Friday, January 29, 2010

The saxophone player

I was walking tonight on a familiar route I’ve taken hundreds of times to accomplish the mundane task of buying bread. There’s a non-descript small corner tavern I’ve had no reason to stop into before, but tonight as I approached I heard the sweet wailing of a tenor sax playing a bluesy melody I vaguely remembered from long ago. I poked my head in the door and saw a white-haired old guy blowing the horn, accompanied by guitar and cajon players of equal age. There were 8 or 10 guys drinking beer and intently listening to the music. As I walked in they turned their heads to give me the once-over. Though there were chairs available, I quietly stood against a wall and cased the room. What struck me was that everyone in the place was at or near my age. And every one of them was big…bigger than the average Peruvian, and all had that quiet confidence about them.

After a few minutes one of them approached and invited me to sit, which I did. Everyone was looking at me, so I pointed to the sax player, smiled and gave a thumbs up. That broke the ice and the next thing I knew someone had bought me a beer, and a procession started as each man slowly got up and came over in turn to touch glasses and make some welcoming comment I didn’t understand, but it didn’t matter. I knew these guys. These were men from another time...dinosaurs like me who have lived the life, fought the battles and now got together at night to drink beer, relive past glories and tell lies…that world-wide hombre ritual that doesn’t need language. And they liked blues.

It turns out that one of the men...Jimmy, had lived in Virginia Beach for 8 years and was able to do what little translating was necessary. Laughing also doesn’t require language, and we did a lot of that. When I got up to leave it was Jimmy who spoke for the rest of the guys in saying I was welcome to come back. I really hated to go, but I was starting to feel the beer and there was bread to be bought.

The experience tonight at a little no-name tavern on a street corner of no consequence is one of the many reasons why I am in Chiclayo. These men and thousands more like them are the real Chiclayanos; not the punks who stole my camera. Sometimes I forget that.


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