Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Afternoon Interlude

Music has always been a part of my life and that of some of my best friends. For me, piano lessons from age 6, clarinet, band, orchestra, a youth symphony. As an adult, I traded in the clarinet on a violin. But I had no great talent, no real ear. I sang the end of each verse of CCR's Bad Moon Rising for weeks as "Bathroom on the Right" before someone clued me in. Still, I love music even as my interests (and definitely my talents) lay elsewhere.

But I still dabble a bit, a keyboard in my living room, a guitar often nearby, a violin in the corner. My friends play much better and sometimes they get asked to play in public, sometimes for pay. (People often offer money for me NOT to play though I've not let it stop me).

For you see, my friends will show up with their instruments and say. "This is what I learned to play this week!"

And I reply- "Great, this is what I learned."

But, an invite to play at an outdoor event was extended. My partner in squirrel adventure, M., prepared his guitar. It would be fun. A Garden Festival., it was called. M. said to not get too excited, he plays at many such things, it's not too hard. He reminded me of that River Dance episode on Roberta X's hardwood floor (two pints of IPA and 12 years of tap dancing lessons just don't mix). I promised to behave myself.

And so the day began, instruments were tuned, music prepared.

It would be fun. . . Well that was the plan anyway.

Arrived for the Fairy Garden festival at the nursery.

Garden at a nursery means greenhouse right? Wrong.

Carried equipment 100 yards to the greenhouse…

No AC…and it’s almost vacant.

Sound of crickets.

Someone approaches: "Hello - you need to be in the Fairy Garden".

400 yards away in the other direction and outside.

Outside temp: 85 and climbing. Wind: Steady at 20-25 mph .

Carry equipment 400 yards. Remember why groupies are all really young.

First awareness of what the Fairy Garden is: Mothers and little girls wearing long dresses with wings and garlands in their hair. Face painting.


Uh OH….Place to play: On top of a wagon.

Fully exposed to the wind.

Did I mention it's a wagon?

Folding metal chairs. I don't know anyone over the age of 21 who can take a metal folding chair for more than an hour!

Move chair to the ground and behind a tree to shelter from the wind. The ground is very soft, a lot of rain from recent storms.

Sit on chair which has a metal seat that's been in the sun for hours and is now the temperature of a toaster oven set on pizza.

Yow! Wave at the people. Just part of the act.

Set up. Amp for guitar unloaded… power. Request power: they run 400 feet of extension cord out.

Try to hold onto the music. A fairy just blew past.

Time to play. Are you ready? Right foot on a foot stool, left food on the leg of the music stand so it doesn't blow away.

The delicate melodies begin. Little girls in fairy dresses with face paint standing 3 feet away staring like the ghostly twins in the hall in The Shining.

Something is moving… either the chair is sinking or UFO's are beaming up the music stand.

Well, iit makes it easier to see the amp anyway.

The amp! Black ants are crawling all over the amp.

Ants now on feet. Open toed sandals. Try and avoid Riverdance II.

Halfway through the second song they're crawling on the sheet music. Is that a note or a really giant ant? Oh crap, they're crawling up my leg to set up base camp!

Focus, focus, adjust to the temp, the wind, the ants crawling across the sheet music, the close proximity of staring people. "Hello Danny. Come play with us"

Yes, time to play.

Solfeggiotto. All together now. Beautiful, everything is perfect. Perfect harmony

50 Harley’s go by on the road about 150 feet away.

The crowd applauds, the little girls finally smile.

Maybe this is why we love music, as I love flying. Music induces in me a sense of the infinite and the contemplation of that which is unseen. Music and flying are both wonder, or can be. The same visceral connection between the soul and what elevates it to the heavens. Both strike in some people the same chord, the same spark that is embedded in some hearts. Something that, in certain individuals, is simply part of our most basic and natural inability to live with the gravity of silence

Now, I wonder if the face painters can paint a face half purple and half gold. Go Vikings!


  1. An only in PDX moment: I'm walking out of Trader Joes the other day and I see a 60-something hippie, complete with Grateful Dead concert t-shirt, climbing out of a huge late model F150 -- not just a truck but an extended cab model with a monster engine which is supposed to be non-PC to use as transportation for one person.

  2. You are a riot. I almost felt I was there.

  3. ANTS....the Devil's, well...ANTS!

  4. So well described and you displayed incredible fortitude. I would have been done when I felt the ants crawling on my leg. That sensation drives me up a wall!

