I was witnessing the death of cool.
* * * * *
Earlier in the evening, upon arriving home from work, my new roommate DF had news. Apparently, when he'd gotten home, somebody was taking pictures of the building. The apartment was going to be put on the market. Considering we were intending on signing a lease for June, this was news. Admittedly, we hadn't gotten around to filling out the application forms, but it was on my list of things to get done this weekend. The guy is the brother-in-law of the landlord, and as such doesn't have any authority beyond what she tells him to do. So DF called the landlord, and apparently the conversation did not go well.
"Really don't want to move again two months after I moved in, but guess I'm going to start looking."
I shrugged. Something would have to be done, but I knew that it would not happen on a Friday night.
* * * * *
My drink arrived. Sapphire and tonic. One thing I can say about Boston is that it's a good beer town. I'm not saying this in terms of Boston brewed beers, but in the selection that's generally available at the bars. When I lived in Vegas, if I was to order a beer, it was a Sam Adams not because of a great love for it, but because the other choices were so bad. In Boston, there's a lot of choice, and I can tailor my beer to my mood, but it means that I rarely have a mixed drink. It seems like my most recent drinks have been poured my amateurs at people's apartments, poor representations of what it should be. This one, however, was perfect. The taste of gin distinct, but not overwhelming, the balance was exact, the drink at the right temperature. Both delicious and thirst-quenching, something I rarely attribute to alcohol.
* * * * *
I left with what I considered was getting lost time. There's something about the Charles River that baffles my sense of direction. The Longfellow and Mass Ave bridges I can get to easily, and know exactly where they'll take me, what's nearby and how they correspond to each other on either side of the river (on the Cambridge side, the two are pretty close together, whereas on the Boston side, you can be in for a bit of a walk). West of them, however, I get confused. The bridges are more anonymous and the distance from the river to more pedestrian friendly locales is greater. So I crossed on one bridge, realized that it didn't get me to where I wanted to go, crossed back on a pedestrian bridge, and then re-crossed again when I had a clear view of the hotel I was heading towards. The night was warm, but it was already after 9:00 so there was almost nobody else on the paths except for a bicycle or two.
My thoughts recently have turned to my past. Working so near to where I used to live, I've taken walks through my old neighborhood after work, and that in turn led to me asking my parents to dig out my high school yearbooks. I'd flipped through the pages, reading the signatures, not feeling the loss of those I'd known well, but of those who I'd only just barely brushed by whose entries tapped at something that my old friends with our in-jokes now forgotten didn't hit. One, I'd even googled out of curiosity, discovering that she worked here in town. I knew I wouldn't get in touch with her anyway, that at this point, the only thing that connects us is where we were from, and that sometimes I cannot connect myself to who I was then, let alone expect somebody else. (I retain certain friends from that time, but I've considered that what holds me to these people is not that we had the same starting point, but that we've kept up with each other on our separate paths, looking back only rarely). Even more so, I knew that with another upheaval in housing, I once again have that feeling like somehow I am behind where I should be. That I should not be having to scramble for a new place to live, that I need to rely on relative strangers in making my plans.
* * * * *
"Ladies and Gentlemen, join with me in welcoming the Bettye LaVette band!"
The music starts. Guitarist, bass, hammond organ. The bass player especially looks as if he's basking in the warmth of god. I close my eyes and try to catch a shadow of what they're feeling in the creation of the music.
* * * * *
Saturday, I sleep late. I wake up hungry, needing coffee and wanting to get out. DF, he doesn't go places. In the few weeks he's been living here, I've noticed that. Maybe he'll run to the supermarket, but all in all, he spend his evenings and weekends at home. His presence doesn't bother me, but it's strange to me. I can't resist the temptation to be out in the world. Life is not going to come to my door and demand that I step outside. That doesn't mean that in my wandering I'll find anything, but I figure if Life does stop by while I'm out, it won't mind leaving its card in the door for me, and I'll get back to it later.
