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MR. A. S.
Women are beautiful,


A terrible illness. Some doctors say one has to keep the brain active through abstract calculations i.e.:3 times 12 equals 36, plus 8 is 44, this multiplied by 4 is 178, and so on

This should be done daily. Shopping lists could also help I think. Memorizing, which I thought was good against Altzenheimer is not enough. Clear example is Frank Sinatra, who, as some people might know - including here your humble servant - did a lot of memorizing.

Frank Sinatra died not even being able to remember the words of MY WAY, let alone THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, his film of the sixties.

Auntie Helena never sang nor acted in her 70 years of age. She died in Chile surrounded by her relatives, including myself. She was not able to recognize her husband, nor her daughter, she thought her as a wonderful lady that was looking after her and the husband as a really nice man.

Sad case she was; my cousin Mariana would give her meals every day, spoon by spoon and as my auntie's head had fallen irreversibly forward, my cousin would simply take an empty roll of toilett paper and put it under her chin, in order to lift the head and make the feeding easier.

In a land without state medicine, nor old age help, nor unemployment benefit, nor divorce, let alone free education and public services - thanks to Pinochet and his croonies -relatives, friends and imagination do play a significant role. In Europe, where almost everything is provided free to the old - although this is changing slowly for the worse - one does not use toilett rolls to lift heads of Altzenheimer patients in order to feed them. Perhaps they might have now developped a new machine for that purpose, the Germans specially, who are experts in making machines.

Auntie Helena died peacefully and I had the honour to be one of the pallbearers at her funeral. I never thought a coffin could be so heavy though. Que descanses in paz tia. (may you rest in peace auntie).

Foto   © ALTZENHEIMER, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000



They were black and when I bought them they were only 4.99 Pound Sterling. They were the working man's favoured boots. Light, non-slippery and waterproof.

As a newcomer to London in the early seventies, I was rather taken by the possibility of finally possessing a pair of good, waterproof leather boots and cheap at that too.

I bought my boots in Balham (south of London and then considered to be the working-class area per se). I asked the salesperson if them boots were really waterproof, as mentioned on the label. "Oh yes, yes" I was told a few times.

So as soon as I arrived home, I filled in my bath tub with a few inches of water and left my newly bought boots sitting there nicely overnight.

As I checked next morning, I was disappointed. I found the boots full of water. Well, I said to myself, these boots are not really waterproof, as the man told me yesterday. So I went back to the shop and having still a bit of the water inside the boots, I dropped it on the counter saying "they are not waterproofs". The man was shocked and looked at me as if I had gone round the bend with the South of London fumes. When I explained to him what I had done, he started screaming at me and when I told him I wanted my money back, he got even more upset, telling me to leave the shop instantly. I was on the way out and the man was still shouting things, mentioning even the police, if I dared to stay a second longer.

Later on I found out that in slang these boots were called "bovver boots", short for "bothering boots". You know what I mean? In other words: if you don't do what I tell you to do, I'll kick your teeth in with my boots.

When I got home I decided to write a letter to the manufacturer Dr. Martens and so I did and I told him what had happened, avoiding the bit about leaving the boots to soak overnight in my bath-tub.

I was surprised to receive a very quick response and even happier I was, when I saw that a voucher for a new pair of boots was also included. I was explained that I simply had to go back to the shop were I had bough the boots, handle the "faulty" merchandise in and get a new pair of boots instead.

So I did. I've still got these boots, but I turned them into shoes at the beginning of the eighties, pretty fed with carrying boots all the time. A cobbler friend of mine cut the upper part and changed the air soles, that were pretty worn out, for normal leather soles. The shoes are still going on and they are 30 years old. They are the oldest pair of shoes I have . As I still wear them they remind me of the times I was young. Now I have a pair of small little red hearts attached to the laces of the shoes. A friend of mine in Chile, Senor Araya, makes these little hearts for me. Apart from the last pair, which I got from my good friend the Chilean painter Gonzalo Ilabaca. He made them out of plain tin and painted them red afterwards. They look grand with black socks on.

Foto   © MY DOCTOR MARTENS, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000



One of the first things that one finds out, when living in Germany, like I have done some years now, is this thing about the burning of the books. I mean this thing done by the Nazis during the Third Reich. The Nazis according to many Germans, are extraterrestrial people that overtook Germany some 70 years ago. And they were not Germans, and they just came for a short while and left a mess in the minds of the Germans for many years to come, rather until now(year 2OOO).

According to this theory, and because of this book burning done by these extra- terrestrial forces, the Germans now love books. And at the same time they have the biggest production and consumption of books in the entire world. Amazing for a language that ranks 6th in importance in the planet with only around 100 millions speaking German.

When I go to the FFK and tell my friends that I have not read a book for almost 30 years, they are shocked and I can see that many naked people, reading well dressed books in expensive hard covers, lift their eyes dissapprovingly. Mind you, that really is the only time when some of these people lift their eyes, as they tend to concentrate - I really don't know how - at their books, all this under the extreme sun of a good summer day in Konstanza.

