Busking will always beat business!
I came for business meetings with the Estonians, and stayed for busking adventures with the Irish. This weekend in Barcelona transpired into a greatness that I could have never foreseen. I have only been to Barcelona twice in my life, and I have fallen in love with it both times. The city has such good vibes and it seems everyone is infected with creativity from head to toe. The first two days here I dressed up as business Blakey. I wore my nice leather shoes on the bottom and my blue blazer from Joe Coughlin’s wedding to cover my “rocker style” t-shirt up top. I was going for the business casual look as I am not a fan of the uptight business stiff look. Nothing wrong with being a stiff in a suit, but “it just ain’t me babe, it just ain’t me.” The work portion of the trip was very interesting. I had the pleasure of seeing how the main artery of our business, the creative team, operates. Without our creative team, we would be nothing. As interesting as it was, I do not want to spend this post talking about business, because the busking was just much more interesting!
The bar disguised as a barber shop.“The password is ***** **n”. If the password was made public by me, I would be shot and left for the vultures. I am sure of it. This password was the only information we had as we made our way to see an acoustic concert by one of our colleagues, Adeline. We arrived to a barber shop which was called Bobby’s Free. The elegantly dressed barber donned a fine suit and wore his mustache as if he were born with it. We gave him the password one letter a time. There were seven of us, so we needed his help to finish off the eight letter password. After saying “N” to complete the password, he pushed a button on the wall, and what was once a mirror and shelf full of hair products, was now an entrance to an underground live music bar. I felt like I was in a movie! We entered, drank, and listened to Adelines wonderful voice as she took us from the 70’s all the way up to present day. She is an incredible singer and guitar player. You can check her music out on Adeline-Music.com. I am a very big fan of original tunes during concerts. Covers are nice to hear in a set, but the moment when someone sings something from deep in their heart which they created, you can really feel the energy, and can almost paint a picture in your mind, brining the song to life. The bar wanted cover songs, so that is what she provided, and boy did she provide them in style!
The night inside this hidden underground gem was over very quickly, but was filled with many laughs, and a few too many cock tails. The bartenders serving these cocktails were all dressed in fancy black button ups paired with sleek red suspenders. I think the suspenders hopped out of the clothing store and scurried towards the bar when word spread of the cocktail making skills these folks possessed. If suspenders could make decisions in regards to which person they got to represent, the shoulders of this gentlemen and his bar mates and matettes (lady mates) would be the big leagues in my humble opinion. The suspenders would gossip around the department store racks “You hear about Green Gary? He made it to Bobby’s Free?” “Ahhhh that lucky green Irish fella!” Ok – I have clearly lost my train of thought, but I am going to just expand on the state of mind I am clearly in. We shall call it the funk cigarette state of mind. You will understand why if you don’t already. To give credit where credit is due, Funky cigarette is a song by Paolo Nutini. Check it out. It is a jam that gets the feet ah stompin!
I believe I began writing this post on the Sunday I left. Honestly, looking back now on Wednesday the following week, I am not so sure… Regardless of when this started, I must have been in a “funky cigarette” state of mind because I said I was, and I am not the type to make funny business with funky cigarettes ? Long story short, I partook in a funky cigarette circle which took me on a bus ride adventure to the BCN airport that I will never forget. We were unsure of which side of the street we should be on for the bus, so I made the executive decision in saying “all the people are on that side of the street, let’s go there.” None of those people had luggage that looked like it would be headed to the airport, but luckily, I had made the correct decision and we were on the way to the land of the departing planes.
Oh my directional challenged friend, James.
I was with my good buddy James this weekend. I am going to come out and say that it if I hadn’t been along his side, James would have never found the hostel from the moment he arrived in Barcelona from Madrid. Never may be a strong word, but this boy was having troubles getting out of the train station! Love ya Jamey boy, and hopefully you will forgive me if you read this post. Also, I hope you won’t correct too many of my grammar mistakes Mr. English teacher ?. Before I move on to the part of the trip where Jamey and I have an amazing time together with our new friends, I want to finish giving him one more small bit of shit from the bottom of my heart. We are currently one bus station away from his stop, and neither of us know this due to the funky cigarettes which have consumed our minds at our previous location. I know we are close, so I take the executive decision (yet again) to turn on my cell phone data and allow the google map GPS to tell me where we are. I look at James, and say “what is your stop again?” He tells me the station. I look back at my phone and say “yea that’s now, get off the bus.” He responded to me with a “well, glad you did that! Good seeing ya buddy!” We hugged, smacked each other’s asses and he was gone like that. This was now a solo adventure to the BCN airport. The best part of this portion of the trip is that the bus had an LCD screen with all the stops laid out in a very nice and readable fashion, we just couldn’t figure out for the life of us which way we were going haha. The automated bus driver could have been speaking English as well and we would have missed it! We will pick up on the rest of this Shenanigan later. I am going to go back in time to close out the Thursday night at the Bobby’s Free, and then move on to the musical journey with our mates from the 360 Hostel of Arts & Culture Barcelona.
Sleep was not in my near future. And so the adventure begins.
The suspenders on bartender Pete are still looking impeccable as they hold up his lovely black blue jeans. His name is most likely not Pete, but he sure could have been a Pete with the sexy look he was pulling off, if I may say so myself. The night slowly tapered off and the crowd shuffled out of the hidden barber shop door as Adeline finished singing her lovely set of covers and one original rockin’ tune. The night was lovely and has only made my heart fall even deeper in love with Barcelona. I have one more day as business Blakey, then I get to change costumes to the suit which I plan to wear the rest of my life very soon, the travelling music man. I don’t even want to waste the space on this paper telling you about my last day as business Blakey, but I will say a few words. I learned the art behind building a playlist for a brand which was pretty cool. If I tell you anymore, I will most likely get fired, so this is where I shall cut it! The day of business is over and I am beat. I buy the 2-euro train ticket to the city center with a plan to go to my hostel and pass out until my buddy James’ arrives. Little did I know, but sleep would be one of the things that did not exist in my near future. I arrived at the hostel and spoke with the lovely receptionist Julie who originally hailed from France, but has been travelling around Europe for the past months enjoying the hell out of life! Hostels always inspire me and make me want to hit the road and get back to my old travelling gypsy ways 😉 She checked me in, and gave me a quick tour of the small intimate hostel. I laid my bags down, and relaxed for a quick few minutes before I headed to the 360 Hostel – Heaven on Earth.
common room to play one of the three guitars that lived there. To my surprise all three guitars were already being played! I halfway entered the room and then awkwardly turned around to grab the harmonicas from my room. My thoughts in that moment were “man they probably think I hate music or something, I entered, and once I saw guitars, I ran away.” I returned with my harps, and after a quick looksie at the chords everyone was playing, I pulled out my D Hohner blues harp and began to blow away. This was the beginning of an epic 10 hour jam session with some of the greatest people I have met in a long time. If any of you read this, you know who you are and safe travels to all of you!
Garreth, the traveling music machine.
After a few more tunes, a tall, slim, dark haired Irish fella entered the room and played a few blues tunes. He had an incredible range in his voice and an impeccable tone. The gentlemen’s name was Garreth. When he first told me his name, I heard Garth. I proceeded to call him Garth for the next twenty four hours until someone finally corrected me. I still see him as a Garth haha. Garreth had been travelling for about 6 months around Europe busking and just enjoying life. I was very envious of his life style and admired at the fact of how much effort he put into playing each day, and how much it had paid off. We jammed everything from Gloria Gaynor to Bob Dylan to tunes from our own minds. We also went off on a few free style rants that really got the creative juices cooking. Folks came and left as our jam in the common room of the hostel continued. There was a large wall that was turned into a chalkboard for people to write on. I could have sat in this room all day and just wrote songs about the things around me, there was so much inspiration running around. The guitars bounced primarily between Canadian Matt, Garreth, and myself. I forgot some of the others names, but there was one long haired out there fella named Vaughn from California who bought pizza for everyone. Thank you for that pizza Vaughn, you da man! ?
