Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paradise City: An evening with Guns N' Roses

One minute I am in bed, and the next I am under attack. Judging by the two sets of feet that are now crushing me, I know there are two people on top of me, and they’re females... I can tell that from the high-pitched screams that are slowly but surely filling the room where I’m trying to rest after having stayed up all night. “What is going on?”, I think to myself, “and why am I liking it?”
My, my, my... if only this were true.
Turns out I'd been sleeping and Rocco, my ShihTzu dog, decided to wake me up. His four-legged nature would explain the “two sets of legs” I had felt trampling on me, and his annoying, yet charming barking would also explain the “high pitched screams” that only seconds ago had seemed so provocative. I know my dog well enough to recognize there could only be one extraordinary situation which would compel him to wake me up: he has to take a piss. I can't blame him for doing it, really. If whether or not I'd be able to urinate depended on an individual bent on sleeping most of the day, an individual that had stayed up all night because he doesn't know any better – if whether or not I'd be able to take a piss, a necessary and pleasurable task, depended on this fool, then you could rest assured, dear reader, that I'd also begin to bark.
I get dressed and head out to buy some beer at the local CVS. Tonight is the Guns N' Roses concert (aka Axl & Co). For the umpteenth time, I will be witnessing a world-class rock & roll event in the company of a friend we will, for safety reasons, call "Negro". Negro and I have been fortunate enough to have seen many concerts together. Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Metallica, Paul McCartney... we've seen some of the best. After arriving at Negro's house, we have a few beers and a quick smoke and exit his building with the kind of purpose and swagger that only two morons like us could feel in anticipation of a big rock show.
On the way over to the coliseum we play some good tunes in the car. For some reason, every six months or so we always have the same conversation. This conversation is of the “Remember when we used to?” variety. After laughing in a way more akin to children than grown men, I wipe the tears from my face and realize that we're getting old. Not necessarily old, but old-er.
We park in Plaza Las Americas and quickly cross the avenue into the coliseum's area. Suddenly, I’m faced with the realization that I have to relieve my bladder. This is a problem because it’s the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, a facility that does not have bathrooms outside. The tables have turned; Rocco would be pleased. However, luck is on my side. I find some bushes to the side of the building and do what needs to be done as I pretend to be on the phone. I feel like such a dog.

Friday, June 24, 2011

JJ Barea and John McCain

Friday, April 29, 2011

Musings from the Morning After

Whenever I wake up on a day off from work, I’m immediately filled with the child-like, romantic notion that anything is possible and a good time is inevitable. Sometime in the afternoon I opened my eyes – the black out shades I’d installed in my room had had the most serene effect on my inconsistent sleeping habits. Stepping out of bed and stumbling into the kitchen, I found a half empty pot of coffee. Hello there, I thought. But for reasons I fail to understand, I did not drink the coffee. Instead I turned around and headed for the bathroom, stopping just long enough in front of the mirror to give myself a motivational wink. Doesn’t everybody do that?

By the time I got out of the shower, he was already downstairs. In my mind I could picture my friend Paul furiously typing a brief message with abbreviate words into his Blackberry, the sole purpose of which to inform me that I was taking “Too fucking long”. Never one to disappoint my friends, I got it together and headed out the door. It was 4:29pm.

I greeted Paul with unusual enthusiasm. He flashed his great big smile, patted my back and asked plainly, “Are you stoned?”. No, I replied. We decided the best course of action would be to head down Loiza Street, look for a bar and take it from there. Our search proved futile and after walking for miles, stopping on occasion to check out a pawn shop or remark on the deviant pedestrians we encountered, we found a deli that served beer. When looking for a place to have a drink I usually set my standards pretty low, so an overpriced, pompous deli by the beach seemed like an appropriate place to start our drinking – right at the bottom.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Statement 11/20/2010

I just wanted to take a moment to let you in on what I've been doing recently and my plans for the upcoming months. As some of you have noticed, there has been little to almost no activity on this blog since this past summer. In August 2010, I began to write songs for an unnamed musical project. Since then I've decided to call this new project The Red Ashtrays. As it stands now, I've written about 10 songs, recruited other musicians and friends to join in and have booked studio time in 2011. The sound of this project is unlike anything I've done in the past as I intend to bring my Classic Rock influences to the forefront. Perhaps a little more broken down and roots, if you will. The initial plan is to record three new songs which will be made available online for free.

Which brings me to my next piece of news. My website,, is currently undergoing a redesign that will make it more accessible, but most importantly, I will have the ability to make constant updates and offer all sorts of multimedia on a weekly basis as opposed to the current site. The launch date is New Year's Day 2011.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I feel weird writing a statement like this, it's not my nature, but since some of you have asked me on Twitter, it seemed like the right thing to do.

All the best,


Monday, November 01, 2010

The Red Ashtrays

Monday, June 28, 2010

Feels like home: 9 days in the Big Apple

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”

-Thomas Wolfe

After a nearly 4-hour bus ride from Washington DC, in which I had to fight off the temptation to turn off a sleeping passenger’s iPod, I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. In the subway, I saw a young girl tell an old man to “sit the fuck down” and noticed that the guy in front of me was talking to himself while tightly holding a book in his hands. Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew I was in New York.

