Posts Tagged ‘Late Night’

It was late, and I was tired, and I generally do not like to take the metro past midnight, even on a weekday — it gets all funky, and you can never be sure how drunk your fellow riders are: happily buzzed, or pushed to the limits of belligerence?

But I wasn’t that far from home, and I of course prefer the funky metro when given the choice between that and walking the windy streets of late-night Paris.

I was waiting on the quai of the always-useful line number 4 after transferring from the 8, and nearby, a man was playing Yann Tiersen — read: stuff from “Amelie” — tunes on his accordion. He was actually pretty good, and I do love me some Yann Tiersen. I felt bad that I didn’t have any spare change to give him — he was good, but not 2 euro good.

He had set up a little personal band shell by the portal to the quai of the 4, complete with signs — in multiple languages — relaying the power, beauty and skill of music as an art form. Clearly, this guy was a professional busker.

(A quick side note: in order to get official permission from the city of Paris to play music for money in the metro stations, you actually have to get a permit. They only give out a certain number of permits per station, and there apparently is some sort of audition process to obtain a permit. Granted, there are clearly some people — those who play their music on the trains themselves — who ignore this regulatory procedure, but the lengths the Parisian government goes to recognize and regulate this busking process is really fascinating.)

Anyway, with Yann Tiersen playing gently in the background and the train coming in 3 or 4 minutes, I had time to look around. I noticed a woman, in all black with a bright, multi-colored plastic shopping bag, passionately dancing in front of the accordionist. She wasn’t twirling, or jumping — if you’ve ever heard Yann Tiersen, you’d know that that kind of dancing is hard to do to his music, unless you twirl and jump in 3/4 time — but rather, she was intently clapping, stomping and shaking. It was kind of captivating, in its way.

I found it interesting that this couple would work together in this manner — the dancing woman was fascinating, but I wouldn’t call her skilled or anything, or at least, not as skilled as the accordionist — when suddenly, the train arrived and the in and out exchange of passengers began.

I watched as the dancing woman shared some words with the accordionist — what was said, I don’t know — and then wandered over to the train. She got in the car behind mine, and gingerly took one of the many folding seats in the front section of the car.

It became clear that this woman, with her colorful shopping bag and peculiarly delightful dancing, was just another late-night passenger headed home on the metro. She heard the music, thought she’d take part, and started to dance.

Sure, you could argue that our friend in black was probably not all there. You could argue that it was just another crazy out taking part in a world that sometimes doesn’t even want them to take part; I couldn’t tell if the accordionist appreciated her Martha Graham-influenced tribute to his music or not.

And yet, all craziness aside, I found the entire moment terribly beautiful in its oddity. And it really was the entire moment. If the woman had stayed on the quai and kept dancing, I would have just written it off as another desperate couple looking for change in the metro. If she had disappeared, I would have thought similar things.

But she didn’t do either of those things. She picked up her polka-dotted shopping bag, nodded to the accordionist and perhaps her invisible crowd of adoring fans, and headed on home on the same metro as me, in a car just behind my own.

Call me sentimental or overly cinematic, but this anonymous and public display of music appreciation put a satisfying smile of wonder on my face.

May we all have the chance to do something similar in our own time.

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