With all this amount of books produced here, Hitler could have spend his short life burning books. Instead of burning people.

Books are sold based on marketing lines and strategies and the line at the moment is : You are in danger if you don't get so and so a book. Or you're risking your life if you have not read so and so.

The book selling companies are desperately trying to find arguments to make the people read more books. To turn them in something indespensable for every house hold, like a well provided bread tin.

Terrible. I really do hope that these stories will never become a book. I'd rather be in the stupid internet, than in book format. Probably I think this way as I never went to university and had problems finishing school even

I hope my self-baked bread is not getting burnt with so much idiotic bla-bla.I 'll go and have a look..

Foto   © BOOK BURNING, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000



In fact they are called rooks. I think that they are the smallest members of this family of horrible black birds.

I never heard nor knew of these birds in my home town Valparaiso, Chile. Here they are all over Europe and since their natural predator - the falcon - has dissappeared mainly in the hands of taxidermists, the crows, ravens and rooks reign supreme everywhere.

At around this time - begining of summer - the rook chicks are starting to fly and worse still, make their first"singing" noises.

Foto These noises in the ears of an amazing musicians like myself, are pretty devastating. So there I am, armed this time with a long pole, ready to scare the crows away as soon as they start with their singing lessons. Their young air tubes are not really ready to produce the standard "work-work" noise, so at the moment it is something like "kggg" or something near to that.

Their "work-work" noises are bad enough, but the "kggg" one is simply awful. The funny thing is, that they do all these noises trying to balance themselves on twigs and branches of the birches in front of my window. They look at me and although I`m armed with a threatening stick and half of my body is out of the window, they do not take any notice of me. Ah! They do not have the foggiest idea, how much of an evil human being I can be.

After a while of trying to scare the rooks away, I simply give up, hoping that they will land by accident on the ground, making themselves an easy pray to our local ginger cat. The big crows are constantly trying to scare that one away, but in this case it's the cat's turn to take no notice..

In this persue to defend their chicks, the parents crows can sometimes become aggressive, even against humans . More than once they have seen my black mane and at times have even hovered on top of my head, screaming their throats out with their favorite line "work-work-work"! As if they knew that a composer of new music and hobby writer of short local anecdotes would welcome some more.

Later on I made the mistake of phoning the local nature protection group to be told quite blantly, that I was some kind of fanatic urbanist who did not give a hoot about nature. I had asked them what to do, as this "work-work" thing was getting simply out of hands with severe consequences to my tragic nerves. In fact it was the end of the story as far as they were concerned. In other words, I was told to leave the birds in peace and perhaps go and visit a psychiatrist. "I got one" I told them. But they had already slammed the phone down.

Foto   © THE CROWS, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas / © of the photo by Thomas Zoch
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000



Have you ever seen a peacock attacking his own reflected image in a mirror? Yes, of course I have, says he. The poor fellow attacked his image so hard with bill and claws that he landed with the vet. All this happened some years ago in a huge mansion in Chile, owned by a rich cousin of mine that had returned to Chile with plenty of greens to spend.

Originally there was a second peacock, that died in strange circumstances. Inside a sauce pan, as part of an evening meal, I assume. Apart from the two peacocks, there were approximately 60 singing birds of all colours and a couple of small parrots of the Chilean variety, more tame in colour and singing then their counterparts in more exotic places like the Amazon jungle or Asia.

All this plus fruit trees of all kinds, swimming pool and so on and so forth. My cousin had his older brother looking after this mansion in the countryside near Valparaiso. Because he had to return to the USA to finalize his pension arrangements with the company he had been working for for years. The elder brother, before agreeing to look after this house, had ventured into the honey business. A profitable story for many, as Chile even exports queen bees to various countries in the world.

This bee- venture did not succeed, as the man was caught selling normal supermarket honey for natural honey. He would put on a show for the tourists, wearing the typical protection gear, digging his hands into the bee hive and pretending that what he got out was real honey, produced by the bees there and then. The tourists more afraid of the bees than anything else, did not notice the trick, and he managed to get away with it for a long time, until one day somebody came back, armed with the same protection gear and smoke gadget, wanting to have a look into the bee hive.

He did not land in jail out of sheer compassion for an elderly man, who had tried to make his living with a dishonest job. Anyhow; now we have the same person here, looking after this huge house, all this for hardly any money, as the younger brother on the way to the USA is not willing to pay for the job.

Imagine what he was coming back to after his 6 month stay in the USA! He found that there was only one peacock left and from the 60 birds only one had survived. The story came to a rapid end when he found out from other people that the elder brother had eaten most of the singing birds. It appears that the missing peacock has also followed the same procedure.

My elder cousin dissappeared in oblivion, nobody knows his wereabout, but I assume he has passed away as he was suffering from many ailments and this after being married around 5 times. He was a very charming person, he played chess very well and was great company. He tried to sell Tupaware in th USA, but could not get anywhere with this. Nor with the honey. Nor with the birds.