The next day I decided I would take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I had a smoke in the small park by the subway in order to relax and to brace myself for the long walk ahead. Apparently I relaxed a little too much, seeing as I found myself walking in the bicycle lane. Devoting all my attention to not getting run over, I’d begun asking myself why so many bikes kept coming down my way, until I noticed the bike sign painted on the ground next to a thick line indicating the pedestrian’s place in the sidewalk. I immediately took my place among the other silly tourists.

Being so enthralled with my surroundings, I walked at a slow pace behind a large family while enjoying the exceptional sights of the Big Apple. After a while I began to get that feeling you get in restaurants, when you feel that the couple next to you actually came with you in your car because of how close they've been sitting for quite a while. “Let me move up ahead” I thought, “before I do or say something stupid”. It just so happens that we were approaching the center of the bridge where lots of people thought it was a good idea to take a picture. Since most people were in large groups, it was impossible to walk past them lest I venture once again into the dangerous bike lane. I swear to God, I must have appeared in about a hundred pictures.

Once in Brooklyn, I played local band Earl Greyhound on my iPod and decided to get lost. I ended up in a park on the side of the bridge overlooking Manhattan. The view was stunning; words fail to describe it. I took it all in and after a few moments asked where the nearest subway was. I found it, and as I went down the stairs I realized that a train was about to leave. I ran and managed to get inside before it took off. It took me the better part of half an hour to realize I was headed in the wrong direction. I've gotten lost in the subway before, so I didn't panic. I looked at the MTA map and figured it out, because after all, real men don't ask for directions.

I was feeling very self-conscious because the new slip-on shoes I'd bought were making strange noises every time I took a step. I'm no expert, but these peculiar noises I was making resembled the frowned upon sound of a flatulence outburst, aka a fart. I paused in front of an escalator to see if there was any way to stop making these sounds. An elderly man heard me speaking in Spanish, and annoyed with the fact that I was in his way exclaimed, “C'mon, poppies! Let's go”. Then again, it could've been papis (as in the plural form of papi). Guess I'll never know.

On a train leaving Queens, I looked up from my book and suddenly realized I was surrounded by mariachi. A fellow passenger decided to make a request and asked the musicians to play “Mexicali Blues” by The Grateful Dead. I don't think they knew the song, or how to speak English for that matter because they looked at this guy with bewilderment. I felt sorry for him. I felt even more sorry for me: a mariachi version of a Dead tune would have been something epic.

Every day in New York seemed to be a story in itself. I continued to encounter unique people and circumstances, as one can only do in this great city. As far as food was concerned, one of the things I enjoyed repeatedly was the hot sausages sold in the little cars on the sidewalk. One day as I walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore it quickly dawned on me that my last hot sausage was not agreeing too much with my stomach. Trying my absolute best to keep things under control, I couldn't help seeing Marlon Brando in my thoughts, gently whispering “The horror...the horror”. Despite my better judgment, I ventured into the public restroom. I don't care to describe the things I heard inside of that God-awful place, but I will say I was very uncomfortable knowing that someone in the cubicle next door was up to the same thing. Even more awkward was the look we gave each other as we both exited our respective cubicles at the same time. Jesus Christ... Ok, enough of this. Let's continue.

All around Times Square and other parts of Manhattan I couldn't help but notice all the people dressed in graduation togas. At some point I saw a group of young girls that kept jumping up in the air at the same time. As I approached and realized what was really going on I became speechless... these bitches were attempting the infamous 'up in the air' picture. I haven't seen anybody do that since the first Clinton administration.

A few days into my NYC expedition I began to get guitar withdrawal. The only sensible thing to do would be to find a guitar store and shamelessly ask them to let me test a guitar worth more than my beaten up Ford Taurus. And yet, I've done that so many times that this time I thought it would be in better taste to just refrain. So I took Option B and contacted an old friend in Queens. Since he has a few guitars and amps, I knew a jam session was in order. I met him at some corner of Astoria to go buy beer. In our little walk around his neighborhood he won my complete trust by asking himself at every corner: “Where the fuck am I?”. I found it all very funny until it seemed we were walking in circles. That's when I began to doubt his abilities as a host.

When we finally found his apartment, we threw back a few cold ones and sat across one another with guitars in the living room. We had a lovely jam and later, as was expected, I had to go to the bathroom to relieve my pulsating desire to urinate. Lucky for me, I found a Maxim magazine sitting on top of the toilet. Milla Jovovich was on the cover... oh my. I quickly grabbed the magazine and raised the toilet seat. Judging by the amount of beer we had already consumed, I knew this would take a little longer than usual, so I placed my gear on auto-pilot and used both my hands to look through the magazine. Once I was done urinating, I began to raise my zipper. In an instant I heard the doorknob turn and I watched in disbelief as the door began to open – I was still unzipped. My friend's female roommate walked into the bathroom and caught me in the rather embarrassing and suggestive position of having a picture of Milla Jovovich in my left hand while my right hand was placed somewhere near my nether region.

The next day, after sleeping off my humiliation, I took a downtown train to Brooklyn to catch my friend's play at St. Ann's Warehouse on Water Street. After the show I made my way back to the subway. Since it was a Saturday some trains were not working so certain commutes had to be reorganized. It was still early so I was having a hard time making sense of this mess. Some girl saw my confused face and offered to help. Turns out we were both headed in the same direction so we got on the next train heading back into Manhattan. I asked about all the confusion and she said that “New York is a well-oiled machine, but sometimes it needs maintenance.”

