While at the Saturday Market yesterday, I saw something I’ve never seen before, and it disturbed me. Eugene is a liberal city, for the most part, two hours from Portland. We get all sorts of things here, and most go completely unremarked on because everyone just says, “It’s Eugene,” as if that explains everything. In most cases, strangely, it often does.
On a popular corner, a family stood looking as if they’d been dropped straight out of the Depression. Better dressed, but of the era. They had probably four or five kids–I truly was trying not to pay too much attention for fear I might say something (but I trusted myself not to–public confrontation isn’t my thing unless there’s actually physical violence taking place, and involvement in that would just be to try to stop it.) They were standing there very quietly, as if there was a bubble around them. They didn’t speak to anyone, no one spoke to them. A young man in his early to mid twenties played spoons under a tree across the sidewalk and a few more feet away from them, and he wasn’t paying them any attention either, and was actually quite cheerful. He was definitely your typical Eugenian–non African-American but with dreadlocks, tie-died everything, and extremely friendly.
The truly creepy thing about the silent family on the couple was that the youngest child, a boy of about seven who looked far more serious than any seven year old should ever look, was holding a cardboard sign reading “Sex before marriage and drunkenness lead you off the path to Heaven.” There were three of us. My friend was looking at something else, but her friend whom I didn’t know very well and I looked at each other and I could tell we were thinking the same things. She said, quietly, “Does he even know what those two things are?” I thought he might, growing up in a family like that. I said I wished I had some sort of “It Gets Better” literature to give him. That would have caused a stir. We were both convincing ourselves we could walk by without saying anything when all of a sudden we heard the man playing the spoons talking to someone in a little louder than normal tone.
He was saying, quite enthusiastically, to a young man probably in 6th or 7th grade, who was slightly plump and had his head down, listening, blond wavy hair falling around his face–he gave off the air of someone who was picked on at school. Back to spoon man. He was telling this boy that he could do anything he wanted to. There was no one who could stop him. He had the boy sit down next to him and said, “These are just spoons, you can learn to play them too,” and started to teach him how. It was a moment of pure awesomeness in the midst of all that strangeness. And while he did it to help the boy there, I think he meant for the children across the sidewalk to hear it as well. You don’t always have to live that lifestyle. You will have choices when you are older.
I thought if it was frustrating for us just to see it and walk past, how frustrating it must be to sit there and see it for the allotted time the spoon playing man had to sit there and busk. It was one of those moments that you just sort of treasure. This young man was quick enough to recognize a situation and use it to help not only the boy right in front of him, who needed the attention, but send a message to those he couldn’t approach.
So for any of you who go to a market and just think, “Oh, those stupid street musicians,” think again. We also saw a fantastically funny accordionist (I did say accordionist) who was all about the geek and science and sang songs from the point of view of a mountain that talked about tectonic plates, and she was also just downright awesome. She stopped for her “Creature Feature”–this time the Star Nosed Mole. She was also very nice and approachable and I talked to her for a little while. (I tried to teach myself the accordion–it was unsuccessful. My excuse was any instrument you had to strap yourself into couldn’t be safe. It was a lie, it was just that I could usually play any instrument I picked up and the accordion baffled me. It was easier to say that rather than admit defeat–which I did to some. Mine was also broken, and some of the buttons were broken and had fallen inside, and you could hear them rattling around inside. It was the buttons that truly terrified me, and didn’t make any sense. If they’d been labeled or something, like on an autoharp, but no, miles and miles of buttons like a whole crop of them you should harvest…too scary. For all I know, there could have been a star nosed mole in there. Some of the the bellows were also cracked, so they let out a little sigh, which I interpreted as, “Why are you trying to do this to me?”) I finally sold my accordion on Craigslist. It was an antique, with lots of rhinestones and very pretty. This is true–I sold it to a movie prop company, so my accordion is probably now more famous than I am, even with an uncredited role. Okay, the time I am spending looking for a picture that resembled it has passed from research into a waste of time. It wasn’t a brand name that was popular. I’m not even entirely sure what country it was from. It was pretty. You’ll just have to trust me. I’m a sucker for rhinestones.
My parents have an accordion they keep trying to pawn off on me as they are downsizing (as if, knowing how much stuff we have, we have room for an accordion) and they remember the other accordion I had (that I got rid of (I think there’s a miscommunication of logic here). If I start acting indecisive, my boyfriend waves his arms and mouths the word “no.” He has an fairly intense dislike of most accordions. Unless they’re played by anyone in They Might Be Giants. Then they’re cool. They’re just not cool if I attempt one. lol He also doesn’t like bagpipes. Granted, these are both loud instruments, but I think he’s giving them both a bad rap. Did someone playing a bagpipe come and torture him as a child? The Barmy Bagpipe Boogeyman? He just says they’re better played in large spaces. Preferably far away from him. Maybe I have more British Isles blood in me than he does (in my mutt background), although I think he has a lot of Welsh. Well, as much as you can these days unless a recent relative came over. Most of mine speak with a distinctly Oklahoman twang, though. My boyfriend has even told me I have an accent, which I think is impossible other than my inability to make my “e’s” and “i’s” sound different, which is probably more of a speech/hearing impediment than anything else. We finally narrowed it down to the way I talk, and how I talk, not so much as to the way I pronounce things. If anything, when I pronounce anything, it’s usually the British pronunciation from watching too much British TV when I was growing up.
I mean, my ancestors came over in the 1600’s, and as far as I know, no one married anyone interesting that came over from anywhere. There was an intriguing group that settled somewhere–in the Carolinas?–that came from Germany and I think the little community still speaks mostly German. And Quakers.
How did I get from point A to point B in this post? Sort of a meandery post.