Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eurotrip 2: Mainz's Minstrels

(This was written on May 20, 2010)

Today, the scene in the floor kitchen, I am convinced, came straight out of an American film about student/youth life in Europe. As I was walking up the stairs to my third floor room, and heard loud guitar music, I stopped by each doorway on my way from the staircase trying to figure out from where the noise was coming. As I passed the shared kitchen, I realized I had found the source. Curious, and looking for an excuse to walk into the kitchen, I rushed back to my room and grabbed two carrots, some cherry tomatoes, and a quarter of a kohlrabi, and returned to spend fifteen minutes washing them.

When I opened the door, I saw two guys around my age holding guitars, sitting around the dining room table. One was laying down a chord progression with what seemed to my inexperienced ear sort of a Latin groove, the other whipping out some pretty sick riffs on top of it. The one laying down the chord progression had a shaggy mop of blond hair, and the other greasy dark brown hair down to his shoulders, scruffy facial hair and glasses (think Severus Snape after a week in Azkaban and having his wand broken). Both had cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and, from the looks of their ashtray, they had already been through about half a pack of them. The one with the long hair and the riffs seemed to be getting really into it, closing his eyes and violently contorting the face half hidden by his long hair and the haze of smoke surrounding them which, coupled with the late afternoon sun coming through the windows behind them, made them seem pervertedly angelic.

When I walked in, I greeted them with the usual “Hallo!” + nod. The response I received from the one with the chords was the snarl of a brooding artist. The other seemed too wholly immersed in his art to give me the time of day, which was fine with me, since I was enjoying their music very much. When they stopped after a few minutes, they gave me much friendlier nods. (I attributed their rudeness to my interrupting their jam session.) Then, they said something to the girl at the stove in a language I could not identify but that sounded vaguely like the Bosnian that some of the students in my high school used to speak. She seemed to be cooking for all three of them (unless she was planning to eat 8 potatoes, a bunch of spinach, and a pot of boiled barley on her own). They then kept playing, Severus now retiring to chords and his friend doing the equally-as-inspired improvisation atop it. After taking 5 minutes to peel each of my carrots and another five minutes to wash my tomatoes and cut my kohlrabi, I figured I could no longer stay in the kitchen without someone getting suspicious. So I retreated to my room, made a sandwich of some ham and cheese and exceptionally dense bread that I had bought a few days before, and sat down to my dinner of salad and sandwich. I left my door cracked so that I could hear the minstrels down the corridor

A sandwich, 2 carrots, a quarter of a kohlrabi, some cherry tomatoes, a dollop of fig jam, a spoonful of Nutella, and a few swigs of Mezzo Mix later, (I had skipped lunch) I returned to the kitchen to wash my dishes. Now, there was another man, who seemed to only have stopped by for a cigarette or two because, after he finished the one in his mouth, he stood up and they exchanged goodbyes in heavily accented German. Being a non-native speaker (and hardly a “speaker” at all) and thus insensitive to the nuances of the language, rest assured that if I noticed the accent, it was heavily accented. He left and, not wanting to be known for my unnecessarily long dish- and vegetable- washing sessions (I was now pushing 10 minutes for a bowl, plate, and knife), I did too.

Part of me wished I had brought a guitar so I could sit down with them and jam. The other part of me wished I knew how to play the guitar. Indeed, I had walked into the floor lounge my freshman year at the University of Iowa to other jam sessions, but I am confident that none of them were as much of a Spanish (?) guitar, Gaulloise-in-mouth experience. (And, indeed, the campus no-smoking rule structurally precludes any such experience.) These guys were really talented, as in, why-are-you-wasting-your-time-in-university-when-you-should-be-opening-for-Eric-Clapton-on-tour talented. Maybe tomorrow evening I will walk in on an impromptu a cappella session (hold the cigarettes). That would be serendipity, now wouldn’t it?

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