Monalia's World

Observations on a New Life in Spain

Skip to: Content | Sidebar | Footer

The Unsung Heroes of Barcelona

19 July, 2014 (09:54) | Living in Europe | By: admin

These are the unsung heroes of Barcelona. These government employees, in fluorescent attire, are always seen cleaning up the grounds, beaches, parks, streets, water. Dressed in bright green, they are always in the background, especially early in the mornings, combing the beaches for flotsam and sweeping the boardwalk of debris.

We’ve been living here almost 8 years now and we’ve seen our beach evolve from a coast littered with flotsam from the big boats (tampons, toiletries, sometimes rats…), the beaches themselves addled with pickpockets and party revelers coming down from a night partying, to a respectable beach where, thanks to petty crime clampdown we no longer witness muggings or pickpocket events on a daily basis. In fact, I haven’t seen *any* pickpocket crimes at all this year. Phenomenal! I just love that this city is always pulling itself up by its bootstraps and taking pride by maintaining its natural resources.

One day Quixote and I rode a bike to his favorite fetching pond, normally littered with cigarette butts and dead leaves, and found the following unsung hero cleaning it up

All the water got sucked into this vehicle, the pond was swept and then the water is put back in.

This is a pond my dog Quixote and I often ride a bike to and photograph him fetching balls from it. The above unsung hero drained the pond, cleaned the bottom and then refilled it. I was impressed, when a few days later I returned to a sparkling clean pond:

Quixote’s favorite pastime is fetching balls and sticks from this well maintained pond.

On a separate bike ride I encountered this park maintenance vehicle, which I’ve noticed before but on this day found it in use. The worker who drives this vehicle obviously has kept his sense of humor with his skull wearing sunglasses decorating touch… He’s a hard worker, filling up the back of the truck with newly mowed grass. I see this one distinctive Parks and Recreation truck driving around Barceloneta all the time.

This is the little clean-up boat that collects floating junk from tourists, weather, cruise ships, et al. It does an amazing job. Our beaches are cleaner this year than ever, and the water is miraculously clear for such a big city as Barcelona.

Throughout the city these workers are always busy cleaning, repairing, laying down pavement, you name it. Here’s a quick snap I just now shot for this blog, of some city workers repaving our road in Gracia. The days of tripping and falling over loose cobblestones are over. Although one could argue that getting rid of the cobblestones takes away a bit of the old world European charm, I must admit when we first moved here people tripping on loose cobblestones was an everyday occurrence, it happened to me once and I was lucky not to have broken any bones.

Unsung heroes paving our street in Gracia.

Last winter we had some big storms that washed a lot of sand onto the boardwalk; not to worry – the unsung heroes will clean it up:

I’ve been meaning to write something about these unsung heroes for awhile now – just a small recognition that some of us notice and appreciate their efforts to make our city into a first rate, safe destination for visitors.

Cleaning up amidst the overnight party revelers on the beach on a typical early Sunday morning.

Thank you unsung heroes!

To give this blog another whimsical level, I recorded on Iphone audio of Q. wrastling me for the ball if you click on the link.

Flip side of winter in L.A.

2 July, 2014 (05:53) | Living in Europe | By: admin

View from my piano as I look out the window and play it.

My Baldwin Baby Grand piano lives here full time. Its the first piano I’ve ever played and has been in the family since I was 4 years old. Luckily I’ve managed to hang on to it all these years. Mark has a sonorous classical flamenco guitar he leaves here as well. They have been patiently awaiting us and the reunion feels like magic.

I play a medley of Beethoven, Brahms, Schuman and Bill Evans, strung together by my own compositions, written and played only on that piano. Its an emotional reunion for me – tears roll down my cheek as I play. I miss my mother – L.A. Is just weird without her. For the last 10 years all my visits to Los Angeles have been centered around her availability. I miss her, and cry, and play my soul to the Hollywood sign. Its going to take some emotional adjustment on my part to be thankful instead of sad. And I sure have a lot to be thankful for.

I begin practicing and playing my scales and arpeggios . What a wonderful instrument! Suddenly I feel like a musician again. The Baldwin faces a big picture window with a pristine view of the Hollywood sign.

