I'm sitting at the breakfast table with David Lee Roth—Van Halen II era—trying to explain the concept of changua, the dish that Joaquina just made for us. Well, there’s also Eddie, Alex and Michael sitting here with us, but they’re so immersed in the food, and they barely exist in the conversation.
Changua is a breakfast soup made with a few ingredients: fresh milk and eggs, cilantro, and salt. The key of course, is to master the amount of ingredients and the cooking time, and for that, Joaquina has the magic touch.
So here I am, about to ask David to tell me the story of how he broke his right foot making the leap that appears on the back cover of their new album; but he’s quicker than me and everybody else in the room, gets up, looks straight at Joaquina, and asks her:
“Sweetheart, what’s in the soup? This is the best thing I've ever tried.”
Joaquina comes to him and starts speaking Spanish, obviously, just because that’s what we all do around the house, particularly when it comes to great food.
So David smiles and nods, as if he understood the name of every ingredient, as if he could stand up right now and make another changua himself. He looks down at the bowl in front of him, inhales the aroma, and fills his spoon. I follow the trajectory of the changua from the bowl to his mouth, and as the flavors hit his tongue, I can see by the way his eyes pop that his palate is going as crazy as one of his fans in the first row. I smile because I know exactly how he’s feeling; the first time I heard Van Halen, my ears reacted to the music the way his taste buds were now experiencing the soup.
So we’re all there: sipping, slurping, savoring. It occurs to me that I should translate the ingredients and the preparation for David, but then I decide to just smile at him, looking for his approval, and he smiles back and proceeds to mix the bread on top of the changua, just like he saw me doing a second before.
When we finish with the changua, Joaquina gives us hot chocolate, made with cinnamon and cloves, and along with it, a cheese we call campesino, which is sweet and spongy, harder than mozzarella burrata but softer than a pecorino. Almost like a ricotta. Campesino cheese has the characteristic of absorbing just the right amount of hot chocolate, creating probably the most perfect bite in the whole world.
Subsequently come the freshly baked arepas, with melted butter and doble crema cheese on top, and just a pinch of salt; juicy almojábanas and still-hot pan francés (the Colombian version of a mini-baguette), which she had personally selected from the bakery just minutes before. And suddenly, in unison, the rest of the guys in the band break the silence to say a quick combination of something that sounds like: delicious, amazing, aniquilador…
And then we are all done, and we sit for some time, reflecting on the food we’ve just enjoyed, until Eddie stands up and says:
“Guys, let’s go roller skating.”
We all look at him in disbelief, but then everyone seems to realize that you can’t disagree with Eddie Van Halen, so we immediately stand up and follow him; even David, with his astonishing presence, and his “fill up the stadium” looks.
And then it hits me: Yes, David has the looks and the charm, but Eddie makes the decisions, and everyone seems to understand that their role is to support him, just so he can come up with the crazy, unexpected ideas.
So here we are now… Probably the dorkiest scene I’ve ever seen… We’re all wearing roller skates—except for Joaquina—going down a hill, about to turn on a gigantic curve, and trying so hard to keep our balance, relax our hips and ankles, and dreaming of making the roller skates an extension of ourselves, even though that seems next to impossible because this is the first time any of us have done this.
And suddenly, the concept of riding roller skates seems less dorky, more natural; and the idea of having Van Halen, the real Van Halen, around the house, doesn’t seem so crazy after all.
“Here we left it,” she said. And he added, “Oh, but here tool” “It's upstairs,” she murmured. “And in the garden,” he whispered. “Quietly,” they said, “or we shall wake them.”
But it wasn't that you woke us. Oh, no. “They're looking for it; they're drawing the curtain,” one might say, and so read on a page or two. “Now they've found it,' one would be certain, stopping the pencil on the margin. And then, tired of reading, one might rise and see for oneself, the house all empty, the doors standing open, only the wood pigeons bubbling with content and the hum of the threshing machine sounding from the farm. “What did I come in here for? What did I want to find?” My hands were empty. “Perhaps its upstairs then?” The apples were in the loft. And so down again, the garden still as ever, only the book had slipped into the grass.
But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The windowpanes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest wells of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe” the pulse of the house beat softly. “The treasure buried; the room...” the pulse stopped short. Oh, was that the buried treasure?
A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk beneath the surface the beam I sought always burned behind the glass. Death was the glass; death was between us, coming to the woman first, hundreds of years ago, leaving the house, sealing all the windows; the rooms were darkened. He left it, left her, went North, went East, saw the stars turned in the Southern sky; sought the house, found it dropped beneath the Downs. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. 'The Treasure yours.”
The wind roars up the avenue. Trees stoop and bend this way and that. Moonbeams splash and spill wildly in the rain. But the beam of the lamp falls straight from the window. The candle burns stiff and still. Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy.
“Here we slept,” she says. And he adds, “Kisses without number.” “Waking in the morning—” “Silver between the trees—” “Upstairs—” 'In the garden—” “When summer came—” 'In winter snowtime—” “The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.
Nearer they come, cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Our eyes darken, we hear no steps beside us; we see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands shield the lantern. “Look,” he breathes. “Sound asleep. Love upon their lips.”
Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and deeply. Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces that search the sleepers and seek their hidden joy.
“Safe, safe, safe,” the heart of the house beats proudly. “Long years—” he sighs. “Again you found me.” “Here,” she murmurs, “sleeping; in the garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here we left our treasure—” Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes. “Safe! safe! safe!” the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry “Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart.”