Uncommon Ground
Volume 4 Book 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 14)

On the steps of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ]  [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]  [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

May 23-25, 2005.
Alexandra, Barcelona & A New Review.
Alexandra Billings has moved to Los Angeles and I am so excited! Readers might remember that Alexandra played "Vicki" in our Chicago staged reading of TLS. I totally fell in love with her voice and with her intensity on stage. She kept telling me she wasn't a rock singer and felt embarrassed by her rendition of "Somebody's Friend," but let me tell you, she took that song and sold it. I have, ever since then, wanted to work with her. And now she's here! And she lives only five minutes from me!

We got together and had a great discussion. The song she was most interested in is "You Are A Stranger" from The Big Voice, a solo Jimmy sings so beautiful a few moments before "How Do You Fall Back In Love?"

The problem with having song in that position is that "How Do You Fall" is so big, it tends to overshadow the quiet, reflective "Stranger." In fact, though Alexandra had seen TBV in Chicago, she thought "Stranger" was a new song.

She had asked me, on the phone, "WHAT is that INCREDIBLE new song you added in Act Two that Jimmy sings?"

"What new song?"

"Just before 'How Do You Fall?'"

We met and I found a good key for her. Then I made her sing it about five times in a row. And wow. It's so nice to hear it in a female register. And with Alexandra's tough-edged alto, she brought acres of pain into it. Honestly, I was overwhelmed to the max.

The next day she wrote, "I'm really looking forward to doing an evening of Steve's Songs. I'm really excited about singing your gorgeous stuff. I don't get the style, but I get you. Does that make sense? I get your sense of survival and I get the pain and the joy. We are so different the two of us, but musically, it's like you write directly to me or something. I can't really explain it, or I'll sound a bit sappy. But it's true. There's a magic in what you write."

I was thinking that there was magic in how she sang. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a match!

She's also very funny. She told me she has written a one-woman autobiographical musical about her life where she plays all the people surrounding her in her life, but not herself.

"Why don't you play yourself?"

"I didn't want to be in it," she said, which made me laugh out loud.

Okay, back to the vacation diary and Barcelona!

(May 6-7, 2005.

Near the waterfront in Barcelona.

Columbus stands atop a spire.

We arrived in Barcelona for an overnight stay with an old friend of Jimmy's, Chuck, who used to design all the sets for the Norman Lear comedies (along with lots of other stuff). Chuck is now retired and living part time in Barcelona with his partner, Jorge, a Cuban expatriot, and their three big dogs. They live in Citges, which is a resort town north of Barcelona.

Barcelona is another city I have never really thought about much. All I knew was that it hosted an Olympics. Well, this city! What a beautiful place this is. The main streets are wide, with buildings cut back on the corners so that you never feel overwhelmed. The sun was shining, there were trees down all the boulevards -- and the old architecture is being restored.


Chuck said, "Spain, ever since it joined the EU, has seen tons of money being poured into it. There is a huge housing boom. It's very free here. 500 cable channels from all over Europe in many languages, modern infrastructure upgrades, better highways than in the United States. It's like the US in the 30s and 40s. Free, growing, optimistic, modern, young. Young people everywhere. A growing middle class."

Indeed, the streets were packed with young people. The stores were full of high fashion, the streets were lined with street performers, markets, salespeople, displays, art, museums and theatre.

We had to visit the spectacular Gaudi cathedral which is still being built after 100 years or more. Gaudi was from Art Nouveau school of architecture that was flamboyant and almost cartoonish in its overachieving. In fact, this cathedral, the El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, has to be seen to be believed.

Sagrada Familia.
Sagrada Familia, from a distance.

It almost looks like it melted in the sun.

Closer up, notice the green tree sculpted into the top in the middle.

Close-up view of the tree and the sculpted birds fluttering around it.

On top of another spire is a bowl of fruit.

From the other side.

The sculptures are modern on this side.

The tops of the spires.

Inside, the vaulting roof is made to look like golden trees.

We also toured the medieval section of the city, which was also spectacular.

As we made our way out of Barcelona to Citges, Chuck continued, "And gay people can get married here! I can tell you this. In America we always say how free we are, but you don't get half the news in the US as we do here. When I go back home to Florida, I watch the empty networks. War? There's a war on? The media is freer here. In the US, censorship might not be government-imposed, but it's controlled by a few, tight corporations. The companies make it less free."

For him, Spain is what America used to be.

Citges, Spain.

It was interesting to hear all this because when I got back to the ship and read the news digest we get delivered every day, the top story was how the Republican Senate is joining up with the religious fundamentalists. Dr. James Dobson railing on about how the judgeships are the "last refuge" of the liberals, as if being liberal was akin to being aligned with Satan. Half the news on this little hand-out was little more than celebrity gossip featuring names I never heard of and didn't care about.

Meanwhile, another state is passing laws making it illegal for gay people to even have civil unions, never mind marriage. Suddenly, the US feels like it's falling under a dark cloud of religious theocracy and conservative media control. The America I always thought I was living in seems to be moving out of the US and into Europe.

Chuck also said, "The people here love Americans, by the way. They just hate the Bush administration."

That was a relief. I hate the Bush administration, too. Funny how they're fighting for a secular government in Iraq while fighting for a theocracy here in the U.S.

Next: Bishop Jim makes an appearance in L.A. & our European tour continues.

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ]  [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]  [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ]
© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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