It's 3am and I'm standing in the middle of the road, between lanes. To my far right, less than 10 feet away, pavement turns into a sandy beach lined with deck chairs. The endless sea sits just beyond the sand, swaying in the night. On the actual pavement a large group of Italian dancers gather in a circle, cheering and shouting as a local guy challenges anyone who thinks they can beat him in a beer drinking contest. To my left, on the opposite side of the road, hip hop music plays at an open front, late night grill spot, so unaccustomed to the large group of dancers come to feast on this night that it has literally run out of all but 3 things on the menu. People on bikes and motorcycles pass me by on either side, on their way home or to a party. I have to be back at the hotel in 45 minutes, to be driven to the airport for an early morning flight back to London, but the hotel is only 5 minutes walk away and my bag sits packed and ready in the room, so I'm no hurry. I have time and I use it to just stand in the middle of it all, taking in one more moment in the city of Pesaro, in Italy. One more moment to remember all the chilled, slower moments experienced in this sunny place.
The first moment was when we arrived a day and a half ago, flying in on an invite to compete in the 2016 Hip Hop connection jam, in the 4on4 crew battle. After a 2 hour drive from the airport we entered a city bordered by a beach, seeing a boardwalk filled with kids, playgrounds and basketball courts. Our hotel was literally 2 minutes from the beach, just up the road and round a corner.
It a nice feeling to come for a jam and find yourself seduce by the place that it's in. I'm a city boy, born and raised, the rat race a familiar daily contest to me, only getting sun 3 months of a year, and that's if we're lucky. The closest beach is just about one hours train ride away, and its covered in stones instead of sand. So coming to a place like this makes the poet in me want to slow down absorb it. And slowly absorb the moments I did.
The 2 days we were blessed by the fact that the competition didn't start until the evening so we got to spend time enjoying swimming in the ocean, which was only waist high up to a 100 metres out. Relaxing on the sand and watching groups of old and young people play volleyball in the sea, as families spent beach days together, and kids climbed over the rocks that lined part of the beach front. People in various small boats padded further out off shore, as other locals relaxed on the beach in deck chairs
We practiced our routines topless in the warm weather, on one of the large patches of grass just off the beach. And see a 60 odd year old looking man, muscular with bronzed skin, strutting out of the water and walk down the beach like some billionaire Adonis who was taking a break from the his penthouse office. A few minutes later an old school spit fire plane flies pass above in the sky and we joke that, that must be the same guy flying back to his mansion in the hills.
The grill spot we found across the road from the beach at which we sat and ate and talked about the easier, slower paced life of this city, where no one had their heads buried in mobile phones, or rushed around like rats in a race, but strolled or biked to their destination. This grill spot where they always had hip hop or RnB playing, Outkasts tracks greeting us the first day, then 2pac on the second. Maybe they knew we were coming and thought that the added music touch would make the guarantee of our business a little more assured. Either way, the food was good, they gave my crew member fries even though he was one Euro short, and the same guy who was working late into the evening agreed us again when we went back the second day in the afternoon. Maybe he didn't need much sleep, maybe he had a twin.
Finally hitting the jam in the evening, first seeing dancers spilled out on the concrete, practicing, outside the mini, urban coliseum that the competition was taking place in. Four walls boxing in the open air arena, with a big, low white square stage in the middle, ridged with lights, and full of dancers already getting down on it. More bboys and bgirls cyphering in the back corner, on lino put out on the concrete. A double decker bus sitting at the far end of the white stage, blasting out hip hop, funk and break beats. Bleachers filling with spectators lined one side of the stage. On the opposite side people also sat and watched on the steps of a long line of stairs, about 10/15 feet high, with graffiti marking the walls at the top. I climbed to the top of the steps, giving myself an elevated perspective of the whole arena and the theatre of hip hop going on within it.
After the Jam when everyone made their way to the after party at a bar on the beach. Italian bboys so full of energy they continue to cypher on the concrete area just before the sand. Others play drunk games on the beach, and spread out to lounge, drink and smoke in the deck chairs, or down by sea. There's a small playground on the beach with a single swing, that every so often someone sits and sways back and forth in. The party goes on until late into the night, and when it's over everyone streams out into the street, no one in a hurry to go home, the night still warm and full of energy.
I step into a large empty basketball court next to the bar wishing that I had a ball to shoot into the patiently waiting hoops.
Girls in pretty summer dresses ride by on bikes, on their way home from whatever party they were at that night.
The last, second evening, after the final battles are done and the winners chosen, everyone back at the grill spot, easing down from the two days of competition, chatting and eating everything on the menu.
I see a group of dancers screaming and shouting on the opposite side of the road, just outside a late night bar serving cocktails. I go over to see a large built man standing in the centre of the circle, cheerfully proclaiming something in Italian, as he holds a can of beer in his hand. I ask what's happening and am told that this man has been challenging anyone to see if they can beat him in a beer drinking contest. I'm asked if I want to try but I smile and decline, happy to simply be a part of the crowd.
It's almost time for me to go back to the hotel and get my bag. My crew members have already gone back to pack and get ready to leave. I walk out into the middle of the road, in between lanes, and stop for a moment, looking around, breathing in the fresh sea air, calm and relaxed, nothing on my mind, no need to hurry, no rat race to be a part of, no concerns or responsibilities right there at that moment in time. My only obligation is to myself, to stop and take a moment and just feel the warm weather, hear the beach and the sea, enjoy the vibe of the friendly grill spot, and watch the dancers cheer on a strangers in his challenge.
I take it all in, one more time, one more moment.
There's something about the combination of the sun, sand and the ocean that causes life to slow down and have to be taken in. Maybe it's the way the sea stretches out into the infinite, reminding us that we don't know what tomorrow might bring so we should enjoy today. Maybe it's the soft, sinking feel of sand beneath our feet that makes us walk with less pace or hurry. Maybe it's simply the sun beating down on us, causing us to have to respect it's will and slow down, knowing that we will always lose a battle against its heat.
I finally decide that it's time to go back to the hotel. I walk a few feet down the road, and find one of my crew members, sitting on the pavement, eating a pop noodle with his suitcase next to him. I laugh and ask him what he's doing? Seems I wasn't the only one who decided to stop, and take a moment to take the place in one last time, before getting our lift and driving back to the airport, leaving the beach, the sea, the boardwalk basketball courts, the grill spot, the dancers, and the event that was Hip Hop connection 2016, behind in the city of Pesaro, Italy.