Chapter 2

 

THE "OPEN MIC"

GUITAR PLAYER GUY

 

- So, how did you get out of that rut?

-On a London music internet page I saw an ad a web designer had placed offering his services to artists/musicians/bands to conceive and create a good website. A link took me to his own site. I checked out his biography: Irish, living in London, lots of hobbies and jobs – web design being one of many. I sent him an email in which I introduced myself and asked him if he could tell me why I wasn’t getting any replies to the ads I’d placed, which I had attached to the email. I asked him if he could give me insight or provide a suggestion to my problem since he lived in London, made ​​websites for bands and musicians and possibly even had musician friends.

- You have the craziest ideas! Contacting a web designer to try to solve your problem of creating a band! Did he reply?!

- Yes! He explained that my solution was not the best one for the problem at hand because, in his view, bands spend a lot of time working on their own songs and so my proposal was not enticing to them. He suggested that I grab my guitar and make acoustic versions of the songs and this way I wouldn’t be dependent on any band and would be able to perform live easily. I explained that I didn’t know how to play guitar or any other instrument. He replied, “Hire a guitarist! That way you have two advantages: you save money by only hiring one musician and it´s quicker than getting a band together! The two of you (you and the guitarist) will be enough at this point!” I had never thought that I could sing my songs accompanied simply by a guitar! I asked the studio musician and he said that the web designer’s suggestion was doable, but warned me that the songs would sound strange to me because I wasn’t used to hearing them accompanied by just one guitar.

- How come the studio musician didn’t come up with that idea? After so many years in the music industry, you had to get the idea from a web designer?!

- Well…it´s true! Life is funny, what else can I say? I immediately placed an ad that read: “singer Ninfa Artemis from Portugal is looking for a professional guitarist in London for performances in the month of August. The job is paid.” My ad stood out among the rest because it was the only one that mentioned payment. Most people were simply looking for musicians to substitute others in a band who had left so they could maintain the band and work on songs that would eventually be recorded in a studio. Others were bands that were looking for a lead vocalist; some of them to do cover work etc.

- If I remember correctly that was around the time that a musical theater director came into the picture, right?

- Yes. It was the second week of May. Before his reply, I received replies mostly from college students from all different areas of study who indicated that in their free time they were deeply dedicated to music and had even obtained advanced degrees in music. They mentioned that they would be on break in August and entirely available. I needed a musician after August also, so I declined their offers. Some of them asked me what concerts I had lined up. I replied, “None.” Some would snap, “How can you perform if you don’t have any concerts lined up?! What kind of concert can you give with a single guitar backing you up?!” Then, the theater director appeared. Besides directing, he also wrote texts for musicals, composed musicals and played acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, the studio musician tried to comprehend how I could rehearse with the director if he was in London and I was in Portugal! I explained that I was going to ask the director to record the instrumental acoustic versions of my songs and that way I could rehearse as much as I wanted “with him” in my small living room in Portugal while he was in London! I asked the musical director what he thought of this plan. He said that he agreed and that he would send me his acoustic versions shortly.

- Did he?

- Days went by and the recordings were non-existent, invisible and inaudible. I decided to show the studio musician the links that the director had given me that led to some samples of compositions he’d created as well as a video link in which he backed up a singer during a live show. I found him to be too calm for me and decided to ask the studio musician for his opinion. He immediately told me that we’d be incompatible and that we’d have nothing in common! He also added that the director had no soul when playing the guitar. “Completely devoid of emotion!” he stated.  Still, we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait for his recordings. The following days the director started acting strangely and seemed to be avoiding me when I asked him in emails how the recordings were going. He would either reply by saying that he was really tired and that he needed to get off the computer and go to bed or he would say that he was really busy preparing new shows and so he couldn’t spend so much time replying to emails. He also told me that I could hold off coming to London and not to come August because everything was much more expensive at that time.

 - What did you say to him?

- I insisted and he finally sent me a recording. It was “Destiny”. I heard it and I hated it! He played the guitar over my original recording, so the guitar could hardly be heard. The studio musician heard the recording and also found it to be terrible! “What the heck is this?! It seems more like this guy is learning how to play the guitar! He may know how to write musical theater scripts, but he’s not good enough to be your guitarist! He’s a mess!”

- Then the “open mic” guitar player guy appeared, right?

