Photo by Kevin Carrel Footer

Moonrise behind Congress. Late Autumn.

by Kevin Carrel Footer

On the subway the other day, there was a guy who was the first to applaud the musicians when their songs finished, who dug into his bag to give change to every artist who came down the aisle, who smiled inexplicably at the world around him. Amid all the “caras de nada,” his was full of something. Some inner truth was bursting out of him. Through every pore. He made me smile.

Be that person.

On the Friday night bus, returning from teaching my tango students, I climbed onto the number 86, one of the dingier lines here in Buenos Aires. But tonight the bus was filled with singing people. Even the driver was in a good mood (something rare among bus drivers in this city where they usually behave as if the passenger were their sworn enemy). I paid my fare, moved to my seat and tried to understand what was happening around me.

Seated toward the middle of the bus was a guy playing an acoustic guitar. He was surrounded by about 20 young things all dressed in their very scanty shorts and clunky platform shoes and tops that were no more than bras. Off to the disco! He played rock hits from local bands, while the girls sang along. Watching his interactions with his chorus, I realized that he didn’t know the girls – but either he had started playing softly or they had seen his guitar and egged him on. Either way, the bus was now full of song.

Like many campfire guitarists, he knew many fragments of popular songs, but the songs always tapered off to inconclusiveness when he couldn’t figure out an inconvenient chord change. But he never gave up; he just started a new song and the girls chimed back in.

When the bus reached downtown, the girls clambered off, leaving the guitarist with just a few friends. The bus was mostly empty now. He kept playing. The driver shouted at him, “Hey loco! Hey loco! Could you at least play one song from start to finish???? How about something from La Renga?” Even then he kept playing, though the songs were still fragments.

When he went to get off, the driver patted him on the back. “You’re incredible. See you around.”

Be that guy.

If there is a battle to be waged in this life, it is not between Left and Right or Good and Evil. It is the battle against Nada. Nothing is a choice. Shutting ourselves down, drifting along in numb conformity is a choice. Hiding from perception and possibility is a choice. You can choose to hide out, to shut down, to drift, to cower in fear and be one of the Caras de Nada on the bus or the subway.

Or you can choose to be the bright spark that ignites the others and sets them free.

Be that person.

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