Friday, March 18, 2011

Elliot Murphy

AOG, Paris

Last night I was in Paris, a city I love. My partner took me to a birthday party. It was Elliot Murphy's. To celebrate it, he held a concert in a small venue in Paris, New Morning

I confess that I'd never been to see him before, and that, although my partner loves his music, I did too, but less. However, that changed after last night. 

We arrived at the Rue des Petits Ecuries under the rain, and waited in line for about 40 minutes or so. It was handy that a local supermarket was still open. 

I bought some bananas to keep me going (you see, we arrived Friday morning on the first flight and hadn't really rested much throughout the day). I needed carbs to make it through the night.

We went in and the first thing I noticed was everyone's age. Mr. Murphy's French fans are not teenagers. 

There were people my age, and over. Many approaching Mr. Murphy's age, whatever that may be. There was also a funny moment when I saw a man whom I thought was Mr. Murphy but, in fact, was a fan who dressed like him.

It reminded me of teenagers who dressed like Madonna or Lady Gaga when they went to the concerts. I just never thought that that particular homage would transcend into adulthood bordering on retirement age.

But then again, why not? We don't allow old people any creativity or individuality.

We made it through the crowd and quickly found seating right next to the side of the stage. For a small venue, this can be one of the better spots. And it turned out to be just that. We could see everyone really well.

I don't really know how well known Mr. Murphy is, but I do know he has played with Bruce Springsteen, and I am not surprised.

Finally, when the music started, I could see what all the fuss was about. It is hard to describe him as anything other than a star, regardless of the venue, the public, the location.

Elliot Murphy was very much the center of attention at all times, the exception being when the amazing guitarist Olivier Durand played. And even then...
His voice is warm, he moves not much but with aplomb.

Although I would not say there is a lot of sex appeal coming from him (though perhaps many would disagree),  he certainly has his own brand of musical masculinity down pat.

He and the band were a joy to listen to and to watch. And the audience loved them.
He would speak in French with his American accent, and explain that "I am now Parisian" because he likes  to drive on the Place de la Concorde on his Vespa (motorcycle).

He never sang off key and he played the guitar constantly well. Although about 95% of the songs were new to me, I gladly admit that they all had that certain something which makes you want to listen and enjoy what you are listening to.

And he shone throughout the evening. I guess that is the closest I've been to someone who exudes star quality. He was confident, sure of himself and of his music.  Unfazed throught the concert.

There were many encores and lots of playing with the audience, getting to know a little about them. Not by asking anything, but by acknowledging them and their interest in him continuously.

Afterwards, he took the time to chat to his groupies and sign their CDs.
All in all it was great.

We left the venue and went for crepes just across the street, then headed for the Marais for a drink.

I have to say that last night he made a fan out of me. If you like Bruce Springsteen, then I strongly recommend you give him a try. You won't be disappointed.
Here's a link to his website, to wet your appetite a little.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Decade by decade

AOG, Madrid

2011: Living in Madrid. Spain. Journalist. Writing. Partnered. Still so many things I want to be.

2001: Living in London. Admitted into LSE. Still undefined career-wise. I want to be a diplomat. And a writer.

1991: Living in London. I want to be an actor. And a designer. And a singer. And I write. Left home.

1981: Living in Mexico & US. Junior High. I want to be a lawyer. And an actor. Now with sister.

1971: Living in Spain. Attending grade school. Daydreaming. Only child still.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Boyfriend

AOG, Barcelona

I am not an expert on relationships, nor am I an expert on human relations. I know I will depart this planet having learned precious little about our species. With this in mind, I must bring up what just happened on the way to the Airport. 

I got on a bus from Plaça Catalunya, and headed out, hoping to make it on time (no, I don't know what it is about me which makes me always run late). 

About a minute after the bus departed, the man behind me got a phone call. 

I tried not to eavesdrop but it was hard since he was talking in a normal voice, and my ears were a few inches below his cell phone. 

His girlfriend/boyfriend had called and was saying good bye. She/he was mostly in tears, and was sad by this guy's departure. 

I never heard his/her voice, but I could hear full well how the man behind me spoke to his lover. 

I must say that I found it very hard to believe that this guy loved the other person. He was not rude, nor nasty, nor was off-putting (much). But his good-bye sounded like a continuous apology. 

"I'll be back soon"
"I'll call you from Madrid"
"I love you too"
"Don't cry darling"

Perhaps he too was in pain. I'd like to think he was if he really loved the person on the other side of the phone line. Perhaps I misjudged the entire episode.

But, for my money, he was not as sad as the other person. I am not entirely sure about why I think this, but there was just something in his tone of voice. 

A lack of interest, maybe fatigue? I also have no idea what it is he may have to face when he gets back home. Maybe that affected his mood. 

He would sprinkle his conversation with Italian words here and there, bacci, ti amo, things like that. But they were just not said in a true enough way for me. Was the other person Italian? I'll never know. 

He was from Argentina, so maybe that is just how he spoke to people. 

As you know, many Argentinians have Italian ancestry, so it is not unusual for them to use Italian words now and then.

Am I being misanthropic? Perhaps. 

Perhaps this guy is fantastic, but he came across as the flower, not the gardener. Is this necessarily bad? No.

It is a mutual dependency that between a flower and his gardener, but he just seemed like a slightly impertinent flower at times. 

Especially the second time the other person called back and, yes, unfortunately, he complained. 

In a low voice, almost apologetically, but complain he did. It was obvious that he did not want that second call. 

It was much less welcome than the first one. True, I have no clue what was going through his head at the time. Maybe he faces some horrid tribulation. I don't know.
What I do know, is that the tone of voice was, unfortunately (for me) much too familiar. It cut just a little bit close to the bone. 

I too have heard in the past that "I love you but I'm busy" tone of voice. 

"I love you but you are calling at the wrong time". 

"I love you but I already said good-bye at the station". 

"I love you but darling you are making me spend money every time it cuts off and I get your voicemail". (Actual part of the conversation)

All of those 'I love you's' that come with a caveat.

Fortunately for me, I learned very quickly that "ILYB" (I love you...but) really translates as "I love me, period", and that you are just a passing flight of fancy. 

Something to keep them entertained for now, but which costs them no great emotional investment. 

Perhaps I am being too cynical. But this guy just sounded a little bit bored, a little bit busy, a little bit insincere.

When the bus got to the airport, part of me did not really want to look at him. I thought the aural experience had been enough. But as I put my backpack over my shoulders I did look at him. And I was surprised by what I saw. 

His voice was that of a much younger man. But his age really threw me aback. Late 40s, maybe early 50s. His appearance was scruffy: jean jacket, jeans, unshaven, greasy hair across his forehead. In other words, an adult, middle-aged male who looked like a thin version of Burt Reynolds with lung cancer.

I was surprised because I usually think that by that age, men are pretty well sorted. 

And if not, woe be to him/her who falls for one of these sad Lotharios. I left the bus, and tried not to see anymore of him. 

I wasn't upset, but I was intrigued by his whole "performance" on the phone.

Why lie? Why go through all that trouble? Why not just be honest, especially to yourself? Would he be coming back from Buenos Aires to see his lover? Probably. 

He said he'd see the other person on the 31st. 

Of what? Of never?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friendship Economics

AOG, Madrid

It is not news that the Spanish economy is not doing extremely well. It is affecting the whole country and yesterday the unemployment rate went back up again.

Of course, to the uninformed observer, Spain's unemployment comes with a caveat: One, most of the people unemployed are immigrants who used to work in the construction sector (until recently one of Spain's economic pillars and main engine of economic growth). 

And two, most of them survive in what is known as the 'Black Economy'. That is, people are working and not paying taxes on their earnings. Many claim unemployment benefit and work. 

Nobody talks much about it and the Government acts as though they know nothing of it. And just as well they do, otherwise they would have a revolution in their hands.

However, there is a knock-on effect going on. Although people are working, even in the 'Black Economy', their spending power has diminished. 

And whereas a few months ago every analyst in the country was saying that imports (to Germany, France and the UK) would pull the economy out of the slump, the tune has changed of late. 

Now, it is, as we always knew, that what will get the economy moving is consumer spending.

However, given the performance of US banks in the last couple of years, Spain's banks are not too keen on lending. 

And in Spain, like the US and almost everywhere else, the biggest purchase people make is property. 

Certainly the big property promoters are pushing for the banks to start lending again, and Spain's President has met with several banking CEOs to ensure that lending continues. 

But thus far, nothing. So, in the meantime, the Government has decided to extend people's pensions, to push for reduced salaries and less worker compensation when fired. 

This in a country famous for paying employees about 80% of what their European colleagues make. And needless to say, people in Spain work longer hours than the European average.

Many have criticized the PSOE, Spain's governing party, because they are a Socialist party taking very right-wing measures. 

In roughly one year's time, Spain will have a general election (if not sooner, elections are the privilege of the Prime Minister). 

To most analysts, it is a foregone conclusion that the opposition will win the election.  And most think they will do so without having to lift a finger.

However, not all is lost.

A couple of days ago Mr. Zapatero said that in 2012, the whole country would feel the benefit of an upsurge in the economy. 

Just in time for the elections? Too little too late? Only time will tell.

In the mean time, a friend of mine called me yesterday with a question.

"Do you know how they hunt kangaroos in Australia?"


"They kill them at night. The lights from the 4x4s blind them, and they remain perfectly still. Then they get shot."


"That is how I feel these days. Like a kangaroo caught in the lights. I am completely frozen".

He owns a computer repair business, and he hasn't been doing well since last November.

"If I don't have money coming in, I freeze. I just freeze."

Unfortunately, he is not alone. Most of the country is, at present, frozen.