Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Music stops halfway around the world

TBILISI, Georgia -- I received some sad news from Seattle via IM this evening. One of Seattle's most beloved and most unique institutions, Tuba Man, had died after being beaten by five muggers several days earlier.

For the better part of two decades, Tuba Man -- Edward McMichael -- has been a regular fixture outside major sporting events and the opera in Seattle, making music for the fans on his contrabass tuba.

I was shocked by how affected I was. It would be impossible not to be affected by such a senseless murder of someone who was so beloved by the community, but I'm usually a fairly reserved person. But not this time.

What made the news so much worse was hearing it halfway around the world. A part of the Seattle I left had died while I was away, and the Seattle I return to will be a little different.

One of the benefits of being a foreign correspondent is distancing yourself from the day-to-day world around you. The minor irritations that might bother me in Seattle, don't affect me in the least in Tbilisi. I can't stand the way many Seattleites drive. They are passive-aggressive idiots. Most Georgian drivers are simply aggressive idiots, but I don't care. Tbilisi isn't where I'm from. I'm just an observer here. Let the people do what they want, and I'll write it down. But many Georgians I know get very frustrated when they see other Georgians driving like idiots.

I suppose the flipside is the distance you feel when you get news like I did tonight. Of course, this probably doesn't apply to the foreign correspondents I've met who wrap themselves in the hard-living stereotype.

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