What to Do When You Meet a Mirage : Karla mi Lugo

I met a mirage today. Amber face full of hope and longing, flaming red hair in coils and curls of frantic grace, slender fingers and puckered lips: Karla mi Lugo.

music, street music, portland, portland writer, portland musicianAt first, because I was busy and because I have grown impatient, I avoided her eyes. Don’t talk to me, I thought, because you are beautiful and probably crazy, and I don’t have time to get sidetracked and sucked into yet another personal labyrinth. Also, don’t ask for money because I don’t have any. At all.

portland writer, beverage writer, portland music, street musicianHer music is reflective; a wash of accordion and clear, piercing whistling, and a husky voice like an autumn evening. As I sat, carefully ignoring her, her music sidled into my consciousness with a purity that finally had my attention. I put down my work. I engaged.

beauty, accordion, pretty dressWe talked. 5 years ago I also made my living performing in the streets and hoping equally for engagement and clinking coins from passersby. I am relieved to have left that urgency, but then again: I never handled it with such grace and aplomb as Karla does. Since I cannot offer money, I pull out my camera and lovingly explore the silken planes of her face in the afternoon sun, the crisp stripes of her apron, the delicate arabesques on her instrument.

musician, beautifulKarla will be, in her words, “going on [my] musical pilgrimage to Paris” next month, and, I believe I overheard, competing in an international whistling contest. I wish her the best of luck and glorious chance meetings, and I look forward to her return to our gritty streets.

When you meet a mirage, you’d best drop your work and listen.

music, beauty, portland music

beauty, well met, portland street musicafternoon/ Alberta St. Arts District / karla mi lugo







  1. I was looking for her name and found your blog.
    When I saw her in the farmers’ market, I just passed by because I was busy as you. But something attracted me and took her in my iPhone.
    Finally, I know her name here. Thank you so much. I hope to see her again.

  2. I had to laugh out loud Emily when I read, “I don’t have time to get sidetracked and sucked into yet another personal labyrinth.” I have felt that way many times but sometimes, once in a while, it turns out it’s worthwhile as it did here for you. Glad you stayed open to the experience and shared it here.

    1. That’s awesome, Christopher! What a small world. I keep meaning to go to one of her shows in PDX–I think she plays at an old coffeehouse in downtown. Great to see you this week.

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