Foto   © THE PEACOCK, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000


MR. A.S.

The first time I had to do with this gentleman was when I applied for a German passport. After being a political refugee from Chile with official asylum in the UK, I had enough of being treated like scum at all border points and decided to take up German nationality. The procedure is a long one, but in my case it took only something like 6 months, or a bit less than a year.

I then was confronted with Mr. A.S., a typical member of the German burocracy. Call it German, Italian, Chilean or Asian, burocrats are all more or less the same type of a person. But this bloke was really funny. He wore for instance a small black leather condom as a protection for his right hand small finger. One day I saw him without and asked, what had happened to this small protection gadget. He answered that his wife had to fix it, as it had broken, adding, that this piece was very important for him. "I am a Paper Scientist", he said, as in those days information was still transmitted on paper.

One day he told me, that I had to pass a language test in German. God almighty I said to myself. I am completelly illiterate in this strange unmusical language. But I confronted the situation with courage and peace of mind, like a good vegetarian non smoker, non drinker would do.

He read a few lines from the local paper here, called "Südkurier". To me it sounded like Karls Marx manifesto on how to be a good comrade. At the end of the dictation he took my text and found in a few lines more than 30 mistakes. He then looked at me and asked "Wouldn't you like to take a German course?" I replied that I did not have any interest in the language. And that I was a musican and did not have the time to take such a course. All lies, as I was pretty vacant at the time, with no gigs in the foreseeable future.

Mr. A.S., in return, gave me one of the strangest looks I ever got from somebody. Staring at my eyes he said, that he could completelly forget abbout the test and.......destroy it. (A mortal sin for a Paper Scientist!) All this if I was willing to take the language course. Still I refused. Then he gave up and the whole story ended there.

I really don't know what ever happened to that language test. Nor to Mr. A.S. But I think he has gone into pension and the German army of civil servants has lost a great man.

In the end we became friends and I got my German passport much quicker than anybody else. With this passport I went to Chile in 1989. Before travelling there Mr. A.S. told me, that I had to be careful. In case I ran into political difficulties in Chile, the German government would only be able to protect half of me, as the passport was far too new and at least 6 months had to lapse before I was a fully qualified German citizen.

I still went to Chile that year and on the plane I kept on wondering, which half of me would be protected by the German gouvernment, if I ran into trouble. But fortunatelly - three months later I came back to Konstanz, all in one piece, with no missing halfs.

Foto   © MR. A. S., by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000



Bravo! Clap - Clap - clap make the people. That means applause and not a veneral disease Mr. Wolf. Encore would shout some in English speaking countries Zugabe, they would shout in German speaking countries. Otra, they would shout in some Spanish speaking countries. Every country has its own way to ask for more.

Applause pays my rent, a small one, but still, also the applauses are small in my gigs. As gone are the days in the seventies when I used to draw and garantee a minimum of100 people. Now I have to be happy if I get less or around 50 people. This basically because - and here are that many theories, why people do not come to my concerts. Every idiot has a different theory.

I am not as famous anymore as I was in the seventies through my LP DRINKIN MY OWN SPERM. Some people say, it is because I am too cynical and try to get the piss out off people. Other venture into more daring things and they mention that I am bad piano player and worse singer...dot.dot.dot I disagree with that. But since this story is about applause I will start fighting with myself, just to fill in lines.

At the moment I get something like DM 500(German Marks) per gig. Ths price varies constantly and I have not been able to come to a standard price. It is impossible I think in music. Where there are no rules, nor nothing. Where professionalism does not count. Where past life does not count and many times the more physically and mentally finished one is the better. Many people want to see blood on stage. And in many ways it ressembles a roman circus. Somebody once told me, that art is like the vultures, it feeds on the rot of society. This is quite true, I think.

I really don't care what art wants from me as long as I can manage to wake up every morning and fight my deep depressions with the help of friends and professional advice; I am fine then. But agAIN I AM BEGINNING TO DIVERT MYSELF FROM THE CENTRAL THEME OF THIS STORY WHICH IS applause.

There are standing ovations. I never got one of those. By listening to the applause after my opening song, which invariably is VALPARAISO, I see how the people appreciate my music. When there is a pale applause, I can see that it is going to be up the hill all the way for the next 90 minutes. When I hear a good applause after that song, then I say to myself I am half way there. Specially if the piano is of good quality, because I have played in really incredibly bad instruments.

Missing notes and the such likes, but this is not as bad as getting a small, Woolworth-like digital piano. That is certainly more than a pain in the neck and the gig turns out like pissing in the wind. Many times I have ended such a gig in the middle and got paid only half of the agreed money. As I am a musician that does not believe in hard work, if the people have liked my gig a lot and they keep on wanting more encores, and I have already played two, the whole thing turns into a different way and I just begin to shout REPETITION KILLS, or tell them, if they would buy my CDs and vinyls, they could have all the encores they want - at home. Or I tell the audience that I am hungry. And thirsty. Which is absolutely true, as I cannot eat or drink inbetween singing. And any snack or meal has to be had at least an hour before I begin to sing because eating produces a lot of winds and gas. The farts are alright because no member of the public ever notices, that musicians many times fart a lot. How are they going to hear them farts in the middle of all that noice that we produce. But the belching from the top, this is certainly a problem, as one has to move off the microphone to do so.

