Failing to get to Montreal worked out well. Instead of a rushed tour of the place bracketed by two day long trips, I enjoyed a few placid days continuing my job searches in Hong Kong and Turkey. By this point I’d become convinced by the many older people I’d spoken with along the way that one year sufficed. Now I needed to be more responsible.
My good friend Daniel, who I’d originally planned on busking with until he decided to head to peace corp in Mozambique, found himself a life partner there. Fortuitously, their wedding coincided in time and place with my journey back home. En route to Miami I pondered our split paths. I think we both chose well. I wanted to finish a song I started in Jakarta on the familiar twenty eight hour journey. Most trips home from Yale involved these same rails and modest trains. I set myself up comfortably inside the cafe car with my guitar, expecting no interruptions on this route, as past conductors welcomed the music. This held true, at least a while.
Across my cafe booth sat an ex-marine with a warm, friendly manner. His worldly outview – self forgiveness for joining the force as “a kid”, taking in the things he saw and learned maturely with no radical swings towards either political pole – flattened me. His eyes spoke of incredible tragedy and a mind gentled by horrific violence, a violence he once contributed to and might again in anguish. A little later on his military foil, a Coast Guard reserve officer joined us. This Osvald harbored extremely strong views delivered with unabashed prejudice, but his story of the origin of his speech impediment, medals and reserve status quashed much of our fire in retorting back.
Eventually someone convinced me to sing a tune, rather than hum quietly to myself as practice. I sang Streets of London, I’m not sure why. As I began to play nothing really changed, but once I began to sing the ambient sound rushed out of the cafe car like the air from a stoppered vial. I swear I heard the pop of the silence. A group of young black girls behind us loved it and clamored for more after I finished. Even the cafe attendant stopped taking orders from a passenger whose gaze redirected from the overhead menu. I began Forever and a Day only to be hushed halfway through by the barely noticed arrival of a female conductor. She had one of those frumpy not enough sex looks I once noted in ticket office workers as my friends and I argued for art student rates at the Musee Picasso in Paris. One of those arched eyebrows, eyes constantly threatening to roll back into her head, thumb poised above the appropriate button on her walkie talkie to call down retribution. I thought it best not to mess with her and quit, even after she waddled away in post office blue slacks. Until the next morning when a new conductor took over.
My tablemate bought a CD from me directly afterwards.
I chanced to sit to lunch with one of those cafe audience passengers, one Pastor Enrique from Ecuador, a missionary who dropped esses from English and Spanish. I spoke only Spanish with him, determinedly, despite mistake after mistake. A blessed meeting for the both of us, for I brought his contact information to Daniel’s pastor father, and he passed energy, enthusiasm and spirit back to me.
Earnings: $9.00, 10 minutes
Song of the Day: Streets of London – Ralph McTell