Sunday, June 29, 2008

You Can Meet The Neatest People... the neatest places. While on my way to Ross Lake last Wednesday I stopped in Winthrop to hang out for a bit. I was wandering around looking for interesting photo opportunities when I heard some great music. A cellist was playing on the patio between an ice cream shop and a hot dog stand. And he didn't sound like any cellist I've heard before. He was playing Ravel's Bolero and he sounded amazing. It was as if he was playing all the parts. I stood there and listened. A crowd of people hardly paid him any attention. Amid the noise of the food purveyors, cries of "Mommy, I want ice cream,", and "Do you want tartar sauce with your onion rings," this man was playing the best rendition of Bolero I'd ever heard. A woman, who turned out to be his manager, handed me a flyer introducing the cellist as Ashraf Hakim. (If you like you can read more about him at his site.) After finishing, Ashraf came over and we chatted for a while. He told me his story of coming to America from Egypt and proudly showed me his Permanent Resident card and his Washington driver's license. My question to him was, "Why is a musician of your caliber playing on a patio underneath the sign listing all the ice cream flavors?" "It's a long story," he said. I said I'd listen to it if he wanted to tell it. He and his manager were going to check out preparations for the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival being held next month in Twisp and Ashraf decided to try camping. Their idea of camping was staying in a cabin. The quiet and dark of the night was frightening for him. Ashraf, being a city person, was worried about cougars and bears. Even though he knew it was irrational he still fretted so much that he couldn't sleep. "My fingers," he explained, "What if a cougar or bear eats my fingers? I have to think about that, you know." So at 5:00 am that morning he woke his manager and asked her to please take him out of there. They drove to Winthrop to put gas in the car. His manager checked the oil and saw it needed a quart. She took care of that and then Ashraf started driving. After 10 miles Ashraf knew he was very sleepy and told his manager he couldn't drive. He got out of the car and while walking around the front he saw and smelled smoke rolling out from under the hood. "We are burning!" he cried. They opened the hood and oil had spattered all over the engine compartment since his manager forgot to replace the oil cap. She put the cap back on and they went back to Winthrop to get more oil. Because of that Ashraf decided that God must want him to spend the day in Winthrop and that was how he came to be playing there. He was very enjoyable to visit with. He talked and talked and then apologized for talking so much. I told him I was backpacking for the next three days and if I saw a cougar or bear I would take a picture and send it to him. He didn't like that idea at all. So I'm sending him a photo of a deer that kept hanging around camp. It didn't make a move for any of my fingers so that should be okay.

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