He’s gonna sell me the beer, but you idiots need to leave.
The common room jams eventually came to an end, and it was time for us to be quiet or to get the hell out of the hostel. We got the hell out. Oh! I almost forgot! By this point, my directional challenged friend James had shown up and we blamed the end of the jam session on him even though it was clearly not his fault, just the onset of the hostel quiet hours which are to be abided for respect to fellow travelers. We gathered the shakers, tambourines, guitars, kazoo, harmonicas, and anything else we thought that would be good for a jam session, and headed out to the Arc De Triumf. Before arriving to our Arc de triumf home for the next 6 hours, we needed beer, but it was already past 10:30. For some stupid reason, they stop selling beer in stores past 10:30. There could be a good reason for this, but I never found out what it was.. We pushed our luck and sent James in to get some sixers….sixxeerrssss (see who gets that reference). Fifteen minutes had passed by and eventually James exited the store, but without beer. Damnit, we thought. Matt and I had been waiting patiently and quietly just outside the store’s doors. James looked at us both and said “he is going to sell me the beer, but you idiots need to leave. You’re too damn loud and he doesn’t like that you are here.” Matt and I understood Immediately and headed towards the Arc de Triumf to await James and his glorious beer buy victory. I could have sworn we were waiting patiently speaking with our inside voices ? Slamming sixers at the Arc de Triumf.
The party started with Matt, Garreth, Adam, James, and I. Adam is Garreths buddy who lives in Barcelona and teaches Biology. Biology by day, beer buskin musician by night! The party ended with about 15 other people from who knows where. We were joined by travelers and locals. Many came and went throughout the night. We didn’t even charge admission. Damn nice of us if you ask me haha. We turned this innocent little cement block into a party that it could have never seen coming. We passed the kazoo around like a joint. We laughed like kids until the morning hours and sang songs from the heart. A homeless man who I will call Marvin showed up and jammed on the harmonica with his road pup. A lovely lady who’s name I can not recall joined the party and began free styling in Spanish. The night was full of unexpected greatness, but eventually wound to an end with the final sips of the last beers. The great thing about Barcelona besides all the lovely culture and history, is that there are guys who buy beer during the day and come back later to sell it to all of us drunk animals at a very fair price of a dollar per beer. Thank you my good sirs and ladies! Random fun fact that just needs to be tossed in somewhere is the word aciu (ah-choo). This is Lithuanian for thank you. Thanks, Sigita for the lesson!
[Boxed wine Bob, the not so Rastafarian politician.
As expected, I open my eyes slowly to discover I slept with my contacts in and shoes on, way to go Mike, pretty standard. The only plan James and I had this day was to explore Barcelona a bit, and find our friends in the city center to do some more busking. The morning started slow as James and I left the hostel in search of coffee and food. Coffee and food were quickly found. I drank three espressos and started shaking during the heart attack. Just kidding I only drank two espressos. The heart attack was but merely minor. We didn’t really know where to go in our hungover state of mind, so we headed to park de la Ciutadella to play some music. This park is so beautiful and is filled with many musicians and is littered with good vibes and creativity. As we passed the guitar back and forth, a gentleman donned in the Rasta clothing crawled out of the bushes through a stiff wall of smoke to say hello. This man had many things going on in his body, and seemed like a pretty OK guy as he free styled about the Rasta life style and love. It took one split second for that all to change. Boxed wine Bob, the Rastafarian Politic violently exploded into politics out of no-where and began to rant about many things which did not make much sense. We tried to talk him back to love and Rasta, but he was having none of that, so we slowly and awkwardly packed up our guitars and headed out. We left boxed wine Bob on good terms and a hug, but I learned my lesson. Once a Rasta, always a Rasta until boxed wine is consumed, and he then becomes rebellious Rasta. Before we made it to the land of Boxed wine Bob, we had to pass through the Arc de Triumf again. We crossed paths with a very interesting street performer who had a large steel hula hoop. We stopped immediately to see what she was going to do. To our surprise, she did not just hula hoop. This lady in spandex from head to toe began rolling this steel circle to give it some speed. She then grabbed on with hands and toes and rolled around in this thing doing a continuous rolling cart wheel to some incredible salsa music. It takes an incredible mind to think up a trick like that. This just further shows how creative this city is. There is a video of this below.
