Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Orpheus of Civic Center BART

The mythology and lore of Orpheus is long, deep, and wide. He is a lot more than the greatest musician of elder times. But lately my daily travels in the "underworld" of BART have led me to think of him and his wife, Eurydice, and his quest to bring her back from the land of the dead.

In the tunnels leading up and out of the underworld at Civic Center BART I've encountered two street musicians recently who have brought me to tears. The first was a violinist playing "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles, and the second a tenor sax player who played "Someone to Watch Over Me". The sax player saw me crying as I gave him a donation and he declared that he hadn't had a reaction like mine "down here" in a long time.

I said, "I wish your music could bring my man back to life."

I wondered if Tartarus could be found down in the bowels of the Transbay Tube. I wondered if the river Styx might be somewhere under the Bay, and if Charon might be a BART operator. Cerberus might be lurking on a hidden platform to prevent unauthorized passengers detraining.

I wondered if there were souls down there who might emerge, drawn by the artistry of street musicians in the BART stations. If I rode BART around the Bay Area long enough, might I find Paul peering in at a window of one of the trains? Could I charm Hades and Persephone into letting him go, with one of my poems or an improvisation on the bass flute? If I got him to follow me, could I lead him back to the land of the living, as long as I held fast to my faith, and didn't look back to see if he was really back there?

Orpheus must have been just as devastated by his loss as I am. Perhaps his faith was shattered by the blow, as mine has been, so much of my faith in humanity having come from knowing Paul. And there Orpheus was, unable to resist turning around to check on Eurydice and whether she was really back there following him up the escalator. Maybe he worried that she didn't have a ticket, and that she'd end up on one side of the turnstile and him on the other. She would have to illegally jump over. So being as big a worrier as I am he turned around and looked back, and the rest, as they say, is myth.

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