Happy Birthday, Rigel! (see Part 1 here)
When I first met Rigel, she told me that she had always felt that she was born in the wrong time and wished she had lived through the sixties. When I asked if she had seen the film Woodstock, she answered, "Many times." I quickly learned that her knowledge of music from that period was virtually encyclopedic.
So, she was drawn, like I was, to Washington Square Park, with its roots in Bohemia and street music. She spent countless hours there, because she felt as I do - that although NYU has much to teach, there is another institution of higher learning: the sidewalk university of New York City.
But there are many accomplished, talented, and inquisitive young people, and to hear what I have so far written does not explain why she has captured the hearts of so many. Many who have not met Rigel wonder, why all the fanfare over a student?
I once attended a workshop with a very experienced performer from San Francisco. A lifetime on the streets taught him the keys to success, and to him, the number one most important thing that a performer must have is what he called the L-factor, i.e. the likability factor. He went on to explain - if an audience likes you, they are always on your side and want you to succeed, regardless of how you actually do. This is the secret to Rigel's popularity. She is, of course, genuine, intelligent, thoughtful, reliable, interesting, and passionate - none of these things are to be dismissed. But above all, she is fundamentally LIKABLE. She is a girl impossible to dislike.
Rigel is very humble - I learned she had graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. This took an online search to uncover, where I also learned of her many academic and musical achievements. When I told her of my findings, she dismissed graduating first in her class as just lots of work and luck. Is it more luck that within two months as an NYU freshman, she was promoted to sophomore?
Most find Rigel's attraction to older people puzzling and even disturbing. I never did. What's to understand? Rigel values the depth and breadth of knowledge and life experience of older people. She told me she is often asked why she had almost no friends her age. She explains that she has no interest in the types of things most of her roommates or peers occupy their free time with - clubs, bars, parties, and drugs. I agreed that ultimately these are vacuous pursuits. Typically, a criticism of these types of activities falls on deaf ears with young people, but not to a girl with perfect pitch (something else I learned about her musical talents).
Rigel always listened attentively to me to learn what my life experience had taught me after living in New York City for over four decades. I was encouraged to have deeper conversations with her on many topics. We played guitar together. She sometimes accompanied me on photo excursions for my website. I interviewed her for the upcoming film documentary on the musicians of Washington Square Park.
She shared my enthusiasm for life itself and my desire, much like Thoreau, to live life to its fullest and experience it with no holds barred. Our friendship deepened as she became privy to virtually everything I knew and everything I liked. She became a loyal reader of New York Daily Photo (as did her 11-year-old brother, Aaron), which flattered me greatly, since my writing is not only my biggest passion but also a distillation of virtually every thought, preference, feeling, idea, anecdote, and experience I have ever had. It is a place where I bare my soul for all to see - a window into my heart and mind.
In the summer of 2011, Rigel needed a summer job. I was concerned employing a friend but decided to hire her, initially to work on New York Daily Photo. She had never worked a real job before and was terrified to disappoint me, convinced that she would fail and be fired. On her first day, as I went over the work details, her mind froze. She told me that she understood nothing I had said - explanations of HTML coding, managing images, use of Photoshop, posting of stories, FTP for uploading files, etc. Admittedly I threw an absurd amount of information her way, but I had the suspicion that she would rise to the occasion.
She did. Within a few days, she was doing everything I had asked, and I began to add duties. In time, she was editing videos in Final Cut Pro and filming them as well. I now just throw her tasks, often researching website design, marketing ideas, and software. She continues to work for me part-time and edits my blog daily between classes.
Rigel has fully embraced the culture of New York City like no student I have ever met. She has befriended a number of musicians in Washington Square Park and now performs regularly with a local band as guitarist and vocalist. She also is involved in the NYU Women's Choir.
Today is a special day for Rigel, a rite of passage. It is her birthday. Technically, she is no longer a teenager, as she turns from 19 to 20. In the last 1 1/2 years, she has grown demonstrably, as we who know her best have seen this girl pass into adulthood before our eyes. But to those of us who stood by her side, as parent with child, she will always be Our Little Girl. Happy 20th Birthday, Rigel!
Related Posts: Myra's Isle, When Brian Met Sally, Just Like Old Times, Park Night