A Place Called Home

A newborn lives in a trailer that overlooks the Pacific. His father takes care of him while his mother works. His parents believe love is more important than money and learning more important than possessions. They teach him about Gauguin, tide pools, and Jazz. They show him poverty, wealth, and love. He crawls into the lap of a musician who has severely deformed hands. The musician carefully wraps the child’s tiny fingers around a pair of drum sticks. Together they play the drums and share the common thread of music that weaves their two worlds together.

Fast forward nine years.

The child is bored. At school, he is sprawled out on the floor instead of sitting in his chair. He is crying in the corner where he is forced to sit. The small hand he uses to pick up the guitar is stamped with a happy face, which proves he behaved that day. He strums, and the music sooths his soul.

Fast forward nine years.

High school has been difficult. His parents arrange for him to take the bus to a school in a wealthy neighborhood where children of the well-heeled decide the fate of those who attend. He is not accepted. The elite gang of jocks has decreed he is not one of them. He is too small, too puny, and too poor. They go off and take designer drugs in the well-manicured park by the school. He starts a band. The music clears his path.

Fast forward nine years.

The strict music teacher stands in front of his class. He remembers his childhood and the tricks he would play. He remembers his troubles in school and how he could have easily dropped out. He remembers the laughter and the pain. He remembers the music.

The children, with clean, pressed clothes and neatly combed hair, sit on the floor in front of him. They do not wear sneakers endorsed by famous athletes. In fact, some of their footwear is falling apart, leaving pieces of shoes on the rug. Their expressive eyes fall on the teacher and his director Will, who pours his heart and soul into the children and the music.

The teacher looks back into the eyes of the children. They are eyes that tell many stories. Sad eyes. Eager eyes. Knowing eyes. Frightened eyes that have seen more than their years. The eyes glance at the map on the wall that shows a world much different from theirs. The eyes move to a television screen that flashes images of how other cultures live, work, and sing—the ears of the children hear the music.

It is the end of the day. A quartet of teens practices. Over and over they struggle—to get it right—to hear the sound. The teacher uses his fingers, now strong and steady, to gently guide their malleable digits up and down and around the instruments to make the music—the music of life.

The teacher is my son; the place is A Place Called Home, an outreach center in South Central Los Angeles. The setting is the Music Department. The children are American children—swarthy little angels—trying to mend their broken wings and fly into the American dream without crashing. The center is seeing to it that they succeed.


About bohemianopus

I live a gypsy’s life. I dance to the music in my head when no one else is looking. I can hear the stars sing, taste the sky, and see music in living color. I talk to animals. And the homeless. I believe that open fields are for flowers, critters, running, and making love – not war. I love to feel the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and the rain on my face. I often contradict myself. No I don’t. I hate to drive and sometimes hit the curb when I park. When I am bored, I fantasize about being a famous Broadway star. I do not know how to merge, speak Lithuanian or cook. I am West Coast in a Jersey sort of way. I can not tell a lie with a straight face. I think there should be an “off” switch for obnoxious, loud or boring people. I keep a sleeping bag in my truck in case I simply don’t want to leave. I once owned a heavyweight belt signed by Mohammad Ali. I am loved. Most importantly, I cherish each day as if it were my last.
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