Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Oye Como Va" seems an appropriate title

Before I get to the post I planned to write today, I would just like to say that there is nothing better for my morning mood than ruining some jerks morning. Or at least putting a kink in it. No, I do not go out of my way to ruin someone else's morning.

As I was walking across the parking lot to get my morning coffee before going to work, I stopped to check both ways before crossing the pedestrian path in the lot that leads to the main building. I got maybe two or three steps off the sidewalk when I heard a hissing of breaks. I looked to my right and my heart skipped a couple of beats or maybe it just stopped as I saw a huge truck screeching to a halt. The driver had not been paying attention and had nearly run me over. He had the nerve to honk at me.


I had already stopped, so turned to face him, took off my sunglasses, and gave him a Specialty Withering. The Specialty Withering is a look so condescending, so scornful, so powerful that J-Lynne has insisted it makes her feel two inches tall and about as smart as a rock. Granted, most of the time I can't help it when I give someone the Specialty Withering. But when I make the effort the result is astounding.

I made eye contact for several seconds, and then he had the audacity to stick his head out of his window and yell, "Get out of my way, you stupid hippy." 

I didn't give him the finger. Not because I didn't want to, because I really wanted to flick him off. I didn't give him the finger because I'm not sure if that's actually illegal or not. You never can tell with the ridiculous laws they are passing these days. Instead, I held my look for a few seconds longer, then gave him a dazzling smile, flounced my long, hippy like skirt, and skipped off. 

He took off like the devil was after him. What a jerk. I told Padawan about it when I got to work (we google chat from our respective jobs throughout the day) and he was less than pleased with the situation. I personally find it pretty funny. I hope I made him late for whatever was so important. And for the record, just because I'm wearing a floor length, silk skirt and have long hair doesn't make me a hippy. 

Anyway, on to the post.

On Sunday Padawan were out and about and we went to a store that I swear was made by nerds for nerds. While we were inside looking through some software I heard a piano. I stopped and listened and said, "Padawan, someone's actually playing that piano."

The store has a grand player piano, but it mostly just sits there. I've never seen or heard it played before. 

"No, it's a player piano. They just turned it on today. Nobody is playing it. Nobody ever plays it."

I listened for a few more minutes. "No, somebody is playing the piano. It's not on automatic."

He insisted it was playing, and I insisted it was a person, so we walked through the software and around the corner to the section where the piano resides. And there, sitting on the bench, was a young man playing to his heart's content on the Grand.

"I told you it was a person."

"Lucky guess?"

"Nope. I knew it."

And this is how I knew: I work in a music store. We have a wide and varied selection of pianos in our Piano Department. Digitals, grands, baby grands, uprights, and player pianos.  I've learned to tell the difference between when a human being is playing a piece and when the piano is playing.

You can always tell because a human does not play systematically. A human will take a piece and make it his or her own. They will caress certain notes and chop others. Three different musicians could play "Claire Delune" three different ways. A piano will only play it the way it's written. It will be beautiful. Perfect. Concise. But it will not move you the way a person playing will. A piano cannot interpret music, can not move you through the feelings of the composer. It takes a human being to put emotion into a musical composition. A piano will play notes on a page. A person will play music.

So I knew, without a fathom of a doubt, that there was a person playing the piano.

And I stopped to listen even as Padawan and Master Plo Koon, who we were watching for a couple of hours, moved on. The young man didn't have any sheet music with him. The stand was empty. He was playing from memory, and in the cases where I didn't recognize what he played, I'm sure he just went with his heart. Talented. It was beautiful, inspiring. And then I noticed...

I was the only person standing there listening. 

Hundreds and hundreds of people were milling around the store, talking to each other. None of them seemed to notice that there was a musician playing for them. For all they knew he could have been a world class performer of the greatest caliber, and for all the attention they paid him, he was just background noise, no more important than a radio.

Padawan and Master Plo Koon came back.

"Chanel, aren't you coming?" 

"I want to listen for a few more minutes. Can't you wait just a little while? Listen. He's playing Imagine. You can't walk away when someone is playing John Lennon."

