Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Practice makes perfect? Don't think so

Every day on her way to work, Mary passes by a "violinist" in the corridor leading from the number 7 subway at Grand Central Station to the 4/5/6 line (she takes the 6 one stop, down to her office neighborhood).

"Violinist" is in quotes because, well, this fellow needs a few lessons. He looks to be about 70-plus years old, and he literally saws on the violin. Back and forth, short little bowings. Maybe there's a tune in there somewhere, but it's hard to believe that anyone could sound worse.

The thing is, he's in the subway all day long, because Mary sees him in the evenings most days, too.

How can he not improve with that much practice?

It's like the homeless woman who simply inhales and exhales on the harmonica in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. No tune--just inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Wait for spare change. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Surprising that she doesn't pass out.

Today, Mary took a walk at lunchtime, intending to find a place to sit and read her book. Instead, she felt like walking for quite awhile. So, holding her book under her arm, she walked along the (breezy today!) streets of New York, past the tourists at the Empire State Building and down a couple of avenues.

At a stoplight, an old man walking his bicycle on the sidewalk said--as he looked at the book under her arm--"That's the only book by James Joyce that doesn't make you crazy." This rumpled-looking fellow with disheveled gray hair (under a bicycle helmet) and beard, with clothes that surely never had been pressed, had read a lot of Joyce, including the book Mary is reading, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He said he enjoyed the stories of Dubliners but took months to read the author's other works--and wasn't sure they were worth the effort, after several tries.

Guess practice doesn't always make perfect. Another myth debunked.

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