October 8, 2013
Yesterday I walked my way at my usual time like I was going to work, but instead I stopped when I encountered Howard. We nodded our hellos and said nothing. I lit a cigarette as we just stood there. It was windy and kind of drizzling. Finally he turns to me and says, “What are you some kind of punk cowboy or something?”
“ummmmm…I guess that’s….what I am.”
“That’s nothing. I was of the Beat Generation.”
“A beatnik? How old are you anyway?”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
“What? Too much age old wisdom for you to handle?”
“And you haven’t reached a quarter of a century yet, have you?”
“How can you tell?”
“The look in your eye.”
We got quiet again as I wondered what the look in my eye said about my age. I’ve been called an old soul before, mostly by older people, so what he sees is curious to me. We remained in a comfortable silence and it wasn’t long before his ride came. His name was Jimmy and he was 70 and he was a harmonica player. Or as they said, he played the harp. He also played the trombone and the tuba. Jimmy said he had something for me when we got back to the rest of the guys.
We drove way up in the sticks and the foliage was coming in real nice. It was raining on and off, the sun creeping through sparsely. The wind just whipped leaves from the trees, which was cool and atmospheric, but I didn’t want too many to fall before the peak foliage.
We arrived at this huge house, far from neighbors, pretty much in the middle of no where. It was big and they clearly had money but it wasn’t contemporary, or new construction, so I liked it. It was an old Colonial and very old fashioned, kind of more Victorian in its décor. We went in the front and I met Howard’s wife Daisy who was so small, she was like 5′ whereas Howard was about an inch taller than me, so like 5’11″. She was with 3 other women, the other guys’ wives. Jimmy didn’t have a wife, I found out later that she died a year ago from Alzheimer’s. I never knew that had the potential to be a fatal disease.
We went down to the basement, which was made into a rec room, and I was introduced to the other guys. There was Mean Joe, who was named that because he was just the opposite, said to be the nicest guy in the world. But he was freakin’ huge, like 6’5″ and 300lbs. He was 65 and played various instruments, like the spoons, the washboard, and the Cajon, which is a percussion instrument.
There was Lou, aged 70, who played the drums, and Ben, aged 70, who played the piano. Their band is called “The Convoy.” They all welcomed me and told me I had to join in at some point, that’s the dues I have to pay for being there. I was thinking it was more like a consequence.
I went outside to have a smoke, but they had the door open from the hatch, so I could hear them getting their stuff together, tuning everything and playing various test riffs. The back yard was big and we were surrounded by trees. A couple golden labs ran up to me with their tongues hanging out and tails wagging. I patted them for a while before they ran off. They were awesome.
When I went back in, the wives had brought down donuts, pie, and coffee. And to think I had been worried there’d be whiskey there. The pie was homemade apple pie, and pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream mmmmmmmmmmmm, holy fucking shit it was so good.
Finally, I sat with the wives like they were groupies and we listened to the guys jam for a couple songs. One wife kept talking to me and putting her hand on my knee like I was her grandson and calling me sweetheart. Another wife, nudged me and said she had blue hair too. She had that white/blue kind of hair. Daisy asked me why I dyed my hair blue since I was such a handsome boy. After the second song, the guys kicked their wives out because they were occupying my attention too much. The ladies were nice, but I did just want to kind of hang out and enjoy the music. They played two more songs, then said it’s my turn. I was like, fuck no. They said yeah I had to. So I said all right I’d sing something. I first went out for another smoke and tried to think of some blues song I could sing. I didn’t have a great voice, definitely not a bluesy kind of Muddy Waters vocal ability. Then it was obvious. I went back in and I said I wanted to do “Backdoor Man,” kind of closer to The Doors’ version than the original. I guessed I could handle a Jim Morrison kind of vocal, without his screeching and hollering of course.
I did it and I wasn’t too bad, but the guys were like, “you know what a backdoor man is don’t you?” “…uhh yeah…I do…” Then they obliged me and let me sing “Roadhouse Blues.” After that, Jimmy gave me a harmonica. I had forgotten that he said he had something for me. While the guys played, he sat off to the side with me and gave me a lesson on how to play it. I have played before with this local band that plays out, but not often, and it was only when I was drunk so I don’t remember much how to play and haven’t picked it up in about a year, and because I was drunk I thought I was good but basically I suck.
They broke for about 10 minutes and told me the harp belonged to their friend Marty who was the best harpman they knew. He died a few months ago at the age of 80. His wife died a month later, at age 62. I was so honored to receive that. I mean that’s an instrument with an immense amount of sentimental value behind it. These guys have been playing together for over 40 years. That’s amazing to me.
So they gave me this harmonica, and I was kind of playing around on it, then Howard says, “Jimmy, did you clean Marty’s spit out of it?” I was like, “what” and they all laughed, fucking wise asses.
The rest of the time there, I played the harp and jammed with those guys. I was getting pretty good. I’ve been practicing too. They want me to master it and create a legacy. Jimmy plays too, but he prefers the trombone and tuba, so they want me to be their harpist. This is so fucking cool. Today I’m going to talk to Sharly to see if I can go there every Monday, and work Saturdays now instead. I’ve made a cool new group of friends. And the most reckless thing they do is have pastry for breakfast. That’s a good thing, especially for me.
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