Let me give you an update on a few people. Remember Mehmed? He’s the man that sits outside the bakery and asks for money in a little plastic cup. And Amina? The lady that was sitting in a big triangle of doonas and bags in the metro. Well, I saw them again.
Mehmed was sitting in the same place as three months ago, the same bakery. This time he had more clothes on – it’s winter somewhere in the world that’s not heatdeath Perth – a big beanie, sleeping bags around him. He saw me from far off and his face went pink and happy, mine too. He speaks about 50 words of French and the rest is in Bulgarian but somehow last time he managed to explain to me the whole story of him and his wife and his family. This time we tried again but even though we were smiling the conversation was full of non-comprehension. Even to try and tell him “I’m very happy to see you” midway through the conversation dropped into a ditch of indecipherable sign language. He tried to explain something about papers and something about Monday and something about me coming at 1 or 2 on Monday to see him. But still, I guess like with birds and trees there’s something you understand and appreciate about each other even if you can’t actually talk. Hmm.
Do you know the story of the Tower of Babel? It’s somewhere in the bible, probably every way of understanding the world through a book has its story about how all the languages came to be. This one is about maybe humans trying to build a tower up to the sky, because they wanted to be as powerful as gods, but the god god was like, uh-uh I don’t think so and crumbled it all down and sent a wind that carried a million different languages so none of the people could understand each other enough to build large-scale constructions, the ones in the style of our love, C. Y. O’connor. Well, I made up the bit about the wind. I don’t have a book here to look it up.
But, I don’t want to build a tower to heaven, just want to be able to have one proper conversation with Mehmed.
There was Amina too. Remember her? She was the moroccan lady. She made me laugh when she explained how people holding on to their money are so ridiculous. This seems to happen here: if I sit down beside the right person they just start talking to me as if we were friends forever, even though we still do the getting-to-know-you part. This time Amina was again in the underground tunnel of the train station and at first I rushed by like everyone but then thought “What is life for” and went back. She got straight into it again, even though we’d only talked once and it was four months ago. And then she started producing food for me. I was going to meet someone I didn’t know for a drink, a fan of one of the friends’ bands who maybe wanted to become a friend, and I hadn’t eaten, and now I was being fed dinner by a lady sitting in the spat-and-peed-upon very all-kinds-of-grey concrete of the dirty underground railway station. She produced a sandwich someone had given her – with ham, so no good to her anyway – and some loaves of sugary bread which in the end I left elsewhere in the street, and a little jar of very good paté. She told me, in her accented French but still French, that she just needed money for her place she lives, to pay the rent, she didn’t need food. So, I gave her nothing again, and she gave me dinner and some paté.
And I guess because this website is about music I could tell you about some music I saw. Again, at the end of a day of thinking about bombs and plastic and love and “What is my place in this world” I went down the metro in another place and underground this time was music, but, BIG music. It’s kind of like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree – each time you go up, or in this case down, some new weird thing is there to greet you. This time, it was some maybe Portugese people sad to be missing Carnivale, a guy on guitar with long big wavy hair, a man on bass, a man on drums, a woman just shaking a tambourine and all playing a raucous mixture of rock and ska and then two young boys taking turns at freestyling over the top with all their teenage friends egging them on and filming on their phones. The boys were sort of happily invited by the band and sort of wrestling the mic off the man with wavy hair at the same time.
And then there were people watching and then there were people dancing. A woman of maybe thirty in very plain clothes and spectacles who couldn’t help herself and a white man with combed grey hair and a pin stripe suit with pants slightly flared at the bottom and a red tie, and a big tall black man with a different type of suit, more ragged and a leather beret. All around other people were just watching but these three were really dancing and the boys were really singing. My body was moving a little and so the tall black man came and took my hand and danced me over to the woman and the pin stripe and within a few moments me and pinstripe were couples-dancing. He was a good lead, and even though I don’t know how to move unless it’s alone, he lead me through a series of steps that were beautiful, funny, romantic, close, and as I looked into his eyes I actually thought for several moments that he was in fact the reincarnation of David Bowie, come to dance with me for a few minutes in the metro.
Some people might think this is all naïve, but no-one’s trying to steal my wallet. It’s just all people doing what they’re made to do – work to live, dance to enjoy. There’s sometimes talk in my city and probably every other one about beggars ‘organising’ themselves, but you know, who doesn’t work for a corporation that’s organised? And who’s job doesn’t involved mainly sitting, not producing much – as in not producing food or art – and just waiting for a person with more money and the will to do it to put a few coins in your cup?