Arco, non possiamo partire

Ploy told me I must go to Arco for the rocks. So we went. We found rocks. We also found the nicest, most perfect and most generous host ever, named Roberto. Roberto has many jobs. One of his “offices” is at the top of a 2300 meter mountain, as the chef of a refugio there. Another office is in the gorgeous lake of Garda, where he teaches sailing. Another is at his home – engineering work. He’s a cartographer. He organizes tours to Iceland and Scotland… He leads a pretty magical existence. We didn’t see him all that often as he’d wake up at 8 to work all day in the lake, then rush back to do some enginering, then off again for a meeting on his boat, then a party of some kind. We broke his washing machine and he tried to get away with having us not pay for it. But we did.

Arco proved impossible to leave. One day world class climbing, one day stupendous hiking, climbing, hiking, climbing… and it being Italy, we even had food to consume. Though admittedly nothing mindblowing. Arco could have been a perfect place to busk, I think, with the plethora of climber tourists (all Germans, because Germans) the beautiful walking street (there are about 5 streets in the town), and the gorgeous weather. Unfortunately I never got around to it, as we generally got back home past midnight after our outdoorsy activities and searches for sustenance.

Italians live so beautifully. So fully. Ever night for our week in Arco, there was a festival or celebration or concert of some kind. For a town of 10,000 or so. Many of these events involved music. A vegan festival with buskers, for instance, who played “occidental” music awfully and were getting all the tips – made me feel extroardinarily bitter about that part of busking – if a group of westerners appropriates ancient “world” music from the “east” into an awful mishmash of stereotyped sounds played extraordinarily badly, they get tips for being different, and cool, and authentic. If an easterner plays ancient western music (say Bach), well and tastefully, no one really cares. Yes, I am bitter. But even Brent said that I play way, way, way better than the trio droning away on some awful gypsy/persian/russian mix tune, or the Heng and Harp players (who plucked/banged at random), the jazz band that couldn’t keep time, and nights later the pop group that couldn’t sing in tune, in time, or even in words. Sometimes the world likes to remind you how stacked it is. How the privilege of being born an inoffensive colour pervades everything. It made me understand why I’ve never met a solo black traveler in all my years wandering. My stereotypes are positive, on the whole. How much would it suck to have to travel with suspicions and fear. Could a black person busk in Europe?

Another note, spurred by a night of youth music in Arco: isn’t it fascinating how much money and resources we will happily invest into youth art and music? We will happily pay quite a lot of money for tickets to youth butchering classics. Then, at some arbitrary age when youth are no longer counted as youth, we stop the support. Seems a bit backward. We support the untrained music and not the true experts. I felt very happy to witness so many opportunities for musicians in Arco. I only wish some of these opportunities went to actual musicians.

In between the climbing, cycling, hiking, being terrified on via ferrata ing, drawing, and eating, I did find some opportunities to practice and perform. Another couchsurfer in Arco (who couldn’t host us), Monica, comes from an extraordinarily musical family. We spent a lovely afternoon eating risotto with them and playing their various instruments and hearing them sing. That morning, Monica met us by the castle, where I played violin in front of one of the most gorgeous vistas of all time for the others who happened to wander up to. I first asked permission from the nearby food stall, which was granted very enthusiastically. I played most everything, even mucking around on the Chaconne and Ysaye Sonatas. The tourists nearby dallied until we left, applauding me after songs though I wasn’t performing for them on purpose. More to practice and enjoy the wonderful place. Monica sang Stand By Me with me. Two women stayed nearby a long time, watching and listening. A large group of Germans enjoyed Ue Wo Muite Arukou. Many bravos from the few Italians who came up. All in all a very lovely unintentional money-free busking experience. Afterwards I did some cartwheels.

Earnings: 0€, 40 minutes

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