Karl’s Blog 8-30-16

I’ve been focused on writing more chapters of a book these past few weeks,
so now it’s time to catch-up a bit on the blog. It has been VERY hot here
in Paris – high of 99 degrees, four days in a row over 90. (I know, you are
all feeling so sorry for poor, hot Karl, stuck in Paris for weeks with all
that heat. Right?!) Paris has very little green space and block after block
of nothing but concrete and stone. So, when it gets hot and stays hot for
several days, pretty quickly every surface is oozing heat. Happily, the
heat broke two days ago and it’s back in the low-80’s again.

On the first evening after the long heat spell broke, we went up to Sacre
Coeur Basilica, one of the highest place in Paris, to enjoy the view and
hang out with the large and happy crowd that is almost always there. Sacre
Coeur is this huge, beautiful white church on a hill overlooking all of
Paris, and it attracts tons of friendly tourists all day long. From dinner
time until sunset, the crowd gets mellower and sits down on the vast steps
and lawn to ponder the meaning of life – and enjoy whatever food and drink
one has brought as a picnic. Entertainers of all sorts show up, too, from
acrobats to accordion players, to perform for whatever coins the crowds
will give.

This last time, a French-Nigerian guy was playing guitar and singing pop
standards in English (Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Marley, etc…). He
was quite a good performer, and was a genius at getting the crowd to make
song requests, then get the requesters to get up and sing it with him. My
favorites were the love songs, sung to a partner in the crowd. One young
guy hesitantly got up to sing and the guitar guy asked “Where are you
from?” Spain. “Is this for your girlfriend?” Yes. “And what is her name?”
Eva. And then the guitar guy went a little out on a limb and asked “Do you
love your girlfriend?” The young man looks toward his girlfriend, thinks
about it, she looks back at him shyly, and he responds quietly, as if he
has never said this before to her “Yes, I do.” She looks at him and smiles
broadly, and he smiles back, now emboldened. Then guitar guy starts the
song. But the boyfriend is smiling too much now to sing. So, his girlfriend
jumps up and comes to help him. But first they have the biggest kiss, and
it goes on for a bit. Then they sing the song together, with more kissing
throughout, right there in front of Sacre Coeur and all these strangers on
a lovely night in Paris!

Music, apparently, has the power to stir other emotions, too. At one point,
a young man who looked to be in his mid 20’s came to the mic between songs
and began talking quietly but intently to the guitar guy. The words (in
French?) became louder and more heated, then another young man gently put
his arm around the first man’s waist and helped persuade him to leave the
mic area. He did, then proceeded to pace back and forth menacingly from a
distance, talking loudly and waving his arms toward the crowd, until three
French police officers came and persuaded him to leave the area. The guitar
guy, by way of explanation, said simply “It was about God. It’s ok, we are
about peace and love, too, here.”

You had to be there to remember it as fondly as I do, I suppose. But the
thing it reminded me of is the power of music, with loved ones and with
complete strangers. This is an idea that is central to our work back home
at Reading In Motion in Chicago, so I was glad to be reminded of it here in
Paris. For a moment, music brought us all together. It gave these two new
(I’m guessing) lovebirds a way to express their growing feelings to each
other and, for about two hours, it gave hundreds of strangers, with many
languages amongst us (one sang in French, one from Algeria sang in Arabic),
a way to communicate and enjoy each others’ company. That music – powerful
stuff!

Karl Androes

Posted on August 30, 2016 in Karls Blog

Responses (3)

  1. Kristy Andonian
    August 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    Thanks for letting me know about your blog! What a wonderful romantic story. You gave me a nice smile for my day. Alisa is so excited to see Paris and we are so grateful you are giving her a place to land!

  2. Marsha E Bennett
    August 30, 2016 at 5:51 pm · Reply

    Hi Karl. I enjoy your blog. I am also happy to hear Alisa will start her European adventure with you.
    I love living in Ashland. Maybe you will visit one day. Look forward to reading your book too.
    Marsha

  3. Pat Clough
    August 31, 2016 at 10:28 am · Reply

    Karl – Love your blogs and this one’s story about the power of music. Reminds me of a time in Germany when Sue and I were having dinner in a place where the tables were pretty close together. The family next to us tried to start a conversation (it was a small town and we were obviously visitors) – but they had no English and we had no German. Sue hit on the idea of mentioning some composers she liked and pretty soon the “conversation” was flowing with the names of musicians and gestures of comment that linked us across the language barrier.
    Hope the writing is going well. Pat

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