Raco works as a porter in an apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He has worked for almost 20 years and can be seen each morning with a broom and a dustpan on a long handle collecting anything left from the night before. He waters plants and does a variey of other tasks. He is a big man with graying hair and always has a smile and a nod.  He always wears the same blue shirt and pants, his uniform. He doesnt speak English well although he has been here for  many years.

Someone told me that he was retiring at the end of August to go back to his native Serbia but far more interesting was the fact that he is an expert musician, stringed instruments, guitar, bouzuki and apparently some other eastern instruments. He had a band that used to play in the east village and at other local Eastern European events.

Now I have to go back 35 years when a friend, Lucky now a law professor, had a dog named Ralph. Lucky gave me the dog for one summer as he and his wife were traveling to Europe and wanted to leave the dog with a responsible person. I kept that damn dog for over two months. Well the dog was nice but turned into a horror. He was very playful, very big, a golden retriever, was destructive and incredibly stupid. He never quite got the idea of screens on doors or windows, so he thought it was fair play to go through them rather than wait to have them to be opened. He was particularly bothersome when I took him to the beach. He loved to frolic in the water for hours, would chase a stick or ball until my arm almost fell off, but he never figured out that salt water was not good for the system. So after drinking a gallon or so he would come into the house either throw up (if I was lucky) or pee all over the floor as he lost complete and I mean complete control.

I expected to get some sort of payment or substantial reward when Lucky returned at the end of the summer. Well he brought me a bouzuki from Greece. It was light as a feather compared to a guitar or banjo but the wood looked very nice and I suppose it had some value. I never even figured out how to tune it as it of course came with no instructions or if it did they were in Greek, not one of my best languages. I put it under the bed where it quietly slept until I moved, twice I think but the bouzuki always came with me.

About a month ago I was cleaning out a room and found the bouzuki again. There it was under the bed covered in dust.  I kind of knew it was there but had never done anything other than thinking one day I might sell it to get some small stipend for the horror summer with Ralph.

Well you may have guessed the end of the story. I gave it to Raco a few days ago and I really don’t think he had ever received a better present .

Maybe one of these days before I cash in my chips I’ll go to Belgrade and hear his band play!

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