- I was desperate because it was already the beginning of July and I wanted to perform in London in August. My ads were posted once again. It was my last chance! The next day a guitarist responded. The studio musician liked him and considered him to be talented. I hired him to create acoustic versions of my stage songs. Two days later, on July 7, another guitarist replied! This one was a very talented guitar player slightly older and more experienced than the first one. Both were completing a degree in music and guitar. I also decided to hire this guitarist. I was extremely happy because suddenly I had two brilliant guitar players! But I needed to make a choice! Only one of them would stay with me. The guitarist that replied on July 7 made the acoustic versions at the speed of light and it was he who eventually became my “open mic” guitar player guy! The other one was also fast. I paid him for the job, thanked him and explained that his work had been excellent, but I had already made up my mind. Later, I saw that this guy had placed me on his online curriculum vitae (CV) for the year 2012 as arranger for an acoustic set of mine in London. I was on someone’s CV! In any case, the place for my guitarist for that fantastic summer was already taken! He played like I liked and besides that, he looked like a real rock guitar player star! Dark brown wavy hair shoulder length, 6ft 2in tall, long straight thick eyebrows, green eyes, a strong angular jawline, a super self-confident look and an amazing smile! 

- He sounds cute! Did your guitarist also mention you on his online CV?
- No. There´s no record: neither from me, neither from him. The same applies to

the two bands that I had in London. They all became faded ghosts…Nothing remains…

- I'm curious to know what happened in London between you and the “open mic” guy. Was he important for you?

- Everyone that I met along the way was important. Each person allowed me to climb one more step towards my goal. For example, if that director hadn’t appeared, I wouldn’t have been able to perform in London because I wouldn’t have known of the existence of the open mics. In one of his emails replies he said, “We’ll check out the crazy open mics that we can go to together!”. That was when I decided to check out what an open mic was on the internet.

- Couldn’t your new guitarist have given you this information?

- I tried to get more information about live-music venues from him, but he never told me about the existence of open mics. He simply replied that it was very easy to get a live performance in London. But, that’s not quite the case. I came to this conclusion months later. I was looking for band gigs when I was planning on forming a band. I came to find out that to get a gig bands have to contact music promoters first. When they’re able to get one, the actual date of the gig is weeks or months away. In other words, usually you can’t get a gig three days or a week’s time and no band has daily performances like I had in August at the open mic. So, in the midst of all my inexperience with how things go down, I was extremely lucky to be able to get exactly what I wanted: daily performances without needing promoters’ pre-approval. I just had to go to the live-music club, give my name and sing! I was thrilled with joy!

- What does that mean: open mic?

- Literally the expression means: “open microphone”. It’s an event in which anyone who wants can have access to a microphone whether it be to recite a poem, perform a comedy act or sing. In London, the performers were predominantly musicians. It was rare to see people doing other things. I started gathering information online about possible pubs/bars/clubs that had open mics. I came upon a London musician who for two consecutive months had performed intensively in open mics and on his website indicated the best ones in London. He gave one piece of advice on his site: to arrive early to reserve a spot because these places had a limited number of vacancies, usually 16 which would be filled the very same day at about 6 p.m. The open mic would usually start two hours later. “It’s easy! Get to the place early, give them your name to put on the list, and sing the acoustic version of your song!” –he concluded. You see how lucky I was?!

- You’re a very lucky angel!

- Do you know where my song “Strong Wrong” comes from? The one that goes “I don´t say fuck you! ´Cause for you I wish only bad things”? It was written and composed in June, two months before I went to London! I had been waiting for the right musician to appear since posting the April ad in order to be able to perform in London. I was tired of waiting. In June I was not in a good mood anymore. I was so upset that I made that song in which the term "F* you!” had to appear!

- Did you rehearse a lot with the acoustic versions before heading to London?

- Of course! I had never performed live. I really had to practice so that everything would run perfectly! I would oblige myself to rehearse for hours on end. I rehearsed so much that my lungs hissed when I breathed from the effort. I wanted to make a really good impression on the London guitarist who had studied music his “entire” life (since he was 7 years old) and performed with several bands.

- I like to see you happy...Years are going by and no one is getting any younger. You’re always so distant from the real world and on some adventure: some of them humorous, others surreal, others paranormal, others harmful. These later ones don’t harm you out of mere luck!

- The studio musician says that I was so lucky that even my bad luck gave me good luck! God is on my side.

- Can I ask you a question? To what point to you believe in God?

- There are those who say that God is like the wind: invisible, impalpable but who can be felt through signs. Tell me if you can answer this question, “Who came first: the chicken or the egg?” 

- I don’t know. Does that prove God’s existence?

