The other day I went to see a play at the Irish Art Center that completely blew me away. I was invited to the play because a few weeks ago I did a collaborative mural workshop with kids from the Police Athletic League for the Irish Art Center (IAC) and it was a blast. The IAC is a theater and cultural center that is a divinely inspired concentration of all things Ireland located in hells kitchen. But I digress, as a generous thank you for the workshop, the amazing crew at the Irish Art Center invited me to the opening of a one man play they were hosting entitled “Silent”, written and performed by Pat Kinevane with Fishamble: The New Play Company. Now I fully expected that the play would be great, the Irish do have an extremely rich and diverse pool of talented artist, everybody knows that. But what I did not expect was to be taken on a trip that would move me so deeply that it hit me at a molecular level. Pat Kinevane’s performance of Tino Mc Goldrich, a homeless man from County Cork was like experiencing a living painting, a painting constantly in the process of creating and un-creating itself just as we are created and uncreated by our own life experiences. “Silent” is equally beautiful, tragic, hilarious and oh so very real. Blew my mind. The after party for the play was held on a terrace over 50 stories up high in the Manhattan skyline, it was an epic view that would inspire the most jaded New Yorker. Against this colossal urban backdrop I had a quick meet and chat with Pat Kinevan who is as sweet and generous in person as he is talented and intense on stage. The fact that he could be so open and grounded with everyone after giving such an intense performance says a lot about this guy, he’s “good people”. It is just after sun down now and the NY skyline begins to light up like some kind of urban constellation, everyone is mixing and mingling as I spark up a chat with a funny young Irish dude named Moley. Turns out that Moley and his brother Owen make music and together form a duo called size2shoes. After a bit of prodding they bless us with two impromptu songs that frickin mesmerized me! These two easy going Irish brothers vocalize in a combination of human beat box, Gregorian Chants, Rap and Pop, these boys are Fierce! I have always had a thing for Gregorian Chants but these two brothers bring it to a whole other place. At this point I’m floating, first the play that left me speechless followed by an evening of meeting, cocktailing, music and chatting with some fantastic Irish folks. I figure its time to call it a perfect night so I float on outa there heading for home.
Heading down 2nd avenue with my mind blown and I’m rolling a cigarette as I make a beeline for the 4 line. I turn onto 50th street when the sound of a man singing pricks up my ears. The sound and timber of his voice is unique, but its strangely familiar to me with a grainy quality like it is floating in from some other time. Instantly I am caught in a Vulcan-time-warp, you know those moments when a sound, a smell, or a visual puts you somewhere else and you find that you are lost and caught in between two memories. In this moment you know that your feet are firmly planted in two places in time, like a double exposed photo with one image layered into the other. But this sound, this voice it literally pulls me across the street to its source. As I get closer I recognize the music is a jazz standard, the voice pauses in song and says, “Good evening Nubian Goddess come in, join us”. Still rolling my cigarette and caught up in my Vulcan-time-warp, I do not see the source of the voice so I don’t respond but I notice that I am now standing under the wide open windows of a beautiful little bar, all amber and candle lit inside. Music is still playing and I finally respond to the voice from beyond with a smile but I still can’t see its source when the voice again says, “Come in Nubian Goddess, don’t be shy, come in and join us for a glass of wine”.
As I enter Sofia Wine Bar, the room is intimate, warm and lit only by candles on the tables that combine with the street lights shining in from the open windows to bath the room in a golden amber hue. With a big smile and open arms, Richie Q greets me at the door and introduces me to everyone in the small room and again I find myself surrounded by strangers, who are not so strange at all, who treat me like friends. The bartender brings a glass of wine and I join a table of Richie’s friends, Tony Middleton (the lead singer of the Willows) his agent Phyllis and another friend Ina who tease me lightheartedly telling me that I looked like a dear in the headlights, certainly that was how I felt, all caught up in my Vulcan-time-warp. Richie launches into another song and a couple gets up to dance in the small space between the tables. Richie Q is a real musician and a real gentleman, back in the day he sang with a doo-wop group called the Chaperones and still makes his living making music. With each song, he plays a different instrument; he even sang me a Bob Marley tune in honor of my homeland Jamaica. The last song of the night was a duet with Tony Middleton such resonant voices, such class. Listening to them I am once again carried off to another time.
Yet again, I’m heading home with my mind now blown to the 3rd power and I’m back en route to the
4 train. As I’m trucking down Lexington Ave, a huge white bus pulls up and I watch as a group of well-dressed folks begin to disembark, with the sight of the bride I realize it’s a wedding party. As they get off of the bus the bride and groom are all aglow as brides and grooms always are and they are striking together. Its obvious that these two are completely un-encumbered by anybodies dictates as to who they should love based on the color of their skins, the fact that he is black and she is white is irrelevant to their connection to each other. They remind me that love is a rare and unique thing that holds no confines, it lives by no ones rules and it thrives. More inspiration on this night from two more “strangers” who are not so strange at all.
Continuing up Lexington Ave now and just a door away from the entrance to the 4 Train. As I glance left I see a man asleep on a marble slap in front of a vacant store. He is in fetal position deeply asleep, hands tucked between his legs above the knee and lying on a thin piece of cardboard oblivious to the movements of the city streets at his back, he seems so vulnerable. Seeing him brings me back to the beginning of the day to Pat Kinevane’s play Silent, it brings me to wonder about this sleeping man.
Questions rush in, who is he, who does he love, where is his family, is someone looking for him, someone must be missing him, why, why is he sleeping here? Compassion rushes in and I wish peace for him, I wish a home for him, I wish love and protection for him. As I mark the end of my mind-blowing night, thoughts swell in my head and swirl in my heart. These thoughts dwell on giving thanks for strangers made into friends and they dwell on feelings of pure compassion. I wish that I could help him but I don’t know how, I don’t know how to tell him that even though we are strangers we are not so strange at all, so I send up a silent prayer for him. I send up a silent prayer.