“When you do things with your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”
Neighborhoods in Manhattan seamed to spring from the sidewalk, one after the other, without apparent reason, like the lands of books nestled one after the next on a bookshelf. Several hours into my first afternoon I left a quite upscale neighborhood north of the financial district and entered a world unknown to me. China town opened itself up and I was seduced
The streets were packed with signs I could not hope to understand. Strange fruits as big as my head, ugly buy eyed fish, and sacks and stacks of rice lined the streets next to the small grocers. I tried to round up the courage to enter one of the dark tea shops, but failed. (I regret that today, but life moves on) I stood and drooled over roast ducks hanging in windows, heads still attached and skin so crispy it seemed it would shatter.
Mesmerized and befuddled by the foreignness of my surroundings I nearly missed a sudden and massive gathering of people. In a park children ran around screaming and playing games , the white haired grandmas sat across from their husbands in knots of conversation. The summer day was perfect and the crowds wandered in the shade, eating meat on a stick and listening to music coming from a near by temporary stage, as a small festival appeared to be in full swing.
Wandering down one shaded path I spotted a camera crew ahead of me and curiosity quickly drew me in just as they were leaving. The scene I found them leaving did not appear to be one of great note, a gathering of elderly men all playing traditional string instruments. They played together like old friends, harmonious during the chords and dissonant and clunky during periods of transition. They were ok at best. Across from their semi circle of benches an even more elderly man sat in his electric wheelchair and ‘kept time’ with a wooden block. Keeping time is putting it nicely as he appeared to be hard of hearing, need I say more? Yet he is one of the things I will remember most about day. This man played as if he were sharing some part of his soul. He played with a joy which was infectious in its simplicity, a joy which transformed this familial performance into one of the most moving musical performances of my life. Even now I find myself smiling at my computer screen imagining him raising his wood block in a dramatic fashion as he beat the end of the song. To know that kind of joy is to share it and I can only hope to make someone as happy as he made me in that moment.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to find out what New York food stole my heart.