December 13, 2005

The Ruthless Guitarist

We have a weekly farmers market in our town that I love going to. I usually don't stay too long - just however long it takes me to scope out the free samples and grab a few wasabi peanuts from the nut guy. Everytime I have gone for almost two years, there has been a shabby looking old Asian guy with his beat up old guitar, harmonica, and open case for tips, endlessly playing and belting out unrecognizable lyrics.

I've never seen anyone actually listen to him because honestly, you feel a little guilty watching him. He is so bad, his voice so hoarse, and the words so unintelligible, that I would feel pity for him - to actually stop and watch would run me the risk of laughing in his face. His guitar is in the most abysmal condition imaginable. You can tell that he's been playing it for all of this lifetime, and probably the past few that he's been through as well.

I was at the market last week with Pixie- it gets dark pretty early here these days so there wasn't many people there. The sun was just going down and there was that quiet, slow feeling that comes with sunset. I had just bought some flowers for a party and was heading home when I passed this guy. Something about the evening made me stop. I stood a few feet away and swayed with Pixie to the music. Many of the people passing by gave me amused smiles - it really is hard to imagine why anyone would listen to his songs. He supposedly sings in English, but I only caught a recognizable word every few minutes. I could tell it was a love song by the mood of it and you know what, I loved it. I watched the man's face the whole time and was able to see his earnest passion for the music. He was totally absorbed by the rhythm and words. I didn't know if he even realized I was there.

The other people in the market didn't seem to realize what was happening on that corner. After he finished the song, I clapped, thanked him and started to leave but he called me over. He showed me the sheet that he had been reading the song from. He had phonetically spelled out all the words into English so he could read them. He had spelled Wednesday "wetness-day", Tuesday "Choose-Day" and Friday "Fly-Day" and so forth. Cackling, he showed me some of his other songs-sheets with similar spellings. He shook my hand and thanked me for listening and I went on my way.

Previously, Spike and I had described him as "ruthless" because he was going to sing no matter what he sounded like, or who was listening. I had heard this guy growling out his songs every week, but I had never really heard him sing until that night. This old man can hardly speak English, but he comes every week to sing for a bunch of yuppie ingrates with his beat up guitar, coarse voice, and shabby clothes. It's the most endearing expression of art I've experienced in a while. Funny how someone I once thought of with such distaste has suddenly become a symbol to me of pure beauty. Twilight will do that.


Bethany said...

This is your best entry yet. Thanks for taking us there.


Ben Everton said...

Sarah, you're Hiranomus Bosch like description of this fallen man filled me, thrilled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.

NPR, here you come.

New background? It makes it a little tough to read the type, but it does look good.

Blog 4-ever.