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Observations on a New Life in Spain

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Spring 2020 – expat blues in the time of Covid 19 quarantine lockdowns – written from L.A. winter 2020.

15 December, 2022 (03:27) | Living in Europe | By: admin

17 fly here to L.A.
22 = go to writers club
5:00 date with Marcus to meet a young curator and dinner later
25 lydia lunch
26 – Marcus gender reveal performance
31 – Mark goes to visit Heather (his mom) for 5 days
5th – Art opening at the Broad
6-  Marley exhibit with Ivy
8 Mark visit Poppo Frank for 5 days
12 – Dinner with Nancye
16 -23 Hilo/my birthday, reunion with Surf Punk Drew and also sculptor Laszlo, both of whom had lost everything in the big volcano.
29 – leap year bbq
Go see a horse sculpture in L.A. located in the garage of Laszlo’s sister’s house.
3rd Mark thinks he has Covid, but its just a 3 day cold
8 – Joshua Tree, where we shoot 2 Guarro Martinez videos, the music recorded at Earthstar Studios, recorded, engineered and produced by John X Volaitis.
12 – After naming the horse sculpture by Laszlo I bought Pegasus, it is delivered to my 2nd floor terrace in Korea Town in L.A.
13 – cancel dinner with Zoos, 15 – cancel dinner with Lauren
18 – our flights home to Barcelona have been cancelled,

<b>- Lockdown -</b>

If you are reading this you are in lockdown. You are the lucky who have survived. You have entered
a 5th dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. 2020, the year humanity’s worst fears came to fruition.

Its name, Covid 19. Its origin, we are told, is it sprang into existence from a wet market in Wuhan China, from a bat soup or some such meal. This original animal to human bacteria became a virus more virulent than anything like it in over 100 years. From China the virus jumped to South Korea and then Italy, which is credited with contaminating the rest of Europe. Suddenly all countries are infected many are dying and the world has a burgeoning pandemic. No country is spared.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Mark and I are in quarantine in Los Angeles indefinitely. Our house sitter in Spain, Ricardo, is quarantined at our beach pad and girlfriend Cristina, who only planned to stay at our place for 3 days, is quarantined in our studio/apartent in Gracia, about 3 kilometers from our beach pad.

As I write this the whole world is in lockdown.


It all began… mid January we came out for an intended 2 month trip to L.A. We had a good itinerary:

AS I write this I am grieving, not just the loss of 2 dear friends this month, but of my life in Barcelona. Mark and I came to L.A. for an intended 2 month visit, to reconnect with family and old friends. Our first month was splendid, with a trip to Hawaii and a road trip to Joshua Tree. It was right around Joshua Tree that the Corona Virus started hitting the news big time. We all know the story – like a weird game of musical chairs, the world locked down and all countries went under quarantine. Many people found themselves trapped in countries where they were only meant to stay temporarily. Our flights back to Spain was cancelled. We are not allowed to leave this land of the free. We have been living in Barcelona for 15 years now and have to places. The funny part is that we have 2 friends in Barcelona, one was house-sitting for us, the other was meant to stay at our studio in Gracia for 3 days. They are both in lock-down at our places, which in a way is good for us in that no one will try to break in or squat at our places, but is really unfortunate for the friend in Gracia who had big plans that were totally aborted by the lock-down.
Everyone knows the story, how it started in Wuhan and spread to South Korea, Italy, Spain and then the USA, which reacted slowly and as a result the whole country went into crisis. STAY AT HOME, WASH YOUR HANDS became the new normal.

And now I grieve for our lost life, our happy, simple life full of doable goals and fun loving plans. I miss swimming and I miss all my lovely neighbors.

But let me digress and tell the story of the first part of our journey here in L.A., before Corona Virus was the only topic of conversation. We were so happy, Mark visited his parents up north, we had an awesome BBQ jam on Leap year, and an interesting trip to Hilo, Hawaii.

Part 1

2018 – The burgeoning year of Guarro Martinez

19 January, 2019 (10:22) | Living in Europe | By: admin

After I returned from my Skanksters reunion, Mark and I decided to start a rock band, which we named Guarro Martinez. In Spanish the word Guarro means a very rude or dirty person of low class, what we in America call white trash. Martinez is the name of the street in Gracia where we all lived at the time, and it has a good ring to it after the word Guarro. Thus the band name. Guarro Martinez. The idea we want to communicate with our band name is that we are not serious, earnest or defined by any one genre. We do hard rock, we do reggae, we do punk rock, we do tango, and in our current formation we do funky afro beat.

Original Guarro Martinez line-up

Miguel Diaz, Mark Lewis and Mona-Lia Ventress


We started out as a trio with Mark on lead guitar, our hipster friend Miguel on rhythm guitar and myself on keyboards, using our fancy looper to lay down the basic grooves.


We did a small gig in Barcelona and a bigger, well received show in Valencia, where we earned an unexpected 300 euros.


Guarro Martinez Los Angeles line-up

Mark Lewis, Mike Tempo, Paul Lacques, Lauren Wood and Mona-Lia Ventress


However, in the winter of 2018 Miguel moved to Finland with his girlfriend. So Mark and I escaped to LA with our dogs for 4 months and recruited a top level Guarro Martinez L.A. lineup, with Lauren Wood on drums, Mike Tempo on percussion, Paul Lacques on guitar (Mark calls him his brother from another mother) and Tom Nixon playing clarinet on one of the tracks. We recorded the following 3 tracks at with whizz kid engineer extroardinaire John X, who I’ve been working with since the 80’s, mastering the controls. When I think back, John X has touched, mixed or added to all my music projects to date.

If we moved back to LA we could have this top notch line-up, but as it were we just milked them for what we could and then returned home to Barcelona to find someone to replace Miguel. Life here in Spain is just too good. We knew if we kept at it, the right person would appear to play with us.

Guarro Martinez Los Angeles
We had a blast recording the following 3 songs and creating a video for each song.

La Moncha

is a song about all the weird and often off-putting things one finds in the sand on the beach in the summer in Barcelona:

Rain Song

is a tribute to Woodstock and also a parody of modern times, where people experience everything through their phones.

Feel My Body Throb

we filmed in Joshua Tree, at the jazz funeral of Hollywood icon Janet Cunningham, at Earthstar studios and at our place on 9th St. A lot of our friends are featured in this video, which gives it a special meaning to us. The verses are in Spanish, so we put English subtitles.


Guarro Martinez Barcelona 2019

Karafa Diatta, Mark Lewis and Mona-Lia Ventress


Once back in Barcelona, our friend of over 10 years, Karafa from Senegal joined us on Djembe and percussion. I have written about Karafa in the past, when he first moved to Barcelona in 2008. In 2009 Mark and I went to his village of Abene in Senegal for a music festival. I wrote 3 blog posts while there, but who knew that all these years later we would all play in a funky rock band? He’s the perfect fit.


SO far we haven’t played out in this combination, but we plan to start gigging in the spring, Meanwhile we are recording our rehearsals and making live mixes. Here are two such songs:

El Trol

(in Spanish)

Coming Home

Fuck You Susan

– video of a live rehearsal, a bit sloppy but fun.

Hombre Invisible

June of 2017 – The SKANKSTERS band 35 year reunion in L.A.

17 January, 2019 (01:05) | Living in Europe | By: admin


Selfie I took after my SKANKSTERS reunion gig (June 2017)

2 weeks after returning from Greece I flew solo to LA for the 35 year reunion of my band The Skanksters, who were popular in LA in the 80’s and 90’s. It was Roger Steffan’s 75th birthday.
Roger is a well known music producer, author, archivist and scholar who supported our band from the get go. His birthday is what inspired the band reunion. Back in the day he would often emcee in his deep, booming voice, announcing our band with infectious enthusiasm. We’d open for UB40, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear and other popular Jamaica influenced bands of the time.

Despite not having played together in so many decades, and despite the fact all us original members now live in different cities, and in my case, another country – with 4 rehearsals we pulled off two gigs. I recruited 2 of my hotshot LA guys to enhance our sound for the Cinema Club, and our friend Tommy videotaped that performance for us. It was great fun to get to relive my popular band experience, and a perk I had never expected from life.

Since this 2017 band reunion I’ve become more of a musician again, less of a writer. So just for the chronology of my blog and the chronicling of my projects, I post some of the songs we performed live at the Cinema Club in L.A. in June 2017:

Just like in the old days, we opened with an instrumental, called Rastasurfari:

Classic Skanksters song, I FEEL RUDE tonight

Microwave Babies is one of the first songs I’ve ever written. Although originally I wrote it for this band, later when I joined DEVO spin-off band, Visiting Kids, I gave them the song and this is how it sounded then, with Bob Mothersbaugh on guitar:

Original Skankster guitarist Kyle Johnson wrote the SKANKSTERS hit called “What I Got”. Here it is, 35 years later…:

Bass player Arlo Zoos sings the next song

She also sings our L.A: theme song:

It was so fun to relive the height of my youth in this way. Since then, having seen myself back on video, I went back to Barcelona and shed 20 pounds.

Our drummer Alibob also wrote and sings a song which I leave you with. Its a bit long, but its great too, about the man named Mehmet Adja who shot the pope: