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  • Eric Walrabenstein

Something Really Beautiful

Updated: Jun 20

I just got back from a trip to San Francisco.

And I had a beautiful experience, I wanted to share…


I was there visiting friends, eating delectable food,

and generally enjoying life when I got an invitation

to an open mic from my Uncle Mike.

(Ironic?)

“Oh, I love comedy.” I thought.

“No, it’s not that kind of open mic. It’s music.” he said.

“Oh, I’d love to hang out in a pub and listen to some jams.”

“No, it’s not that kind of open mic. It’s in a church community center.” he said.


“Oh, I love spiritual music.” I thought.

“No, it’s not that kind of open mic. It’s just a few people from town.” he said, adding with a chuckle, “Keep your expectations low.”


“Ohhhhh.” I thought.


My uncle was playing stand-up bass in the “house band.”

And I hadn’t seen him in a long time.

And he’s one of my all-time favorite people on the planet.


So, I thought, “What the heck.”


Little did I know I was in for one of

the most mesmerizing nights I’ve had in a long time.


The event was held in a non-descript church in Petaluma,

a little town 40 miles north of San Francisco.


We arrived to find ourselves in a well-worn auditorium:

coffee-stained carpet, institutional paint tones,

and a collection of rickety conference tables surrounded by folding chairs.


A card table in the corner offered refreshments:

A couple of bags of Tostitos and a half-gone jar of Pace Picante Salsa.

(New York City!)

If you’re under forty, Google it. J


“This is going to be...well…interesting” I thought as I reminded myself: “Keep your expectations low.”


First up was a grizzled old fellow

wearing an acoustic guitar,

a Panama Hat and members-only jacket from the last century.

He crooned a self-scribed folk song.


Next came the rotund grandmother

In a buttoned-up cardigan Looking like she just walked out of a librarian convention.

She belted out a delightful old standard.


And then was the silver-mustached, trumpeter:

one part John Bolton; one part Barney Fife.

In tie-dye (really).

Wow. Just wow.


And on and on it went.


Some were good.

Some were just ok.

Others were unbelievable.


But it all of it was BEAUTIFUL.


It was sweet.

It was joy.

It was MAGIC.


And, at first, I couldn’t put my finger on why.


You see…

I’ve been to lots of performances. I’ve been to lots of open mics.

I’ve been to lots of talent shows.


But this was somehow different. “Was it the talent?” I mused,

“Not really.”


“Was it the venue?” I thought,

“Certainly not.”


“Was it the age of the performers?”

(I was the youngest one there easily by a decade and in some instances three).

“No, but maybe…” then “not quite.”


And then I got it.


All of the open mics I’ve been to

have been packed with younger people;

younger people who had something to prove.


(there’s no problem with that of course, it’s just the nature of things)

The younger crowd tends to come to open mike performances so they can make it.


They’re trying to get a break.

They’re trying to be discovered.

They’re, well, TRYING…


And here, I felt none of that.


The performances seemed to have…


No self-consciousness.

No gaining idea.

No desperation or worry.


Just the PURE JOY of expression.

In the now.

Without any struggle to be anywhere else.


And in that… The exceptional performances,

the off-key performances,

the songs I loved,

and the songs I didn’t…


Were all permeated with a kind of visceral magic. The magic of the purity of being FULLY HERE.


(and there’s a lesson in that for us all).


It was spellbinding. I wish you could have been there.

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