Posted by: Marie | October 27, 2010

(431) They seem harmless, after all

Post #431
[Private journal entry written on Friday, April 23, 2010]

So . . . at 8:45 this morning, I was sitting in my piano studio, looking out the window, watching the driving wind and torrential rain convert our desert dust to desert mud.

My phone rang . . . of course, it was the Portland Hispanic dude:

Dude: Hi. This is [unintelligible]. We’re at the mercantile store. How do we get to your studio?

Me: Oh, hi! So . . can you see the railroad tracks?

Dude: No.

Me: Okay. Can you ask someone around you to point you in the direction of the railroad tracks?

Dude: No, we are standing outside in the parking lot. The store isn’t open yet.

Me: Hmmm . . . can you see the fire station? It is right next to the mercantile store.

Dude: Oh, yeah!

Me: Okay . . . walk towards the fire station, then keep going past the fire station. When you get to the railroad tracks, cross the street and you will be standing right in front of my building.

Dude: Okay. We will be there in a little bit.

I wondered . . . what are the chances there is a fire station next to the mercantile store in whatever town he really is in right now? And . . who is the other half of “we”?

The Bridge by Martin Chen

I was half tempted to jump in my car and go get him. I could have . . but, you know, I have to protect myself. Because I didn’t know who he was (or who they were), it would not be wise to be inside a vehicle with him/them. I didn’t know what I would be getting myself into.

I continued watching out the window. Soon, I saw them . . . coat collars turned up, shoulders hunched against the angry rain and wind.

It was easy to pick out which person was “the dude” . . . he was the taller of the two. A boy was with him . . . I guessed him to be about 10- or 12-years old. So, maybe the lessons are for his son, not for him . . . ?

I walked outside to meet them and to make sure they found the right door. They were very glad to see me . . .

When we they got closer to me, I could see the smaller person was actually a very tiny, Asian, adult woman. By this point, I had given up trying to sort it all out. I resigned myself to waiting until we got up to my studio and sat down with a cup of coffee to get everything figured out.

This is the story they told me:

First off, their names are Alejandro and Ploy. He is originally from Mexico; she is originally from Thailand. I didn’t catch onto their names until I had them write down their names on paper. (The three native languages representated at the table made communication a bit bumpy.)

He is a chef for a string of Thai restaurants in Portland. He has been their main chef for 13 years. They opened a restaurant in our area recently and he is here for about two or three months to help get it up and running. He met Ploy here and they have been dating for two weeks.

He plays drums in a two-person rock band in Portland. The other band member plays guitar. Alejandro played a recording of some of their music for me – not my cup of tea, but whatever.

He wants to learn how to play the piano/keyboard so he can play it in the band. He doesn’t know anything about music except rhythm. He doesn’t know how to read music and he knows nothing about chords. He wants to learn how to play classical music and then adapt it to the style of the music played by the band.

He would like to take three one-hour lessons each week between now and when he returns to Portland. He stressed he has to know how to play by the time he returns home. He promises to practice a lot.

He wanted to know if I could help him in that way.

Before answering, I wanted to get clear . . .

Me: Are you asking for three lessons – three hours of instruction – per week?

Dude: Well . . yes . . . I have to learn quickly. Why, is that a problem?

Me: No, no problem . . . I’ve just never had that request before.

Dude: How much money should I give you?

Me: Well, it would be $25/lesson, but you don’t have to pay me until the day of the lesson.

Dude: Here is a $100 bill to cover the first four lessons.

Me: Okay, well, thank you! Would you like a receipt?

Dude: No, I trust you. I’ll see you Monday morning!

Me: Okay . . I’ll see you then!

I guess I was trying to overcomplicate things. By the way, as they were putting their coats on, getting ready to brave the wind and rain, I did decide to give them a ride to their next destination (I could see they were good – and harmless – people). It was a small effort for me, but they were very grateful. It was the least I could do after making them walk to the studio in the rain.

At any rate . . . this could be an interesting experience, LOL!


  1. Seems like your friend who knew the culture called this one perfectly. Kudos to you for being brave enough to meet with the guy–I probably would have made an excuse and told him to go somewhere else based on those phone calls!

    • Hey, Aaron –

      My friend sure did call it perfectly! She got a kick out of being right, LOL!

      I debated about blowing him off, but I figured it was worth a conversation as long as I took precautions.

      – Marie

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