"I need to find that video card."

"But it's free live music! This is beautiful. We don't have anywhere else we have to be today. We can stop for just a moment and listen."

Padawan sighed and looked at the computer components sign. "You can stay and listen. We'll be over there." And he and and Master Plo Koon turned and walked away. 

Now I know that not everybody feels the same way about music as I do. I don't expect that. But I find it extremely sad that I was the only person in the store who showed any interest in listening. Not even the children wandering around seemed curious, Master Plo Koon included. It's disappointing that people no longer try to find beauty in unexpected places, but it's even worse that beauty thrust under their noses goes unappreciated and unnoticed. 

I know that some people think that if you're not in a hurry it's a sign that you're not very intelligent, or you're not very useful. But I think that's pretty wrong. If you're always in a hurry, if you never take the time to stop and pay attention to the world around you, you miss a lot of beautiful things. And what's the point of living if you can't enjoy the beauty in the world you live in? If you don't stop to listen to the birds, or the musician on the corner, or walk slow to enjoy the fresh air and the flowers and feel the joy of being alive, can you really say you're living?

And of course, I've managed to find a video that is absolutely relevant to my point. Watch it, listen, and think.

And just in case you want the full story....READ THIS.


  1. First-I love long flowy skirts like that so I'm totally a hippy too. I like your wilting gaze and smiles more than my reaction on Tuesday-but you are a better person than I am apparently! :-) I hate people like that but love your reaction! YOU GO!

    As for the music I would have stood there all day. I have no musical talent but a huge appreciation for it. You are right you can't walk away from Lennon! The end of that video made me smile so much...that lady was so touched-you could tell.

  2. Hey, you didn't get out and pulverize that guy, and he would have deserved it. You didn't do anything, even after he got unnecessarily rude in front of a child, so kudos double time to you for that. And I wasn't trying to be a good person. I was proving my point: I had the power to stand there as long as I wanted and hold him up. Pedestrians have the right of way in parking lots. Especially when they're on the crosswalk.

    I don't know how a thousand people just walked by without so much as pausing for a moment to listen. Especially to a violin. It's a beautiful instrument.

  3. Who even uses the term "hippy" any more? What a nutjob!
    Sadly, if some pop sensation were there (singing horribly) THEN people would stop to listen.

  4. Lots of people. Austin has a lot of hippies. I'm just not one of them.

    And you're right. If it had been Lady Gaga singing the store would have gone nuts. (I would have left. She irritates me.) What are we coming to?

  5. "A piano will play notes on a page. A person will play music."

    This is a perfect analogy.

  6. Your encounter with that jerk reminded me of an experience I had a few weeks ago at Barnes and Noble. Tyler and I were walking through the parking lot, trying to get our kids inside the store quickly, because it was really cold outside. I was carrying my little daughter, who was burying her face into my neck in an effort to avoid the wind. I was holding her close to protect her, when I noticed that this stupid b*t*h had pulled her car right up in front of me, just waiting for me to notice her and move out of her way.

    I wanted to kick her bumper and hope for her airbag to go off and break her nose. Who does she think she is, anyway? What if I hadn't noticed her car, had tripped and my daughter had been hurt? I would have KILLED that woman, no guilt whatsoever. However, I wanted to set a good example for my kids, so I avoided violence, walked around her and went inside the store. I hope she drives into a pole someday...

    Anyway...rant aside, I love music too. I often wish I had practiced more when I took piano lessons. I also loved what you said about how machines merely play notes on a page, but humans make music. It's quite poetic, and very true.

    Also, I appreciated what you said about slowing down to enjoy life every now and then. I'm sad to say that I don't do it often enough. It's definitely something I'll have to work on. :)

  7. One day I was sitting in downtown Seattle waiting for my bus to go home to Portland. Out of the blue I heard.... bagpipes. I said "What the snap?" and started following the sounds. Several blocks away I found a guy in full kilts playing the pipes on a corner with several tall buildings that made the sound echo back and forth with an eerie and wonderful quality. Turns out he was an investment baker and came out there on his lunch hour to play because of the acoustics. I stayed the whole time and listened and ended up getting home pretty late, but it was worth it. Free music is like pretty girls. You just have to stop and admire it while you can. Go check out playing for change at They are doing some awesome stuff there. Watch the "Stand By Me" video. If you love music it will make you weep.

