Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Magic of Surprise

>DUKES FANS: “Being a sentient being makes one capable of experiencing surprise. But surprise is not going to come up to your door, knock, and ask to be let in. To encounter it, you have to be out in the world, heads up, and open to it.” Anon. I love that quote. It is one of the ways I try to meet the world, and if there are times I am not in that frame of mind and I can recall it, it helps me get back to that openness to the world. I am thinking about that quote because of experiences I had Tuesday in the wilds of Phoenixville, one of my favorite towns. I was In Phoenixville to record some harp on a track by my friend Paul Michael, a great guitarist, songwriter, and singer who used to live and play in the Philly aera for years. We did the recording, and I went off to the Phoenixville Library to see if I could display a poster for The Dukes’ upcoming show at Steel City. While in the library, getting water and getting out of the hot sun, the bus I planned to take back to King of Prussia Mall as the first leg of my trip back to Philly arrived 5 minutes early and passed by. Another one wouldn’t come for an hour or so. I was loudly upset for a bit, then I breathed deeply and decided to respond to the situation rather than just react to it. I decided to walk a few blocks further on Main Street to Steel City to get a bottle of water. In so doing I passed a record store-yes, a genuine record store with vinyl records-that I had not noticed before. I went in to see about dropping off a poster, and the sign in the door of the shop announced an LP entitled “Radical Optimism” Hmmm. I went in, introduced myself to Shawn, the owner, showed him the poster, and things somehow took off. We went from talking about what radical optimism meant to both of us, to talking about the blues in Phoenixville-yes, he is a real blues fan-to talking about our youths, what being in a record store means and feels like, and our relationship with blues, jazz, and gospel music. I flipped through various record racks and had the feeling of again picking up, looking at and reading an LP cover. It turned out that Shawn Cephas' father, James, owned King James records, a legendary chain of 3 Philadelphia record stores. One was at 52nd and Market Sts, near where I grew up, and I listened to and bought some of my earliest jazz records there. We then talked about clubs we had both been to, such as The Aqua Lounge, and The Second Fret, and memorable concerts we had been to as well as special moments listening to the radio years ago and before the internet and You Tube. It was an amazingly wonderful experience, and I made a new friend. And it only happened because I missed the bus and for some reason, decided to keep walking instead of stewing in my disapointment a So surprise is out there waiting, and it can come in wonderful and totally unexpected ways. Yes, sometimes surprise brings unpleasant things to us that we have to face and deal with, and that can be painful and tough. But often it is something small and delightful that gives us something that inspires us, makes us smile, brings a laugh, and reminds us that there are good things and good people in the world. We just have to be out there and open to it. (Shwan’s store is Forever Change https://foreverchangesrecords.com Another great record store is Hideaway Music on Germantown Ave in Chestnut Hill : https://hideawaymusic.org )

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