Boston again: There was almost always a musician down in the T, at least at the stop by my hotel (Downtown Crossing). One afternoon there was a largish older black man with an electric keyboard propped on a folding shopping cart. Next to him was a young black man with an acoustic guitar, and the older man was trying to teach him how to play Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” both by saying the chord progressions and sometimes demonstrating them on his keyboard. The kid was hesitant but the old man wouldn’t have it. “Why’d you stop?” “Keep going there!” “You had it, do it again.” Eventually the kid stumbled back into the loop without being prompted. The old man noticed the gathering crowd. “Whoa, gotta make some money!” He launched into the chords on the keys and flung himself into the lyrics. The kid stopped hesitating and kept up.

Sometimes my troubled, complicated relationship to music is knocked back into a relatively pure simplicity, but never where or when I expect it. I smiled and looked down at the tracks, where I saw a broken strand of pearls between the ties. I assumed if nobody tried to retrieve them, they were probably fake, and right then, that make them real. All right now, now now, hey hey….


This was published on 08 Jun 2005.
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