A little coffee shop on Oak Street. An old, out-of-tune piano. A little girl who loves music.
Yesterday my wife and my daughter went for a walk and ended up at the coffee shop on the corner. We just moved to this neighborhood, having been forced out of our Vista Park home by Katrina. They were exploring the area when they stopped for a spell.
It was pretty busy, and like so many New Orleans spots, it was populated with a UN-worthy assortment of locals and internationals, preppies and punks, freaks and geeks. A man was playing on an old piano set in the corner, and as they do in so many clubs and coffee shops, no was paying any attention. The man finished his playing, then quietly left the building.
Our daughter, who has been taking piano lessons for a few years, was intrigued. She thought he was pretty good.
Curious, my wife asked the coffee chefs, who was that guy. Did he play here often? Not really, they said. Just a customer who sometimes gets in a little ivory action with his coffee. Would you mind if my daughter played some? No, go ahead.
So my 9-year-old went up to the piano, and without the benefit of her sheet music, she played some of the tunes she's been practicing all these many months. The way my wife tells it, everyone stopped to listen. All conversations in that little coffee shop ended abruptly, and fingers, toes and heads kept time with the music from the out-of-tune piano courtesy of a little girl. Hispanic workers, taking a break from their clean-up work, were nodding in time. Still wearing their day-glo vests and the dirt of the disaster, they sat and smiled.
When she had played enough, she got up to return to the table and her mother. That's when the whole coffee shop gave her a hearty round of applause.
Later, my wife insists, as the Hispanic workers returned to their back-breaking work, they whistled some of the tunes my girl had played as they went out the door. Other patrons stopped by their table to compliment her playing.
All of New Orleans was contained in that coffee shop that day. Ethnicly, economically, educationally diverse, but all gathered in community thanks to the music.
Web site: http://www.oakstreetcafe.com/