Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Watcher

A while back we had a few posts about unknown wedding customs. One of those posts, included the following customs which were submitted by David Bogner of Treppenwitz.
At every affair, there must be at least on designated 'conductor'. This is usually a drunk friend of the chassan who stands in front of the band gesturing wildly for some frenzied volume / tempo that he feels the band is deliberately withholding. His role is distinct, and should not be confused with the obligatory group of starers (see next minhag).
Every Boro Park / Williamsburg affair must have at least three (but preferably a full minyan) men who will stand absolutely still, with mouth partly open, and stare with blank, glassy-eyed expressions at the band throughout the affair. Extra 'schar' is earned for drooling. Olam Habah is earned if one can keep from blinking.
These resonated because any musician whose played these sorts of gigs has experienced this multiple times. Its simply one of the annoying things a club-date musician has to put up with.

Occasionally, though, the band gets a different kind of "conductor" or "watcher". The band had one such spectator at a performance last week. At the beginning of the evening, Eli (not his real name), who looked to be about 18 or so, pulled up a chair and sat down about two feet away facing us. During the cocktail hour, he mostly sat quietly watching us play. When the band took a break, he came over, introduce himself, and asked each musician their name. Speaking to him, it quickly became obvious that he was mentally disabled.

As the evening progressed, and the band began to play dance music, Eli began to jump up out of his seat. Conducting wildly and dancing directly in front of the band, he began to yell out encouragement to the musicians, calling each by their name. When we finished the first dance set, he congratulated us and immidiately began asking us when we were going to start th next dance. He couldn't wait for it to began again.

When we started the second dance, he was even more energetic than before. He spent almost the entire affair in front of us, dancing, conducting, and shouting encouragement, and he really seemed to be enjoying it. When the band finished for the night, he went over to each musician and thanked them by name. He then came over to me, thanked me for leading the band, and gave me a hug.

Sometimes, being watched can be a profoundly moving experience.