“Most people playing don’t attract that kind of a crowd, but they were an absolutely amazing band,” said LAPD Sgt. Kris Werner, who was on duty that night. “It’s probably my first time coming across street musicians who were so popular.”
- The Los Angeles Times
The Story as Told in Excerpts from M. Benkelman's Forthcoming Biography
Suspended Bridges: The Engineering of a Fantasy
Some time ago, in the encroaching mountains of Serbia or Tennessee, two brothers shared a quixotic dream: to build a new bridge from Turkey to Europe. The bridge, lined with tapestries and populated by a thousand great white birds, would soar over the Mediterranean sea. During their traverse, commuters would be flanked by low-growing patches of colorful flora. The bridge would be a swath of color and light, a paintbrush stroke between continents, bridging cultures, binding civilizations. On each independence day of every independent polity (because, they hoped, such celebrations ought to be universal) grandiose displays of fireworks would erupt from the bridge and the Christmas (yes Christmas, for the brothers grew up too long without one) lights would crawl across the bridge like festive veins of ivy on the eves of all the world's favorite holidays on or around December 25th.
Pleased by their idea, the brothers set off with considerable alacrity to sell rare, forgotten and unclaimed music in the streets, that they may raise the funds (approximately $85 billion would certainly do) by the generosity (monetarily speaking) of the persons whose lives they one day hoped to improve.
While journeying south and west in hopes of finding a venerated yet loathed - depending, that is, upon one's perspective and motive - Moroccan bridge builder whose inventions and discoveries in the field of arcs and geometric spanning had shaken the foundation upon which Europe's most architectural minds were, until recently, so precariously perched; and which architect, quite unfortunately lacked the sharp and wary tongue that is required if one is to spread open the gilded fingers of each continent's investors and thus lived in squalor and solitude, far from men. Along the way, deep in the south of Spain, in the caves of the Sacramonte, the two brothers chanced upon their cousin Daniel, a pugilist and flute maker, whom they had not seen since their uncle's wedding, during which blows had been exchanged, blood and wine spilt, gifts ungiven; concluding with the deep respect and love between the two families being forever dashed upon the bouldery rift that now lay before the scowling patriarchs. As unyielding as mountains was their stony, paternal pride.
He was eager to join his cousins on their mission but unable to reason with his father's bitter wishes ("no Petrovich of mine shall ever again even in his own mind speak of a Petrojvic") and so with but one exasperated tear in his eye, Daniel bade farewell to his home - the home whose walls had soaked up and made soft condensation of the familiar sounds of youth, pressing through earth and stone towards his deepest roots; the home whose door had each day opened with a cool exhalation, pressing back the incessant glare of the sun for an exhilerating moment as if spreading a curtain, baring the heat-painted panorama of masonry and minarets and the wide, roaring sea, which clambered up the sloping rocks, taking from them slowly and drowning the stories caught between their layers with its steady, booming sighs.
Far below now and nearly all the way to the shaded bend of the last switchback, past which he would forever lose sight of his town - his bay with the sea cradled and half-tamed in its arms, his cliffs and the brilliant patch of sky they, the cliffs, cutting so sharply & forcefully upward so that they seem to have been carved out especially for him - Daniel turned back to take it all in one last time: his youth, his home, and finally the faint figure of his father, barely distinguishable from a tree, who leaned against the light blue door bolted to the cave's white, wrinkled mouth with an imperceptible shadow passing over his face as the smoke curled heavily from his pipe.
Turning away, so that now his ears could make their final pass over the scene (how hastily it all fades), Daniel thought he heard somewhere amid the upward gush of the sea and the still, hot city and the scuttle of wind over stone and brittle bush; on some audible plane nestled between the sound of one's thinking and the sound of wings, he thought he heard his father mumbling the vulgar song of almost endless curses that now, under certain conditions, vibrate in his own throat just so perfectly.
The wind pushed the three boys backwards as they walked, mostly in silence and somewhat apart. Occasionally two would catch each other's stride, sharing for a brief moment the thoughts that pursued and absorbed them. Sharing for briefer moments their voices - rivulets of thoughtless, vibrating air - guiding one another to safety somewhere above or below their uncertainty. They invented a vocabulary for the mundane things: a simple, low and highly expressive tongue that reduced their small talk to its most nonsensical and essential molecules. Over the graver issues they fought mundanely but viciously, seeking disagreement where there was none imaginable, testing one another for the sake of noise, that it may wash out what the waves brought rushing in, the cold and mysterious future, the steadily eroding past, the indiscernibly whispered answers to their cacophonous longings and questions.
Photo By: Yiftach Belsky