“Where are you staying?”, she asked.


“Astoria's nice. I once had sex with a photographer in an apartment over there”.

“Was it big?”

“Not really. It was small but cozy.”

“What about the apartment?”

“What do you mean? I just told you.”


On one of the last nights of my stay in New York, I found myself in the coolest place in all of Manhattan, The Beauty Bar. The hour was approaching midnight, and as one song ended and another began I realized that this place had very high standards for what is quality music. Song after song, the tunes were hitting the right spot and I was mesmerized. Quickly, I approached the bar and ordered a brew with a shot of whiskey – I was having a good time. On a later trip to get another beer, I leaned over into the bar and said to the bartender “Give my regards to the DJ; tell him he has my utmost respect.” The bartender flashed a big smile and asked “More whiskey?”.

“Yes, sir, please. Two!”

He poured the drinks.

“What do I owe you?”

“Don't worry about that, they're on me.”

“I love this town” I thought to myself as I swallowed a mouthful of scotch. After some more drinks and even some dancing (Yes, I'm prone to dance on occasion with the proper motivation), the time seemed right to head back to Queens for further entertainment. The party had begun to wind down anyway. After taking one last look around, I headed for the door and walked back into the warm Manhattan night.

Photograph by Nichole Saldarriaga

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mindless Roaming in the Capital City

A decision had been made. At at the end of May I would embark on a vacation of sorts to the east coast of the States, making stops in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and, most notably, New York City. The motives were simple: my birthday was coming up. Seeing as I celebrated last year's birthday in Madrid, celebrating this year's in the Big Apple seemed fitting. As cliché as it sounds, I love New York... but lets continue with the story.

All bullshit aside, I hate flying. I love to travel, but having to pack a suitcase (making sure I don't fuck up and forget something), the process leading up to boarding (worrying I've done something wrong, feeling my life fade away in a terminal) and flying in an airplane (fill in the blank, genius) is what I consider to be a huge inconvenience. Call me shallow; you wouldn't be the first. Luckily, there is something I can count on so as to avoid what at times seems like imminent panic: my friend, Xanax.

Unknown ObjectLet's be clear about something: I am not a pill popper, but when I begin to get what is widely regarded as The Fear 30, 000 feet in the air, I'm just about liable to change political inclinations, religion, or even gender to make it stop. Yeah, it's that bad.

My first stop was JFK International Airport in New York, and then a 50 minute flight to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. - the home of Henry Rollins and Fugazi. At this point I was feeling very relaxed, even managing to walk with a certain ease and cool only reserved for the likes of The Rat Pack. I bought a copy of Spin Magazine for no better reason than it was a Stone Temple Pilots cover feature. I'd been listening to their then-unreleased album on my iPod for a few days, it having been provided illegally by a fellow blogger. I was attempting to read an article and found myself reading the same sentence repeatedly. I did the only sensible thing, and placed the magazine on the floor next to my bag. No reading for me, I needed to straighten out first. Only moments later a maintenance employee picking up trash in the terminal decided that Scott Weiland wasn't worthy of the dead tree bark on which the magazine was printed and attempted to dispose of it. Politely I told her not to, and all I got was a baffled look.

After a couple of days wandering around the capital, I stumbled into the George Washington Hotel near The White House. The hotel has a balcony bar overlooking the city, and it was from this very spot that I saw the sun go down that Wednesday afternoon. Moments like those are the reason I love to travel. After a few beers, I headed to the elevator. As if I wasn't completely out of place – everyone was dressed in a suit, I wasn't – a middle aged man, walking with two females, one on each side, gave me a look with a smirk as he entered the elevator where I was already standing with my finger on the Door Close button.

Oh look at that, you got a Flip phone. Good for you! You can videotape anything.”

"Yeah, I can videotape you guys for fifty bucks; a hundred if you want me to participate".

"Excuse me?"

"That I got a good deal on the Flip. Only a hundred bucks."

"Is that right? Well, good for you!"

He began to laugh uncontrollably as his two female companions slowly joined in, snickering subtly. In an instant, two facts became abundantly clear to me: 1) He was inebriated and 2) He has paying the bills, not the girls.

And it's actually a video camera, not a phone.”, I said in the most well-mannered way possible.

Oh, shit! That's right! I mean... that's what I meant”.

I saw the usual sights in DC, but one thing that stuck out was a photography exhibition in the National Gallery of Art titled Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg. Seeing black and white prints of the Beat Generation's greatest was an unexpected treat; photos of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Gregory Corso, among others. I later learned that the use of any kind of photographic device inside the exhibition was strictly prohibited. Since I was informed of this as I was getting ready to leave, I'd already gotten a few nice shots with my video camera. Suckers.

Upon exiting the museum, I decided to walk to the Capitol building through the National Mall. A young girl approached me and inquired if I didn't mind answering some questions on camera for a documentary of sorts. I asked what it was about. She said it had something to do with the future of mankind and technology. I said I wasn't feeling too optimistic so I was not a good candidate. She tried in vain to convince me, saying she'd spoken to plenty of optimistic people and it would benefit her greatly if she could have another perspective. I said no again. She was disappointed.

