the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Amadeus of Redondo Beach


A new barista has been working at the coffee house a block from my house during the afternoon shift.   He is a music student, maybe twenty years old, and an extremely talented violinist.  The coffee house is usually empty during the late afternoon.  Today, I went in for a cup of coffee.  As I drank my coffee, the barista played his violin behind the counter.  He stood in front of a music stand, playing from a book titled “Music by Bach.” 

The barista’s playing was amazing.  He had a masterful control of his instrument and  produced rich, romantic tones.  He also had that “X-factor” they talk about on shows like “American Idol.”  He was young, intense, good-looking, with long brown hair. 

After he finished his piece, I complimented him on his talent.  I walked over, eager to relate to him as an “informed” classical music lover.  After all, you don’t meet too many “sophisticated” people in Redondo Beach, which is mostly well-known for having good fish tacos.

“Excellent,” I said.  “That’s Bach, right?”  I asked innocently, faking that I didn’t already know the answer since he was playing from a book titled “Bach Concertos.” 

“Huh?  Who?”  he asked in return.

“Bach.  You were playing Bach, right?”

“Uh, I dunno.  They gave us this book in school.” 

He looked at the front of his music book, apparently for the first time.

“Hey, you’re right.” he announced.  ” Bach.  Cool.  I’m bringing the sexy Bach!”

I suddenly occurred to me that this talented violinist who just blew me away with his soulful and melancholy music was a complete imbecile.

I sat down and finished my coffee, feeling much like Salieri. 

Later that day, I saw him skateboarding in the street with these two surfer dudes WHILE carrying his violin case under his arm.


  1. Churlita

    Maybe he’ll do for Bach what Falco and “Rock Me Amadeus” did for Mozart.

  2. Jakob

    I think the term is “idiot savant”. It’s well known that people with Aspbergers Syndrom can sometimes do amazing stuff, without knowing they have a talent. I think this dude has this Syndrom. Who knows? Maybe I’m one of them… On second thought, since I’m asking, I probably ain’t.

  3. emma

    That is so funny, that he didn’t know what he was playing!

  4. mari

    “Hey, you’re right.” he announced. ” Bach. Cool. I’m bringing the sexy Bach!”

    Hey, this guy has style.
    He would probably make it on the x-factor, and loads of cool young surfer dudettes with bleach blonde hair would fall at his feet whilst he rocked out withh his stringed instrument.

    I have to congratulate you though- I haven’t laughed this hard since.. since, well I don’t remember, lol.

  5. Megan

    Like, wow.

  6. Edgy Mama

    That’s so cute, though.

    And real talent, when you think about it.

  7. Chez Bez

    Talented imbecile or not, I’m using “bringing sexy Bach” as soon as I can.

    Great post.

  8. fringes

    I think he knew what he was playing. He just didn’t feel like talking to you about it. Kids are funny that way. Their sarcasm knows no bounds.

  9. gorillabuns

    to be so out of touch with who he was playing, but to have the ability to play with such feeling, just doesn’t seem right or fair.

  10. Two Roads

    This quote by Samuel Johnson seems to fit today: “Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

  11. Scarlet

    I hope you threw a stick in front of his skateboard!

  12. Nance

    Maybe he thought you were coming on to him, Neil.

  13. Roberta

    That is a simultaneously funny and sad story. We all know that youth is wasted on the young… but what is talent like this wasted on?

  14. Rhea

    His line about ‘bringing the sexy Bach’ sounded rehearsed. I think he knew exactly whose piece he was playing.

  15. Erin

    Well, you can probably take comfort in knowing that he’ll die in a gutter somewhere like Amadeus…

    ’cause that is what happens to people when they skateboard around with no helmet.

  16. brooke

    It sounds like most of the guys I dated in high school. “Huh? Who?”

  17. Crankster

    Baby got Bach? Well, at least he’s got talent…

  18. Shirl Grrrl

    I’m with Rhea and Fringes. I think he knew exactaly what he was playing… and it was you! 😉

  19. kimananda

    Yep, sometimes it’s best just to enjoy the music, and not actually talk to the musician. 🙂

  20. Jakob

    I agree. Probably would have been a strange thing to talk with Bach, if that should one day be possible.