I wasn't sure where I was going, the question of coffee in my mind, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to hit my usual haunts. But I remembered that there was a place I'd passed by last weekend when I was just out, and not needing any sustenance. I headed back there. Probably, it would have been better if I'd gone for pastries, since it seemed to have quite a selection, all of them beautiful to the eye, and I can only imagine how they'd delight the mouth (my one major complaint about my usual coffee shops is the mediocrity of their desserts). But they had these egg salad sandwiches, adorned with cucumbers, and cucumbers are a particularly spring/summer vegetable in my mind (probably because of their relationship to gazpacho). I sat down with a magazine, and finished reading an article while I ate my sandwich, and sipped my first iced coffee of the true spring.
* * * * *
Bettye LaVette came on stage already singing. It was a cover of the Lucinda Williams' song "Joy."
"They took my joy, I want it back."
She looked young for 61. Only her forearms seemed to show her age, wrinkled and skeletal, while her upper arms and shoulders looked smooth and shining. She strutted across the stage, her face looking at times intense, and at others almost humorous, her mock shaking of her head when she declared "Maybe in Memphis I'll find my joy."
Throughout the performance, she'd tell us pieces of her story. How scared she was of ending her life in show business in obscurity, and how over the past three years she'd found some real success. How she's finally released an album of songs she'd recording back in 1973 that have languished there for years. When she sang "Let Me Down Easy," I'd wince, because she'd managed to fill so much pain into her voice.
* * * * *
Saturday night, I was getting myself ready. Another concert to attend. This time Kristen Hersh, who you may or may not know from Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave. My friend S would be picking me up sometime after 8. We'd probably miss the opening act, but she had other obligations earlier, and I knew I'd be content if I had the company, and saw the main act.
My roommate V called me. She hasn't been home this weekend, but had heard what had happened with DF. I was now thrust center stage on trying to smooth things. Talking to DF, talking to V, talking to the b-i-l of the landlord, and leaving messages for the landlord who still hasn't gotten back to me. My sense at this point is that after her conversation with DF, the LL wants to wipe her hands of us. My own superstitious side is to wonder if this is all a sign for me to get out now. As if the PtB are saying, "We indicated to you in March that maybe you should think about moving, we're trying again now in April, next time, we're destroying the building, so move already." I don't know, but for all that I was the nexus last night, nothing was accomplished.
S arrived. We left. The concert was great. Kristen didn't talk too much, though, she did tell us a story about one of the songs.
"I was riding the bus and an old woman was explaining to me about how she never left her house, ever. While we're on the bus, she's telling me this, mind you. Anyway, I ask her why not and she looks at me seriously and says, 'Well, look what they did to Jesus.' This woman was actually worried that if she left her house, they were going to crucify her. So, that's what this song is about."
I was delighted that aside from some songs off her new album, she also performed "Your Ghost." I have a copy of that song on my computer, it was sent to me by MG. Songs good enough that you can overlook its connection to your most recent ex are rare and wonderful creatures.
* * * * *
Once I stepped outside, I knew that I'd have to pick up one of Bettye's cds. So, I purchased her newest album which is a series of covers, including the previously mentioned "Joy" as well as songs by Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Sinead O'Connor. She returned to sign the cds as well. I found myself second in line.
When I stepped up, I found that I barely had my voice.
"Hi," I squeaked.
"Well, hello, and who are you sweetheart."
I squeaked out my name as well.
"You're bashful. Sweetheart, you have got to get over that. Come around here and sit with me," she edged over a little bit so that where was space on her chair. I looped my arms around her waist while she signed the booklet in the cd. "Mind you, the girls, they sometimes like a bashful guy. It makes you sweet." She gave me a kiss before I got up again.
* * * * *
This morning was a breakfast not-date. It's a not date because I got in contact with her through an online dating site, but she'd stated that she wasn't really looking for anything romantic right now. I originally had assumed that that was code for, "get lost" but I like to assume that I'm not socially astute enough to read codes, so I'd just agree, and see if she actually bothered getting in contact with me or not after that. And in fact she did, and she was the one to suggest meeting up. So, we got breakfast at a coffee shop I know. (Not brunch because we were not served at the table, and because in relative terms of things we did not linger that long). Still it seemed to go well. I learned lessons from my last time, keeping my stories short, asking her about different topics, and somehow avoiding the things that make me look really weird. We left with her telling me to let her know if there were any good shows I'd want company for.
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