Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Train Car Serenade

I was settled comfortably on the second level of a Spanish train from the heart of Barcelona headed for my relaxing day in the beach town of Sitges, about a 40-minute trip south. As I put my feet up on the seat in front of me, I noticed a man standing awkwardly to the right of me. I looked up just in time to see him raise an instrument to his chin and start to play. At first, I was annoyed and prayed his musical tribute to the train car holding seven people, including myself, would be his only dedication.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes trying to ignore the musical notes dancing around my ears, but my curiosity got the better of me. I opened my eyes to get a better look. The man I saw serenading the train car on his violin was dressed head-to-toe in black. His skin was the color of milk chocolate, and his dark, balding hair was peppered with bits of grey around his temples. His one accessory of frill is the large, monogrammed gold ring on the pinky finger of his left hand, clenching the neck of his violin.

As his eyes were closed in concentration, I noticed how much his dark skin hid his true age. His face had minimal wrinkles, but his eyes gave him away. Underneath them were dark circles making him look sad and exhausted, as if he has been riding this train for days trying to earn some spare money for dinner. Framing his eyes were deep wrinkles creasing around the outside corners, revealing the effects of living in a sunny climate and squinting into the sun. Looking at his eyes made me feel sympathy for him, and curious to know his story.

As his slow, sad song drifted on, I noticed the poor condition of his violin. There were obvious dings and dents flawing the wood, and the sheen of its lacquer coat was faded. The chin rest was falling off from use, and was held onto the instrument with shiny, clear packing tape. The physical state of his violin revealed how hard the two of them worked: The violinist and his violin together. The musician supplied his own amplifier to help carry the music throughout the small train car, which, as I turned around to see the reaction of my fellow passengers, annoyed them more than pleased them. He rolled his amplifier around on a rickety metal rolling cart in a black, faded, and worn Nike duffel bag.

As the ballad comes to a close, the violinist kindly says, “Gracias” to the crowed, still avoiding his gaze, packs up and hurries out of the train car. He earned no money from the passengers in the train.

Photo 1: The group in Sitges. Aaron, Stephanie, Jimi, Myself, Scott, Tom, Paula, and Seitel
Photo 2: 2 euro beers on the beach... before we discovered the 40s for about 1.60 euro

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