In Maryland the next day I made my way to to the Metro station, a good, decent, 15 minute walk away. I saw a few barber shops along the way, came to an intersection and that's when I saw her. Nothing particularly stunning about her, except for the fact that she had a pair of scissors and a hair comb tattooed on her left forearm. I couldn't quite make my mind up about how I felt about her tattoo, but it certainly got me thinking. Just then, I saw a man standing across the street, waiting for the light to change as he jumped in the air shaking his arms and breathing heavily. “Holy shit” was the first thing that came to mind. The light changed and he began to run. I laughed at myself, realizing that he was simply a jogger. I decided to buy a bus ticket to New York that same afternoon. It was time to get the hell out of DC.

Photograph by Nichole Saldarriaga

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Embracing through the gaze

This wasn't supposed to happen.

I was not supposed to notice her. I was not supposed to notice how her apparently soft hands would turn the pages of a book, as she sat down at her kitchen table. Or how she carelessly tucked her hair behind her ear every so often. I was not supposed to notice how she would wet her lips repeatedly, allowing them to shine slightly under the candlelight as her muted television set projected moving light unto the walls. I was not supposed to notice any of this - but somehow, I did.

She lived in the apartment building across the street from mine. Since both our apartments were on the same floor, I had an almost privileged view of her living room and kitchen. The two large windows that allowed me to peer inside made it seem like I was watching a movie, or staring into an ever changing picture frame. On most nights I tried not to look, but there was a very compelling quality to my nameless neighbor. I simply could not look any other way.

On most nights, she would go to bed considerably early, but on some occasions she'd have a glass of wine while watching a movie. They were always old films, and I would sometimes catch a glimpse of her smiling as she gazed into the black & white images unfolding before her eyes. After the conclusion of each film, she would sigh and stretch her arms. Walking to her bedroom, she seemed content with the celluloid frames she would now take to bed with her.

A few days had passed since I'd last seen her, when I saw a light go on in her apartment early one Saturday evening. She ran into the kitchen in some kind of hurry and quickly began to cook a meal. A couple of hours later, when I decided to have another look, I found her sitting across from a young man at the table. She was visibly enthralled with her guest, laughing uncontrollably from time to time, staring closely into his eyes, seemingly lost in the moment. After finishing dinner, they moved over to the bedroom. A short while later, the young man exited the room and quickly headed for the door. He said goodbye and left. After she closed the door behind him, she leaned into the wall for what seemed like a whole minute, but in reality was just an instant. As she turned off all the lights in her living room, she casually glanced over in my direction. I froze thinking she could see me, and in her eyes I saw the most subtle hint of sadness - as if she was trying to hold on to an elusive feeling, something not quite tangible, something not quite hers.

The following Saturday, I got home just before midnight. I didn't even bother to turn on the light inside my apartment, instead I approached the windows and found her sitting down with a picture frame in her hands, her eyes glued to the photograph. Since it was a large frame, I managed to see whose picture it was: a small girl, no older than 9. My neighbor seemed too young to have a daughter that age, so I assumed it was an old picture of herself. I sat there mesmerized looking at her, while she in turn, looked at her younger self.

It was then that it began to rain heavily and she suddenly approached her door. Before opening, she placed the picture frame in a small table beside the door. The same young man from last week stepped inside the apartment and sat down at the table without saying a word. She quickly produced a bottle of wine and poured two glasses. As she sat down across from him, he began to speak with an indifference that was apparent even from a distance. She seemed relaxed and calm; maybe the wine had something to do with it. As she poured herself glass after glass, his wine sat untouched in front of him. After a few minutes of conversation, she began to nod her head in approval while she stared at the glass in her hand, searching for words she had no intention of speaking. He got up to leave and she followed him to the door. They said goodbye and she hugged him effusively while he just put one hand on her back. He began to let go while she hanged on for a moment longer. The last thing I saw before I fell asleep, was the sight of her pacing her apartment with a glass of wine in her hand - alone.

I woke up abruptly some hours later, as if someone had shaken me. I looked over to the other apartment building, not expecting to see anything. However, to my surprise, I found my neighbor standing at the very window through which I've seen her countless times. She was standing still, gazing intently at the sky just above my building, completely oblivious to my presence. But just then, she lowered her gaze and our eyes met for the very first time. Her face had a blank expression completely devoid of feeling. I had a moment's hesitation in which I thought of acting casual, but it was impossible to look away. We locked eyes for what seemed like forever, until she lifted her arm and very slowly waved. I forced a smile but I could feel my chest tied up in knots. So many times I'd imagined what it would be like to look into each other's eyes, what it would be like to have a moment... and yet, nothing could have prepared me for this. This wasn't supposed to happen.

She slowly turned away, pausing for a fleeting instant. In the corner of her mouth, I saw that unique and subtle smile I'd seen on her face so many times as she viewed her old black & white films - that smile that had touched me from afar on so many nights. I saw this smile for the last time and I marveled at the idea that my nameless neighbor was now smiling at me. She took a few steps towards the bedroom's door, grabbed her old picture from the table and disappeared into the room.

Her next door neighbors would later recall how they heard the sound of a book drop as they got dressed for the early morning mass that Sunday. Such a sound is played over and over again in one's head, as you try to remember where exactly were you standing when you heard it.

Inside her room there was no noise, only silence. She sat down on the floor and leaned into the wall, and then reached under her bed to pull out a brown box. She looked into the eyes of the smiling 9 year old girl in the picture. She closed her eyes and tried to remember what it was like to be that little girl and not have a care in the world. She thought of this and smiled... and it was then that she pulled the trigger.

Photograph by Nichole Saldarriaga

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conan has left the building

"Tonight, in this house, we are gathered in praise of one Conan O'Brien."

This past Friday, January 22nd was a day of melancholic celebration, marking the death of The Tonight Show and the ousting of Conan O'Brien from NBC after more than two decades of service.

After work, I stopped by the Old Harbor brewery in San Juan and promptly purchased a gallon of their best beer without a second thought. I had arranged to meet a friend at home and watch the final Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien at the scheduled 11:35pm EST time. After pouring the first glasses of beer, we moved the television set so it would face outside into the yard. The reason for this was quite obvious: I wanted to smoke. Considering the magnitude of the event that was about to unfold before us, I did the only sensible thing that came to mind and smoked my finest Cuban cigar...among other things. Having the t.v. set up this way made it seem like we were in our own theater and I was very pleased with the results, until I began to think hard about the reason behind our gathering.

The show was amazing, as expected. Conan's goodbye speech was a heartfelt and sincere moment that touched me as I'm sure it touched countless others. The show closed, fittingly enough, with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird - a song of such epic grandeur, that it's shout-out requests at just about any show have become the stuff of legend. More remarkable so, was the fact that Conan himself played guitar on the track and even took a solo on his Les Paul. Simply brilliant.

My friend and I had consumed all the beer and had even downed a few shots of a deer-in-the-headlights liquor whose name we won't disclose. After watching a bit of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and having a couple of laughs, an eerie silence fell between us. I was starting to get a particular feeling and simply uttered the word "Shit" as I stared at the shot glass in my hand. I looked up at my co-conspirator and he smiled and said, "I've already sent out some texts to see who's hanging out." This kind of unspoken coordination is something akin to telepathy; I assume this kind of communication is developed between individuals after they've been in the trenches together for years. I looked at my watch, it was nearly 2am... let us begin.

We decided to head to a place I had never been to before. My friend asked me to drive. When I questioned his request, he told me he couldn't get a DUI on his record. For some reason, he assumed I could. Fine. We rushed over to the bar in my decomposing vehicle while the music of Blur blasted from the speakers, hiding the frightening sounds of an engine that has seen far more better days.

The bar in question wasn't necessarily great, but I was now in the company of a couple of more friends, so this inconvenience was overlooked. One of those present wanted to dance with a girl he'd been looking at for a while. The only problem was he cannot dance to save his life. He quickly reconsidered after I informed him that the dance floor was so crowded, no one would notice his lack of skills. I later learned that, for reasons unknown, the floor cleared up pretty fast after he'd decided to grab the girl's hand and lead her to the aforementioned area. The poor bastard could not back down and went through the agony of trying to dance for a full five minutes before making up a bullshit excuse to head outside to the smoking area once again. Things could have been worse, without a doubt. Like the unfortunate yuppie who sat down next to an attractive young lady, who later politely asked him to vacate his seat so her girlfriend could sit down. And by girlfriend, I mean lover. Ouch.

I made it a point not to look at my watch for the rest of the evening because I didn't want the aggravation of knowing that my sleep time was wasting away before my eyes. I clearly recall laughing uncontrollably at some point but I cannot, however, remember what I was laughing about. The bar's bouncer asked me what time it was, but I told him that I didn't know. This individual, as far as I could tell, was not retarded, so when he noticed the watch on my wrist he kindly asked: "That is a watch on your wrist, right?"

-"Yes", I said.
-"And is it working?"
-"Yes, but it's complicated and I haven't the patience, nor the brain capacity to explain at this time."

He looked at me with pity and I felt it was as good a time as any to get out of there. I found my friend and suggested we leave, and it was only after he suggested we get some breakfast that I realized how close we were to daybreak.

On the ride home, my friend drove. I implored him to speed up in an attempt to outrun the first rays of the sun as we listened to an old imported recording of a live Green Day performance from the last century. My alarm clock would sound off in 3 hours, but it didn't seem to matter. We had witnessed the closing of a chapter in such a unique instance of television, that I closed my eyes safe in the knowledge that this was a night people would talk about for years to come. I made it to bed shortly before 7 am amidst small beacons of light penetrating my windows, serving as a kind reminder of an evening well spent.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Brief notes on a journey out west

It all began in a car full of booze. We were headed west to attend an annual music festival that takes place on a military base. At the behest of my doctor, I had purchased a Zinfandel bottle of wine. “It'll be good for you,” she said. Well, I found myself drinking a substantial amount of this liquid and no progress was being made in the attempt to establish a decent buzz. It was hopeless, so I gave up.

Once we arrived at the hotel, I stepped out to the balcony to smoke my tobacco pipe, trying to wind down before the circus that would inevitably ensue at the festival. I noticed a large amount of smoke coming from a window in the floor below me. I panicked. 'Jesus Christ!', I thought, 'who the fuck is smoking that much?....and can I join them?'

Now, pull it together! It was only the window from the downstairs kitchen.

The bands at the festival were great with the exception of a few of them, whose drummers are incapable of performing without a metronome attached to their ear. It was precisely during one of these horrific sets, that I decided to walk an overwhelming distance to use the portable toilets. I can't say I was surprised at the conditions I found them in, but the number of girls going into these toilets two or three at a time, was bewildering.

