There were seven of us.
Seven whiney ass Americans travelling across Central Europe.
Whiney we were, compared to the punk kids, from lower income families spread across Slovenia, Czech Republic, Italy, and here, now, in Spain.
Most of the kids we played to lived in squats, dumpster diving to feed themselves.
Diving to conjure up the giant meals, sometimes three courses, contracted as part of our tour rider.
We travelled through the evening, always late to where we were going.
Oddly enough, our only real responsibility was to get “there” on time, wherever there might be.
That night we were behind, having blown the afternoon outside of Bilbao Spain, swimming off the coast in freezing waters, climbing the natural monoliths that float like giant heads within wading distance of the shore.
We climbed those rock faces, careful not to slip on the white streaks of sea-bird shit, to peer at the topless girls lining the beach.
We, the culture shocked young Americans, just breaking from our teens.
We, four weeks in, on a six week tour.
The sun cooked us inside the van, our skin beet red, none of us having entertained the idea of sun block.
The brisk, ubiquitous sea-breeze offered some sort of recourse as we barreled, windows down, along the highway. Old Spanish castles passed on our left, once sacked by Moors, their facade’s illuminated by street lights.
The scene: a juxtaposed grandiosity against the barrenness of surrounding cropland.
We drove on, packaged tight, five hours to Valencia.
Pulling into the sandy parking lot of the venue, we found it to be a shell of an old Spanish style home.
The home, bare bones in its heyday, the sandblasted brick walls struggling to support a terra cotta roof.
Inside, candles were lit next to a wooden platform serving as a stage.
Here, was where we would perform.
Greeted by a group of bright eyed squatters, in broken English they thanked us for making the trek.
In separate courses, on separate trays, they brought out our dinner.
Sitting on a circle of burnt stumps, we ate, using a pair of Marshall guitar cabinets as tables.
Midnight was the unofficial time to set up: the universal witching hour for obnoxious, discordant punk rock.
By candlelight we wheeled our equipment into the dusty carapace and lifted each piece carefully onto the foot high, makeshift stage.
Plugging our amps into a single power strip, we simultaneously flipped the switches on to nothing.
But it was to be expected. Power often rigged, illegally from an outside source.
Laying down our instruments, we followed the cord out of the shanty. Meandering across the sandy parking lot, it dipped underneath the dirt in several spots, until, at the end, it laid in front of an adjacent house.
Coiled up, the cord, our conduit to power, propped like a snake ready to strike.
Less than ten feet in front of it, on the house’s porch, was an elderly woman in her nightgown. As if it were mid day, she ceaselessly swept the facade.
Busying herself, her activities were a not so subtle gesture guarding her outdoor light socket.
Looking around the squat, those punks, embarrassingly inconspicuous, waited patiently for the woman to go to bed.
But she never did.
The humidity, blown in by sea, rolled in thick.
Sand sticking to us, our skin like fly paper.
The squatter punks huddled around us, “lo siento” they said repeatedly, “lo siento.”
Having cut a plastic jug in half, they handed it over. At the bottom, collected in a small pile was seventy pesetas, enough cash to get us up the east coast of Spain.
Defeated, we slumped back into the space, loaded our equipment, and readied ourselves to drive cross country.
Thanking our hosts, saying goodbye, we sauntered towards the elderly neighbor.
Still sweeping diligently, she lifted her head: a last look at those guilty of causing her insomnia.
A last look at all seven of us as we surrendered.
We travelled late through the night, to converge on the next city of opportunity.