I’m going to write down here the story of three experiences that happened to me in the last days, as a way to remember them as usual, but also as a recommendation; not pretending to be the guide of anyone’s life, just willing to communicate “hey, I did this, it was easy, and it was great”.
Experience 1: El Cant Dels Ocells
I was coming out ‘El Corte Ingles’ around 20h the other day, carrying proudly a big fat and heavy blender I just had bought. My day was over and all that was left was going home and wait for sleep.
Few meters after the exit doors of the store, there was a quite old man playing cello in the streets for money. Nobody around paying attention, many people walking by with no interest for the music and the beautiful sound of this human-voice-alike unique instrument. I had time and as a way to begin the process of relaxing after a long day, I offered myself this guy’s music for a moment. Small street, two walls, him against one of them playing, me against the other one, 10 meters away, ears wide open.
His cello was standing on its small metal leg, connected to the floor, and the man, with a stoical expression on his face, seemed to be in charge of giving strenght and melody to the sounds coming from the center of earth.
Meanwhile, few meters away at puerta del sol, many people had gathered to support the violent protests that had occurred in Gamona, Burgos. Their was tension in the air. Tension from the people protesting, tension from the people walking by, going back home or eager to ‘buy’. And in the middle, my private cello concerto.
We could clearly ear the people scream against their government. Most of people walking by where I was didn’t care at all and kept on going with their life. My cello player had some worried expressions on his faith when looking toward the shoutings, but he kept on playing.
The protest in Burgos were violent, there was fire involved, police assaults, and for me who believes that some day soon this all situations is going to create a violent explosion in our society, those protest in Madrid had the potential of being a mirror of those violent protest.
This is when my brain created this image of a huge ship about to drown to represent the country, and in this image the cello player was the musician of the Titanic who played “until the end”.
Police was passing by as a screen of reality between me and the musician. The beeps of their talkie walkies were mixing with the cello in a stressing way.
And this is when the cello player started playing the first notes of “els cants del ocells”, a traditional catalan song made famous on the cello by Pau Casals.
A powerful chill ran through my all body.
Me, facing the cello, between us a mix of people that didn’t care at all about what was going on in puerta del sol, that didn’t care at all about the beautiful music, like blinded by the lights of the infinite opportunities to buy and buy, almost blind to the police that was walking in front of us. I felt like only me and the musician, at this moment, were aware of the dramatical situation. He was the soundtrack of this drama, and I was the only scared viewer.
This moment last for 3 minutes, but it was almost as beautiful as if it had been planned, rehearsed and practiced several times. But it only was a situation I had created with the elements around me, without intention, just by having my eyes opened on the world around me.
When he finished his song, I went toward the musician to apologize I didn’t have any coins to give him, and thanked him for this song, mentioning that it was a very appropriate anthem for a burning situation.
He didn’t smile, he just nodded. I’m wealthy enough to take my time and build movies in my head with the reality around. For him, it was only reality, and I realized that nothing is magical about it. He was worried. I can start to understand why. Not totally I guess.
Experience 2: Mastretta
Mastretta is a band I discovered only few months ago thanks to Paula. A beautiful mix a manouche jazz, traditional jazz, rag time that immediately caught me.
Few weeks after discovering them, I went to a concert of them. I left the hall mind-blown by what I had seen, and when this week I heard that they were playing for 1 week in Cafe Central, a small jazz café in the center of Madrid, I didn’t doubt and went, eyes closed, and since no one felt like going, I went alone, not sad about it at all.
I arrived 1h30 before the show, to make sure I got the best seat; following Paula’s recommendations (again), I sat at the bar. I ordered dinner, delicious chicken curry and enjoyed this quite time drinking white wine and having small conversations with the people around me, the waiter, the waitress, and the old man sitting right by my side, that came in the same spirit as I did, very early and excited about the show. While talking, we mentioned the band, and at some point, he told me “the music those guys play, no one else in the all world today plays it, it’s unique”. And I thought “shit, it IS unique…”.
My excitement was doubled.