My favorite pastime is to play whatever comes through my fingers as I am playing. I can only do this when alone though, so I find myself waiting for Mark to go out to do errands so I can lose myself in music like I did as a child. Its only this piano, which I first played when I was 4 years old, that brings forth such inspired music from me.

My family used to entertain on this piano at parties, though I was the only one who took to playing it. Sometimes my mom threw big gala events and sometimes just an informal dinner. My piano was always in use at these happenings, for after a delicious meal with plenty of good wine someone invariably would start playing the piano and singing. Most of our guests were either Italian or else they were my Dad’s clients (often one and the same).

One memorable evening in the early 60’s Benito Mussolini’s son Romano was a guest at our house. He was a jazz pianist, had nothing to do with Il Duce other than being his youngest son. We were told he was married to the sister of Sofia Loren, which had all our imaginations going. We were disappointed when a very fat Romano Mussolini showed up at the door. He had big moles on his face and was wearing big, unattractive, round glasses. He was accompanied by a squatty, square shaped wife with a sharp pitched edgy voice, who bore no resemblance at all to her famous, voluptuous sister Sofia. My sister and I were expecting a more glamorous looking couple. But once he sat down to play the piano, I must say he did a pretty darn good boogie woogie, for an Italian. It was fun. We were told he was a well known jazz pianist.

I just love these modern times we live in; As I write this blog I am able to come up with links and info to fill in the info about Mussolini’s son that I was too young to have known when he graced out home. Romano Mussolini There are also several YouTube videos of him. Cool.

A more frequent guest at my mom’s soiree’s was Italian well known (in Italy) crooner Renato Carosone, considered among the greatest figures of the Italian music scene in the second half of the 20th century. He would gregariously sit at the piano and bray … I mean sing his repertoire of lively songs, which many of the ladies knew by heart. It could get quite lively when he played. Here I just found this YouTube video of him which looks to be filmed in the early 60’s. This video brings it all back to me:


A few weeks into our stay in L.A we have a visit by our friend and Partners in Rhyme assistant, Jordi, from Barcelona.

The visit is brief but fun – fun to show off our L.A. lifestyle to a buddy like Jordi. He jumps onto my piano and jams with Mark.

1) Sitting around the BBQ deck with Jordi 2) Later Sol comes up to see our place and for a photo op. We wish he could stay longer, but even just the one afternoon was a magical one. We don’t have nearly as many friends in Barcelona as we do here in L.A., but the ones we do have are phenomenal and we’re lucky to have them.


Winter in L.A. with Public Storage Jam Sessions

23 June, 2014 (12:10) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Hello from Los Angeles

We land at LAX, where we take a shuttle to our rent a car. This is my dog Quixote’s second trip to USA – he’s more well traveled than most people are. We will remain in L.A. for 5 months to see how it has changed over the years, to hook up with old friends and band mates, visit family, try to get some jam sessions going and to also see if we’d ever consider moving back. Although we’re both from Los Angeles, Mark and I haven’t lived here in almost 15 years. We don’t know how we’ll feel – I for one am feeling a bit anxious at how long we are staying, but I know we need to do this. Also, we need to furnish our recently inherited apartment and make it homey and fun. Our new winter getaway…

Christmas 2013

We arrive a few days before Christmas and invite some of our friends to come celebrate an orphan Christmas with us. A handful of my oldest friends show up, which is a comfortable reintroduction to the giddy social life here. Mark happily mans the grill. And dances. Yes, we’re jet lagged, but when has that ever gotten in the way of fun?

Mark’s pre-BBQ dance moves on Dec. 24. He’s happy to be in L.A.

Despite chronic jet lag, earlier this morning Mark went “Christmas Shopping” at the Guitar Center, which was having a 50% CHRISTMAS BLOW OUT SALE. He came home with a mixed bag of on sale instruments for friends to play, including a $200 bass and bass amp deal package, plus a few fancy gizmos for guitar effects and vocals. He even came home with an auto-tuner that will make anyone sing perfectly in pitch. I’m sure this will come in handy for our future jam sessions. We decide to wrap all the presents, put them under the Christmas tree and have our guests open the presents and play them if they are inspired, thus introducing his big idea to have assorted instruments around for guests to play but not take home. Our friends are at first perplexed and then amused. We have two bass player friends over for Christmas turkey supper (yum!) who try out and approve our new bass rig set-up. Everyone agrees he got a deal.

