Sunday, May 15, 2011

Magical Moment 465, "Piano Gringa"

Last night, I sat alone in my apartment, feeling melancholy after just returning from a week long visit with my family in Nebraska, and saying goodbye to my husband again as he left to finish his month long Army Reserve Psychological Operations Training. For a private person, who rather enjoys her alone time, I was in a rare moment of wishing I had someone to visit with. 

I sat on my couch watching the news when I suddenly heard the most glorious noise coming through my 2nd floor apartment window. I immediately muted the TV and listened intently. Drifting in through my filthy window screen,  was the sound of music that made me grin from ear to ear. There were about 3 male voices bellowing in unison Spanish words I could not understand. But it didn't matter, I loved it. And then, like the buttermilk icing on a rich, chocolate cake...an accordion accompanying them. 

My Columbian neighbors were having a family get-together, which involved every brother, sister, cousin, and child all in one place - the front yard of our shared apartment complex. The close-knit family held these affairs often, but never did it include live music. 

It's hard to explain the feeling I get when I hear music like this. For one thing, my Grandma is Mexican and I grew up around it. I suppose that's where it came from. When this genre played, I was always inspired by the excitement and energy it brought to her. What can I say? I love Freddy Fender, the Texas Tornados, and Selena. I'm a green-eyed gringra.  

I called Eddie and held my cell phone up to the window so he could hear. He encouraged me to be friendly and go say hi. I snorted at the ludicrous suggestion. I can't just prance over there like I'm a normal, sociable person who just walks up to random people and says hi! I don't even know them, except for the mother periodically applauses through our shared wall after I practice the piano, and their children enjoy torturing my animals (and my animals enjoy being tortured). 

But I could no longer sit idly by as the music beckoned to me, as if I were under its spell. So, I grabbed my guitar (that I haven't played in months) and walked out my front door. Nervous about how my presumptuousness would be received, I timidly made my way through the dusky evening air, towards the plastic lawn furniture packed with care-free Columbians. At once I was recognized, "It's the piano gringa!!!" They yelled. I was pleased and relieved! 

Immediately, the fellow musician and accordionist, pulled an empty chair next to his and asked what songs I knew. Sadly, not many Columbians listen to Tex Mex, so we were rather limited to "Cielito Lindo," which we sang at the top of our lungs about 5 times in a row. You know it. Sing along: Ay! Ay! Ay! Ay! Canta y no llores! Okay, that was all I knew of the song too. The rest of it, I basically mouthed the word, "Watermelon" over and over. Luckily, the chords are I, IV, and V, which I was happy to learn that most Latin songs are (in fact, most every kind of songs are).

After about an hour, we lured out another neighbor musician, the young Greek boy who plays the bass. Now it was a real party. They requested "Hotel California," which I tried my best, but unfortunately, I just don't know how to play an F#7 chord on guitar. The young Greek boy tried to google it on his iPhone for me, but we gave up. I did manage to crank out most of "Hey Jude" and "Tu Solo Tu," a song from my childhood at the Nebraska Land Days Mexican Fiesta where I performed that song for the talent contest and won 20 bucks. 

Eventually, the evening wound down and I walked the few feet back to my front door grinning. Even though Eddie was far away, he made sure I had a nice evening anyway. And although today, I'm nursing my 3 freshly calloused fingers on my left hand, it was a nice reminder just how far a little courage, neighborliness, and music will go.


I took this video when I was working up the nerve to go over there. 
My camera wouldn't focus, but just listen and tell me you wouldn't love to go to this party: