We gifted him to Aviv for his birthday this year. For months, he had mentioned time and again that he wanted to learn more guitar theory. What a great idea! My mother and I thought it might be nice to come together and present him with something educational. It would be like giving him a bicycle for his mind.
I didn’t know where to start, really, when I began my search for the guitar teacher. Posting for a private, traveling guitar instructor in New York City still sounds risky to this day even now after I found the guy. It feels almost as unnatural as searching for an apartment on Craiglist in this place; you just never know what or whom you’ll come across.
So of course, I got innovative and just decided to google it. After a couple click-throughs I realized I had nothing to lose and I found myself posting an ad on a site that offered all sorts of private lessons. We had options! There were Chinese lessons, sewing lessons, swimming lessons — even Jewish lessons! Whatever those were… thankfully, guitar lessons were listed on there too and after putting myself out there as an eager customer in need, I received two responses that same day. One guy, an older gentleman who charged way too much for half hour lessons - and then our guy, who was reasonable, young, and who had served as a visiting professor for guitar theory at Penn State. He even mentioned he would throw in a discount if we also, by chance, needed math tutoring. I’m not sure what he was doing on this crazy site but he sounded safe enough.
He gave me a quote and I wrote him a message about his schedule, never fully believing that I would actually go through with signing this stranger up to teach my husband how to play guitar for his birthday. But to my surprise, I learned that I really am a yes-person, and soon enough I was texting my address and confirming the first lesson. He mentioned that he preferred cash upfront, if possible. Great—no problem. But really, I took it as a one-time gig. It would be a miracle if it worked out for the long run.
After doing some research I found that he was actually the same age as Aviv, born in ‘86. He was also originally from Turkey, a neighboring country where Aviv and his family spent summers back when relations were still strong. Apparently it was all coming together in a symbolic way, though I did fear ever-slightly that he might walk into our home torn to know that some of us are from Israel (Americans always assume the worst when it comes to anything of conflict in the Middle-East). No matter, to make him feel close to his roots I would tell him that my family is Lebanese and maybe if he came hungry I would offer him a date or some pita with za’atar—because our food always makes friends. I had the entire length of our first interaction scripted in my head and funny enough, none of it included the instrument.
And the day came where he arrived—this tall, lengthy, music-loving math genius of a guitar teacher. We were quite lucky that it went better than my planned dialogue! Seven lessons later, we told him that we would love to continue and we presented him with the cash upfront for another round of private sessions. He was thrilled and almost in disbelief. Needless to say, Aviv is now strumming away morning and night, and his birthday was a musical hit.
I know for a fact that countless others have contemplated this exact puzzle, but to New Yorkers it’s always astounding that you can possibly run into someone you know in a city of millions. Think about it: there is a moment when you and another person find yourself at exactly the same place at exactly the same time. Your paths have crossed at this very subway platform even though this location is far from his home in Brooklyn and it’s definitely not guitar night. I didn’t say anything to him yesterday evening as we stood there within full view of each other. Instead I observed, with my groceries in hand, as he stood his tall-stand on the platform with a woman next to him. They were together, listening to that same Chinese erhu-player we all undoubtedly know. The aging musician was picking his instrument so beautifully last night amidst the speeding subway cars, and there I was to witness our 28 year old guitar teacher gazing in awe as he handed the old man a couple bucks for his sound.
It was miraculous to see how humble an interaction, and it was miraculous that I knew this guy, now, after a birthday that was a couple months ago and just because I decided to give a guitar-playing stranger on a website a chance. I found myself standing in front of someone Aviv and I could have never known — but who we now voluntarily invite to teach us about an instrument. And there he was, ever-appreciative and thankful that another stranger had this opportunity to play his own.
I wonder what it would have been like if I decided not to move forward with the lessons. We would have never known each other, but still, on this day I would watch him hand his dollars to another for music, sort of the same way others hand their dollars to him. Would I have thought twice about him as a complete stranger?
It’s interesting to consider that had I never called the guitar teacher for the birthday gift, somehow someway our paths would have crossed in this city. And I say this because it’s not the first time it’s happened to me, and yet I’m still astounded. This is, as many know, how Aviv and I met too.
Do you ever wonder if there are those around you that you could have known had you chosen to take a left instead of a right? Had you ordered coffee instead of tea? In the end it doesn’t mean anything, because we don’t live in the ‘what if’. But it delights me to ponder that maybe the people we will meet tomorrow are ones we’ve unconsciously met before…