My journey to Denver started as most journeys start: with a book. I picked up “Three Cups of Tea” at the Salt Lake airport during my layover and I read the first few chapters on the plane with a feeling that something incredible was in the works. The anticipation of a series of life-changing moments built up in my blood stream. Not the kind of moments that change the course of your life, but how you initiate that first meeting. The hello, salut, and as-salaam alaaikum that we great our forks with as we take our first steps down their detours.
If we are honest, journeys never start with the setting out. Their source is in the decision that leads to the moment of departure. I decided on a Sunday, I think, during a sleepless night. I set out on a following Tuesday. I was home by a few-days-later Friday. I decided to see The Idan Raichel Project in concert at the University of Denver.
I have so many reasons. All of them complex and interconnected. I have no use to state them here. Needless to say, they led me to Denver, Colorado. A city I had only ever heard tell of, but never seen. I walked its streets. Well, the two or three between my hotel and the concert hall. Road its buses and trains. Spoke with its people. I didn’t really care about it. It wasn’t impressive or special. It was just another US city. I give credit to the mountains to its west. The Rockies are beautiful.
The concert was incredible. People ranging from ages five to eighty came to see this Israeli band. Some had never heard of Idan Raichel and his project, but held season tickets at the auditorium and figured ‘why not? it sounds interesting’. Others, like me and around the same age, came to see a band they treasured. There were many Jewish people wearing their faith proudly on the top of their heads. They came with their families; their parents, spouses, and children. And more still came: immigrants, students, and visitors from Israel to see their own dread locked prodigy and his band of sensational artists. The music inspired. Older woman clapping their hands, middle aged men dancing in their seats, children near the stage twirling to the rhythms of different worlds. Powerful is only one of many words.
After the concert I had a borderline panic-type conversation with my mother about purchasing a very expensive taxi or finding the nearby train station that I hadn’t located before dark. In the middle of an exasperating sentence a man approached me and offered me a ride to the train station. He and his wife and their two friends had come to the concert and were about to leave. He seemed honest. Nice. The first smiling face I had seen.
Don’t misunderstand me. The music brought people together the way only music can. But before the concert and after, no one smiled at me. No one cared who I was. Even if they were alone, they didn’t act interested in conversing. It is a very American thing, to be standoffish in entry ways. There must not be any use to meet somebody that you probably wont be sitting by in the hall. Best to wait until you find your seat and chat with your neighbors. More efficient, but much less…human.
I decided to take that ride.
While walking to the car we spoke. They asked where I was from and I said Portland. When they expressed, what one might say a normal reaction, their surprise that I would fly from Oregon to Colorado just to see a concert, I explained that I had been living in West Africa and came home when my fiancé was killed. The music of the Idan Raichel Project was something Isaa and I had shared after dinner in the African evenings. I mentioned them earlier in this blog when I was flying back to the states from Dakar. Their music was in my ears during my loving and my loss. I said my coming was a tribute to that time Isaa and I shared.
-“Where in West Africa? Our daughter is in Senegal right now.”
-“Really?! I was in Senegal. What is she doing there?”
-“She is in the Peace Corps.”
-“No! I was in the Peace Corps. What is her name?”
-“I don’t think you would know her. She has only been there for three months. Her name is Tamar.”
-“Tamar Rosenstein! I was in her stage that left three months ago.”
-“Ah! Your the girl she said came home.”
Hugs all around.
Tamar, your parents are incredible people. I talked with your mother about you, the Peace Corps, and care packages. I had espresso with you father and we discussed news companies. I slept in your room. In your bed. And your father drove me to the airport at four in the morning. It turns out that I like Denver after all. It is a small world. An incredible, small world.
I could write more, but the story speaks for itself. I will leave it with a quote from “Three Cups of Tea”:
most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed,
who heard Allah’s own voice, all did wither and die. All is temporary.
The sky outlives everything. Even suffering.- Bowa Johar, Balti Poet