Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunday night joy.

During my first year of law school I would only explore Gainesville's nightlife with my classmates.  We went together, we left together. We sat in our own little circle and enjoy our drinks separated from the rest of the crowd. God forbid we would interact with the locals too much. When we were ready to leave, we'd bar-hop to a different place but the routine was pretty much the same. At first I enjoyed it- it gave me a sense that I belonged somewhere, I was part of a group and I mattered. I quickly discovered how limiting this has been all along. How I enjoy meeting new people, people that are different from me. How I can only grow, learn and appreciate life if I listen. How other people have other experiences, perspectives, thoughts and feelings and how inspired I can get if I don't shut off from them. I suppose, some ever so  slightly part of it might have had something to do with the fact that as law students we felt that we were educated, sophisticated and all together special. We were all set to join big law firms, have amazing careers and make gazillions of dollars. I'd be first to admit that I felt like I was something else back then. I came here having already learnt a law degree. From Europe. Europe! What did these kids know? I needed an attitude adjustment and life gave me plenty.

This summer the local theatre downtown decided to produce one of the biggest Broadway sensations of the last decade- Avenue Q. I don't remember a local venue attempting to put on a show that is so risque, adult, big and famous, although the traveling version of the musical did visit Gainesville a few years ago. Hippodrome Theatre was mostly known for its family friendly jukebox musicals that would entertain entire generations with the selections of well known 50's and 60's hits. Fun and well acted, but very safe. So when they announced that the show this year would indeed be Avenue Q  we all wondered how it would go. It was a huge success, it got extended multiple times and the cast combined Gainesville alums with visiting actors from places like New York as leads. The out of towners were very gracious when interacting with locals and some of them became quite popular. I'd hear stories of their sightings around town- where they went and what they did. Gainesville was undoubtedly a small town from them, a place they were just passing through. Yet they were stuck here for three months. I live next door to the theatre, I've got to interact with a bunch of them to some degree. They went to some of the same places I'd go to, between  drinks and conversations I grew fond of them. I saw their show three times. I appreciated their art, their work and their dedication. They gave me that amazing birthday surprise. I gave them a few of my own. But a lot of times when I was out at a bar I'd see them sitting in a group, sometimes not even talking to each other. And that reminded me what it was like when I was in law school and Gainesville was the strange foreign land we were exploring. I wanted to do something for them. Give them a great experience that they would remember. An experience we could all share. To just have fun, blow some steam and perhaps meet each other as people. And perhaps as they look back at their travels, Gainesville can stand out a bit. My idea was simple. Let's honor these people and what they have done. And give them an outlet. Sunday was their show. I'm sure they were exhausted from doing two back to back performances, still I wanted to make the night count. The owner of a local Piano Bar is a friend of mine. As a musician and entertainer himself he can entertain  the crowds, he can do anything. And in the sea of establishments in Gainesville this is one of the few places that maintain some class and are fun to go to. It's usually closed on Sunday, but I asked Brad the owner to keep it open, so I can invite everyone from the show. He likes to give me the credit but he didn't need much convincing. He ended up playing the piano for the next three hours doing what turned into a live karaoke party. The actors, the crew, were drinking, singing, requesting songs, getting on stage, getting others on stage, having fun, grabbing the spotlight. They deserved it. And it felt like a very moving experience that I not only witnessed, but was made part of. And they were thanking me for getting them together and making it happen. Most of them were there- of all ages and backgrounds, including the director, and they all celebrated together. At some point of the night any pretense, attitude or guard we may have had up just dropped and we've had an amazing, genuine, human experience. I was about to face a dreadful Monday. A lot of legal issues that are not pleasant to handle and people who make my life harder. But it was the night before and I was caught in the moment.

 The Bar has a mirror above the pianos on which the performers usually write the phrase of the night: Three words that will set the theme. The stage manager wrote out ONLY FOR NOW, which is a quote from the play. For some it signifies that this is the end. For me it highlights the transient nature of Gainesville. This is what life taught me here. To let people and things go and enjoy those little moments in life when they are still around. And those moments of pure joy give me just enough wonder and inspiration to make it to the next day and the next. It's not about life answers, but for now, I don't seek them. Sunday night I experienced something great with people I barely knew and for now, for then, for that moment it was all I could ask for. Thank you.

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