Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Young Werther

My music is either a bunch of tunes put together to pass the time, or a priceless treasure of western folk, depending on whether you ask me or someone who needs a favor from me. It's now got its own MySpace page. Put together by Itka, and decorated with an oil painting by the inimitabler Beatriz Chachamovits. Israeli cult musician E. B. Dan allowed us into his pad one late night, to record a chiller version of the previously spunky tune "Sabresim" ("Prickly Pears"). Here's the result:

I owe something to these songs. They kept me alive while I traveled in my early 20s. I used to make my money busking. A nice summer day in a Scandinavian town would make me the equivalent of 150 Euros, enough to travel nicely and return home with a profit. Once in Turin, Italy, I got paid a live duck for my music. Somebody placed it in the case, then left. I stopped mid-song, unsure of what to do. When two girls came and adopted the cute bird, I sang them a serenade.

Many of these songs were written during that period and deal with the experience of travel in Europe. "Sabresim" the first on the myspace page, was written in Sardinia. Here's the little story about how it was born, perfect for reading when it plays in the background.

Upon arriving on the north coast, I stepped off the ferry, felt the heat of the day, saw prickly pear growing around, and realized that while still being far away, I was back at home. I had the number of a Sardinian girl I had met in London a few weeks previously and headed for her city of Sassari to see her.

Little Miss Sassari lived with her parents, and since there was no hostel in the town, I went to the nearby historical port town of Alghero and settled there for the week. Walled, peninsular Alghero is reminicient of Akko, and is peculiar in the Catalan dialect spoken by its people. It offered exotic Cazu Marzu (the revolting Sardinian cheese that contains live larvae) a nice seafront and a frequent bus to Sassari.

With me at the hostel were only three other guests: a sweet Swedish girl, traveling with her Italian boyfriend, and a pale German tourist, about twenty years of age, to whom I quickly came to refer as "Young Werther". Everything troubled him, most things scared him (he didn't try Casu Marzu), and it quickly came to my knowledge that he has fallen in love with the Swede and was feeling deeply tormented.

I soon decided to intervene, hoping to prevent a crisis. My own story with the Sassarian was fading out, nothing was keeping me in Alghero. I offered to Young Werther that we head out of town and explore more of the island. We took a bus to another pretty coastal spot: Bosa, a few score kilometers south, and headed to the local youth hostel to dispose of our gear. Turned out it was shut. Werther was all about going back to Alghero and its nordic charms, but I refused. "We'll sleep on the beach". I decided.

"What if it rains?"

That sense of home I had felt at the ferry port overtook me. "It won't rain," I promised. "This is my part of the world. I know it well enough to know it doesn't rain here in September. Now lts go into town and shop for dinner."

It was a Sunday and all the stores turned out to be shut. Young Werther freaked out. I pointed to the prickly pear growing by the crumbling citadel. "This is my part of the world" I told him, "and back home, when we're out of food, we just pick a stick, knock a few of these off the cactus, and peel them and eat them." In fact I've never previously picked a prickly pear, but oh hell. I was hungry and began enjoying being seen as the knowledgeable savage. We did somehow manage to pick the fruit and even peel it with minimum damage to our person. Inevitably, some thorns did end up on Werther's lips, but I comforted him: "Worry not, this is my part of the world. In two to three weeks you'l be rid of them all." (In reality, ten minutes is more like it).

At night we slept on the beach. Werther woke me up in a state of deep distress. "It's raining!" He said.

Rain drops were falling all over us, but I had no choice. "This is my part of the world," I said calmly. "It's September. It isn't raining. Go back to sleep."

And he did, and the rain stopped, and the first verse of the savage's love song to his home region was written the following day:

Not a dime, Mediterranean clime,
Cilia lives in a trailer
by the Sardinian coast
with the sun in a clay pot.
She has a good partner:
A Yellow Cocker Spaniel
She drinks Bacardi
and helps her puppy nurture a potbelly.
Night falls over her
blowing between her earrings
She says: that's fine
Marco's better than a jumper.
Ouch! ouch! prickly pear,
fingers full of thorns.
Here is what I say:
Figs are better anyway.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Hi Yuval I like the tale and the song.
Sardinia still has the ability to both be charming and out of the main tourism areas (and main season) remarkably unaffected and somewhat unaccomodating to a visitors normal expectations. However that is somehow the thing that makes it magical and real.
You might like to remember more of Bosa & Alghero here. I hope you find it brings back more (good) memories?