My patience immediately grew thin. I had to piss – simple as that. I refused to wait any longer. So, acting much drunker than I actually was, I stumbled to one of the portable toilet's doors, ignoring the line of girls - and boys that look like girls - that were waiting. I heard some insulting remarks and warnings, but still I pushed forward. Little did I know that 5 seconds later I'd be wishing I had listened to them. I flung open the door and found an individual with their pants down to their ankles, in the midst of a terrible dash to cover themselves up, with panic and devastation in their eyes. I don't know if it was male or female, all I know is that this person was considerably overweight. The door's 'Vacant' sign had been showing, I had not hesitated. So now I found myself feeling exactly like that: Vacant... not to mention stupid.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writers on the storm

Recently I began to do free-lance writing for a site called I am a type of music correspondent/ journalist. My focus is on New York music. I am very thrilled by the opportunity to be doing this because I've always wanted to be employed to do some writing, and doing so on music is a blessing. Chuck Klosterman, David Fricke, Lester Bangs, Jann Wenner and the late great Hunter S. Thompson have served as an inspiration to me as journalists, music related or otherwise. I will be turning in 2 to 3 pieces a week and the more people access these articles, the better I will be regarded among other Examiners (as we're called).

If you think you have what it takes to write for Examiner, by all means click here to get the information. You'll have to go through a short process in order to be accepted but it is well worth it. I'd appreciate if you'd watch this short video so you let the good people at Examiner know that you were referred to the site by me. My full name is Noel Davila and my official title at Examiner is Queens Local Music Examiner.

Click here to read my articles on

Thank you for reading, as always.

Yours truly,


Sunday, July 05, 2009

A decade in pursuit of the dream

Ten years ago today, I gathered with a group of friends in my room on a hot summer's day. All four of us present were musicians and the purpose of our gathering was, predictably enough, to play music. What other purpose could there be? As musicians, we were familiar with one another but on that particular day we were trying to form a more cohesive unit and ultimately call ourselves a band. I was very young - I even had braces on my teeth - but I remember thinking that this particular attempt at forming a band would be succesful. Our bass player and I had tried on another ocassion and that didn't seem to go anywhere, so we found ourselves with two fellow musicians from our high school trying for a second time. There was very little ventilation in the room; we were all sweating profusely. Our equipment at the time wasn't too impressive. I was playing my cheap Epiphone guitar and the bassist's amp was so small, it had to be placed on top of the bunk bed so it could be heard properly. Our drummer had only recently begun to play the drums, but being a very skilled instrumentalist (he could play almost anything, including the violin) he fell into his task with ease and natural talent. Our lead guitarist had previously been a bass player in another band and after being thrown out, he embraced his new position as a six-stringer in our fledgling project. As for myself, it would be only the second time that I would attempt to front a Rock band as a vocalist/guitarist. There was no original music played that day, only covers, but we put our own take on them - maybe because we weren't the best players to begin with. I still have the tape we made that day and just recently listened to it again. I can't say that there's flashes of genius in it, but listening to it takes me back to that moment of realization when it became clear that there was indeed some kind of chemistry between the four of us - chemistry that was worth exploring further and ultimately proved to be a big part of my life as a teenager and subsequently as an adult. Ten years...shot a decade already. I still continue to play music with my band to this day. The original members are long gone, and I even changed the name of the band about 3 years ago, but to this day I still carry with me that utter amazement and child-like excitement that I felt that summer day in 1999. I only wish we could celebrate this day by all four original members sitting in a room together and playing some music, something that hasn't happened since April 2001 when our first lineup change took place. However fitting a reunion would be, it is impossible, seeing as we don't all live in close proximity like we did some years ago. I still feel a certain responsibility to the three original members to do the best I can so they can feel proud of being a part of what I consider to be my roots as a performing musician. Today is a very special day for me and I will raise a glass to that summer day ten years ago when I got together with three brothers and took a path I am still on today- and hopefully will be for the rest of my life. Here's to a decade in pursuit of the dream...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

London Calling

(London, England -- June 2009)

Day 1:

I've always wanted to go to England, especially London. For some reason, I've always felt a certain kinship with the country. Maybe it's the Rock & Roll factor (most great Rock bands/artists come from the UK) or the maybe it's in the blood somehow. Whichever the reasons, I love England.

After passing through customs, I headed to an exchange booth to turn my american dollars into british pounds. The clerk lady took a look at me and said "Nice t-shirt, sir". I had to check because I'd forgotten which shirt I had on. I was pleased when I realized I was wearing a shirt that had the words 'ROCK & ROLL' on it. I was loving England already. As we waited for the train, some lady started sneezing. I was about to say 'Bless you' but I started thinking about Swine flu and didn't. Ten minutes pass by and she doesn't stop sneezing - it's a good thing I didn't say 'Bless you' for the first one.

At the train station we were told that due to a strike the trains were not operating. I ask my brother about taking a taxi, and he tells me that the first thing that happens when you enter a taxi is you start hearing porno music and before you know it your pants are off. So we walked. After checking in at the YMCA, we get the key to our room and it happened to be on the 13th floor - so first the strike, and now this. I was hoping this wasn't a sign of imminent bad luck.

Walking around the city and seeing the cars driving on the left side was very strange and I don't think I ever got used to it. Most cars also have their steering wheel on the right side instead of the left like we're used to. At one point, I saw a man sitting on the left side of the car reading a book. I nearly freaked out thinking this guy was going to crash at any moment, until I realized my mistake. It was a sunny day in London, something I've been told is extremely rare. In a shop, some english guy asks me "You like Punk Rock, mate?". I said yes. "Ok, what's the greatest Punk band ever?" I was about to say Fugazi, but my survival instinct kicked in and I said The Sex Pistols, to which my friend replied "That's bloody correct, mate!".

