubts about it. We pondered our individual answers for a second and in the end we all agreed those were the most shaggable ladies in the band, if you can call that a band, that is. Or ladies for that matter.

Anyway, after our little sex poll, we kept walking around the museum, trying to take as much information as we could but without really trying too hard; we would stare at some random collection of objects for a moment and then moved on to the next one and so on. We wandered around the Gibson Interactive Studio (which is quite cool) and ended up our tour at The Finale, a “thrilling 5 minute visual and sonic montage of life-size-scenes from the best concerts and acts from the last 60 years features the likes of The Stones, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Radiohead, The Clash and more”, at least that’s what they say. The montage is very well done in terms of editing, with nice light effects and sound, but I have to admit that it failed to deliver that live show excitement they promised, partly because they are just snippets neatly edited one after the other, which really don’t give you the chance to inmerse yourself in the experience and that could easily trigger an epileptic seizure on anyone with a pair of fully working eyes. If they were full songs or just longer fragments of each show, maybe it would be better. Or maybe not, no one would ever know, I guess.

So, all in all, a nice monday afternoon spent looking at pictures of famous people with their guitars and walking around in a museum that it’s a bit expensive for the average joe looking for some light entertainment. Maybe it’s worth paying for it if one is willing to spend a whole day reading, listening and watching to every single piece of information in there but then again, I seriously doubt a sane person would want do that.

In any case, I really don’t care. I got in for free.

School’s Out

Damn you, Siberia. Of all the days to hit Europe with your stupid cold wave, you choose particularly those in which I had planned to go “somewhere warm” during my Uni break. What an icy bitch you are. At least Madrid was sunny, cold and ridiculously windy but sunny and full of friends I hadn’t seen for a while, all pretty keen to get me drunk on cheap beer and rum, so to be honest I can’t really complain.

As I only had 4 days to meet more than a dozen friends, my time in Madrid was pretty hectic. My friend Curro picked me up at the airport at 11:30am, went to his place, slept for a few hours, had a very well cooked lunch and headed to the city centre to meet my friend Javier for a couple of beers. At 8:30pm I said goodbye to him and checked in at Mr. Rafa Gil’s gorgeous flat, probably the coolest place I’ve ever stayed in my life. Dropped my bags, had a quick beer with Rafa and some of his friends, and then we all went to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Antikaraoke. Now, for all of you who have no idea what the Antikaraoke is, I only have one thing to tell you: unless you’re giving CPR to an accident victim, get a cheap flight to Spain and find out for yourself, it’s absolutely crazy!

This was my third Antikaraoke and I really wanted to get up there and be part of it for the first time but to be honest, I wasn’t at my best. Just one day before flying to Madrid, I woke up with a weird cold and my voice was so fucked up I could have only been able to sing Tom Waits songs and there were none of them on the set list, so I just gave up my musical dreams and got a rum  and coke to ease the pain. Soon I was joined by my friend Nikki and Jan, a long-time friend from Venezuela who’s been living in Madrid for ages now. As Jan and I were picking songs to sing (he eventually convinced me to give it a try), Rafa took the stage to deliver a powerful version of “Enter Sandman” and not long after, Nikki went up to sing “Respect”, which is probably one of her best numbers. I can’t find any videos from that particular night BUT fortunately enough, there’s one in which both of them sing “Killing in the Name”, easily the most praised track of the Antikaraoke, that serves perfectly to illustrate the atmosphere of the whole thing. Hold tight, fellas.

Four rum and cokes after, Jan and I were still on hold waiting for the DJ to call us onstage but he never did, there was a long cue of people wanting to sing too, I guess. Oh well, I always sing out of tune anyway, never get the tempo right and that night was a tad drunk so in the end it would have been absolutely awful. Madrid deserved better. I went home with Rafa at around 2am and hit the sack shortly after.

Next day I woke up, got a shower, brushed my teeth and went to Dunkin’ Donuts, the place in which I have breakfast every day I get to spend in Madrid. I tell you, that’s all I care about in the morning when I’m there; all I want to know is if there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby and, luckly for me, there was one only 5 minutes away from Rafa’s. Fuckin’ beautiful. Had a Boston Chocolate with a small cappuccino and then wandered for a while around the city centre until I met with my mate Alan for beers and tapas. Later on that night we went to this bizarre book launch with some of his friends and I must say, I didn’t understand a thing of what was going on in that place. The book is called “Desnudando a Google” (Undressing Google) but for some reason, it has the face of Darth Vader on the cover (which I don’t understand why, maybe I’ll need to read the book to get it) and during the book launch they had these guys dressed as Storm Troopers dancing some terrible electronic music, half naked Princess Leia kind of flirting with a guy dressed like Darth Vader and they were also giving away Darth Vader plastic masks to the audience along with the book (I’ve put mine to good use, as you can see). The whole event made no sense to me at all but hey, the drinks were free, and if there’s free drinks then everything starts to fit. At 2:30am, I decided it was time to leave the dark side so I bid my friends goodnight and went home feeling somewhat drunk.

