i played music with a stranger tonight.
Hallo my loves.
Greetings from Waiheke, New Zealand.
I want to tell a thing that happened tonight.
Neil and I spent the day with Ash, and then Neil took Ash off for a Dada Time, and for the first time since, I dunno, March?, I found myself alone, not taking care of child, and also with no work, no show, no deadlines, no urgent posts to write, and no….plan. No plan at all.
For a while, I stood there in the kitchen, not sure of who I was. I looked out of the window for a while and wondered. I felt pretty weird. I looked in the mirror and thought for a while. I poured myself a huge glass of wine and ate some potato chips and piece of cheddar cheese for dinner. I was really excited. And I felt strange.
Then I got my jacket, because I’ve learned it gets cold fast, and grabbed my new empty journal that I got today, and my phone, and my wallet and my ukulele and I put them all in a bag, and I got on my bike.
I didn’t know where I was going to ride. I just pedaled off. I thought maybeI’d ride into the little town and find a bar or a restaurant to go sit and write in. It’s Saturday. Maybe I’d write in my new journal. I was excited to do that.
I rode into the little town, but I didn’t feel like stopping, so I rode out of the little town, and then down by the water, and I was liking riding my bike, so then I rode up a hill, and then I rode down a hill, and then I rode down a few roads I’d never seen before.
Then I decided to get lost.
I like getting lost.
It feels like a few years since I’ve gone somewhere and gotten nice and lost.
I pedaled along as the sun started to wane and I hugged the coast. I looked at my phone but there was no service. That was a sing, I decided, to get really good and lost. I couldn’t get really truly lost if I stayed on the coast, because how lost could I get.
I kept pedaling along for about a half hour or so, and the sun sank lower.
I put my jacket on.
I turned onto a tiny road and towards a little beach-y cove at the base of a big, imposing cliff. It looked nice and tiny and peaceful. A few boats were moored in the bay.
I skidded down a road onto the beach where a few dozen kayaks were moored in the sandy grass and parked by bike in the sand and wandered onto the rocks. I kept my shoes on. They’re the kind of beach rocks that cut you, volcanic, glassy rocks with sharp edges.
I saw a woman getting out of her kayak, and she swam out towards the sun. I was sort of jealous of her. The breeze blew.
It’s warm here now, about 60-70 on average, nothing like the super frigid weather I’ve been reading out in the states, where even people in Texas are freezing their asses off. I felt lucky. I feel lucky.
I looked at the boats bobbing in the water. I looked at the sun getting close to the horizon. I thought I should probably bike back home because I still haven’t bought a stupid fucking light for my bike, and when it gets dark, it’s dangerous to ride on these teeny-tiny windy island streets with no light, and who do I think I am that I can ride with no light. I’m not special. A car might just kill me. The kayak lady went away.
Then there was nobody else there. Off in the near distance, above the beach, I could hear a party. A dude was whooping. I wondered what he was whooping about. It was only like seven o’clock. I wondered if he was drunk. I wondered if people whoop when they’re not drunk. I wondered if he was the kind of guy who whoops when he’s not drunk but he knows he’s going to get drunk so he starts pre-emptively whooping even though he’s not drunk yet. Pre-drunk whooping.
I was on alone the rocky shore, on the left side of the beach, and the tide was low, you could tell by how wet everything was, and how it smelled like seaweed and fish and things. A tiny little cove. You could walk from one end of the beach of the other in a minute or two. It was surrounded on either side by little cliffs.
Then I heard music. Guitar playing.
I thought maybe it was from the whooping people. But it wasn’t.
There was a man, sitting on a little five-foot grassy cliff overlooking the beach, near the kayaks, playing guitar music to no-one.
He wasn’t playing a song with words. He was just playing some chords. Simple chords. Minor chord, then a major one. He was just…playing.
I took my ukulele out of the bag, which was in the front basket of my bike with no light, and I played the chord he was playing. It was an E minor. And then a C major, and then a D. I’m bad at the ukulele, but I know those.
I was far away from him. Maybe 50 yards. Far enough away that I thought maybe he could hear me play, but maybe not, if the wind was blowing the wrong way.
Then I decided the just walk up to him and keep playing.
I left my bike by the rocks on the side of the beach, and I walked up to him, playing the chords that he was playing, and sat down next to him. He didn’t say anything. We played his chords for a few minutes.
He still didn’t say anything.
So I didn’t say anything.
He was barefoot, and had a can of mixed-drink gin next to him on the grass, He was bald. I don’t know how old he was. 40? 50? 60? I can’t tell anymore. I don’t know how old I look to anyone, either, anymore. 40? 50? 60? Old? I don’t know. I don’t care much anymore. He didn’t look like the sort of person who did either. I liked him.
He stopped playing the random chords, and without saying anything, started played “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, and I strummed my ukulele badly but okay-ish and sang along.
He played a song I didn’t know and I listened.
Then he played “Hallelujah”, by Leonard Cohen, and I put my ukulele down and sang along. I know all those words. I’m a good harmonizer.
He ended the song and finally broke our weird code of silence and said: “Where are you from?”
And I said “New York”
And he looked at me as if he expected me to say more, and I said
“It’s a long story” and I looked out at the sunset like I didn’t want to talk about it, because I didn’t, really, because I was liking not talking.
And that’s all we said.
Then he played “Peace Train”, and I knew the song but not the words, so I played the clapping part on a kayak that was tied to the little cliff.
We watched the sun set together.
Then I got up and told him I had to go, because my bike had no light and it was dark.
He just nodded.
And we didn’t say anything else to each other.
I walked back across the little beach and put my ukulele back in the basket of my bike and hopped on and headed home, just as the dark started really coming down. I waved goodbye.
I didn’t ask him his name.
And he didn’t ask me mine.
I didn’t take any pictures of him, or me, or us, or any video, or make any recordings of us playing, even though I kinda thought about it.
I took a picture of the sun while it was setting, because it was so pretty.
I’m so glad I’m a fucking musician.
I love you.
Good night, my friends.