Second letter to Paco.
This one isn't easy to write for two reasons. One is that I am not a good enough writer to do it justice and the other is me having to re live the pain I experienced. Not easy. Nevertheless, I will give it a try.
As you know, I lived with Paca in a comfortable, one bedroom apartment in Madrid for two years. I believe it was late '77 to late '79. This was simply the best time of my life in terms of romance, music, friendship and rich cultural experience. SPAIN! The food, the music, the people, the alma! There is nothing better.
Sometime during the second year, I remember being in our bedroom practicing both classical and Flamenco guitar. Mostly Classical because I was beginning to feel as though I was trying to be something I could never be. That is, a gipsy. Flamenco is the music of the gipsies, as you well know.
A good analogy, for me anyway, is to imagine trying to sing and play Southern Blues if you are a white, middle class boy who has never known a black man and who has never been to the Southern States or in jail in the U.S.A.. Elvis did it. So far, as far as I know, he's the only one who has done it. The Stones and all the rest are just white boys pretending to be black men. OK, we can argue this, but in 1980, that's the way it looked to me, so I switched to Classical guitar from many years of playing Flamenco. I had to admit I wasn't a gipsy.
Also, the actual gypsies I met in Madrid were, thug-like dirtbags who scared the crap out of me. I felt as though, if I turned my back on them, they would hit me over the head and rob me.
So, one afternoon, Paca had invited a girlfriend over to our place for a chat. I was in our bedroom practicing diligently, which I did daily for 6 to 8 hours. Paca walked into the bedroom and asked me to come out and meet her friend. Her friend was a young Spanish beauty and was dressed elegantly and was very polite. She told me she was getting married in a few weeks and asked me if I would be willing to play the same music I was practicing that day at her wedding ceremony. I was flattered, surprised and eager to please. So, I said, "Sure. I'd love to".
She told me there would be a rehearsal in about a week, then a week after that the ceremony would be given by the Catholic Priest. She gave me directions to the church and told me what time to be there for rehearsal.
On the day of rehearsal, arriving at the church, I found that the structure was immense and the inside seemed even more impressive with stained glass windows on all of the walls. It was in central Madrid and it was massive!
I went in to meet the Priest, who had been told I would play on the wedding day and he shook my hand and took charge. He told me that I was to sit up in the balcony, behind the guests and, when the bride and groom walked in, I was to start playing my classical piece. When the happy couple reached the altar, I was to end my playing and sit quietly during the ceremony. Then, when it was over, I was to play the same piece again as the bride and groom walked down the aisle and out the huge doors and into their new, married life. The congregation was to follow them. "No big deal" I thought. I thanked the Priest, went up to check out my position in the balcony, returned to the ground floor and left.
I then rehearsed that piece one billion times. I rehearsed it in my sleep. I rehearsed it all day every day. I had it down. No problem.
The weather on the wedding day was perfect. In fact, everything was perfect. The flowers everywhere, the red carpet down the aisle, the polished religious paraphernalia . The sun through the stained glass. Everything perfect. I had arrived early in order to get comfortable up on my perch in the balcony. Then, the guests started to arrive.
The first thing I noticed was that they were all dressed in the most elegant, stylish gowns and suits I had ever seen. Next, several men arrived in military uniforms. Then, several men arrived wearing not only military uniforms, but those helmets that appeared to be worn by the chariot drivers in Ben Hur. The helmets with the brooms sticking up on top. "My God" I thought. "Who are these people?" In all my preparation for this event I never knew or imagined that Paca's girlfriend was in High Society and that all her friends and parents of friends were "Important" people. Politicians, soldiers, Generals, Gucci everywhere. Leather boots everywhere. Diamonds and rubies everywhere! Flowers everywhere. Some of the soldiers were even wearing swords! "Holy shit" I thought to myself. "This is serious!"
Author's note: I am not exaggerating any of this. This is a true story. Every detail is true.
Now, the congregation had arrived. The place was full. Probably 200 people in the audience. I began to sweat. None of them knew I was there! I was alone, up in the balcony and behind them all. I thought, "It's OK, I have practiced the piece a billion times." I continued to perspire.
After what seemed like an hour of silence, but was actually a few minutes, the Priest, who was up front at the altar, said something in Latin and in walked the bride and groom. This was my cue to begin to play. I played perfectly....for about twenty seconds.
Then, suddenly, my mind went blank. I stopped playing. My hands could not move because my mind was not telling them to do anything! I was frozen. Frozen with fear. All I saw was black. I stayed in the playing position, but I couldn't play. My brain was blank. The entire 200 people turned around, squinted up into the balcony and looked up at me. I can still remember the sound of their wardrobe, especially the swords, making a whooshing, metallic noise as they turned. They looked at me, alone in the balcony and I looked back at them, no expression on my face and frozen with my guitar ready to play. The bride and groom continued walking toward the Priest who was looking up at me and trying to figure out what had happened. The happy couple arrived at the altar, in silence.
The marriage ceremony took place perfectly of course. Now, it was time for the couple to walk back down the aisle and out into the world, married and with music! I simply could not make a sound. My hands were frozen. I was still in the playing position. I couldn't move. So, the bride and groom walked down that aisle, in total silence, as the audience alternately looked at them and up at me. It seemed to take them a year to walk down that aisle. The congregation followed them out, making that whooshing noise as they walked and they all looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and disgust etched on their faces. I will never forget that moment. I wanted to die. I honestly did.
I then waited for the Priest to leave and attempted to sneak out of a side door. This was a mistake. Just outside the door was the Priest talking to someone from the congregation. As I attempted to escape past him, he said, with a disgusted look, "Hey! What happened to you?" I replied, "Well, um, I don't know. Um, Sorry" and I ran home.
Sweet Paca never mentioned it. The girlfriend never called. I have always
wondered if she thought her marriage was incomplete or something. Not long
after the wedding, due to that experience and several others, I returned to
Los Angeles, immediately got a job as a 1st Assistant Director on a TV
series called Eight Is Enough and my life had changed forever.