- I think so. For me He is not a way of being in life, or a way of thinking or an abstract entity or concept. I believe that God is real. He exists. For many years I never thought about God or about his existence. I never turned to Him to ask Him for help or to thank Him for anything. God was totally ignored by me and things got worse after my maternal grandmother’s funeral. She was the healer, remember? I was 13 at the time and it was the first time I had attended a wake. This had been preceded by a mass given by a priest with the hiccups. I suppose this was caused by his dinner. “How could he eat a big dinner right before he was going to celebrate a funeral mass with the defunct in a coffin right in front of him?!” – I’d ask myself. This and the monotone fashion with which he delivered the mass (without any faith or passion at all) made me think that God had been invented. This was my conviction for many years. However, after the break up with the singer from chapter 4, I was thrown into a deep sadness which caused severe anxiety on a daily basis. Relief came when I decided to get into music without any prior experience. At that point a lot of things happened to me. People or things would appear in my life exactly when I needed them. These allowed me to obtain all the musical achievements I had in mind or that were whispered in my ear, for we don’t know when an idea is truly ours or whispered to us from Another world.

- There you go again with the paranormal...

- I do not think I was benefitted by chance. I think it was a detailed plan that was planned well in advance by a very intelligent Someone to whom I gave a lot of work. Do you know how hard it is to create coincidences? Have you ever tried to create synchronicity?

- What do you mean? Force things to happen?

- Yes. Look, I’ve already tried to force really simple “coincidences” and wasn’t able to! For example, two years ago I tried to get a work colleague of mine to meet an old friend of mine. I thought they’d be perfect for each other, but I wasn’t able to get them together one single time! He’d change the date because he couldn’t make it. She’d suspiciously ask why I thought he’d be a great match for her and not for me. When it finally seemed as if they were going to meet, unexpected things happened again. I gave up on the whole thing!

- You did right on giving up. It was they who had to fight the battle, not you.

- Imagine the amount of the patience (not to mention hard work) that God has to have so that his plans work to perfection! Besides his extreme effort to prepare us psychologically for us to be apt to our destiny. This means placing us in front of people and situations which will rouse strengths and capacities which He had given us a long time ago but which were hitherto unaware of. 

- I think I’m going to eat a piece of pineapple cake with whipped cream. Do you want a slice? How about opening up a bottle of champagne? I’m in the mood for some! Did you like your hotel in London?

- The hotel had the characteristics I was searching for when I was searching for hotel rooms online. I had been searching for about two months and I only discovered this one a week before my flight! For 45 pounds per day I had my own room with a window, private bathroom with a hot shower, television, electric coffee maker (so that I could heat water for tea anytime I wanted), a microwave where I could prepare my meals (as many as I wanted, whenever I wanted), a small refrigerator where I could store microwavable meals, which were nutritious and economical! 45 pounds per day was really cheap in that city and having all those commodities in my room was rare!

- Was my little angel happy?

- Yes, I was! With a microwave in my room I ate tons of delicious microwavable meals and sometimes in early morning hours! I didn’t have to spend any money in restaurants and that way I could manage the money I had to spend in London easily and without stress on paying the musician, food, transportation around the city and hotel. God was really my friend! I was in the right hotel with the right musician and it was the right moment because all my recording in Portugal was practically done. I felt good!

- That August was really special for you, right?

- It was special and I thank God for the opportunity. Do you know that every time I feel sorry for myself and say, “God, you don’t want anything to do with me!” he answers?!

- He answers?!

- Yes, He appears in times which otherwise could have been fatal without His intervention. “I’m always near. Don’t hurt Me by saying that I’m not!” I believe that this is the message he is trying to transmit.

- What happened to you that could have been so fatal?

