Magic at the P.O.


During the dog days of summer, it’s easy to question living in Nashville. I have friends who have second homes in places like Montana just so they can avoid the heat, humidity, and chiggers that go along with this time of year.

A few days ago, having just returned from a week in San Miguel de Allende [Mexico], where the nights are cool and the humidity low, I was standing in line at the Charlotte Avenue post office, entertaining thoughts of actually moving to San Miguel, when something happened that changed my attitude.

It was Monday, so the line was fairly long. There were about six people in front of me, and four or five behind. The line wasn’t moving, so I began to do what I often do in such circumstances—I began to people watch. The Charlotte Avenue post office is good for that. They get a real cross section in there.

After a minute or so, I became aware of some soft harmonica music coming from somewhere. It seemed to be coming from behind the counter, from back where they sort the mail, but it was hard to tell. The harmonica sounded sweet and soulful, which had me thinking, Damn! Somebody down here’s got good taste in music!

About then I noticed a tall, elderly black man standing at the front of the line. He was wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat with white t-shirt, black trousers, and white running shoes. In his hands, he held a package. I tried not to stare, but it became impossible once I realized he was the source of the music! I stood there transfixed while he played “Spanish Harlem” on a standard harmonica … with, dig this—no hands! He just worked the harmonica back and forth with his mouth. He didn’t have a harmonica rack either. Just his mouth. I think he’d lost all his teeth, because the harmonica seemed to fit right where his teeth used to be. When the world throws eggs, make an omelette, right?

Some people acted oblivious, but others, like myself and the man behind me, shook their heads in delighted disbelief. For me, the spiritual voice of the experience said, Welcome home, Marshall. You’re right where you belong.