Monday, August 23, 2010

Lessons from spare ribs and new friends under a bridge.

Sometime in late June, just before I left for Pennsylvania, my brain (as often happens to musicians) became infected with the itch of a catchy melody that refused to vacate the premises. For whatever reason, I decided that the melody's lyrics needed to start with the word, "may" and so I thought back to an arrangement of an old Irish blessing I had sung with a choir in college:

"May the road rise to meet you,
the wind at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again -
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand."

The words fit the melody perfectly, so I decided to forge ahead with some lyrics. I had no real inspiration, so I decided to make up a fictional story about a couple in PA who felt conflicted between reality and big dreams for their life. I put the song down and just let it sit for a while, since it wasn't really a major project for me at the time.

That is, until the last week of my time in PA.

One Saturday, a couple of friends and I decided to introduce ourselves to a homeless couple living under a bridge in Pittsburgh. Driving past one afternoon, my friends had noticed quite the set-up under a few of the bridges: queen size bed, bed frame, grocery carts as closets, lawnchairs, etc. It peaked their curiosity so much that they just had to sit down with the creative minds behind it all. I decided to tag along for the adventure.

We introduced ourselves, explained our initial draw to them, and planned on coming back and sharing dinner with them on the following Monday. They were more than happy to sit down with us so that we could all learn more about each other over a few spare ribs and some corn on the cob.

That Monday night dinner was a truly beautiful experience: sharing stories about our pasts, our relationships with our families, the 60's (them, not us, of course), and what a typical day looks like for each of us. At one point, it was brought to the couple's attention that my friend, Dorian, and I had been working on an album and they requested a song. Dorian pulled up the music on his phone, began rapping and I began singing. It did not take long for our new friends to stand up and start dancing and singing along - even the husband, who was using a cane!

Two and a half hours later, we were in our car headed home, minds freshly challenged by the new knowledge of our friends' situation under the bridge, hearts growing with a love for the oppressed who were bound to us by the shared bond of humanity.

I walked into my living room that night, picked up a guitar, and began singing the words of that old Irish blessing. I stopped as I reached the verse and glanced over the words. Once. Twice. Slowly, the realization that I had found the rest of my lyrics for the song began to wash over me. I tried to recollect as many stories and events from the evening as was possible and began writing the second verse.

Sometimes, you just have to let the story start telling itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment