It’s just an ordinary day in West Palm Beach. The sun shines as bright as Walter Mercado’s golden hair, and my milk-colored skin tingles pleasantly at the feel of its warm rays. It’s just an ordinary day…except for the fact that I’m on my way to see something quite extraordinary: a person’s heartbeat getting turned into a song. And not the heartbeat of a person lying on a hammock just chilling — nah, the heartbeat of a person riding a car on a racetrack, taking twists and turns. This peculiar experiment, aptly titled "The Music from the Heart," is part of a stunt for the new Ford Fusion — and we are about to watch. it. happen.
The crew and I are getting ready to hit up the event; it’s legit around 6:30 a.m. My colleague Sara is so sleepy she tries to pour boiling water into a cup but completely misses it and dumps it all on her wrist. Pobrecita. We all head to the racetrack where the stunt will happen. In the car, I’m as awake as Snorlax on a good day, but when we get to the track, my pupils expand and my belly feels funny, kinda like when you see a mountain of gifts under your arbolito de Navidad. The overcast sky exhibits around 51 shades of grey, the grass is crisp and alive, and the whole spectacle could rival a Monet. The weather and the location are enough to make my heart skip a beat.
My heart skips again in a slightly less pleasant way afterward. Have I mentioned I’m morbidly afraid of reptiles? I'd rather quit elotes for life than ever come face-to-face with a friggin' gecko. Well, I realize this is Florida. There are signs warning of alligators everywhere. Sara, perhaps due to secondary, adverse effects of dealing with a melted wrist, approaches a water canal displaying around 17 “Get closer if you wanna be eaten by a gator” signs near the track. Is she waddling aimlessly in pain? Is she just trying to make a new pudgy and short-legged yet deadly friend? I am clueless. “SARA!!!” I yell. “YOU HAVE KIDS!!! COME BAAAACKKKK." Sara turns around and races back toward me. Sara makes me clasp my chest dramatically for a sec there. MY HART, MY SOUL.
I decide to chill out about the possibility of Sara (or myself) dying at the weird, scrawny, wrinkly hands (claws?) of an alligator and focus on the event. The crew organizing the stunt tells us Ellie, a cool suburban mom, is about to start driving the Ford Fusion with equipment to monitor her heartbeat, then having a band use it as inspiration to create music. How the heck are they going to turn it into a song? I think to myself. The team explains they're measuring Ellie's BPM, biometrics, and the speedometer, as well as the car's G-force. The data recorded is projected on a screen for a band to read and then play accordingly, each entry having a different inference on the music — for example, depending on the elevation, the BPM alters the musical key, and so on. UH, YES, IT'S FREAKIN' NUTS. You know what the best part is? The band is so bomb. You have crazy-good percussionist Manuel Ramirez; a fly bassist who has played with Justin Timberlake and Alejandro Sanz, Fido; and Carlos Huerta with the trumpet (he played with Fito Paez!), not to mention DJs Cuci Amador and Tony Laurencio aka Smurphio (and his beat machine), members of electronic duo Afrobeta, which has played at a bunch of Ultras ~globally~. Manuel Ramirez practices before the stunt. Hearing him play, and the happiness he radiates as he does, makes my heart skip again. <3
OK, so Manuel is incredible for sure. But then I get to talk to Cuci, the female counterpart of the electronic duo. She is drop-dead gorgeous, and her outfits look like something the Jetsons would wear, had they been fashionable enough for Milan. I'm guessing she must be like 22. I ask her how long she and her partner have been playing. "10 years," she says. Hmmm...maybe she started playing when she was 12??. Anyway, she says rhythm is just ~in her blood~. She was born in Puerto Rico and grew up surrounded by music. She smiles when she tells me Latinx crowds are the ones that get the most turned on when a Afrobeta plays: “No one dances like a Latinx crowd." Ah, I can totally see that. When she talks about the Latinx reaction at their concerts, her smile widens. Again, my heart hops and swoons and dances — mimicking the way Cuci must feel when she's playing music.
The band members and Cuci.
At this point, Ellie, the driver of the car and whose heartbeat will dictate the musicians' actions, is making laps around the track, which is fairly loopy, but not to the point of making you wanna reach for a vomit bag or anything. I wonder how she feels about having a song based on HER FRIGGIN' HEARTBEAT. So as soon as she's done, I ask. "I don't know how it will come together," she says. "I mean, I got my own soundtrack, and I'm totally healthy...apparently!" she adds, laughing. She seems really excited about sharing the soundtrack of her heart with her husband and two kids. I tell her I envy her ~adult ultrasound~. She laughs again and mentions a fun detail: She learned to drive in her mom's blue Ford, and so this stunt feels sort of like a cycle closing to her. All this nostalgia sends my heart for a whirl!
Ellie in repose and Ellie IN ACTION.
Moments later, we're listening to the band playing according to the recording of Ellie’s heartbeat. The jamming session is fly; I feel like I’m at a concert I should’ve paid at least $40 to get into or something. But even though the music is good, I’ve been up for a few hours and feel like I have a brick on top of each eyelid. But again, I realize this is Florida. And one thing Florida has, other than hordes of gators, is an abundance of bomb coffee courtesy of ~Cuba~. I look up, and I swear Shisha, a woman holding a coffee kettle with cortadito, appears before me — I can practically see rays of light beaming around her silhouette. She pours me the most delish tiny cup of cortadito, and I KID YOU NOT, two minutes in, I am as alert as a prairie dog who just heard there's free, giant fresh hay in close vicinity. That coffee makes my heart skip a beat (or like seven) — it's so strong (and soooo good).
My guardian angel.
The event winds down soon after, and after getting a taste of dope music and coffee, I’m feeling pretty satisfied. This whole experience has been captured in video, and the Ford team is going to put it together in a few days. After talking to the musicians and to the team that came up with the idea for the stunt, I can't help but to agree with something they all say: There is something about music and rhythm that connects us all universally; music creates emotions in us that sometimes we can't even comprehend. It makes our hearts race and skip, our chests feel full or even empty at times. Through technology and a vehicle, they've turned Ellie's emotions, her internal rhythm, into musical rhythms that could could invoke new sensations in us — they've humanized music with the help of a machine on wheels. Thinking about how unique this all is makes my heart skip one last time. <3