After leaving the rebellious Rasta in our tracks, we ventured towards our friends Garreth, Matt, and the other lovely folks from the 360 hostel who were busking near the city center. It took us a while to get there, but we finally made it for the tail end of the jam session. There was nothing that could compare to the previous night of jamming. I think we had all reached a new level of musical fun that night. Garreth had been travelling and jamming for six months on the road, and had plenty stories, but I’d like to think this one made a high spot on his list. The busking crew of Matt, Garreth, and a lady with dreads who’s name escapes me played music for about 6 hours and made 50 Euros, “not a bad day for doing what you love in beautiful weather” they said.
Hostel quarters and late night food deliveries!
This night was much tamer, and lacked a jam session that carried into the morning hours. Even though it lacked a jam, it was still quite an amazing evening of friendly drinking games in the kitchen of the Barcelona 360 Hostel. We played quarters after quiet hours using only our inside voices as best we could. We eventually got the boot from Garreth who was working the graveyard shift that night. You can only keep quiet playing quarters with 7 people for so long. Eventually someone laughs loudly and ruins the party for everyone. James and I actually didn’t stay at the 360 hostel this night. They were fully booked, so we reserved a room at a different hostel which was basically just a house for our bags. I think we got in around 3am after we did some exploring with Kittie and the 360 crew. I recall some late-night food, but I forget from where we took the delicious deli delights. We did try to give our leftovers to this homeless fella, but he did not want anything to do with it. We wandered a bit more in search of another potential hungry street dweller. Eventually we found someone sleeping outside and we left the bag of food next to them to hopefully be enjoyed during breakfast. As I said, this night was much tamer than the previous, but the 360 Hostel has a special spot in my heart and I was only there for one night. I can’t even imagine how it would be be to live there for a month. I think I will do that sometime in the future ?
I ate at the airport I landed at. God I am fat.
The night ended, and the following day was filled with more aimless funky cigarette wandering around Barcelona. We eventually wandered our way to my friend’s house which is conveniently located on the beach. Chibi Twiggy and Papi, thank you for your hospitality and the road treats which got us to the airport…..barely ? This is when the funky cigarette adventure to the BCN airport began. As you know, James and I barely made it, but we did. I eventually shuffled my way through security and had about 15 remaining Euros to spend on whatever my little heart desired. My little heart had a stiff case of the munchies. I started with a Sandwich. The sandy was not nearly satisfying enough, so I ordered two large sweet treats and a juice as well. The time to board came and I plopped down in my row 1 Aisle seat with a stuffed belly and lost mind. I say row 1 aisle seat to let you know I checked in early to a wizz air flight. I am not flying first class here folks, I just have some extra leg room for being ahead of the game and this was my firs time ever to have such an experience on the budget airline in Europe. My eyes closed and I woke up in Bucharest. The symptoms from the funky cigarette were still lingering quite strongly. My munchies had not yet subsided, and they needed to be cured! It was 3am and I am at my arrival airport in the city I live. I ate food at this airport. This was a low point in my life if I may say so haha. Louis CK made fun of this and boy did I feel like a fat ass, but boy was that late-night sandwich from the store just what I needed to cure my symptoms. A twenty-minute bus ride later and I was back in bed just to be woken up by an alarm to send me to this thing we humans call work, at a thing we call a job. Ain’t that some bullshit. The end.