Buenos Aires is a gritty city. The streets aren’t especially clean, owners don’t pick up after their pets making the sidewalks a particularly dangerous obstacle course, and the buses emit enough smog to create an early morning haze that at first can be mistaken for the same mist found in the countryside. I’m still in my honeymoon phase so the sights and sounds are still fascinating; nothing has been made mundane yet.
There is something to be said about the first few weeks in a new place. Your senses are heightened. Smells, sights, sounds are all intensified. I think that’s the addictive factor in travel. For a brief period of time, you get to feel like a child—wide-eyed and curious about every passing stranger, every building that looks just like the last one, every overheard conversation.
My first evening subway ride there was man with a guitar playing for Argentine pesos or maybe just for practice. He was good. His brooding face and sound were vaguely reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan. This talented young street musician reminded me of an experiment the Washington Post did a few years ago. They had a very famous violinist, Joshua Bell, play in a D.C. metro station during rush hour. Gene Weingarten wrote the corresponding article Pearls Before Breakfast. He set-out to answer the question, “In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”
In the article, he noted that of the thousands of preoccupied commuters that walked past Bell, only seven people stopped to actually listen to him play. One was a three-year-old boy who was quickly pulled away by his mother to continue on their hurried path.
The conclusion Weingarten arrived at was that if we don’t take notice of this—a truly incredible performance of one of the most intricate pieces of music every written, played on the most expensive violin in the world, by one of the most talented musicians in the world—how many other things are we missing? Weingarten’s article won a Pulitzer, so it’s really worth the full read and he articulates this notion of preoccupation far better than I ever could. But in that moment in the subway in a foreign city, I’d like to think I would have stopped to listen to Joshua Bell.
This Week’s IPhone Photos: Palermo Antique Market