- Driving off the road on narrow curvy mountain roads that I have to drive through often. This happened near where I live; I ended up driving into the oncoming lane because I lost control of my car. Traffic seemed to be stopped in both directions. There were no cars anywhere and I was able to regain control of the car safely. Other times I am faced with cars driving on the wrong side of the road (this has happened to me on several occasions) because they’re trying to pass another car; however, the drivers do not calculate the time and distance correctly. Seconds before this, I suddenly get an itch on my leg which I have to scratch forcing me to reduce speed to get to the itch avoiding a head-on collision with the oncoming vehicle by just fractions of a second.  On another occasion in the summer of 2011 at the time when I had left a written message in the British singer’s forum and was still clearing my dad’s land of leaves and fallen twigs, I had one day been in the kitchen cleaning up after lunch and started thinking that my entire life was in vain and that God didn’t care about me. I was fed up with my life but I liked going outdoors to think and enjoy the surrounding view while I worked and so, I did just that. I headed towards a huge eucalyptus tree to continue working where I had left off the previous day, but unbeknownst to me, I changed my mind and decided to start working a bit farther away. I thought to myself, “Why did I decide to start here today! The view near the eucalyptus tree is much nicer!” After about five minutes I heard a noise as if a small tree had fallen onto a larger tree nearby. I asked myself, “Is someone chopping down trees? I don’t hear any electric saw and I don’t see anyone?! Poor trees! Being cut down and unable to run!” At the end of the day, as night fell, I headed towards my house to have dinner. On my way I passed the eucalyptus tree where I had planned to continue working and on the ground lay a huge thick heavy branch. It “detached itself” from the tree possibly due to its hulky weight and was now lying in the place where the scenery around was more beautiful-I would have died under the weight of that giant branch. 

- It would be a sin if God hadn’t protected my sweet perfect angel!

- Going back to the London hotel: I got in at about 7 p.m. I had left Portugal at about 2 p.m. and the flight was about two hours long. I got to Gatwick airport on a low cost airline. When I got there I saw a ton of people and I looked for the sign indicating the “Exit” and then transportation to the center of London. I took the tube to “Victoria Station” and changed lines twice to get to the hotel. I asked people for directions along the way. When the hotel manager, who was an Indian man of about fifty saw me, he couldn’t believe that I was on vacation. “You’re looking for work in London!” he stated with conviction. Then, he asked if Portugal was a nice country. I said yes. Then he said that one day, when he had money, he’d take a long trip and visit lots of countries including Portugal.

- Why did he think you were in London looking for work?

- I don’t know why. Curiously, a few days beforehand I had gone to purchase my suitcases and the woman working at the shop, whom I had asked for help regarding price/quality, asked if I was going to emigrate. I thought “I don’t think I look like a tourist. Maybe I look tense and worried...Goodbye my lovely recording studio in Portugal. Hello London! I’m going to perform with a musician I don’t know, I have no stage experience, I’m going to perform live in a city full of music students and professionals in the industry and singers! What am I getting myself into?! But, two years earlier someone from Above had whispered London into my ear! Here I go! I have to feel happy because the fantastic future that the Brazilian fortune teller had predicted for me in 1998 is coming!”

- Where did you go to dinner after you got to the hotel?

- I didn’t. I went to a nearby mini-market and bought biological canned chickpeas, warmed them in the microwave and that was my dinner.

- Why didn’t you buy one of those amazing microwaveable meals?

- That mini-market didn’t have any. The hotel manager told me that there was a good supermarket about a 20 minute walk away which had them. I would go there the following day.

- Why the chickpeas? Wasn’t there anything else you could buy?

- There were lots of cans of precooked vegetables like peas, carrots and others but they required a can opener and I didn’t have one. The chickpeas had an easy to open lid. The mini-market also sold plug adapters for European gadgets which are different from the English ones. I had to buy one.

- What did you do after your canned chickpea dinner?

-  I got into bed and checked my email on my little laptop. I watched television until dawn and then I went to sleep! Beforehand I’d had a hot shower, just like I like and wondered if the supermarket that the manager had mentioned had a large variety of tasty precooked meals...

- Did you sleep well?

- No. Because I was travelling alone, I could not relax and was most of the times one hundred percent aware of everything that was going on around me. It can be stressful. I woke up with a huge headache. I could hear the blood pumping into my brain. I also woke up hungry and sweating from head to toe. It was like I had come out of a sauna because my pajama was completely soaked. I woke up feeling like this on a daily basis in London. Only later did I realize that it was due to extreme anxiety, although I didn’t consciously feel anxious. I lost almost 9 pounds in the first six days and a ring and a bracelet that I loved came off my loose fingers and were lost for good.

- Hey, that’s what I need: Stress to make me lose weight quickly without having to face the stress of going to the gym! What did you do after you woke up? Did you go stock up on tasty microwaveable dishes?

- Yeah I woke up, ate some leftover chickpeas that had been in the can, drank water, took a hot shower using the hotel soap that smelled really good and went looking for the supermarket that was full of appetizing pre-cooked microwaveable food.

- How was your date with guitarist?

- Pretty normal. The first rehearsal was scheduled for the day after my arrival, Wednesday, at 3 p.m. He chose the time because he had commitments that restricted his availability. In the morning he had classes, on some afternoons he gave private guitar or French lessons (French being his mother tongue) and other times he had to rehearse with his other two bands. He arrived at the hotel and the first feeling I had (I’d barely laid eyes on him) was that he was haughty, very focused on his own interests and that I would be totally on my own. Just a feeling I had.

- There she goes with her intuition thing…

- I believe that first impressions are important. These are usually right on because later you begin to get used to the personality of the other person and getting into the habit of ignoring some alarm signals. Something happened soon after we left the main entry hall of the hotel. That should have put me on alert, but I really needed to trust him for me to feel comfortable in this big city called London. I didn´t know anyone. From the hotel we headed immediately to the underground which would take us to a rehearsal room he had booked. On the underground, without warning, he stopped in front of an ATM. I stopped because he stopped and I was standing right next to him. He pulled out a credit card to insert into the machine and I was there waiting for him to type his pin code in and withdraw money so we could catch the train, go to the rehearsal space. There I would finally open my mouth for the first time to sing with a musician accompanying me live on guitar. I was waiting for him to insert his credit card into the ATM slot. I had a huge headache – I had not yet discovered the tasty precooked meals and had brought some strange ones. I was still hungry, and I was thinking about food when he suddenly said in a rather reproachful way, “I’m going to enter my pin code!” Only then did I realize that I had stopped a little too close to him and was evidently right next to the ATM also.

- How rude and suspicious... Was he so rich?

- No, because he was still studying, but his parents were part of the upper middle class. I suppose the parents of most foreign students in London have excellent economic status. For starters, accommodation in this city is expensive and tuition at university is also. Add to all this food, transport, trips home to see family abroad and other associated costs. According to my calculations, my salary here in Portugal would never cover all his monthly expenses.

- After the scene at the ATM, did you two have a fighting match or did you get along?

- August went well. At rehearsals we started becoming friendly with one another. He was a month away from finishing his three year course which he had decided to complete in two years by opting to attend intensive classes including classes in the month of August. In a month’s time he would present his thesis on the topic "Musical Creativity". The thesis required a maximum number of words and a practical component. The latter consist of a performance by the guitarist before a board of review and an original composition, which he chose to be Jazz. His school was quite prestigious at European level.

- How did rehearsal go?

- Before that, ask me what the rehearsal room was like! For 8 years my rehearsal space had been a small living room in my parent’s house in the countryside where I could yell into the microphone at will without disturbing the neighborhood. The rehearsal room in London, like many others as I would come to realize later, had no windows and was totally covered with carpet on the floor and the walls to improve the sound insulation. It was clear by the smell that the carpet hadn’t been cleaned or vacuumed in years. Surely there were droplets of saliva ingrained in the carpet; droplets of saliva which probably came from the angry mouths of some rock, punk or metal band.  If that carpet were placed under a microscope, one could clearly see the frighteningly ugly monsters living there. This vision would cause the observer to scream louder and more energetically than any of the bands that had passed through there.

- The carpeted room bothered you Ninfa?

- I thought, “There are no windows, but the air is full of oxygen! How? If you haven’t died yet it’s because there is oxygen in here. I don’t know how, but there is. Does the room have moldy smell? No! It smells like your dream! Remember what you told the Brazilian fortune teller: You’re going to be famous. The hotel smelled of air freshener and that irritated you because you thought it could cause lung cancer. Here you’ve got mold! It’s all natural! Please, don’t complicate things because your eyes may start to see strange things like tiny floating particles which you will assume are floating bacteria!”

- Did your rehearsal go well?

-Not really because I didn´t feel physically restored: I hadn’t slept well and was badly nourished. He got to the rehearsal room and tied his hair into a pony tail featuring his strong jawline. (He would do this systematically on a daily basis.) I felt like I was next to a rocker, similar to those I had seen in music magazines! I finally felt far from my job in Portugal with coworkers constantly speaking about their children and grandchildren. I had no one in that environment that looked like a rock star! 

- Were you able to sing the songs you had endlessly rehearsed at home?

- More or less. He had brought some written notes with chords he’d play on the guitar although most of the time he wouldn’t even look at his notes because the acoustic versions which he had created weeks earlier were still fresh in his memory. There were six songs. At rehearsal he would sometimes ask me to raise the key so that they’d be more similar to the original versions and although I was able to do it, I would try too hard and lose lung capacity. I was still tired from the trip and the days of stress leading up to it. I felt so exhausted I only sang each of the 6 songs once including my beloved song "Destiny"! The rehearsal was no longer than 45 minutes. The space was a courtesy of a friend of his working there who managed the various rehearsal rooms.

- So…did you like your future “open mic” guitar player guy?

- In August he was ok. On that rehearsal room he started playing some chords, unable keep his hands still with his guitar nearby. He wanted to go on with rehearsal, but I said “I think we’re going to have to stop here for today. I feel exhausted. I slept badly because light comes into the room as the sun rises. There are no blinds on the hotel windows!!” He said that the room he rented also had no blinds. “Having no blinds is a London fad!” I thought. I came to terms with the fact that the daylight would fuck my mind on a daily basis. My room had curtains, but they weren’t even big enough for the window. A toast to fucking the fucking of my mind every day at 6 a.m.!

- My little angel shouldn’t use terms like “fucking”! It’s not very becoming...

- Then, I told him that I had woken up all sweaty, removed my clothes and walked around my room naked wondering how our rehearsal would go and then I got in the shower! I said all this sounding exhausted. He had a big smile on his face. He must have found something amusing. I had the sensation that he felt comfortable with me and that he thought we’d be a good match and that we’d get along that summer month. He said, “Don´t worry. It´s going to be cool performing live.”

- How was your English?

- Apart from singing in that language, I had never spoken English with anyone. I told him that my English was terrible, but he didn’t seem to think so. He said that when he first got to London to study music he didn’t speak one word of English. I assumed that he (like most musicians) had excellent listening skills and that it would be easy for him to learn a foreign language. Days later I came to discover that he also spoke some German, Swedish, Spanish and of course, French.

- How did rehearsal go the following day?

- My first live act was four days later, a Sunday night. We rehearsed on Thursday and Friday afternoon. At night he had rehearsal with one of his bands that was going to play in Sweden on August 29th. Luckily that was the day I was going to return to Portugal, back to my job. When we left those first rehearsals on our way to the underground station he’d hum the tune to “Destiny”.

- What did you wear to your first live performance?

- Although I had lots of clothes in my suitcase (as there was no cupboard in my room although there was a small couch and two hangers) I always wore the same long black t-shirt with lace straps, black jeans and black military-style boots which I tucked my jeans into. I parted my hair to the side, made a braid and placed it over my left shoulder. I put a small green moss colored flower in the form of a marigold on the right side of my hair. Every time I left the hotel I took a backpack with a bottle of water in it because those underground tunnels, deep down under the earth, were quite hot and in August they were extremely hot. I was thirsty on a regular basis probably because those pre-cooked meals were spicy and contributed to my thirst. In my backpack I also had a small black knit jacket because it could get cold at night. I would wash the t-shirt and my underwear with soap in the sink every time I returned to the hotel. I would squeeze the water out and let them dry on the hanger. The afternoon rehearsals were now rare since the live performances had started.

- After the afternoon rehearsals, the guitarist would go back to his life: other rehearsals, tutoring, working on his thesis, or something else...How about you?

- Rehearsals were over at about 5.30 p.m. I would do exactly what I did the first day I got to London after reaching my hotel: watch TV, have a hot shower, heat up my food in the microwave, wallow in bed, surf the net and wake up with the damn light around 6 a.m.! I would cover my face with a pillow. At around 10 a.m., I would go to the supermarket with the wide variety of pre -cooked meals, which would take me about 90 minutes before returning to the hotel. Then I would go back to my room, turn on the television, eat and wait for 3 p.m. to arrive for rehearsal which usually began at 4 p.m. Before leaving the hotel I took a quick shower to get rid of any food odors.

- That was your routine? You were in London and that was all you did?!

- I was afraid of not getting to rehearsals on time if I were to stray and explore the city. Besides, I always woke up with no energy. I felt drained. It was as if I had some emotional vampire sucking out my energy.

- The guy had bad vibes honey! Your body felt something…you should have listened to it.

- After rehearsals I didn’t feel like going anywhere alone because soon it would be dark. I preferred staying at the hotel in my pajamas and watching a movie than wandering around in the cold night, alone, on the streets of London. I didn’t mind my routine because years beforehand I had the opportunity of visiting exotic cities in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco etc… Oh! A funny thing happened on Saturday, the eve of my first performance! It was the only break in my routine. It was mega fantastic!

- Thank goodness! You deserve mega fantastic things!