Next day I had an interview at Leo Burnett Madrid (went down well, I think) then early in the evening I met with my friend Fran, who gave me a kick arse portable turntable as a present and took me to Naturbier, the only place where you can find natural brewed beer in Madrid (according to them anyway). After a huge pint, I was off to meet Nikki, who had invited me to see some really nice short films and later on I met with Curro and Manolo for a beer in a place they have kindly named “Shemalia” as a tribute to all the trans women with male genitalia that pop in the bar every now and then to have a wee. They work around the corner so I guess that’s the only place they have to do their thing. I thought it was all very bizarre until Rafa pointed out that having one of those dudes walking into the place as you’re having a beer feels like being at KFC and having Colonel Sanders himself walk past you while you munch away a full bucket of fried chicken. I found that very funny. Anyway, I was there with Curro and Manolo not for the shemales but for the drinks. Cheap drinks, to be precise. Cheap as in 2 rum and cokes for 5 euros. Yes, you heard that right, two well-served rum and cokes for the price of a single pint of beer in London. No wonder why millions of people fall in love with Madrid every year.

I think I drank 4 of them but it could have been 5, I’m not entirely sure. All I remember is being there having a laugh with Curro and Manolo and all of a sudden being handed this sex shop leaflet by this girl who got in the bar with whom I thought was her boyfriend. They were all pretty drunk (just like us) and had just been shopping for sex toys and shit at this shop in which apparently there was also a free strip show, that’s what the girl wanted us to know. In that moment I realized that my love for tits must be pretty evident because the first thing she actually told me when she approached us was that there were girls with nice boobs in that place and that I should check it out sometime. It seems like women do have a sixth sense after all. The girl and his companion sat on the table next to us but soon we invited them over to ours, there was no one else in the bar anyway so we thought it would be better to drink all together. They soon introduced themselves: she was Irene and he was Gonzalo, they were from Las Rozas and contrary to what we thought, they were not girlfriend and boyfriend, they were just neighbours who liked to shag whenever they had the chance. For some reason, Irene was particularly interested to make that clear.

We had more rum coming our way and when the bar had enough of us, we moved somewhere else. During the process, Irene told me she had always wanted to go to London but there were a couple of things she was worried about: first, she didn’t speak any english and second, she was not sure if she would be able to find a job in her field. I told her she could learn english in a few months and that I was sure she would find a job right away, particularly now that the Olympics were coming to town and the city was full of opportunities. She looked at me with a shy smile and told me she didn’t have a regular job, not like everyone else’s. For a second I thought: “fuck, either she’s a stripper or a hooker”. It made sense in a way. I mean, she was tall, pretty, outgoing, she liked leather leashes and ball gags (that’s what she and Gonzalo bought in the sex shop) and was shagging her neighbour. If I had been sober I would have stayed quiet but I was drunk so I didn’t care to ask what did she do for a living. She looked at me and said: “well, I work in thanatopraxy. You know, I prepare the bodies of the deceased so they look natural, etc”. What? You-got-to-be-fuckin-kidding-me. I didn’t know what to say. Actually, I remember being silent for a few seconds, not knowing exactly how to encourage her any further. What was I suppose to tell her? Yeah, go to London, the Olympics are coming and I’m pretty sure some of those athletes will die and as they’re dead, they won’t talk to you, so the language won’t be a problem either, you know? Fuckin’ell, what a weird thing to do for a living. In the end, all I managed to say was: “well, I know a friend that works in a café, in case you wouldn’t mind doing something else in the meantime”. She laughed and so did I. We both knew how fucked up that job she had was, I guess.

Eventually, we all went to this other bar that was around the corner but we didn’t last long there, it was full of odd people dancing latin music like they were in desperate need to copulate so we parted ways and I came back to Rafa’s with Curro, both of us drunk and talking really loud. By the way, before I forget, here’s someone Curro introduced me to during this visit; you probably know him already, I honestly don’t understand why I hadn’t come across him before. His name is Louis CK and he’s fucking hilarious.

What a legend. I remember watching him on Conan a while ago and thinking he was great but I never followed his track. Until now, that is. I have spent the last 3 days watching all of his videos on YouTube and every single time I do so, the guy just cracks me up. God bless him. Anyway, on Saturday I met with my lovely friend Cristina who invited me to Alcalá de Henares, a small town outside Madrid in which you can have a beer and huge tapas for – hold your breath – 2 euros or so. That’s right, you order a 2-euro beer and they give you a full tapas menu for you to choose from and enjoy for free. That day I had a cheesburger with fries, a calamari sandwich, garlic shrimps, potatoes with alioli and something else, along with 5 beers, and then headed back to Madrid to meet Rafa, Curro, Quico, Ara, Ana and Dani for more drinks at the “Shemalia”, where I had 2 rum and cokes and more food to the point in which I started to feel a bit sick. The night ended at 4am, when I bid goodbye to all of them and went back to Curro’s for a couple of hours sleep before heading to the airport to catch my flight to London.

I knew there had been some heavy snowing the day before so I was expecting to get to the Easyjet counter to be informed that my flight had been cancelled but surprisingly, it was on. Actually, it departed on time and by 2pm I was in cold Luton taking a bus back to Baker Street, from where I would later take the Tube to Manor House to finally get on the bus that drops me 4 blocks away from my place.

Now, I love the snow, I think it’s a beautiful thing to look at but I have to say that it’s a complete pain in the arse to walk through, particularly if you’re dragging a small suitcase with little wheels that were not made to deal with such landscape. It took me like 25 minutes to walk 200 meters, trying not to fall and pulling the goddamn thing through ice and water until I was finally home, feeling hungry and as tired as I was when I left, which totally contradicted the whole purpose of going away for a holiday in the first place. I guess all those cheap drinks and late nights with friends have their price… good thing is I’ve always been more than willing to pay.