Rhythm, Color, & Rhyme
I slipped hurriedly into a side door of a post office in the University District on a quick errand. It was a long line, and it quickly filled in behind me.
The fellow behind me cursed to himself with a tone of cynical disregard for not just the length of the line but the presence of other people around him. Something of it smacked of peculiarity and absurdity. I shuffled backward a step, ever-so-slightly, just enough to hear his words more clearly. Soon after, one of the ladies behind him jabbered nonsensically and accidentally stepped sideways into his shoulder just enough to earn a hearty bellow and a quick shake from the poor, irritable fellow.
I began to spasm out short, constrained giggles, turning ever-so-carefully to catch a glimpse of the scene. In so doing, I began to hear with greater clarity the varied tones and utterances throughout the entire length of the line, taking in a colorful, entrancing, and entertaining scene.
I spun around even further to look straight-faced into the perseverating chap behind me, smiled from ear to ear as I said hello, and recognized what had been the arrival of a local inpatient program for mentally disabled adults. There was something so lacking in both modesty and pretense. It was beautiful.
I emerged from the line into a stairwell below street level peeking out onto The Ave. There were pots and pans, a few crates strategically positioned, here a metal tin can, there an ordinary plastic bucket. I watched as he set them up, watched his quick rimshots and adjustments, watched his fills, then watched him shift around his set with intention and method. It was soothing standing there, just barely hidden by a concrete barrier on which was bolted the handrails of the stairs emerging from below.
I stood silently and motionless in the shadows, so moved by the colorful foreground of a Jamaican street musician against the grayish composites of a dreary April sky. The beats were at once sullen and tranquil, full of repose. His eyes beamed joy. And that is when I heard the soundtrack of this organic day of rhythm, color, and rhyme. “Don’t worry (boom, boom), about a thing (boom, boom, boom) CAUSE EVERY LITTLE THING (boom) is GONNA BE ALRIGHT…”
As I walked north on University Way, I could feel the cool breeze and see the beginning movements of a springtime long-forgotten, as when Aslan employed the Deep Magic to reverse the evils of a Winter that was never Christmas. I breathed in warm vapors of Indian curry alongside Thai spice and teriyaki.
A young homeless couple sat distracted in a card game and conversation with their cardboard sign that made me smerk: “Ninjas killed my parents.”
An acapella singer stomped and clapped along my way. He was stamping out his weariness and belting out for hope. “Lean on me (bomp) when you’re not stro-hong (uh!) and I’ll be your friend (YEAH) I’ll help you carry oooonnnn (clap)…”
My anxious thoughts had settled, and my emotions began welling into an inner peace. I kept walking, brushing past him and his pain and his harmonies.
Upon the invitation of the white-lit icon of the pedestrian, I almost stepped into the open crosswalk, but I halted just long enough for a large Ram truck to leap over the intersection, scraping a bundle of metal bars onto the hill of his ascendence where my foot was about to step. The guy next to me turned to share glances, and we laughed together at what seemed like the pure comedy of a nervous encounter with death.
by Blake Edwards, April 9, 2006
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