- We didn’t have rehearsal on Saturday. He had sent me a cell phone message saying he wouldn’t be able to make it having provided no further explanation. Aside from that day he had been true to his word, always punctual and it was fun having him around. I really liked him. Anyway, I was free that Saturday. It was the only day in London that August I felt relaxed. On that day I felt like a true tourist, touring the city with a great big smile on my face! It was a beautiful sunny day. Still today, when I think back on the good things that happened to me in that city, I think back to that Saturday, my performances at the open mics next to my guitarist and the amusing things he did or said and our time together in that month of August. Everything that happened after that month leaves me sad and makes me want to vomit.

- Send the bad memories to hell because you will have wonderful memories in the future and those will be your true memories. Believe me!

- Ok, Australian sweetie! That Saturday was really exciting. In the morning I took the tube to Liverpool station. I walked around the station and eventually to the square where on the previous day the British singer from chapter 3 had shot his new music video. Shooting was no longer going on, but there was a craft fair in this square which slightly reminded one of medieval times.

- Did you remain there or did you go someplace else?

- After this, I got back on the underground and went to “Piccadilly Circus”. I roamed around the area. It was a nice place. I continued walking around, totally adrift. I came across a sort of neighborhood which resembled "Chinatown." Later I came to discover that it was a part of London called “Soho.” I continued wandering. Suddenly, I found myself in a square that guaranteed action! I was feeling intrigued as were a few dozen other people... Soon there was a sea of ​​puzzled onlookers! Then, some helicopters appeared flying over us!

- After that incident you had in Dublin, when you poked your head out of your sleeping bag and were faced with a group of intervention police with guns with telescopic sight pointed at you, this must have seemed like a mere distraction!

- Well…I was also feeling a little excited at this time too. When I got to that square I saw a sign that said “Leicester Square.” Until that day, the only thing I knew about the city of London was the path from my hotel to the rehearsal room. It was about 3 p.m. This square is home to theaters, has lots of movie theaters and an ample space reserved exclusively for pedestrians. Opposite the site that promised "action", I saw a small green space with trees and plenty of tourists laid out on the grass in the sun, possibly waiting for the "action" to begin to open their eyes. Until then, they were like cats lying in the sun: lazy!

- What was this "action" anyway?

- It intrigued me to see just across from where the tourists were sleeping in the sun, a stage set with huge speakers, a large video projection screen and a long red carpet that started way back and ended on a staircase which led up to this stage. I also saw that they had now mounted a security perimeter that designated the public area. In this area there were lots of men dressed in black wearing sunglasses and in constant communication with each other via cell phone. They seemed to be in the final preparations of the event.

- It sounds like you’re describing the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood…

- Some people went to ask the security guards in the shades what was going on and what time the event started. They said that there was going to be a premier of an American movie and that before the premier the stars were going to give interviews on the stage.

- Cool!

- Lead actors would arrive in limousines and walk down the red carpet to the stage posing before photographers along the way. When they got to the stage a reporter was already waiting to interview them about the movie. When the actors started talking the crowd began to dissipate because the climax had already been achieved. The interview couldn’t compete with all the excitement that occurred beforehand. It was fun waiting here hours for the actors to arrive...See ya!

- Where did you go after that?

- Then I went to do what I had done before running into the guys with the sunglasses: wandered around. Later I spotted a long, broad avenue, flanked by huge tall and modern buildings with offices on the top floors. On the ground floor there were lots of brand name shops and outdoor cafes. Tourists swarmed the area! Everyone seemed to be in a good mood! Lots of people were eating sorbets. I ate three as I walked around. Two hours later I returned to my hotel room via underground.

- This was your special day in London?! You’ll have better days. Did anything funny happen at rehearsals?

- Nothing special. Except for our first rehearsal, all others were held at one of the many rehearsal rooms in the guitarist’s university. I was lucky. I saved some money that way. I'm grateful for that. Because he was a student he was entitled to 1 hour per day in one of these rooms, but being that many students were on vacation (aside from those who were also taking intensive courses) we were able to extend our rehearsals up to 2 hours. When I arrived there, sometimes I had to wait for him to finish classes. I would wait for him in a small waiting area. Sometimes he had classes in the early afternoon. In this waiting area they continuously showed videos of live performances by the students of that university, especially ones done by final year students.

- Were the videos ok?

- They were learning to act like professionals. The female singers would pose with one hand holding a microphone and the other raised high in the air because they were singing a lyric which left them emotionally charged. Then they’d turn, walk along the stage and make some more ​gestures, but this time by imitating controlled anger. Their facial expressions looked feline or dazed.

