Everyone has their own dreams and unique situation that they are living through. The combination sometimes can be very bittersweet. Many people’s lives have been crossing mine lately, more lives than I’m used to. It seems that the stars are realigning and shuffling their cards, testing fate by trying out different pairs briefly, then gently placing the drawn card back into the deck.
Two years ago, I had the fortunate opportunity of receiving an accordion in my bedroom. I bought straps for it, an accordion book for beginners, a lesson or two from a teacher, but I never kept up with it. Part of my excuse was that it was very heavy. My back and shoulders would ache within 10 or 15 minutes of playing it. I also liked too many things, which made it difficult to prioritize and invest in the committed pursuit of a hobby. In any case, the accordion was there, willing to commit to me.
A week or two before the accordion and I met, I came over to San Francisco looking for a place to live. A friend of a friend had a room for rent so I decided to check it out, though I only left with the clear realization that San Francisco is expensive. $800/month=hell no. Regardless, I decided to peruse the neighborhood imagining that I lived there and what my regular shops and hang outs would be. I even applied to work at a coffee shop job that was owned by a sweet and utilitarian Russian woman who a couple days later called to hire me. However, presenting the fact that I didn’t live in San Francisco made her a little less eager to hire me. This change of heart was such a crime considering I ended up moving there a couple days later.
Along with the Russian cafe, I came across a Walgreens on my tour of the neighborhood. What was peculiar about this Walgreens was that there was a beautiful, antique accordion standing alone on the stairwell in front of it. I observed the accordion curiously until this elderly and friendly Chinese man appeared out of nowhere and started to show me how to play it. He knew no English and I knew no Chinese but magically the music provided a bridge for us. He seemed impressed by how fast I would catch on and shared his enthusiasm with joyful laughter. He then wanted me to sing songs while he played them on the accordion. Elderly Chinese men are quite powerful; they can convince young self-conscious women to sing on public streets. He told me to sing “Clementine,” “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,” “Home On the Range,” and other similar songs. After playing the songs and exchanging some cheerful smiles with a few passerbies, he gave me a gift. It was a glow-in-the-dark, mock-jade Buddha necklace strung on a thin red string. To this date, it is one of the most precious and valuable pieces of jewelry I own.
When I moved to the city a week later, I actually moved in only a couple blocks away from that Walgreens without even realizing it. Very quickly, I was enveloped in a whole new world, meeting the new cast of characters that would enter the stage of my life. Introducing these new characters would be a whole other story but there were two that I met that first week that made an impact. The first character was invited by one of my roommates who acted as the jefe of the house. She was a TaiwaneseSan FranciscoState student who came over to get some answers and to discuss the nature of karma. Slowly, I was joining the web of the household. We talked about other things as well like college, decisions, and Amelie. That’s where the accordion story with the Chinese man made its first appearance. She enjoyed the story and it later resulted as the surprise accordion on my bed. She had it in room for a while but she needed to focus on school for the time being so she thought that I would appreciate borrowing it for a while. The second character was a blonde Buddhist who came over in the middle of the night who was going to give El Jefe a ride to a concert for his birthday but instead ran out of gas on the Golden GateBridge, meditated like an alien on my living room couch, and met me. Being a Buddhist, one of the first things he noticed about me was the necklace I was wearing. Therein lays the accordion story telling session number two, which he was pleasantly surprised by and gave him the impression that I had good karma. There was a result from telling that accordion story for the second time, but it wasn’t another mysterious accordion on my bed. Storytelling result #2: two lives being entwined for the next two years.
I didn’t really practice pressing keys, reciting songs, teaching myself accordion playing techniques from YouTube, but I did practice playing with the notes the accordion left in my life. I played a long and complex song that dynamically moved through a passage in my life. It was not easy to play this song. Sometimes my timing would be off and I would play it too fast, desperately chasing the notes I didn’t want to lose or forget. Other times I played it full of stutter and hesitation and got stuck in ruts. I constantly repeated mistakes. I would also sometimes play it quietly, shyly. I was scared of not knowing where my fingers were and what emotions the notes they pressed would evoke. I would try so hard to create an amazing piece of music by cramming all these notes into a melody line that I didn’t realize that the space between the notes is what gave music it’s life. Though there were many challenges, there was something progressive and living in the imperfections that gave the song an unusual beauty and richness. It made the song my own.
After two years, just as the entwined lives were beginning to unwind and the money for rent was running thin, I receive an unexpected phone call from someone requesting to borrow the accordion for a show. The sudden apprehension and realization of attachment towards the accordion sets in but so does the realization that the accordion never belonged to me. So I call the karma-curious San Francisco State graduate to ask for her permission to let him borrow the accordion knowing that it would end its ride in my life. The confirmation was made and instrument was exchanged from borrower to borrower.
The new borrower said that he started playing the accordion two years ago when he moved to San Francisco and kept up with it ever since and is now performing in popular San Francisco venues with his band. His band is actually the same band I joined for a brief period of time, which not long ago I decided to let go of. It was a great experience but right now isn’t the right time for me to be a rock star. Unfortunately though, the borrower’s accordion recently got stolen from his car one night and that’s why he needed one quickly to solve his show predicament on Saturday.
After coming to know that he’s been practicing for two years, I felt a little regretful that I didn’t keep up with the accordion like he did. His life and path changed literally because of the accordion. He’s a musician. Did my life change? Well, I feel like I’ve been on a journey and that I am a different person from when I first got the accordion. I have grown not musically but in some other non-tangible way that I can’t help but feel is also a result of the accordion’s passive presence in my life. In any case, I was glad that there was a purpose to having that accordion in my closet for two years so that for that one day I could make someone feel lucky. The accordion will finally actually be used by someone who dedicated their two years for it. I dedicated my two years to something else.
When the borrower came into the house to pick up the accordion he noticed the large, towering amethyst in the corners of the living room. We took the accordion, walked to his car in the parking lot, and put it in the passenger seat. Thinking about the crystals in the living room, the borrower pulled out a tiny sack from his pocket which he carried wherever he went and poured out five stones into his hand. Three he explained, turned bad energy into good, one was for grounding, and one was for the power to commit to what you do. Maybe that’s what helped him to practice the accordion for those two years. Who knows, maybe they were what led him to finding this lucky accordion. The world is full of possible superstitions.
Originally, the accordion was given to karma-curious girl from a hippy (or maybe a gypsy) woman on Haight Street. The prelude of the accordion was a mystery and the story that it will continue to make will also be a mystery. All I know is, whoever will have that accordion next will be blessed with a song and a twist of fate.