I was once on a train from Salt Lake City to Denver and after midnight John Malkovich started playing a harp in the lounge car. Okay, it wasn’t actually John Malkovich but when he spoke the likeness was uncanny. And you can just imagine John Malkovich chilling out playing the harp, can’t you? He has that feel about him.
I didn’t tend to hang out much in the lounge car on those Amtrak trains. With hectic couchsurfing schedules in the cities, my time spent on trains was mainly used for journal writing. But when the far-too-cheerful conductor announced that “we have a passenger offering something special in the lounge car”, I couldn’t resist checking it out.
I’d never seen a harp before. I thought they were mythical instruments only played by angels sitting on clouds in cartoons. It was a lot bigger than I was expecting. I thought you could, like, hold them in your hand or something, like an awkward guitar, but they’re way too big for that. They have to be set up on the floor and then you sit behind them to play. And you probably have to have a beard too, which John Malkovich did.
He sang too. Songs of his own creation, in fact. Well, I suppose they might’ve been covers straight off Now That’s What I Call Harp Music, but I wouldn’t know. It’s the kind of music that only suits the night. If he’d been there at three in the afternoon, eating a Twix in between songs, I’d have thought “what the fuck is this shit?” and wandered off.
If I’m allowed an annoying brag moment, I could compare the haunting sound of that harp player with the chanting of the tribe elder (politically incorrect term alert) while I was volunteering in the Amazon Rainforest back in 2009. Both made me feel very lucky that I’d happened by circumstance into something so beautiful words couldn’t describe– oh wait, they can (“frisson” for the lazy). Damn linguists suck all the fun out of everything.
Now after that quick brag, you can laugh at me because I don’t have photos of the tribesman because I dropped my SD card into a river, but it did happen, I swear! In place of an old man’s face hunkered behind candlelight in a wooden hut in the Amazon Rainforest, here’s a picture of my cat: