Thursday, January 25, 2007

Everybody plays the flute, sometimes

I had not thought much about the lousy clarinet sitting in my closet at home. I had stuffed it away under old comforters and bags of clothes that never made on the Salvation Army truck. Somewhere between the four times within six months that I had moved all of my belongings between apartments in L.A. and my hometown, I rediscovered the black case covered in whiteout hearts and embarrassing stickers. I wondered if the instrument had any worth.

I almost got access to anything in some Craigslister’s garage for the woodwind (mine was made of plastic) instrument. No fucking cigar. I feared that somehow I would come out of the trade with a half-used can of WD-40 and a tennis ball on a string. One phone call to a music store made me realize that clarinets like mine don’t age, they rot. What started as a $600 investment was now worthless to me in every way.

This man changed my mind:

I saw him one morning in front of the Foggy Bottom Metro station, playing some infectious tune and performing a complementary dance. I was grateful for the music and the friendly face, before I descended into my 35-minute, silent and suffocating ride to Alexandria. I continued to think about him and couldn't help but wonder where he acquired the flute. Maybe a gift from a stranger or a lifelong possession… and the vision of my clarinet accumulating dust in my closet came to my mind.

Instead of donating my clarinet to a nearby school’s band program, or giving it away to some starving musician on Craigslist, I decided that my trash would be no other person’s treasure. My clarinet would not be clutched by the sweaty hands of a 12-year old playing a two-stanza solo at an intermediate school concert. It certainly would not be recording the best part of an avant-garde indie folk band's album. Lastly, it would never ever find its way into the hands of a man who could make a living entertaining a city.