Dorel and Ricardo – the story of an unlikely friendship. (Pilot)

They had a certain ability to grab your attention. The sort of ability that makes you put your newspaper aside, take your earphones out, start tapping your feet and smile without even realizing it. I often missed a train or two because I couldn't tear myself away from them. Ricardo played the guitar and Dorel the violin. They were from the Dominican Republic and Romania, and neither one spoke a word of English. Yet they managed to play together day in and day out on the subway platform, touching countless commuters with their blend of latin rhythms and classical music.

I returned to New York four years later. When I was on my way down the stairs into the subway I heard someone playing on the platform, and knew right away it was Ricardo. I expected Dorel to be there by his side too, but he was alone. Apparantly Dorel had moved back to Romania a few years earlier. After a bit of detective work I was able to track him down in Bucharest. He was now doing quite well, playing in a band in a fancy restaurant two nights a week, doing wedding gigs and even playing the occasional show on TV together with his wife, who's a singer. I soon realized that he didn't want anybody in Romania to find out that he played in the subway while in New York. "The problem is", he said "that if people find out, they won't pay me the same."

Back in New York, Ricardo was still playing in the subway six days a week. He used to think it was embarrassing to play in the subway too. "Some people see you as a beggar. But I'm not. I offer my music, and if people like it they contribute a dollar or buy a CD." He's had a relatively steady income from the subway for the past 12 years, and is now saving up for retirement in Puerto Rico. "Maybe I'll open a live music bar there", his eyes sparkling at the thought, "and invite Dorel to come play with me!"

When I met Dorel in Bucharest I showed him a clip on the computer of Ricardo playing in the subway. For a moment he completely let his guard down and just watched in silence as his old friend played. "It's like no time at all has passed." he said when the clip was finished. He looked up at me with his big warm eyes. "I will never forget those times. I learned a lot there. And I am not ashamed to admit it." He then replayed the clip, took out his violin, and played along with Ricardo's music for the first time in many years.