Simon, My Hermit Friend
Since my arrival in Spain (2 months ago), I’ve become friends with a man whom a Spanish acquaintance of mine dismissed as a perroflauta.
Don’t worry; until recently, I never heard that word either. But here’s the way it’s defined online: “A perroflauta (plural “perroflautas“, invariable in gender) is a normally young person with an appearance and behavior reminiscent of those of the hippie movement .”
The flauta (flute) part of the term comes from the fact that most in the category are street musicians. The perro (dog) part refers to the buskers’ habit of taking their dogs along.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the one I’m referring to is called Simon. He’s Chilean. He plays guitar in the street (all the while dodging the police). And he’s lived here in Spain for the past 20 years.
But Simon is not young. He’s 60 years old. And has no dog accompanying him. Neither would I describe him as a hippie.
So, he’s no perroflauta — which (as Simon informed me) turns out to be a disrespectful, dismissive characterization.
Rather, I think of Simon as a kind of hermit, a cave-dweller (literally), a wise man, a philosopher, a seeker of truth, a sort of shaman. (The two of us plan to study the Mayan Popol Vuh together as part of his helping me with my Spanish.)
Simon himself jokingly refers to his kind as “troglodytes” — as cave dwellers, since many of them live in caves above the albaicin barrio here in Grenada — as I said, our home for the past couple of months.
In any case, last week I had the privilege of entering Simon’s cave. It took me a long time to get there. Usually, my daily exercise routine has me walking 4 miles. Last week, in order to get to Simon’s cave, I walked twice that distance — up and down severe inclines, along stony dirt paths, and narrow ridges.
My poor arthritic knees have been complaining about all that ever since. And this, even though Simon and I stopped several times so I could rest, while Simon rolled and smoked a couple of joints.
Following Simon to his cave
Below is an overview of Simon’s community. All its members live in caverns originally dug out by gitanos (gypsies) as far back as the 15th century — or maybe (Simon told me) by Arabs before them. Anyway, squatters like Simon have converted many of the dugouts into homes, some of them with electricity and running water:
An overview of our destination
Simon’s cave has no electricity and no water. The fridge in this picture merely serves as a cabinet for storing his food.
Simon’s “fridge” and gas “stove” where he’s brewing T-4-2
Here’s the cave from the outside:
The Cave from the Outside
And here’s Simon’s bedside “stuff” — including a candle and a couple of books on Tarot. My friend’s trying to learn all about it in case the police confiscate his guitar again — or fine him $300 to get it back. (Simon told me he’s had “about a thousand” guitars in is life, and that he’s like to write a book on “How to Lose 1000 Guitars and Still Stay in Business.”) In any case, Tarot reading, he says, would be an alternate source of income if the cops remove his livelihood. He only needs about 10 euros a day to get by.
Here’s the wall hanging at the end of Simon’s bed:
Edvard Munch’s The Scream which the artist admitted “could only have been painted by a madman”
Simon’s bedside reading:
On each side of Simon’s cave was another dugout about the size of his own dwelling. The floors in each were dirt, the walls still unwhitewashed. Using typical American reasoning, I asked my friend, “Why don’t you make a couple of more rooms for yourself in these caves? You could cover the dirt floors and whitewash the walls in both of them.” The hermit looked puzzled at my reasoning. He shook his head, “No,” he said, “I don’t need the space. And changes like that would only cause envy in the community. That wouldn’t be good for anyone.”
One of the empty caves alongside Simon’s
Towards the end of my visit, I asked Simon about the point of his life — about the point of my life. He paused a long time searching for words. He looked out the door of his cave . . .
and said, “I don’t know. I don’t think much about such things. I don’t think about the past or the future. It’s just about living in the present moment.
Do you see what I mean about my hermit friend and his simple wisdom?