    I think it’s 50/50. I’ve talked with a lot of musicians. Some have interesting things to say. Some are just wankers. And it’s independant of their talent.

  21. Jakob


    Hasta la vista, baby. I’ll be Bach. 😉

  22. JordanBaker

    What would have really been awesome is if he’d then played “SexyBack” on his violin.

  23. JavaCurls

    Only in California! Love it!!

  24. ms. sizzle

    maybe he will grow into his talent? i kind of like the image of skater violinist. it’s so modern and hip. 😉

  25. chantel

    I would guess that’s how his parents got him to play the violin. They told him it was Roger Daltry all the while it was Bach. That’s how I got my kids to eat broccoli. I told them it was a gummy tree!!

  26. CrankMama

    Ahh yess.. youth, beauty, AND musical talent apparently wasted on the young.

    The curse of intelligence in Redondo Beach must be a difficult burden to bear..

    You should come up to hippie-ville, where everyone is overeducated well-read and not so hot.


  27. Tatyana

    You faked knowing that he was playing Bach. He faked not knowing that he did.
    Cool…why then you were so pissed at him?
    A question to explore with your therapist.

  28. Abigail

    This reminds me of my brother. He can draw like none other but refuses to study art. He’s a prodigy at guitar but won’t give lessons even though he could use the cash.

    Kids these days.

  29. Jocelyn

    Neil, I also think he played you. Like a violin. Artistic temperament makes for some interesting behaviour.

  30. momentary academic

    I’m sure that this has been said. He knew exactly what he was playing. However, it’s not “cool” to admit such things.

  31. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    Looks, barista skills, talent for music and skateboarding talent too. Someone’s going to get a lovely package deal.

  32. Neil

    Maybe I was part of a hidden camera show.

  33. Alexandra

    Why does it feel in LA like everyone is trying so freaky hard to impress each other?

  34. Neil

    Isn’t that what you are supposed to do with your life? Suck up to others and feel insecure?

  35. kristen

    Now if he’d just called you dude…..

  36. Sarah

    lol! that’s funny 🙂
    thanks for sharing!

  37. The Cynical Girl

    I can’t think of classical music without thinking of Falco. I’m sorry, but I’m a woman of the 80s.

  38. Bama Girl

    It’s hard to believe that someone that talented wouldn’t even know that he was playing Bach. Violin-toting skaters. What’s this world coming to?

  39. ChickyBabe

    That’s funny Neil! Now I’ll have to ask my Barista Toy Boy if he plays an instrument. Those hands must be good for something else! 😉

  40. sandra

    That is beyond fabulous. I give him points for the quick JT quip.

    Oh my god. Am I too old to call Justin Timberlake “JT”?

  41. Jakob

    Everybody is too old to even think of Justin Timberlake. Hope he’s left Copenhagen, I would hate to bump in to the guy (him in a limo, and me on my bike).

  42. paintergirl

    Poor Falco-rock me.

  43. cruisin-mom

    as long as he’s sexy, what else should matter?

  44. Sarcomical

    nice. you couldn’t have planned it better yourself. 😉

  45. wendy

    He was playing ya…playing your very white ass!!

  46. treespotter

    i don’t think it matters that much if he knows what he’s playing so long as he plays it well. i know someone who plays guitar better than just about anybody else i’ve ever seen and he can’t even read notes.

  47. mckay

    even my four year old knows bach. sheesh. too bad that kid had to watch Barney as a kid. mine gets to watch Little Einsteins. even i’m learning to get all cultured and stuff.

    ya think you got played? or was he really in the dark?

  48. Viscountess of Funk

    This is hilarious. You felt like Salieri. If it’s any consolation, Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave with no headstone and scientists are just now beginning to analyze a three hundred year-old corpse to see if it’s Amadeaus. ROCK ME AMADEUS!!!

  49. melanie

    yea. talent. too bad its wasted on him, sounds like, even if he is being sarcastic.

  50. kapgar

    I look at that picture from the movie version of Amadeus and think, “damn, he looks a lot like T.R. Knight from Grey’s Anatomy.” Then I remember that Knight actually played the role in a stage version of the movie. Eerie.

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