From a buskers diary: Carlos

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Europe » Spain » Andalusia » Cádiz » San Fernando
July 25th 2010
Published: April 4th 2013
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The first time I saw Carlos, he was strolling around at the part of the boulevard where I stood with my amplifier and my guitar case at my feet, as if he wasn’t sure if he should come over to have a chat. His doubt didn’t last long: after two verses and a chorus he suddenly stood next to me, telling me how much he liked the music and asking me if I could play Hotel California too?

While I fingerpicked some kind of interlude, I tried to answer his questions. What’s your name, where are you from? Why are you in Cádiz? Just a moment, it’s time for another verse and chorus. On another day I’d probably have told him off, but today the sultry summer breeze blew so nicely along my playing fingers, that I let him. He wasn’t dangerous or anything, he was just a little weird and looking for a chat. Will you stay here? But isn’t it a beautiful city then? Do you know the Doors? Have you seen my sand-sculptures? I didn’t know that he was the one who created them; I did like the crocodile that I had seen lying in the sand some time ago. He was beaming. This time he made an elephant, but I hadn’t seen that yet.

Two verses and many questions later my song was ended. He clapped his hands enthusiastically and he danced some kind of dance for joy. It was a funny sight, this little, dirty, barefoot man dancing in the middle of the boulevard between all the parading tourists that didn’t really know how to react. It made me smile and to his great joy I bowed theatrically; I liked the guy. “Olé!” He held up his dirty hand for a high five and he smiled back. When he came close like this, a sour smell, a mixture of way too much alcohol and a for way too long unwashed human being, got into my nose. I leaned back and took a little step aside. “Do you know Hotel California?” he continued undisturbed. Yes, sure, and I’ll sing it for you, but then I’ll continue playing again, because soon everybody will have gone home again. He nodded understandingly; he made his money in the streets too. On a distance he stood there watching me mesmerized while I played his song. Then he applauded extendedly,
and after a last high five he suddenly disappeared.

Only when I was getting my stuff together after I finished playing, he turned up at my side again. Proudly he showed me the elephant, a little further along the boulevard. Tomorrow he’d make another animal next to it, but he didn’t know yet what he’d make. I couldn’t really imagine what kind of animal would lay down there in the sand besides the elephant either. Luckily Carlos didn’t expect a suggestion from me, he just had meant to say that he didn’t know it yet. I threw two euros in the can that stood there before the elephant’s back to catch coins from the people passing.

“And my house!” Carlos said with something that was meant to be a wink, but that didn’t really turned out to be one because much alcohol and a good coördination don’t go well together. He poined at the small coloured tent that stood there a little cracked against the rocky wall. “Hmmm, a beautiful house!” he hummed, and I didn’t know where to look. Before I could react, the time-span in which he could stay concentrated on one subject was over, and
he started a new one already. “Where are you going now?” Casco antiguo, the old part of the city, by bus. “Do you live there?” Yep. “Will you be back here to make music?” Sure! “Hotel California?” I nodded. “Ok, can I walk with you to the bus stop?” Claro. The little man without shoes took the microphone standard and the bag with wires from me. He only stopped talking to take a breath now and then, while he walked with me to the main street where the bus would stop.

Normally I went to play on the new town’s boulevard at least once a week. When I saw one of his animals with the coloured tent besides it, I threw my “bigger change” in the direction of the silver coloured can with a double feeling; I knew that that very same day the content of it would be used for beer and not for shoes. But an appeased conscience is not as cheap as it seems.

Often he just came along when I was playing. Some days his unrest or only his presence was too much for me to cope with, sometimes because he was too drunk, sometimes because I just didn’t feel like having him around. Then I send him away. But normally we just had a little chat. He never wanted any of the coffee or the food that I had on me, and he always asked for Hotel California as a sign that it was time for him to leave again. Never another song, even if I asked him for it. Then he was actually quiet for a minute or three, and after a sticky high five he left again for an indeterminate period of time.

In the fall I saw a dinosaur, a lion and a seal, but after the winter began I haven’t seen him anymore. I hope that wherever he is now, someone can play Hotel California, and that he’ll find reasons to dance his dance for joy now and then. Barefoot or not. High five.

Check out the whistle song that goes with the story too if you like:
On the 4th of May I'll go back to Spain, Seville, as the start of Project Imagine all the People: my trip around the world with the aim to add something positive to it. If you're interested: check


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