< Life of Pi meets The Bachelor

Illth >

The Call

“Most befittingly, my sea-sprayed journey

of awakening began in a groggy, lazy,

half-conscious state.”

Most befittingly, my sea-sprayed journey of awakening began in a groggy, lazy, half-conscious state. I had just dozed off on my sofa, looking forward to a quick recharge from a short power nap before working on some new song ideas, when I got the call. I hadn’t even been back in my apartment five minutes, drained from leading my popular Saturday morning family friendly ‘Community Music Circle’ at the Delray Beach green market.


At this interactive musical experience, audience members, particularly young children, grab percussion instruments provided by group players and join in on the groove. The catchy islandy jams — blending African, Arabic, Caribbean, and Latin rhythm patterns — and the humorous, interactive, singalong style in which familiar tunes and original songs are performed make this unique public event a fun, lively, and engaging experience for kids and adults alike. Don't Worry, Be Happy in a minor key over a calypso rhythm always proved to be a crowd favorite. On this particular day, though, something very peculiar had happened.

It was a sinfully sensational clear and cool January morning — ‘deep winter’ in South Florida. A lovely young woman with an exquisite smile appeared suddenly out of the dense crowd of sun-soaked shoppers to join us right in the middle of a song. She was wrapped in a bright color-splashed sarong. Thick wavy black hair escaped from under a large weathered straw hat.


She sat on one of the extra canvas chairs directly across from me and confidently strummed along on the small light blue ukulele she had pulled out of a colorful canvas shopping bag bursting with teal and magenta swirls. The adorable little baby guitar prominently featured a dark brown sculpted wooden bridge in the shape of a short, pudgy smiling dolphin. Too cute.


She was obviously no novice player, perfectly blending in as we played a Latin jazz version of Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell. She was inspired enough to spontaneously harmonize with my vocals at one point. Looking right into my eyes, she sang, ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.’ And then, just moments before the song ended, she gently winked at me, graced the rest of the group with a wide, warm smile, and got up quietly to disappear back into the slowly moving mass of shoppers with their designer baby strollers and delightful canine companions on colorful rainbow leashes. Who was she? A snowbird? A local?


I’m sure I had never seen her at the market before. And I really needed to make some sense of that odd tingling sensation I felt all over my body just moments before she appeared — I had never felt anything like that before. She would surely stop by again next Saturday, I convinced myself. I cleared my mind and snapped back into the groove.

We wrapped up our jam around noon. After the usual post-performance banter with players, groupies, neophyte young drummers, and respite-grateful moms; I headed home to enjoy a quick power nap before preparing for the evening gig.


That fateful call. I sat up on the sofa, shook my head a few times to snap my brain back into a semi-conscious state, and glared down at the offending phone. ‘Unknown caller’. Could it be the young woman with the cute little blue ukulele from the market? Had she gotten my number from someone wanting to find out more about the musical gatherings? She obviously enjoyed playing along and seemed to fit right in. Probably not. Just let it go to voicemail. But what if it was her? Doubtful. But maybe?




Whoa! … that voice. It most certainly was not the one I expected to hear. I hadn’t heard this voice in quite some time.


Memories flooded in. We had been weekend sailing buddies a couple of decades back (it’s been that long?). Competition was fierce to prove who could ‘fly a hull’ for the longest time without dipping those glossy smooth fiberglass keels back in the water or wiping out in spectacular fashion. Having one of those fast, nimble beach catamarans flip and 'turn turtle' under your skipperage would bring an adrenaline-fueled impromptu race to an embarrassing, ego-crushing, monumentally undignified end.


Hobie Beach in Miami was the place to be on weekends back in the day. It didn't matter if you were a multi-millionaire or a beach bum (I was contentedly on the simple-living side of that spectrum), we were all equals in our shared passion for showing off wind-driven, rooster-tail wakes while flying gleaming ninja-blade hulls just inches above the choppy turquoise waters of breezy Biscayne Bay. Good times, good times…


The times felt different back then, mind you. The world didn’t feel so busy, crowded, ... and strained. I was not aware of any threats to the oceans and beaches I loved so dearly nor did I have any doubts about the vitality and direction of the U.S. economy — still offering so much hope and opportunity to so many. The future looked promising.


Indeed, everything started to change course around the turn of the century. There was a growing suspicion that perhaps the American Dream — and the wildly successful fossil-fueled infinite-economic-growth story it was built upon — came with a best-used-by date. And we had completely ignored it. The product was beginning to sour.

< Life of Pi meets The Bachelor

Illth >

​© 2021 Rich 'Rico' Leon