While eating and waiting, I was hearing the sounds of the trumpets, cello, violins coming from the background, Marina, the beautiful and expressive cello, Nacho Mastretta, the charismatic lead and all the band, they were passing by me, greeting their friends, having drinks, relaxing. And I, was enjoying, in the middle of those people I appreciate in a way that would scare them if they knew.
The show began. 2 hours of magic. Music at its highest level of emotion, in parralel with the communicative happiness the band transmits to the crowd. I was, as a musician and music lover AND fan, in heaven.
During the 15min break, and since there’s no “artist backroom” in this bar, I was able to explode in congratulations and love toward the actual artists, that were enjoying a beer before playing again. I was able to share with one of them my admiration for the instruments they use and get to know more about each of them.
This is also when I felt the head of the 1,90 meters dutch guy I had behind fall on me; he was fainting, and I had been chosen to make sure he didn’t bang his head against the bar. I succeeded, and after 15 minutes of care by two very nice women the guy didn’t know, he left.
The show began again.
And again, pure magic, unbreakable smile on my faith, pure emotion, all kinds of emotions, a infinite walk through all the emotions a human can experience.
Very hard to write about the show. When they finished, I was standing up on my bar chair, cheering them in infinite recognition for the moment they had giving us.
I said goodbye to my new old friend at the bar, with the promise of meeting again for the same show on sunday, agreeing that the first who’ll get there will reserve the same seat to the other
And when I got out of the bar, here they were, the band. And here I was, incapable of not going toward them and trying may different words to say “thank you”.
I went back home, alone under the rain, sunshine on my faith.
Right now, all I can think about is the next time I’ll see them, same place, same show, new day.
As for experience 1, I had created with the elements around me, without intention, just by having my eyes opened on the world around me, a magical moment.
Experience 3: paying attention to the invisibles.
On the train I use every morning to go to work, I usually run across the same old man begging for money in the wagons.
He walks with the help of a walking stick he bangs on the floor repeating non stop while walking through people.
But it’s a show ‘people’ don’t want to see, so everybody dives into their phone screens, books or whatever they have in their hands to avoid paying attention to the old man.
When I saw the man standing 2 meters away from me explaining in every details his situation to whoever would listen, I decided to offer him my attention, by stopping the music and looking at him listening to his dramatical speech about his situation.
I had a banana in my bag and coins in my pocket.
When he came by, I gave him the banana, 1€ and eye contact with few useless words.
At this moment, I had done what I could, and I pressed the play button to go back to music and screen staring.
But 2 minutes after, when he had gone through the all wagon, the man came back to me, and started talking to me. He talked about god, I didn’t felt it was appropriate to mention I’m not a believer, he talked about his situations, and he talked about weird things, like legends of the mounts he lives near about next to Madrid. I wasn’t getting the all story, and I’m pretty sure he knew it. But I was very cautious about giving the man what is of the most important to someone in his situation: attention.
In some way, I wanted to make sure that, in spite of my incapacity of doing anything significant for him in a material way, he knew that I was seeing him, that he is a person, a brother from a different mother, a human being, in a dreadful situation, but still a human being as anyone else on the train.
I gave him my total attention for the time he wanted, and when after 3 minutes of talking with me, we shaked hands, thanked both of us. When he touched my hand, he came out of his role of “beggar with a speech” for a moment, and I saw him as what he is, a normal person, when he shouted “fuck you’re dead! your hands are fucking cold!!”. I said “yeah it is fucking cold”, and we laughed. We said goodbye.
When he left, nothing had changed, people was still in their own individual worlds, alone surrounded by bodies, waiting for their station to be mentioned by the speakers to get up and go on with their routine.
That’s exactly what I did, but I got up feeling totally good about this moment of humanity I had given to someone who has been left without it.
Not saying, AT ALL, that I saved his life, that I saved him from his misery, that I made him happy forever. I didn’t do anything special, I don’t deserve any recognition, and I’m not a better person than anyone else. I insist.
I payed attention to the world around, and acted as a human being toward another human being begging, first of all, for attention.
3 simple moments that made me feel alive. More to come hopefully; will definitely make sure they happen.