- Very emotive…

- They would either look directly at the camera or semi-close their eyes as if they wanted the world to disappear or keep their head down...All that was the result of hours of intensive rehearsing.

- How do you know that the vocal rehearsals were so intensive?

- Don’t be tricked into thinking that music is synonymous with play and relaxation. One day at the rehearsal space I opened the door to my rehearsal room to get some air in and relax my voice and I overheard a female singer. She was at the piano trying to sing a note that she found difficult. The door of her rehearsal room had a glass window and I was able to see her. She was singing the exact same part of the song that I’d heard 50 minutes prior when I got to my rehearsal room across from hers. She worked arduously, to the point of exhaustion, to obtain perfection. Her eyes were either focused on a distant point above her head or on the piano keys in front of her. On stage I don’t know where she will direct her gaze...maybe she’ll pose “artistically” like the girls in the videos. I didn’t have enough time to develop my “stance”. I was an amateur; everything that came out was all natural! The studio musician from Portugal was also a singer. When on stage, he sings with his eyes closed, as I was able to witness in his videos. He sang with a lot of expression which was different from his day-to-day non-expressive facial manner.

- Artists, poses and trifles. You’re different. You’re a sweet angel!

- The guitarist would leave class and pass by the room where I was waiting for him. The first time I waited for him I dictated the names of the famous people who had also been students at that school whose names appeared on a huge placard in the waiting room.  He was surprised. He had never noticed the placard! When we arrived in the rehearsal room, he would put down the two guitars that he’d taken to class and tie back his hair.

- What kinds of guitars were they?

- One was acoustic and the other electric.

- What did you guys do in the rehearsal room?

- Rehearse. Sometimes he wouldn’t even have time to have lunch. He was always running between classes both inside and outside the university and other rehearsals. So, I started bringing him small packaged cakes, cookies or energy bars to make sure he had strength to rehearse; so that our rehearsals would run smoothly. When he told me that he wouldn’t be able to come on that Saturday I got nervous because my first performance was on Sunday and there were some little details that I needed to improve! I would talk way too much at rehearsal – he was the only human being that I knew in London! I got excited every time I saw him! I should have spoken less at rehearsals. We were only working on three songs because as I came to find out, this was the maximum number of songs per artist permitted at open mics. During rehearsal breaks (when I wasn’t singing) he’d either practice the melodies he’d composed for his Master’s thesis on his guitar or other songs. Sometimes he’d stop quickly and start playing the chords to a rock tune that his other band was going to perform in Sweden. Then, he’d play punk music although he preferred jazz, classic rock and metal. I loved hearing him play all genres of music and knowing this he’d change genre suddenly to impress me. Sometimes I’d incite him saying that he should play something “harder”! On these occasions he’d start singing with a really deep deathly voice that resembled “Death Metal”.

- Did you have fun in your live acts?

- Yes, I did. The guitarist was a good musician and friendly. The audience was warm, welcoming, supportive and kind. The first three songs played at the open mic were: “Times”, “Destiny” and “Technofoolishness”. Then, he suggested we switch the last song with “Too Much”. He especially liked the refrain in this song. In the streets, aside from humming the tune to “Destiny”, he also began humming the tune to “Too Much”. He didn’t know the lyrics so I’d sing and he’d come in at the refrain. One day, when we were on our way to a performance, he started humming something totally different. He did it during our entire 55 minute trip on foot, bus and underground! He’d stop and start again and found my expression of irritation amusing! I wanted to choke him!

- What was he humming?

- You couldn’t quite call it humming...He had finished classes at university and we went to rehearsal. When I took a short break, he’d start concentrating and immediately record some new idea he’d just gotten on his cell phone, playing it on the guitar so as not to forget it…probably something for his thesis. Then, he’d start this strange rhythmic count from one to eleven! Outside, after crossing the street, he’d start counting that sequence out loud endlessly. Can you imagine how many times I heard his counting in our 55 minute trip? Hundreds! If for some reason he’d stop, he’d say something to me, smile and I could almost read his mind, “You probably think I stopped the counting which made you roll your eyes in annoyance? Here I go again! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11”. He even counted on the underground on the train! At one point, I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. At this point he felt ignored and shut up. I smiled!

- You performed every day?

- Yes. Every day and in different places. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, there were not many places to perform in because weekends are usually reserved for bands since they usually attract more people. Yet, months would go by in which bands didn´t have any show booked. In London there are a lot of bands and so producers make it a point of diversifying them so that the audience doesn’t get bored and to guarantee fresh acts.

 

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