Christmas Day snapshops of friends:

1) Our Xmas Tree 1) Friend and fellow scenster from the 80′s, Phast Phreddie

Arlo Zoo, former bass player/bandmate from my Band The SKANKSTERS

1) Our first BBQ with friends. 2) Christmas Eve susnset viewed from our deck.


Mark wants to get a jam band going here in L.A. and has a great angle; we’ll invite our accomplished and mostly successful musician friends over for a BBQ and a jam if they’re up for it. We’ll provide the instruments. I brought one of my 2 Roland JX8P keyboards back with me from Barcelona and will leave it here. And Mark brought one of his electrical guitars, having gotten an amp on his visit last July. We also brought our sampler drum machine in case no drummers show up. So we’re all set. We will call the jam band “Public Storage” because all the instruments will be stored here. Our first big jam will be on New Years Eve. I invite everyone I’ve ever known and am friends with on Facebook, as did Mark. We have no idea what to expect.

New Years Eve 2014

Auld Lang Sang

Our New Year’s party has quite a turnout, with some real unexpected show-ups, like Lee Curreri (remember the movie and TV show FAME?) and Mark’s former Visual Effects supervisor in NZ, Jim Rygiel ((multi Oscar award winner) . Our first jam is chaotic, loud and fun. Welcome 2014!

1- With Henry Peck (goo Salon) 2 – with Joel 3 – Mark and Lee Curreri 4- Arlo Zoos

1 – Lauren Wood on drums, Lee Curreri on keyboards. 2- Henry Peck and me. 3 – me with Lauren Wood. 4 – Azalia Snail

Ivy Ney with friends, Lauren and Paul Mars Black

New Years Eve jam was such a success, we begin having a BBQ/jam every few weeks, inviting different musicians every time. This is what I will miss most when we go back to Spain.


After several weeks here, I must say, I find L.A. to be more welcoming than I had imagined it would be. I had expected that having been gone so long, everyone would forget me. Instead, friends are always calling with invites to cool events and they come to our jam/parties. I am touched by what a big, wide, warm and wonderful reception by old friends and peers we have gotten since being here.

Los Angeles itself is a bit kooky. For example, one Sunday they closed off Wilshire Blvd. to automobile traffic for a day they called Ciclavia. People are encouraged to walk or ride their bikes down Wilshire, between Fairfax and Downtown. We got our old clunker bikes out of storage and cleaned up for the event. Here’s a few snapshots:

Tommy and Quixote are ready to go:

DJ over the freeway

We have a total of about 6 jam sessions in the 5 months we are in L.A., pulling together friends who haven’t seen each other (or us) in decades. Many of the musicians I threw together to jam had never met each other before. Some of the sessions are rockin’ others were more reggae and one of them even went the country direction for awhile. Everyone enjoyed out gourmet BBQ’s

Musician friends meet each other over a BBQ and jam if they feel so inclined.

1- Tina and Nancye hadn’t seen each other in about 20 years. (Check out the book Nancye is holding up). 2 – Reunion with our third original Partner in Rhyme founder, John X.

1- Scarlet Rouge. 2 – Cliff Martinez

1 – More jamming 2 – Nancye with Bob Mann

1- Mark has known Mari since he was a kid. It was quite a reunion. 2 – Jordi Klemperman-

Jann Karam is one of my funniest girlfriends. 2 – Blake and Kenny.

With all the above photos you get the idea. I have a lot more I’m not sharing here and now, but if you’re one of my long lost friends or simply want to see all the Public Storage BBQ/Jam photos, they’re all up on my facebook page.

We were so busy playing and organizing these sessions that this is the only little iphone video clip I have of our jams, but it does capture the spirit:


I end this L.A. part 1 blog with some amazing sunset shots taken from our decks. Plus 2 photos of the “Blood Red” eclipse of the moon:

Blood Red Eclipse