While out for a run yesterday here in Florida, where I’m working at the moment, I’m pretty sure I saw the way forward for a divided America. And it involves scooters, large speakers, and funk music.
Just under midway through a long Sunday jog, I made it to the Ft. Lauderdale beach at about 15 minutes before sunset. At that time on the last day of the weekend, the strip is emptying out onto the promenade, and parking lots along the A1A. People are washing the sand off their feet, towelling down, and collecting their gear. Some are just sitting on the long, thigh-height white cement wall that runs the length of the beach, taking in the slow procession of cars, trucks, and motorcycles going past, the vehicle’s exhaust mixing with the humid smell of low tide in the onshore breeze. In the last light of the weekend, everyone is in their own worlds, even while gazing at the own worlds of others.
I was tired. Some days you feel it, some days you don’t, and yesterday was a don’t. But just as I was starting to think about turning around, worried about hitting the wall quiet a few miles from where I’m staying down here, I heard the unexpected – and loud – strains of Uptown Funk, slowly overtaking me.
People began turning to see what was coming. Phones came out to record it. Grins broke faces. I looked over my shoulder, and there, going just a little faster than my 7-8 miles an hour, were six or seven guys on brightly-coloured scooters, each one completely covered in stereo speakers.
Because of the traffic, and crosswalks, and lights, I ran with those guys for maybe a mile, sometimes a few metres ahead, sometimes a few behind. The music changed. Michael Jackson informed us that he wanted to be starting something. The Isley Brothers gave non-specific but freeing instructions as to what you could do with your thing. The hits, and the crew, rolled on, their sonic invitation to worry less, and groove more, spreading like the wake of a boat over the weekending crowd.
All of whom loved it. Person, after person, after person. Regardless of age, race, or presumptive disposition, almost to a one, everybody stopped, dropped, and bounced. Heads bobbed. Hands waved. Smiles spread like a contagion.
So take that for whatever it’s worth. I realize there are some big issues being wrestled with down here, and elsewhere. But I couldn’t help thinking, as I ran along the boardwalk with the local chapter of Japanese scooter-and-speaker aficionados, that music – as it always has been – is the single greatest unifier we have. And that maybe more places, maybe even (and especially) the most important places, where decisions are made and everything seems to have become an unrighteous war of retribution, would be well served with a little impromptu infusion of funk.