One of the people I played with in the final reincarnation of Bits n' Pieces was a guy who initially was taking lessons, Gordon Lewis. We decided to form a duo and for a couple years we did the local bar scene. Although I enjoyed playing with Gordon I was again reminded how much I disliked doing the bar thing.
One night we were playing a small place in Wareham, a popular local haunt for a mix of age groups. The place was almost always busy but one night while on break Gordon looked around and observed, "You know what? Look around. There is not one attractive person in this place!"
A bit harsh but he was right. It was kind of a very depressing version of Cheers. One lady (and I use the term loosely) was always at the bar. Her time had passed long ago but she did the best with what she had, piling on the make-up and wearing skirts that were way too tight and way too short. I was reminded of the Shel Silverstein song, "Queen of the Silver Dollar."
"She's the queen of the Silver Doller,
She rules the smokey tables,
Her sceptre is her wine glass and the barstool is her throne.
The jesters hang around her trying to win her favor,
And see which one will take the Queen of the Silver Dollar home."
And she did get taken home by many a bar fly. Sad but not at all uncommon.
I was still teaching many students a week and one day one of them asked me to play what would turn out to be the strangest gig I've ever had. It seemed her grandmother had died. The old lady was a life long resident of Nantucket and my student wanted me to go out to the island and play some classical stuff at a small gathering of friends at the lady's house. I would be given air transport out there and paid pretty well so I agreed.
I should have known it was going to a be a memorable day when I boarded a small plane at the now-private Falmouth Airport. It was one of those push-pull things, with one engine on the front and one at the back of the small passenger compartment. I don't think they make those things anymore....
Anyway, it was raining hard. We began accelerating down the runway, which I swear had such big bumps in it that it felt like we were doing the Giant Moguls at the Olympics. Finally reached the last mogul with the trees rapidly filling our view (I was siting next to the pilot because the back of the plane was filled with various supplies for stores on the island) and with engines screaming we all but catapulted barely over the tree tops. After a bumpy ride over Nantucket Sound we were about to land at the airport there when suddenly the radio began squawking: "Abort! Abort! Abort" and as the pilot put the plane into a severe banked turn a private Lear jet shrieked by on its approach, no more than a couple hundred yards away. Exciting, to say the least.
A driver was waiting for me at the airport and we proceeded to the old lady's house, which was right on the harbor and even then probably worth many millions of dollars. A strange assortment of big wigs from the old families of Nantucket were already there. As I was opening my guitar case a relative approached me. It turned out that the old lady had been infirm in her last years and one of those motorized chairs had been installed going up the side of the stairs. The guy thought it would be a find idea if I sat on the chair and he would put it on "auto pilot" going slowly up and down the stairs while I sat on it and played, so guests upstairs could hear me too! Uh...OK I said.
This went on for about a half hour. Up....down....up....down..... In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, I started to crack up. Then it came to me - there was only one tune to play - "Stairway to Heaven"!! Only one guy there got the joke but he was cracking up.
Finally, they asked me to sit in a chair by the door. I noticed that people where kind of standing around, waiting for something to happen. The doorbell rang. No one was responding so I put down my guitar and opened it. There standing in the rain was a UPS guy with a box. "I'm sorry!" he said. "The weather held us up! I know you've been waiting for this!" And with that he handed me the box. It slowly dawned on me what was in the box.
Oh my god, I thought. "Hey...uh...is this what you're waiting for?" I asked a relative. "Yes!" he said, took the box, quickly opened it and took out the urn and placed it on a shelf. Then things got even weirder. After a few words by the local Episcopal (of course!) minister, the guests descended on the bar that had been set up and proceeded to drink - a lot! The next thing I knew they were saying, hey guitar guy, skip the sad music, play something happy!
Well, I broke into some jazz standards and even some Jimmy Buffet tunes to the delight of all there. What the urn thought of it I can only guess. I was paid, driven back to the airport and reboarded the push-pull for the ride home, which was without incident, thank goodness.
A gig is a gig.....
Peace & good music,