Wednesday, August 23, 2023

What I learned in New York

My bucket list contains some strange things, but each of them has the capability of making a great memory for myself—and, hopefully, the people around me. I thought about one of the items: play my violin on the subway and in New York.


A few years ago, Mike surprised me and bought airplane tickets to New York. I could hardly wait to get there and play.


But the subway wasn't what I'd imagined, and things didn't go as expected. Many people wore earbuds or looked at social media on their phones. I might as well have played alone in a dark alley for all I accomplished. I played a Vivaldi piece I'd once performed with an orchestra. And when I finished, pure energy pulsed from my fingers. Yet almost everyone got off at the next stop, still glued to their phones as if I didn't even exist.


"Oh, Elisa," Mike said. "That sounded so great. Don't feel bad."


Sweet Mike. He's the most fantastic guy, and after I put my violin away, I hugged him.


"You're still okay bringing that to Staten Island?" he asked, and I nodded.


"Who knows what adventure might happen there." Even though the subway thing hadn't gone like I'd dreamed, I could hardly wait to see what the future would hold.


Mike and I drank smooth, black coffee on Staten Island when suddenly, a guitar melody drifted from nearby.


 We followed the notes and ended up in the large room where droves of people waited for the return ferry to New York. Almost every person watched a guitarist playing anything from Jamaican rifts to a mix of Latino and rock harmonies.


 I wished more than anything that I could jam with him. So, I went and gave him a tip. But as I turned to walk away, he saw my violin case and stopped playing. "Are you pretty good?" he asked.


 "I've played since I was five."


 "You wanna jam?"


 "Oh, my gosh! Are you kidding? Yes, I want to jam!"


 I took out my fiddle, and we played—right there in front of the ever-growing crowd.


 After several measures, he leaned over to me and said, "You are good. Let me turn down my guitar so people can hear you." 


 Music is life-changing—it's math that we can hear. He played a third, so I played a fifth. Then I knew he'd drop back again, so I countered with a root note. After a few minutes, my mind stopped making predictions, and the music poured straight from my soul. Toward the end of the third song, I felt so connected with the melodies it sounded as if this man and I had played together for years. That's the thing about music, it brings out your soul, all barriers removed, and that's when we can connect, even with strangers.


 "Oh, shoot," I said at the end of the last song. "Our ferry is almost here. I've gotta go."


 "But what's your name? When will you be back? Who are you? We need to jam again—we could get a contract!"


 As I frantically packed up my fiddle, I felt like Cinderella leaving the ball. "I don't live around here."


 "I play at Staten Island every Sunday. I'm Mohammed—you have to come back... Where are you from, anyway?"




 "Idaho? Huh." His grin widened. Then as I slid my bow into my case, Mike got the guy's number. 

 Before going, I gave Mohammed a huge hug. "This moment—what you did for me... Letting me jam with you in front of all these people… I'll never forget it. You made my entire year.


 He lit up with happiness. "Keep in touch!"


 As Mike and I boarded the ferry, I asked him if that whole thing surprised him as much as it floored me. I'd traveled there to play my violin on the subway, yet playing in Staten Island had been far more memorable. Thank God life doesn't always turn out how we hope; it often plays out much better.


 "Typical day." Mike shrugged. "Come to a city you've never been in. Meet some guy. Get propositioned to play music with him on Staten Island every Sunday. No, Elisa, I'm done being surprised. Life with you has always been an adventure."


 I gazed up at my wonderful man. "You're such a good guy to stick by me through all my crazy antics. Not everyone can be as supportive as you are. I love you so much, Mike."


 He winked at me, and I snuggled into him as we sat on the ferry.

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