Play on Tío Pilo, Play on

Tio Pilo, Christopher Abreu

The moment I arrive in New York, I'm ready to get back on the plane. Coming home is full of mixed emotions, especially when it comes to my family. They are weird, just plain weird. But each one, as weird as they are, is so incredibly special in their own way. 

I sat with my Tío Pilo (his real name is Cesar and I have no clue where the name Pilo comes from) the other night. He works in a public school in NYC and teaches guitar on the side. Being musical all his life, he's been in mariachi groups, bands, and the like; he's even played at private parties for famous Dominican fashion designer Óscar de la Renta. 

When I was a kid he was that weird uncle that played an accordion at every party and always found a reason to sing; taking every opportunity to learn and play as much music as he could get away with. Being the grump faced fun hater that I was (am?), It drove me nuts. He lived with us when I was young and in-between fighting me for the television remote (no one got in-between me and the TV) he tried to teach me piano. I didn't stick with it but I did learn two songs: "Happy Birthday" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." I can still play "Happy Birthday," albeit with only one finger on the keys. 

The other night, his youngest son and I were catching up. We went to Guitar Center and picked up some guitar finger picks to take to Tío. He gleamed when he saw us, and he shrieked when he opened the picks. Being impressed by their beauty he quickly put them on and started playing, and of course singing. Within minutes he forgot we were there as he went into his own little world full of priceless musical joy.

It's these small moments that remind me to appreciate these folks for who they are and what they teach us. You can be happy, with nothing but a guitar and some picks. 

Tío Pilo has two sons, both officers, in the NYC DOC & NYPD.

Tio Pilo, Christopher Abreu

Play on Tío Pilo, play on.
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