PRATIE PLACE

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Don't reject serendipity

One day Joni Mitchell came unexpectedly upon a busker spinning wonderful melodies. It was a magic moment but nobody was stopping to enjoy it, and she confessed that she, too, walked away.
... the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by

I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony...
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free
A few years ago my band was hired to do a little Christmas tour in South Carolina. When we arrived at one of the historical sites we were booked into, the guy in charge of the performance ruefully admitted he'd forgotten we were coming. There was "no room at the inn" so to speak. His performance space was full of something else.

He suggested we go play down by the dock. This was a magnificent idea; it was a freakishly glorious, warm, sunny December day. We were ecstatic to be outside. We set up by the water and people wandered up and stayed to listen.

Then came a bus. It decanted a harrassed schoolteacher and a batch of schoolchildren with clipboards. They were on some sort of "scavenger hunt." I was thinking, "how nice for them to happen upon us - we will bring something lovely and unexpected into their day."

But in fact, the teacher shooed the kids away - we were not in her script. Thus, no music allowed. They were hustled off as she barked at them about keeping to their agenda. What a waste of an "educable moment" about the marvels of serendipity.

Here's a song we sang that day on the pier:
Now is Come Our Joyful Feast.

The tune is from the Sacred Harp song, "The Midnight Cry," but the words were too dreary:
When the midnight cry began,
Oh what lamentation,
Thousands sleeping in their sins,
Neglecting their salvation...
So I replaced them with lyrics from an Elizabethan Christmas Carol by George Withers. And we gave it an old-time feel. Pretend you're on a sunny pier in South Carolina and you happen upon some crazy musicians. Stay a while and have a listen!

It's bad karma to ignore serendipity.

Twenty-five years ago I lived in Belmont Massachusetts, in a kind of hippy group house at the edge of an old Armenian community.

One day I heard an insistent ringing in the street and looked out the window to see, to my astonishment, a portly old gentleman with a huge black handlebar moustache pedalling along with a big box on the front of his bike.

He called out to the street at large that he would sharpen our knives and scissors.

I watched open-mouthed. By the time I snapped out of it and realized I certainly must gather up some knives and scissors and take them down to be sharpened, it was too late. He was gone.

I imagined his adult kids saying, when he came home discouraged: "See, Dad, we told you. Nobody is going to get their knives sharpened in the street here in the USA." I watched for him every day for months, but he never came again.

For twenty-five years I have regretted missing that chance. I will never in my lifetime see another knife-sharpener with a huge moustache pedalling down the street.

Carpe diem.

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9 Comments:

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Ron Hudson said...

What a beautiful story!

 
At 1:56 PM, Blogger Mary said...

"It's bad karma to ignore serendipity."


...Amen!

Loved the stories here.

(And LOL at the "meow" toward the end of the song you posted.)

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous terrilynn said...

I would be thrilled to death if I happened upon a bunch of folks playing this on a dock downtown somewhere, especially if I had a busload of children with me. That teacher was apparently in the wrong line of work.

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Victorio said...

Hi! Melinama,
Have you never seen a knives-sharpener? Come here, there are a lot of them ringing of the house every day. They go with his bike and someone play a kind of flute with a nice sound. But others are a little hard because they are very insistent with their ask.
Your blogs are very interesting but a little difficult to me because you write with many words I don't know. But it is a good practice to me, thanks.
Victorio
P.S. I didn't have time to answer your mail but take this as one.

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Victorio said...

Hi! Melinama,
Have you never seen a knives-sharpener? Come here, there are a lot of them ringing of the house every day. They go with his bike and someone play a kind of flute with a nice sound. But others are a little hard because they are very insistent with their ask.
Your blogs are very interesting but a little difficult to me because you write with many words I don't know. But it is a good practice to me, thanks.
Victorio
P.S. I didn't have time to answer your mail but take this as one.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger jo(e) said...

I loved this post. You are so right!

Always, there should be time to stop and listen to music ....

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Mark Daniels said...

Very good words. Today skips on by and we really do need to live in the moments that we're given.

 
At 3:29 AM, Blogger muse said...

this is so, so beautiful. It is certainly one of life's greatest lessons to learn how to enjoy what G-d gives us unexpectedly.

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Lavern Hafer said...

Excellent, that was really well explained and helpful

 

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