The building’s four stories were shunned by a thousand more inside it. Straight rock and roll, heavy metal, punk, psychedelic and alternative were common currency in the labyrinthic rock brewery right beside the Chacarita cemetery. The three or four bands that resided monthly on each floor were poorly soundproofed, and the utter noise obfuscation contrasted bleakly with their much quieter neighbour.
If you payed enough, you could get a room on the top floor, which was arguably a blessing or a curse. The good: on top of the rehearsal room you got either a balcony or a terrace. The bad: you had to climb up four stories for anything: to get in, to get out, to get a bathroom, to get a beer, to get a smoke. The ugly: if any disaster occurred, you’d be facing your death. Your neighbour would be happy to have you, though.
A basic fire escape plan was obviously nonexistent, which prompted a torrent of black and white paper signs that were like knives in a gunfight, they read: “NO SMOKING IN REHEARSAL ROOMS”; after some beers and some smokes, if attention was fixed anywhere, it wasn’t on them, but on climbing up the stairs successfully—not even safely.
The building was probably built 70 or 80 years ago, and it might have housed a flock of starving immigrants and their big families, or a bunch of low-lives. The fact is no-one knew the current owner, and the state of the place painted him as nothing but a squatter. The original architecture didn’t support its current use and many extra hallways and rooms were built sloppily for that purpose; rest assured that an architect wasn’t hired to overview the reform.
When you got in the building, you climbed up a flight of stairs which led to what could be pretentiously described as a kitchen, but was only a collection of chairs, a table, a hot dog cooker and bun steamer, and a big fridge filled with cheap, ice-cold beer bottles. The windows were blocked out, so that the inside had no connection with the outside. It could have been midnight or noon, but the dim incandescent lights would never let you know. The underachieving housekeeper was rolling some joints as he drank with his friends, unaware of who came in or out; every band had the keys for their rehearsal space. In the adjoining room was a lounge—again, a bit of an overstatement—that was comprised of three couches that might as well have been found on the streets and brought in; there was also a small coffee table for beers and a larger table up against the wall, which was used either as a couch or a chair. The rest of the decoration was eclectic, just like a hoarder’s house. Off in the corner was a rusty washing machine, and right beside it was an armrest that somberly resembled one you would use for donating blood. The whole scene could easily be the setting for a cheap slasher movie.
After a long, four-hour rehearsal, a band came out of their vampiresque retreat and filled the lounge with a much-needed sense of life. The bandmates drank ice-cold beer—the only (payed) amenity the building had—in the lounge that reeked of cheap weed and cigarette smoke. The lights were dim; and the smoke suffocating. Their conversation had a solid start but meandered into a loop of self-compliments and dreams of grandeur. The housekeeper went through the lounge into the bathroom, the band was silent and he looked at them disinterested. A flush was heard and he came out. As he was pacing through the lounge into the kitchen, he realized one of the guys from the band was wearing the shirt of his favorite football team. He commented on it and the room was yet again lit up with life as both of them started praising their team. The bass player wearing the shirt quickly lost interest in the conversation and stopped talking, but the housekeeper didn’t. The conversation became a monologue and the monologue became a rant.
Apparently the housekeeper lived off watching TV, he knew every detail of every conversation every player had had in the last 30 years, he remembered every foul, every goal and every play too. He knew who dated who, who was straight, who was gay, who was married, who was divorced, who had kids, who hadn’t. Who was the kid of whom, who’s daughter had had a scandal, who’s wife had cheated. Who was the technical director, who were their assistants. Who played for each team and what teams they had played in before. Which referee had beef with which player, what teams were the referees fans of. Which team was each TV personality a fan of, which team was every political figure a fan of. Which businessmen invested in which team. Which teams were bankrupt, which teams were corrupt. Which teams were law-abiding—none. Which teams were a front for money-laundering—all. Who was the president of each team, who was the vice-president, who were the wives of each of them and how big or small were their families. Who had family, who didn’t, who was there because they had connections, who was genuinely talented. Which team had won which tournament. Which team was the best—his; which team was the worse—his team’s rival. He knew who was on drugs, who was violent, who was sick, who had an injury, who had been in prison and who was bound to end locked up. Who had expensive cars, what cars they had. What who had said to whom about which or what. And what had who replied about what whom had said about what or which…
The rant was denser than the air that made eyeballs shed unintentional, painful tears. It’s endlessness felt almost too much on the nose in proving that the famous quote is undeniably true, yet incomplete. It should read: “Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss ideas; brilliant minds don't discuss”.
Work was to be done tomorrow, and life was to be lived, but environment shapes perception. Comfort took reign over the fidgety bass player, and he smoothly fell into the dark density of laxness. The congestion of smoke and the buzz from the beers might be the perfect excuse, but as the speech became nothing but a wordless hum, his mind abandoned the tangible and dove into the ethereal depths of thought.