People were still a little upset that the first bus after Shabbat had arrived, opened and closed its doors, and left without any of the waiting passengers. Donna and I laughed between us, knowing we weren’t supposed to be on that bus. We had just been kicked out on Christmas Day in Jerusalem from the house we stayed at. We found that to be quite funny. “But you are Americans. You are rich, and I need money!” Edna had yelled at us. This seems to be a popular misconception around the world. It didn’t cross her mind that we were making what little money we could by playing music on the street for hours. But, no matter. The next bus would soon arrive, and we would all eventually arrive at our destinations.
As suspected, the next bus did pull over, opened its doors, and everybody at the bus stop got on. Hauling our oversized backpacks and instruments onto the well-lit bus, we took our seats. Having taken this bus many times, we knew this route to Ben Yehuda Street. Tonight was a bit different, not knowing where we would end up this evening, but we knew that busking was the answer. Soon, we arrived at our stop and walked to our favorite pitch. We said hello to the people at the ice cream shop and began to set up across from the ATM.
Music on the Street
I plugged Miss Guitara into my little chopped-up Peavy solo amp turning the volume down to avoid getting in trouble for playing too loud. Donna unsheathed her rainstick, and we began to play. The street carried our sound nicely. As we began to play, a young man walked around the corner, looked at us a second, sat at one of the terrace tables of the ice cream shop, and ordered a coffee. We played a long set of favorites, and the tips were pretty good. People would often stop at the ATM, drawing more than they may have otherwise, and would consequently drop the extra into our case. We asked the young man if there were any particular songs he would like to hear. He smiled and said, “You’re doing fine.”
We took a short break, and he offered us a coffee. Sitting for a minute, we shared small talk but got back to singing as another group of people headed our way. All in all, it was a particularly good night. As it grew late, fewer people were on the street, and the ice cream shop was closing. We decided we would pack it up. The young man said, “Where are you going next? I have a golf ball-sized chunk of hashish that must be smoked tonight since I fly out tomorrow, and I need someone to talk to about some things on my mind. Would you care to join me?”
Donna and I looked at each other and said, “Sure. Why not?”
He smiled and waited as we packed up the instruments. “My hostel is just a short walk from here,” he added.
We put on our huge backpacks, grabbed our instruments, and began following him up the slight incline of a hill. Part of the way there, a bus pulled over. A young Hasidic Jewish man stepped off the bus, whipping off his fluorescent orange wraparound sunglasses. He looked in both directions, and putting them back on, walked quickly up the street. He reminded me of a secret agent in a movie. The bus pulled off and continued its route. It was a surreal image that stuck in our minds. Soon we were at the hostel where our new friend was staying.
The Magician’s Son
It was a nice large room in an old house with two king-sized beds. The young man pulled out a pipe, loaded it with hashish, and lit it. After a few hits, he exhaled a huge cloud of smoke and passed the pipe to Donna. “I’m a Cohen. My father is a successful magician in Australia, and I have come to Israel to try and understand my life and my place in the world,” he began.
He recounted his journey of self-discovery as we smoked. Although he had seen all the sights, done all the rituals, and reflected, he was not sure what it meant to him personally. He wasn’t sure he had felt the ‘magic.’ We tried to help him understand that the magic’ isn’t always an explosive epiphany at the moment of realization. Sometimes that understanding comes much later as ‘So that’s what happened!’, or ‘Oh, I had no idea at the time that it affected me, or I it!’ Magic is truly happening constantly; it’s just that our limited awareness of it doesn’t always let us see it. We all agree that positive thoughts bring positive things into our lives, just as negativity brings bad things.
We all talked into the wee hours of the night, discussing the world, life, and the real magic that is all around us. Finally, he said, “Yes, thank you. I believe I understand now what I came for. By the way, where are you sleeping tonight?” He had not seemed to notice we were lugging huge backpacks with us! “I have two beds here, and you are welcome to one of them.”
That sounded good to us. It had been a long and interesting day. We fell asleep quickly. In the morning, we all bid each other safe travels and parted ways. Now, where were we going to go? What to do? Maybe Tel Aviv. We knew some Rainbow family up there that we would like to visit.
Next: Tel Aviv