Probably a sort of crass audiences would`nt mind one belch, but more than one is not funny anymore, what ever sort of music one is playing - hard core, mad, hand made, ecclesiastical(what's that!), etc, etc. After the gig it is also not pleasant to eat so much as one cannot sleep then, and this for me - a person that sleeps between 10 and 12 hours per night - is of outmost importance. Before going to bed after a gig, I love to drink a nice warm, strong cup of coffee. Then I will have sweet dreams. In the case of unknown musicians like this one, groopies are out of the question, they simply do not come to my concerts. They can do wonders after a concert. There is a saying among musicians that a good musician is a bad screw. The standard question is: What do you want to be? I would not be able to reply that.

Foto   © APPLAUSE, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  July 2000


Women are beautiful,

and men are hairy, smelly and ugly. To this conclusion I have arrived after analysing and carefully researching 32.450 cases of women and men during my 56 years of life. Hold them horses! This sounds like a typical scientist opting for the Nobel prize who has just stolen research from one of his fellow workers. But here we don't like scientists and we are more in the entertainment business.

Only the title of this COGITO ERGO SUM and the initial line about the hairy men are true. Here's another for your repertoire: Men are like coffee/ Strong, dark and hot. Taken from my recent poem PEPPERMINT ARMPITS.
Women; according to my knowledge have four beautiful ages. The first one starts at 12 years old. This age has been the inspiration of poets, composers and old men in general, not only Nabokov's famous story. This is the most dangerous age in women I would think. "When the girls changes her bobby socks for stockings" says the 1950 song. Poor of the man that falls in love with one of these tender, innocent creatures. In some societies they will castrate them straight away in order not to become civil servants. But some tribes in the Amazon jungle of South America, they will allow their 12-year-olds to have sexual intercourse with men. They are of age the moment they begin to menstruate. Girls of 12 are constantly falling in love, but they cannot love one single person at the time. Its the eyes of Peter, the charm of Rafael, the intelligent of Contreritas. I remember when I was recently in Chile I saw a case on television of a 42-year-old man that fell in love with a 12-year-old girl and had "consented" sex with her. He did not rape her. The girl was tall and mature looking, more resembling a 18-year-old girl than her short 12. When the man was brought into court, he was screaming at the tope of his voice. "La amo, la amaré siempre". I love her, I will always love her. What a sad case I said to myself.

The second beautiful age in women is 45-46 - in other words mid forties - Ah! there they are now, matured by life physically and mentally and strong enough to move mountains single-handed. They are a threat to the masculinity of every man. This is probably the reason that there are not that many men composing songs and writing poems for them, unfortunately that is. But I found them sweet, a deep sweetness that one can rely on, treacling down their still tender bodies. This with or without children.

The third age of beauty in women is around mid sixties. Then she doesn't have anything to lose. She's lost it all; They leave their behinds to grow at their hearts content. "Men have their beer bellies and we've got our impressive posteriors" they seem to think. I am all for that ladies, the bigger the posterior the better for this gentleman. They laugh this lot like they have never laughed before, they shun the company of men prefering their own-aged chatty girlfriends. They are brave, they are not afraid of anything, their husbands and/or male friends are slaves to their will, they run the show at home and in bed. They are amazing!

The fourth and last age - if they ever reach it that is - is between eighty and ninety. Then they are giants, they don't care about diets, those are things of the past. They are constantly falling in love, like if they were 12 again. Like a lady friend of mine at that age told me once: "our bodies are wrinkled and tired, but the soul is still young and beautiful." And they certainly are beautiful in every sense of the word. This with or without children. The young women look up at them, they command respect from their families and society and they can LOVE. I mean the big word AMOR, the sort of love that makes the world go round. Unfortunately only the few reach this beautiful age, but they are great loving girls.

Foto   © WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL, by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  May 17, 1999



That is the official name in German of Constance which is at the Lake of the same name. Konstanz is known as the birth place of Graf von Zeppelin and not far away he made the first experiments of his air balloon that carries his name (Earl of Zeppelin). Konstanz is also my second home, before that I lived a number of years in London - known by some locals as The Smoke - for its abudance of fumes and smog. Before that I was in Santiago de Chile, another smog ridden place, one of the worst in Latinamerica together with Ciudad de Mejico. Before Santiago I lived my adolesce and youth days in Viña del Mar, also in Chile and before that I was born in Valparaiso, Chile in 1943.