  5. Harleys - they have a music all their own. I get to enjoy the sound of them more than wanted sometimes; Saturdays at our house can be quite noisy with weekend riders thrumming down the street.

    I was really enjoying the story until you brought up the purple people eaters. Sorry, but my loyalties are with a rival team - Go Pack Go.

    Wonder if there will even be any football this year?

  6. Mrs. S. - my Grandfather Gullikson was from a little town north of Minneapolis. I have a very soft spot for some of the people from there including, even, their football team.

    I'll be honest, I'm not a huge sports fan but I am loyal to where my family is from.

  7. Ah, fine motor skills with a mindset to match in an adverse situation? Where pray tell do I draw an analogy? Perhaps here?

    Great story!

    Wish me luck this weekend, back at the "other job" and I have a S&W M&P Pro that I need to get up close and personal with! September is coming.

  8. I was providing the piano music for a nice little outdoor wedding on a breezy day many years ago. I didn't really know most of the songs the bride wanted me to play. But, I practiced them and had my music sheets all set up perfectly to read and play. I fought the breeze with the help of a couple cute little flower girls helping hold the pages in place. All was well and the young lovers said "I do," and it was time for the newly betrothed couple to take their smiley march back out through the assembled. With perfect timing a dust devil swept my music away just as the flower girls let go to applaud the couple. The music was gone. I improvised. I busted out the best thing I knew by heart. A red hot boogie woogie piece. The young couple also adapted well and kinda did a bump and grind on down the aisle. Nobody seemed to mind except the minister. A dour, starched collar, presbyterian type who gave me the stink eye from hell for introducing satan's music into his ceremony. Maybe that's why he got smashed at the reception. :-) Great story Brigid.

  9. Fond memories of a more than slightly intoxicated organist fellow at our wedding, and his rendition of My Wild Irish Rose.

  10. "Sorry, but my loyalties are with a rival team - Go Pack Go."

    I have only two words to say:

    'Brett Favre'

    No wait... thats 14 words. :)

  11. I was exhorted to play guitar at a picnic campfire last summer, along with a friend who plays fiddle. We looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Not until we see a LOT more beer." It was ugly. :)

    But we started actually practicing after that, so hopefully this year won't be quite as disgraceful.

    wv: "piggis"... what the ants were crawling between. ;)

  12. Heh....I love it when people start asking "why didn't Noah take care of {insert evil insect of choice here} on the Ark, when he had just two of them present?" My reply is usually along the lines of "yeah...but what exactly DID he take care of for us that was worse than {malignant insect...politicians are included in this category}?" That always shuts people up.

    That being said, my musical talents extend to playing "mp3"'s. Period. I run the video at church, the closest I get to actual musical stuff is tapping my foot to count off the beats so I can throw the next lyric slide up at the right time. Sometimes I actually get it right, too.

  13. Oh, I have SO been there & done that. You described it so very, very well, too! The only thing I'd add is that a 12-string guitar will not stay in tune when the temperature fluctuates.

    After 42 years of playing, I won't play out of doors anymore, except around the occasional campfire ... at night ... with an old guitar.

    Well done!

  14. My wife and I had a jazz vocal group with small backup band for a while. I ended up being the equipment drudge (which had a lot to do with why we don't do that anymore). At one hotel wedding gig, we were all set up on the patio with cables taped down and sound checked and ready when a dust storm hit. We ripped up the cables and threw everything into a vacant banquet hall and started the entertainment without any inside sound check. The sound guy was going nuts damping out all the resonant frequencies but, by the last song of the set, he had it.

    And by then, the dust storm was gone -- so the bride wanted us back outside again.

    We don't do that anymore.

  15. Keads - you'll do well. And September is going to creep up on us all before we know it.

    Stephen - oh I would have paid good money to see that!

    Ed - two of my friends, husband and wife, also have a jazz band, with a third person I don't know real well. They're really good but boy do they have some stories to tell.

  16. Ahhh, the theme from "Jaws", if I remember how to read music correctly from my years of playing Trumpet, French Horn and Bass Guitar(poorly).

    The Elgin Symphony has an excellent program this year. The WINO and I used to have season tickets every year. I may take in a ESO concert or two this year.

    wv:plearkmw -what most of the notes sounded like when I played Bass Guitar.


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