I saw the Big Ben and the House of Parliament. As I suspected, I was utterly blown away by this. Due to the lack of trains, we walked and walked and walked. We soon realized we were running low on cash. We needed to find a resolution to this problem, but how? We walked over to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, found a casino and gambled. There weren't many options at this stage in the game. Inside the casino, a fucked up cover version of The Velvet Underground's 'Waiting for the Man' was playing. I sat behind the Black Jack table and watched my brother gamble our money.

It was successful, we tripled our investment.

After that, we walked around for a while longer visiting Buckingham Palace and St. James' Park. I loved all the surroundings and some churches looked straight-up creepy. It made me think of Jack the Ripper.

Day 2:

This hotel was like the last one in the sense that the bathrooms were shared. That's not so bad, what was bad was the fact that towels were not included. So on my second day in London, I did what seemed impossible: I took a shower without a towel. I won't go into details, suffice it to say it was done.

The strike was over so we bought two all-day passes for the trains. We made our way to Camden Town to visit what was home to two of my favorite poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine in 1873. On the train, I was listening to Robi Draco Rosa's "La Flor del Frio" - a song that speaks of these two poets and their time in Camden Town. Once there, I was very overwhelmed though I tried to hide it. To the unknowing eye, it was merely a plaque on a wall but to me it meant so much more. Most of the poetry that makes up Rimbaud's "A Season in Hell" was composed behind those walls.

Afterwards we went to the Camden Town market. Picture a flee market on steroids. I liked it very much, but I restrained myself from buying many things. Around the place we saw many old-school punk rockers with their tall mohawks and leather jackets from 1977. I loved it. We then proceeded to our next destination: Abbey Road Studios.

For those of you who don't know, Abbey Road Studios is where The Beatles recorded most of their albums and singles with very few exceptions. Other artists that have recorded there include Pink Floyd, Oasis, U2, Green Day, Radiohead, and Alanis Morissette among others. The famous Beatles album cover in which they're crossing the street, was taken a few feet from the studio's gates. A few people were getting pictures taken on the famous crosswalk, but few of them knew that The Beatles were actually walking away from the studio when the photo was taken. I don't mean to be a rock snob, but facts are facts. I had my picture taken crossing the street and I did so barefoot just like my man, Paul McCartney.

I visited the home of Ross McLennan, a photographer who took the picture that served as my band's album cover. I'd promised Ross I'd give him 10 copies of the album, and I honored that promise by showing up at his place and delivering said copies.

We headed to the Tower Bridge and then the Tower Castle. It's amazing to see something so old in front of you. I was enthralled walking the streets of London under it's pale grey skies. Afterwards, we took a train back to the hotel.

We wanted to hang out but we knew the trains would be out, so we took a bus. It was one of those two-story buses so we sat on top in the very first row overlooking the street. Across from us, sat an english couple arguing about something. Some memorable quotes from the drunk asshole talking to his girlfriend were 1) "I'm afraid it's the beginning of the end." 2) "C'mon you, we're better than this!". I was trying desperately not to laugh.

We found a basement bar that was playing good old school music. It was great, but it was so small... I was thinking that if a fire would break out, we'd all die. I know, not the happiest thought, but then again I'd only drank 3 beers. After 3am we tried to find another place to have a drink but the cover charges were ridiculously expensive. Something I was not ready for was the fact that the sun began to rise well before 4 am! I'm used to seeing the sun come up around 6am, so looking up and seeing the sky clearing up around 3:40am was a little startling. We got on one of the night buses, thinking we could get to the hotel easily. I fell asleep thinking my brother would know what to do. When I woke up I realized we were still on a bus trip to nowhere. I accepted defeat and volunteered to hail a taxi and pay for it.

Day 3:

On my third and last day in the lovely city of London, I took my last towel-less shower. I'd read that President Obama was in England but I didn't think much of it (I was at his inauguration). As I sat on my bed waiting to air-dry, I heard a few planes going by. Since we were on the 13th floor, we had a rather privileged view of the London skies. I saw a large jet go by with two fighter jets escorting. At first I didn't think much of it. But then I saw four fighter jets flying in line. Seconds later, I saw a very large jet with another two fighter jets at each side (I assume this was Air Force One). After that large jet, five fighter jets flew by giving out some white-colored smoke and then a combination of red and blue. These last jets confirmed that what I'd just seen was indeed President Obama's plane.

On the way to the train station I saw a very old man walking a few feet in front of his wife. He paused for a second, shook his ass to her, and continued walking. I tried with every fiber in my body not to laugh. In retrospect I think it's very charming - an old man shaking his ass to the love of his life. Even I can't make that shit up.

We decided to cancel our trip to The London Eye in order to save some money. We'd had a good look of London from our hotel room anyway. We went to the Imperial War Museum. We only had two hours before they closed, so we decided to only see the Holocaust Exhibition. The exhibition was very fascinating, but also very depressing. Afterwards, we went to Notting HIll. Most of the stores were closing, but we managed to drink a cold brew at one of the bars.

