Friday, August 28, 2009

Pearls Before Breakfast

An experiment in perception, taste and priorities!
by Charlie Leck

An old friend (we go back about 55 years) sent me the most interesting email a couple of days ago and I want to thank him for it. Very early in the morning I read through it and then went back to it and read it again. Then I turned to the original sources and read them, too.

I could try to tell you the story, but I would be messing up the account as it was originally told in the Washington Post in 2007.

Let me do only a brief preface that I hope may encourage you to read the original. We can’t be rushing around so all the time. Once in a while we must stop to read something so curiously moving as this feature story by Gene Weingarten. (The following is mine, but I hope you'll go read the Weingarten story.)

It is a cold, stark morning in January. You are about to catch a metro subway at a station in Washington, D.C.. As you are rushing to your train, you hear the wonderful strains of a violin. It causes you to slow your pace just a bit; yet you have places to go and important things to see and do. Over near the entrance to the station you see a young man and his violin. He is wearing jeans and a warmish, long sleeved shirt and he has a baseball cap on his head. It’s out of your way, but you walk over to drop a few quarters in the violin case at his feet. Though the music stirs you, you move on to your train and your day of sightseeing. Over a thousand people passed by the violinist that day. He gathered up about $60.

Two days later you are in Boston and a friend invites you to a concert. "It is sold out," he says. He has two tickets worth well over $300 dollars. You accept his kind invitation.

When Joshua Bell, considered one of the worlds’ greatest musicians, walks out on the stage, he is welcomed by thunderous and sustained applause. You think he looks familiar. Only days earlier you had an opportunity to listen to him for 75 cents. You rushed by him even though he stood in the chill and played some of the most remarkable pieces ever written – and he played them on a violin worth more than 3 million dollars.

You had refused to stop, to smell the roses, because you had, you know, priorities. What was it? Oh yes, breakfast with that pretty secretary to the third assistant to the Secretary of the friggin’ Council on the Preservation of Morning Doves.

Now your heart is soaring as you remember the concert in Boston. Never had you heard anything so splendid and moving. You remember that, during the concert, for a brief instant, Joshua Bell was smiling coyly at you, remembering your face, and remembering the quarters you tossed to him.

Be sure to read Pearls Before Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten, in a 2007 article in the Washington Post. There are also some videos at this site and you can watch all of those even though you've such important other things to do. Perhaps you'll catch a glimpse of me.

Oh yes, Weingarten won a Pulitzer for this article. And, in 2007 Joshua Bell won the Avery Fisher Prize recognizing him as the best classical muscian in America.

Remember, smell the roses!

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