There is this Kabbalistic idea called Bat Kol, or “Voice from Above.” Supposedly, once a day, God speaks to you and offers you a free for the taking gift from above with the added benefit that if you take it, you improve your relationship with him and the universe. Now, this “speaking”, it is said, is not some booming voice crashing down from the heavens but a quiet inner urge to do something unexpected. So there I was, yesterday, walking down Broadway in Manhattan, passing 54th street. I had much time to kill and I was content to just weave my way down to Times Square and (ahem) bird watch. I came upon 54th street, the same street where I used to take guitar lessons, and an idea came over me. I could go visit my old guitar teacher. But part of me didn’t want to. I was cranky, hot, and tired, and not really in any mood to be social. Also, I thought, perhaps he wasn’t even there. I didn’t know if the guitar center even existed anymore. I was unsure of what to do, and that’s when I looked up and saw the Dave Letterman Theater before me. Just that morning I had blogged about how much I loathe Mr. Letterman’s late night show. It was almost like a sign that said to me: “Don’t go this way.” So I turned, instead, and headed for the guitar center.
I signed in at the lobby’s front desk, not sure if I even remembered the floor (it had been a few years since I had been inside), went up to the sixth floor and looked around for my old teacher, Jon. I had a vague recollection that he had moved offices, but I wasn’t sure where. And the guitar center’s main office had obviously moved as well because there were sheetrock and steel rods strewn about the floor with the signs peeled off from the door. I was ready to give up and head back downstairs when just as I was about to leave a man I recognized popped out of one of the rooms. I said to him, “Does Jon still work here?” And he said, “Yes.” “Is he here today?” “I think so,” he said. “Let’s go find out.”
He led me around a corner and showed me the new office, stuck in an odd corner I hadn’t thought to check. There he introduced me to the administrator, a woman I had met a few times when I took classes at the center. “Oh, Jon speaks very highly of you,” she said. How odd, I thought, that she knew my name since I hadn’t been to the center in years, nor had I seen Jon in quite some time. “I’ll call him,” she said, reaching for her cell phone. As it turns out, Jon was in the building, and a few moments later comes bursting through the door with a beautiful girl at his side. Her name was Amanda.
We shuffled down the hall into a practice room with walls covered with soundproofing, hanging with guitars, and floors filled with audio equipment. Amanda, as it turns out, is a singer, and Jon was accompanying her voice with pieces he wrote for the piano and guitar. We sat down and he handed me a guitar. “Play something,” he said. I proceeded to play one or two songs I had writen. Then he took the guitar and together, he and Amanda played a mournful song. I sat and listened, getting chills as they played. She had a beautiful voice and I was instantly mesmerized. They played a few more times, and I just sat there, transfixed as he played and she sang. Then he handed me the guitar for one of the songs she had written.
“F-C-C-G,” he said, teaching me the chords and the rhythm. In a few minutes, we were all playing together, Amanda singing beautifully, Jon dancing over the keyboard, and me fingerpicking the guitar. It was magical. After a few more run throughs, Jon paused and said to me, “You know it’s so perfect you stopped by today,” and then to both of us he said, “And it’s great to see that all of us are creating, doing what we love. This is a very spiritual moment. I don’t know if you see that, but I do. I mean that, really.” And I thought, yeah, that if I hadn’t taken that right turn, if I went straight toward Dave Letterman and said, “Oh, maybe another time,” instead of listening to that small voice inside me that said “turn right,” then I wouldn’t be sitting here, talking with an old friend, making music with a beautiful girl with a beautiful voice, I would just be walking and wandering and wondering along the streets of Manhattan, surrounded by noise and people, but in reality quiet and alone. It might just have been fortuitous luck, but I think I’m going to believe, just for a little while in the magic of the Bat Kol.