We had dinner at a chinese buffet and then went to a movie theatre to watch the film "Looking for Eric" which will probably never be released in a Puerto Rican theatre. After the film, we bought a few cheap souvenirs and headed to the hotel.

We knew we wouldn't get much sleep because we had to be at a bus station by 3am and then catch a flight around 6am. After walking a few miles, we made it onto the bus. Before I closed my eyes to try to sleep, I heard the sweet sounds of David Bowie's "Life on Mars". Sometimes I think the radio only plays music for me. After sleeping for a few minutes at the airport terminal, we boarded the plane that would take us back to Madrid, Spain. It's only a matter of hours before another plane takes me back to my homeland. At this moment, I'm reminded of a beautiful Oasis song called "Talk Tonight" in which Noel Gallagher sings 'I know I'm leaving, but I'll be back another day...'

Until that day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Parlez-Vous Anglais?

(Paris, France -- June 2009)

Day 1:

I vividly remember watching the 1998 film version of Great Expectations and being engulfed by Robert De Niro's character when he said "Every artist must go to Paris at least once". These words have stayed with me for some time and I found myself thinking about them on the plane from Madrid to Paris. The ride to the airport had seemed almost surreal because I was (as usual) plagued by the weight of another sleepless night. That, and the fact that the taxi driver was a woman who reminded me of a scene from Pulp Fiction.

Arriving in Paris, I immediately felt powerless due to the fact that I couldn't speak the language. I know how to say a few things, but not being able to communicate is frustrating. I found myself asking the same question repeatedly, "Parlez-vous anglais?". After we found the hotel, we were informed that we couldn't check in just yet so we went to eat. Where did we go eat? A fucking McDonald's... Hello, cholesterol.

We took a train to the Eiffel Tower. I was stunned when the train exited a tunnel and to my right was that marvelous structure that I had seen so many times in films and in pictures. It was a very touching moment. I was even laughing to myself. I suppose nothing can prepare you for things like these. We headed up the endless stairs to the tower. Once up there, the sight we beheld was beyond words. It was interesting to feel the tower move a little due to the winds. The weather wasn't the best, but I didn't mind - I was in Paris.

After looking desperately for an ATM machine that would let us withdraw cash, we headed towards the Louvre Museum walking on the edge of the Seine River. One guy offered to draw me for free because he "liked my nose". I declined. Then some lady tricked me into giving her one euro. She pretended to pick up a cheap ring from the floor in front of me and then asked me if it was mine. I said it wasn't. Then she said I should keep it because she was a religious woman and didn't wear jewelry. She began to walk away and then returned to ask for some money for a cup of coffee. I gave her the euro and then heard a man saying I shouldn't give her anything because she was a thief. So I guess I was played. I kept the cheap ring, though.

We checked the prices of admittance to the Louvre and decided to go the next day. We walked back in the opposite direction using a different route to see different sights. We made it to the Arch of Triumph. Amazing. In order to take a picture with the Arch, we had to stand in the middle of the street. Not the safest thing to do considering how rude the french tend to be, but the picture was worth it.
We made it back to the hotel and checked in. The room was quite something. It had a slight vertical inclination like a small ramp. We had a sink and a television set that only showed stuff in french. The toilet and shower were located somewhere else and would be shared by everyone staying at the hotel. Not the best accommodations, but we were on a budget.

The area surrounding the hotel didn't look too welcoming after dark. It reminded me of a rough part of The Bronx or Harlem, so we bought some food and ran back to the hotel.

Day 2:

Our second day began with the commute to Père Lachaise Cemetery. Many important people are buried there but I was interested in Frédéric Chopin (the composer), Oscar Wilde (the poet) and Jim Morrison (The Doors' frontman). I knew it would be easy to find Jim's grave due to the people heading that way, but Chopin's and Wilde's would be harder. After searching for Chopin with no results, we headed towards Jim's last resting place. I'd seen this grave many times in pictures and in Oliver Stone's film but it looked very different up close. For one, the small bust wasn't there and the stone was different. The stone read 'James Douglas Morrison' instead of 'Jim Morrison'. I later learned about the changes that were made to the grave in the 90's. The sad part is that there is a small fence around the grave keeping visitors at a distance. Despite it all, it was still incredible to be there.

Next was the Louvre Museum, home to none other than Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. That place is so overwhelmingly huge, that I knew we couldn't possibly see it all. We headed towards the Mona Lisa. Many people were pushing and shoving in order to get a picture with the painting that stood a good 15-20 feet behind a small wooden fence and under bullet proof glass. I heard some girl say "I didn't feel what I thought I'd feel when I saw it." Oh, that's too bad, dear.

After the Louvre, we went to Notre Dame. It was raining incessantly and our cheap umbrellas weren't helping the cause. Somehow, don't ask me how, we got into the cathedral while a mass was taking place. A very beautiful place.

In order to camp out while the rain subsided, we went into a bar and with my broken french I ordered some beers. After a couple of rounds, the rain calmed down a bit. With our soaked shoes we walked to the nearest metro station to return to the hotel. Much to our surprise, the room that housed the front desk at the hotel was closed. After knocking, someone opened up. We later realized why the door had been locked. This cunning frenchman was watching porn, and not on his laptop, but on the large t.v. on the wall across from the desk. Ooh la la, monsieur.

And thus concluded our visit to Paris. Short and sweet. The following morning we woke up and headed to the airport for a 50 minute flight to London.