Now I can draw some similarities between my beloved Konstanz and my beloved Viña del Mar. Both tourist places, both with small populations, huge sea in Viña, huge lake in Konstanz, in fact the biggest lake in Central Europe and water reservoir for almost 5 million people. Also it is the start of the river Rhine. The normal Konstanzer needs the tourists but does not want them. The same in Viña del Mar. Every summer they land almost 100 thousand tourist mainly from Argentina which find Chile very cheap (?!) and next to the sea of course, as these people come from the mountain regions of Argentina. Poor Konstanz... as it has to take more or less the same amount of Japanese, former East Germans, Dutch, etc. This lot is a mixed bag and they certainly come in throngs. Many times I cannot get through with my bicycle as mass tourism is at its best during summer. Switzerland is not far away from my tiny flat and so is the waters of the lake too. I tend to go and buy my wholemeal rice and sweeties - mmm chokies - and the such likes from Switzerland, and this is done my most people that live in Konstanz. We find certain things very cheap, cheaper than in Germany in fact. Also our rich neighbours offer extremelly well paid working labour, so many Konstanzer work in Switzerland. The language is more or less, I repeat more or less alike, quite guttural I most say from the side of the Swiss, which is called Swiss German. Frankly terrible. Sorry, if German is already a non-musical illogical language, this Swiss giberish is even worse. But the Swiss very kindly try their best when meeting German and foreigners like myself. I think the amount of foreigners in Konstanz are around 7 %, probably a bit more with the Kosovo conflict at the moment. In Viña del Mar, Chile, the amount of foreigners is very little during the normal year which is between March and December. The rest of the year is tourism prostitution, or selling the town to the best bet.

In fact there are few foreigners in Chile as a whole. Chile a land conquered by the Spanish as first immigration, then came the Germans (1848) until now. The former East German Chancellor Honecker died in Santiago de Chile some years ago. The Germans in Chile are a weird mix of Christians, Jews, Nazis and communists. Of course in between allowing all sorts of combinations, as you can have a Jew/German Communist also, or a Christian German, only interested in making money in the New World, etc. Later, Chile has seen Coreans - or generally called "chinos", then from different Slavonic countries, and recently Indians from India in the north of Chile. Well in Konstanz, what do we have... Chileans, less than o dozen, Algerians, Africans, Turks, in other words, the same spectrum you get in any other German town. It is I would say, more interesting than in Chile, as you can meet in one the half of the world, and this by only cycling between town and where I live - which by the way - is where the most foreigners live in Konstanz, and is called Petershausen. Not far from me lives a lady called Berger, she is 90-years-old. Vegetarian like me, feeds herself mainly on raw peas and massive amounts of cups of coffee. She is as tiny as you can be and she told me frankly that she never put her hand up, showing me the Nazi salute, during the war, and instead of saying "Heil Hitler" she would mutter "Drei Liter" which means three litres. Mrs. Berger lives completely on her own and insists in reaching the year 2000, she has many peculiarities apart from not being a former Nazi, like she refuses to go to church, although she is constantly wooed by different confessions to join the church, these people probably do not know that she does not have any properties, nor land, nor shares in the bank, but a comfortable pension paid by her family. She was never married. The funniest thing I could say about her is that she only wears blue socks and has tons of them and when putting them into the washing machine once, she takes them out and turns them over and then again in the washing machine to get them really clean.

Anyhow; I got plenty of these experiences in my daily walks around the lake. The air is good in Konstanz and also the quality of the water of the lake. Considering that all the water refuse lands - treated of course - in the lake. Commentators say that the level of washing powder could come down a bit further to make things better. This I could not say about my beloved Viña del Mar, Chile. In many beaches of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso (8 km away from each other) you just cannot swim. In some you cannot even lay on the sand as it is polluted with rats droppings. The sea has three sorts of toxic waste: untreated water sewage, industrial waste (plenty of lovely chemicals in it), and plain household rubbish, i.e. banana peels, squeezed orange and lemon halfs, plastic bags (something devastating in Chile), etc. All this lands in the sea and when attempting to swim, this should be done with your mouth closed at all times, as a human turd could land inside your mouth. The authorities are building very slowly and under strong corruption a water sewege collector that will pump this untreated waste - again - through a 2 km pipeline at the bottom of the sea away from the beaches. As you can see this is completely idiotic and will bring no help at all. Now as far as the air quality is concerned, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar suffer from fumes pollution, although sitting right next to the sea. But worst of all are the levels of unemployment in both Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Probably around 45 %. And people in search of work are not interested in the environment, but to see where the next meal is coming from. In any country where no unemployment benefit nor Social Security benefits are known, things can be even more damaging for not only the humans, but for the total environment. Now I am fed up with writing and I'll go for a walk in the wild side, the Loretto Woods in Konstanz, I've got to practice (by singing to the trees) for my next gig in the German city of Kiel, 13 hours away from Konstanz am Bodensee. Don't worry, I'll be back on Sunday.

Foto   © KONSTANZ AM BODENSEE by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  May 3, 1999



First I always start with the lyrics. Sometimes thes lyrics take a long time to write, up to almost two years in the case of IS THE GARMENT READY? (LP).

Then comes the music after I am absolutely convinced about the veracity of the lyrics. These lyrics can be in Spanish or English as I grew up with both languages. I went to an English school in Chile and finished in a state school also in Chile. For me the music side is more difficult to explain here as I am many times influenced by a bird singing, or a cry of a baby, or sounds I remember from my times in Chile, originated by our Chilean indios. Some other times a street vendor's cry might sparkle something, or other times mathematical synchronization and many times plain play with mistakes which I make when playing the piano as I am self-taught. This music writing process is also quite long at times, but other times in a short breath, Voilá! the music is there to fit the lyrics. I also think that lyrics carry a music and rhythm of its own. There is also another problem for me here: Memorizing the music parts which I "write" inside my head.

My music writing ability is very bad and as I don't use a computer when writing music or lyrics; things tend to get a bit dodgy. I take ages to write the simplest melody line on the staff. You see I was brought up in Chile thinking: DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI. Since I live in Europe and in order to communicate with other musicians, I have to think in terms of: C-D-E-F-G-A-B, I had to learn here this Teutonic system. The system DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI is Gregorian in origin and comes from a written poem starting Dominus, something-something. The originator of this poem took the first two letters of each line and from there he extracted the musical seven tone scale. This system is much safetier than the only-consonant system. Many times I have found myself confused by somebody saying D or E, consecuently making chord mistakes. This experience is common to all musicians.

Like I said earlier for me lyrics have a certain melody and rhythm of its own and when I am happy with the poem or lyrics, things are much easier concerning the music. Many times I just let the words flow and add very little intonation to the verses and most of the times it works. In some odd cases like MEN DON'T CRY, THEY SING; the melody was written when busking in the street with my small Southamerican flute called Pinquillo. I had the poem already and after improvising with the flute, I decided to blend poem and flute tune together and it worked. This song is just lyrics and melody line without "harmony" to it. Well, in fact there is always a harmony to everything one writes. The moment you put down a second note to your first one, you have a harmony.

Some composers only write music - Elton John is one of them - and let other people write the lyrics for him. Typical case of a composing duo is Lennon and McCartney. Lennon wrote the words and the other gentleman (Lord now!) writes the music. I write both music and lyrics. In only one case of my circa 60 written songs that I have done in my 39-year long music life, I have used the words of somebody else this was PALIDO SOL, words by Eduardo Arancibia, Chilean 54 years old and the music by this writer. When the song was released in 1977 as part of the DRINKIN MY OWN SPERM (LP), Eduardo was extremelly upset with me because I had done a cock-up of his lyrics. He did not like my musical approach. He expected more lyrical and melodious lines. The words of PALIDO SOL, I have point out, deal with the attrocities of the coup de etat in Chile in 1973. How can you write melodious lyrical lines to bombs, death, machine guns and the such likes and the death of Salvador Allende? No, my approach was radical and rather violent, with some amount of lyricism in a sad sort of way. I went the way the lyrics took me, didn't want to explore the V-Effect approach, when you contradict the pattern already layed, that is oppose the outer and inner form of the lyrics. After this bad experience I said to myself, never ever use other people's creative output, apart from actually playing on stage with other creative entities.

Now where does the inspiration for the lyrics come from? It could be from falling in love like "I love you so much/But you don't care for me" or the reverse "You love me so much and I feel sofocated by your love and pressure". Seldom the case "I love you and you love me". To these songs, the shining moon, the stars in the sky and the sea, play an important role. Then comes the more trivial persuits like "BLUE SWEDE SHOES" (please don't step on then). Or "Sideburns and Jeans", or better "Hotpants A Galore", "Bonny Moroni", the list is endless.

Late in life one begins to write less about your girlfriend/boyfriend, but DEATH begins to settle inside your head. And here you find a whole collection of songs written under the type of "World Pain" that includes, racism, hunger, death, wars, crimes, mass murder, poverty, orphan children, serial killers, death row inmates, etc. Probably to a category of its own belong the songs written about ecology. Unfortunately with banal and often very hackneyed melody lines with lyrics dealing with "Save the whale, dolphin, flea, crocodile, frog, donkey, horse, elephant, cat, dog, mule, snake, bird, etc, etc." The list is very, very long. As I said before in another COGITO ERGO SUM article, I am all for ecology (please read The Ecologist) and these songs that are many times written with a strong commercial appeal with big commercial ambitions are only damaging even more the environment. In these "save" songs the ultimate and most important element to be saved - man/woman - are not present and are utterly ignored as something of bad taste and something far to complex to approach.

I would like to end these thoughts mentioning that writing songs is extremelly difficult, you can write perhaps a couple of dozens or so, but to make a living doing that like this person? Sorry, don't. Is a fact that composers and poets die earlier than interpreter. This latter category can go on till they are well over 80, people like Frank Sinatra, Claudio Arrau, Ray Charles, Joseph Menuin, they never wrote a line about anything and most of them drop dead of old age on stage. So boys and girls, leave the song-writing to somebody and concentrate in singing them at your best possible way. Like the widow of Charlie Parker said when receiving her third golden record from sales of the Charlie Parker music, "It's all too late, my husband died a long time ago, penniless and young".

Foto   © HOW TO WRITE A SONG by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  April 17, 1999



"Son, teach me how to be your father". That is what I should say to my son, but I don't have the gut to say it to him. My son is called César and he is just turned 26 this year (1999). Thanks to the Chilean dictator Pinochet, I was not able to see him until he was 17 in 1989 when I was first allowed into Chile. He was full of beans, but shy, composing songs, writing lyrics and into satanic rock music. Our first encounter was brief and the following year I met him again in Chile, this time he was into dark music, then the following year again, this time he was into extraterrestrial music and slowly he is now finding his musical maturity. His mother was my first wife Cecilia Ortigosa, a woman with certainly more means than me and was able to give our son a good education, as I could not send him anything from this end (Europe). At the moment César is in London and studies TV production, specializing in computer animation.
I have told him repetively not to become a musician as is a penniless and sad profession. I think he has understood my thoughts alright and I am glad about that. More I could not say to him. I know how to write a song, but don't know how to be your father, sorry son.

Foto   © HOW TO BE A FATHER by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  May 11, 1999



My friends in Chile wear more than one condom on top of each other when having sexual intercourse. "Ah! Condomes Infieles malditos" - I said.

Some of my friends wear up to three condoms on top of each other at a given time. I was surprised. This could be the name of a new rock band, but investigating further adoo, adoo adoo. I came to a consumer's magazine and to my further surprise I found out that more than 60% of all condoms sold in Chile are just "alright". Most do not pass the simplest liquid test as the rubber is poor quality producing leaks. Among the middle price and top priced condoms, you are much safer wearing two or three on top of each other. Regarding the cheaper condoms, well they are not worth buying and a banana peel could be just as good I could say.

At the moment there is an Aids-and-Condoms campaign in all Chilean media, but things are not openly discussed or mentioned and they follow the church's line "one partner is the best" approach. Young men are afraid and many perform a repertoire of variations in order to avoid the dangerous full intercourse and penetration. The rest resort to the old fashion masturbation. The group mostly at risk are the poor - like everywhere else in the world. They cannot afford expensive condoms and protection, so what they do is light a few candles, say a few prayers and seek the protection of some saint or other - if there is such saint of course.

All this in a country with approximately 25% inflation a year and a devastating 45% unemployment in many areas. Adding that one third or the 13-million Chileans live with under 50 US Dollars per month. Plus corruption at all levels of society with a very rich minority (ca. 3%) convinced that money can buy anything - products and people alike.

This scenario has strongly affected the sexual lives of the Chileans. Couple perform sexual intercourse twice a week - as the international average says - at around week-ends. "EL CANELO", a prestigious ecological and social magazine points out that approximately 10% of all Chilean males are repressed homosexuals, many leading a painful double life. On top of all comes 16 years of dictatorship that left more than somebody in need of psychiatric treatment; this is why I shout: Faithful condoms of the world unite, turn yourselves in balloons and land in Chile please. "Que lluevan condomes en la ciudad".

Foto   © UNFAITHFUL CONDOMS by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  March 28, 1999



The name of the band I formed in the early seventies in London is really called THE 101'ERS. Not THE ONERS, not 101'ERS, but THE 101'ERS. Now I'll tell you why the THE.

Back in the fifties there were a lot of bands having the THE in front of their names, rather part of their names, for instance The Tremeloes, The Riders, Los (The) Challengers (my own Chilean band), etc, etc. In Southamerica there were plenty of bands with Los on it. Then all of a sudden and by no apparent reason the THE things ceased to exist and we had bands like Family, Pink Floyd (strangely enough for some The Floyd), Emerson Lake & Partners, Unfaithful Condoms (hoops, sorry I just made up that one), etc, etc.

So when the dwellers of the squatt at 101 Walterton Road, Paddington, London decided to put a band together with players that could not handle more than three chords, a sax player that could not tune his sax as he was partly deaf, I decided to call it THE 101'ERS. My Mexican girlfriend phoned me after agreeing to play a benefit gig in Brixton for some Mexican lost cause and asked me for the name of the band as posters had to be printed there and then, so I said "Mi amor la banda se llama Los 101eros" - or in English - THE 101'ERS in memory of the days when I was young in Chile. I also added that the band was really bad, (somos más malos que el natre), but we were going to do everything possible to get the most of the three chords and the out of tune saxes (we had two: alto and tenor; I played tenor).

The name sticked and from then onwards at the Charlie Pig Dog Club - once a week at the local pub - we used it all the time. The name sticked so much that when I was on tour back in the early nineties in the USA, I met an American bloke that according to some sources he had played with THE 101'ERS. I was surprised to hear that because we never had an American in the band. There were all from strong middle class English background. I finally met the man and the first thing he did was to apologize for the misunderstanding, adding that he had never played in THE 101'ERS, but in an American band called THE ONERS. Hello, hello, hello! You do the mopin & I'll do the sweepin. The bloke turned out to be really nice and things progressed from there and I never saw him again ever since. But just to let you know how confusing these names can be.

After THE 101'ERS a whole variety of THES appeared like THE BOOMTOWN RATS, THE JAM, THE REZILLOS, THE CLASH, until the ultimate came with THE THE. I never met this band, but I have heard the name. Some friends of mine in order to break this THE thing created a band called THIS HEAT, they were people around Geoff Leigh, Slap Happy, Cathy Williams, Steven Beresford and the such likes. More the avant garde side of the coin. Ah! memoirs from past THES, not deeds. Keep me posted!

Foto   © THE THES STORY by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  March 12, 1999
  Print version in: Leeson 12 / 2000



A couple of years back my former Chilean wife told me a story that still now haunts my thoughts and my concern on ecology, and this without having heard of the British magazine called The Ecologist.

She told me that she was strolling along one of the many beaches of my home-town in Chile - Valparaíso - and then suddenly she noticed a man that was struggling and pulling punches and hand blows to something that was not yet clear. As she got nearer to the scene of this crime, she could describe that this was a man fighting with a penguin. My former wife is called Ana and she is a strict vegetarian (like myself), non-smoker or drinker (again like myself). We are both engaged against genetically manipulated foods, (click into Genetic Engineering Network) but unfortunately she does not like Europe and stayed back in Chile. Anyhow;

Ana shouted to the man all sorts of unprintable things and called him a murderer and the what-nots. By now the penguin was in dire condition and struggling to free himself from his captor to be unsuccessfully at that. In between punches and kicks against the poor animal he shouted back to Ana saying that with one of these "blokes" he and the rest of his unemployed family - probably unemployable - could eat at least a week. Elaborating that he had not eaten for three days (but the man had a considerable reserve of energy inside of him). He told Ana that he was a poor man and there were enough penguins in the sea to replace this one quickly and promply. The water in Chile is cold, specially in the middle and south areas of the country. This is the reason why you can find penguins sun bathing or plainly swimming in the beaches of Valparaíso. These are not zoo pengiuns. Anyhow; Ana had to do a fair amount of convincing to stop the man. In between she told the man to become vegetarian, the poor man had not heard of that word before and was ready to forgive her saying that. It seems that the persuasive power of Ana was stronger than the empty stomach calls of the man and surprise, surprise the man stopped kicking and punching the poor penguin. After a while the man left rather ashamed and feeling like a criminal. According to Ana, she did go back next day at the same time to that same beach and surprise, surprise she saw a penguin waving his fins to her. Ana insists that it was the same penguin from the day before trying to thank her for saving his life.

Now I said to myself; this is really interesting. Who was in the wrong when all this happened. The murderous penguin killer or Ana that left an entire starving family without nothing to eat for another week.
Keep me posted!

Foto   © PENGUINS & POVERTY by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  February 3, 1999
  Print version in: Leeson 12 / 2000



Is a new regular section that will cover here stories and anecdotes from my personal experience as musician and as a person.

Many people have told me to write a book with these stories, but I don't like books. In fact I have not read a book since 27 years now. Books sold by the kilo? Books in every corner of town in Central Europe? Thousands of trees (many from Chile) chopped down for paper books? NO! I think the book here in Europe has lost its charm and the romantic side of it, this since Sherlock Holmes. The book was then special. Marketing techniques used at the moment to sell even more books try to make books look dangerous as if your life would depend on it if you don't read them. Millions of them everywhere contribute more and more to heaps and heaps of rubbish. Like the lakes of milk and wine and the mountains of meat you see in the European Community.

I live in Germany the country that produces more books than other country in the world. Strangely enough; there are only 100 million speakers of German in the world. That means that every German speaker must be reading something like at least 2 books per week! But what do they read? Well I really don't know and I am not interested either. What concerns me is that books are in no way a source of knowledge. Probably culture, but not knowledge. I think knowledge comes through the ears and not through the eyes. Like the baby that recognizes the mother and the father (when there is one around) by the sound they produce and secondly by their smells and not by the eyes as babies take time to develope the eyes.

Now COGITO ERGO SUM I heard for the first time at school back in Chile. It is a saying from the Greek philosophers meaning "I Think, Therefore I Am". Utter nonsense of course, but sounds great.

As belonging to a Christian society, what happened in the history of the world previous to the Greeks, my teachers were not interested in. Until I came to London in the early seventies and apart from meeting Woody Mellor - known later as Joe Strummer - I also met some really nice people. Because Woody was not nice and tried to be as bad as possible, as Punks are not supposed to be nice. A lot of these nice people were Indians, not our South American Indians, but the people from India. They showed me their amazing foods and there I became strict vegetarian to this date and they also told me about their life and I thought for myself: those silly teachers didn't know anything about the real history of the world. I was fascinated.

I'll see you soon on another COGITO ERGO SUM story, probably a couple of weeks from now. It will probably be called PENGUINS & POVERTY. Keep me posted!

Foto   © COGITO ERGO SUM by Alvaro Peña-Rojas
  written in Constance, Germany
  January 25, 1999