Riff in a Plastic Cup


 It was just too quiet to paint one morning last week. I was in place on a scaffold at 6am, painting “alley art” just after dawn. My friend was painting at street level, but we are seldom close enough to chat because we are painting a mural on a concrete block wall that is 15' high x 47' wide.

The gradual crescendo of usual morning noises starts later - trash collection, delivery trucks, loud train whistles, and flikflak of loaded train cars on the nearby rails. The early morning quiet made the time drag - until a slight breeze picked up.  

The breeze puffed gently, sometimes only a whiff, other times with a bit more gusto, intermittently scooting a crushed plastic cup toward me on my high perch. It seemed as if nature and modern technology collaborated to improvise a rhythmic cadence as an accompaniment for us to paint. Even though accidental, the rhythm almost seemed organized. Perhaps Mother Nature studied the flams, ratamacues, flamacues, triple ratamacues, and paradiddles of rudimentary drumming. I was inclined to whistle Yankee Doodle between my teeth, but I needed to paint rather than join the band. At any rate, the plastic cup chatter served as my caffeine and set a livelier tempo for my brushwork - a miniature drum corps that approached from my left, clattered beneath the scaffold, and eventually exited to my right. I missed the sound when the breeze died, silencing the miniature parade.

I don’t know if the initial silence bothered my friend. But I did notice that after the rhythm of that plastic cup stopped, she started humming.  And before long the combined sounds of garbage trucks, arriving employees,  the slam of car doors, morning greetings, the train whistle, barking dogs, crying babies, a small plane overhead, and the gritty grumble of the train seized the day, overtaking both the simple sounds of a windblown plastic cup and humming.