  8. Nicki, thank you. I feel all brilliant now.

    Candice, it seems that people in cars forget the important law: pedestrians have the right of way in parking lots. And I think most people remember that. Now, when I'm walking through a parking lot I try to do it quickly so nobody has to wait longer than necessary. It's people like that, though, that make me take my sweet, sweet time. Good for you, though, for NOT kicking her car.

    Oh, I'm jealous. I want to play the piano. I want to learn PROPERLY, that is. If I could play piano as fast as I can type...I'd be awesome. Doesn't work that way, though. And thank you. It seems that was good analogy because you and Nicki both liked it. :)

    NOBODY does it often enough. Not even me. But the next time you get the chance you should do it. Life is beautiful.

    darev, I'm way jealous that you got hear a good bagpiper. From what I've noticed, they are either hit or miss, and in Austin...the few are very terrible. An investment banker who loves music. Sounds like something from a movie, doesn't it? And it completely disproves my theory that investment bankers are all selfish jerkfaces. You just can't be a terrible person if you dress up in full kilts and play bagpipes on a public street corner.

    I like your simile, though I'm not one to take the time to notice pretty girls often unless they're rocking some sweet kicks, so I'll take your word on that.

    Thank you for sharing that link. You were right. I'm crying. That was beautiful. I think that website is going be pinned to the page.

  9. Was that you in front of my truck, dammit? Oh wait, I don't even drive a truck.

    As for the music, I always find skill like that displayed in a casual setting somehow more impressive, like if someone just picks up a guitar and rattles off a few quick riffs it's so much more amazing than seeing someone on stage surrounded by pyrotechnics. I definitely would have stopped to listen. Maybe the other shoppers just thought they hired someone to provide a musical background for their shopping.

    1. Thanks for sending me here Bryan..Nice post! Adele has a song called "Hometown Glory" from her album 19. In the beginning a women asks if she needs help? She says "no thanks, I ain't lost, just wandering" I like that feeling of wandering with no where to go...Just BE, and wherever you end up so be it! We do that a lot when we travel!

  10. I think it's a lot more personal when someone is playing live music in normal places instead of on a stage. That stage is just a barrier separating you from the music. You're supposed to experience it, not watch it.

    You're probably right about the people thinking it was supposed to just be background music. But that's not the way it's supposed to work. If it's a radio, it's background. If there's someone playing right there in front of you, it's supposed to be admired.

  11. I've never had a long flowing skirt but i think anyone that can pull it off must be freakin rad :p
    and lol, sometimes i'm jst too busy to notice my surroundings, but its true that we shld start appreciatin stuff like a pianists talent :p

  12. Too bad you mentioned that Austin has a lot of hippies. I had a great Texas joke coming on.

    But I'm with you about the music. I am constantly aware of the music around me and love to hear something live, off the cuff. I've also realized that others don't seem to hear the same thing I hear. Nor do they care. Oh, well. Their loss, right, Hippy?

  13. KitKat, well now you are thinking about it so the next time you hear live music somewhere unexpected you'll remember this and stop to listen.

    Brent, are you saying you DIDN'T know Austin was full of hippies? That's what we're famous for: our music and the hippies! And Leslie.

    It is their loss, and it's sad they don't realize it. I feel sorry for them.

  14. It seems funny to think about there being alot of hippies in Texas. Figured that's the last place you would find them. New Mexico maybe, but not Texas. Wow.

  15. Clearly you haven't seen the "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirts. We're a different kind of place.

  16. Yeah, I was thinking like darev2005 there. My joke was going to be something stereotypically redneck-cowboy-big-hat-Texas. But it's gone now. What do I know?

  17. Well, you know everything isn't bigger in Texas, and you know that we don't ride horses everywhere.

    There are lots of Rednecks in Dallas and Houston. (Sorry, Doug, but it's true.)


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