I play’d a gig last night in a coffee shop not far from my apartment in the McAllister area. The gig is a steady once every six-week one night stand thing, if you can call that steady.
The crowd was unusual for a Wednesday night, not the 10 or 20 college aged kids doing the Mac-lap dance, or Dell, or Toshiba. From my vantage point the non crowd appears more like a cowboy convention of AA types, or AA wanna-bes. There was one in attendance whose Higher Power was definitely not from Bill’s big book, but more like 6 steps from Jim, as in Beam.
I did a 45 min set of my quasi depression fighters, blues, mostly original, all somewhat executed with a wornout voice and tiny guitar sound. That’s as good as it gets these days.
Took my break and was heading for the one-can-fits-all down on he lower level. As I walked near a table I noticed this older looking dude, maybe not as old as me, but looks are deceiving. Then he notices me. Some times when I gig I never know which one of me is gonna show up, but, tonight the one who was willing to let down a piece of the wall was present and spirit nudged me over to his table.
I’m not much for remembering descriptions of people, or words to my songs for that matter but as I’m thinkin back now seems he had thick hair, shoulder length, grey with a part down the middle. Some remnants of a cookie or donut was adorning or darning his flannel shirt. His face was rough and red looking. Is that what writers call a ‘ruddy’ complection’? He threw me a compliment then said……
“Ya do any Willie?”
Didn’t surprize me so I went into my litany about ‘me’ doing ‘me’. That rap drifted into vapor. The guy just sorta left the building as he looked out the window into the late February freeze. ‘Ya augta do some Willie, Blue Eyes, or something about her not showin’ by showtime”
I thought to ask him who ‘her’ was but just mumbled about how unconvincing an old man from Jersey would be doing country. My mumble didn’t matter, he was gone for all practical equivalents to actually being there, in the moment. Eyes and mind elsewhere. Hands holding the cup of whatever he was nursing like and anchor. The country thing must have injected something in me cause again I was mumbling something like ‘yep, I’ll look into it”. I mosey’d off to the outhouse, which was not out, or a house, but an all-for-one, one-for-all crapper in the basement.
It’s strange how some things of great import can just blast past and never stick, and, small things like cookie crumbs on a flannel shirt, parted grey hair and a lost lonely look can linger into today.
Here’s my thing about country. I been a soul blues man for 50 years. My mind and voice are pretty much shot from being a soul and blues man for 50 years. Da hell? I don’t think there’s a country song in my long line of million non-sellers that never sold.
Could I write a country song about a girl who never showed up by showtime? No!
But my name isn’t Imma Writer for nothing, and nothing from nothin is nothin (Billy Preston, 1974) and if I do nothing I got nothing and if I do something I’ve at least got something and according to my counsel, that’s better than nothin.Therein lies the reason for “she won’t show up by showtime”.
The song should go something like this:
He keeps drinking thinking she’ll show up by showtime,
but she never does
she’s an innocuous symbol of days and nights gone by
like the country song that was never sung
his heart and eyes fixed on the unkempt floor
hearing music play’d on a guitar unstrung
Time, the thief of promises never kept,
walking in his sleep awake,
dancing with no one
fear and fame and pills for the pain
all part of her show of not showing up by showtime
No other has kept his heart and mind as she has,
yet she is just a token, a symbol of days and nights now gone
From grade school to the grave
pretending brave in the face of his life
afraid to look life in the face
his fears of failure, his fears first failure was love
the wrong kind, a love unkind
His heart cries out like the sound of
a February wind in Minnesota
howling to a new low wind chill factor
beyond the ice laced window looking out on Grand Ave.
this is not grand,
what is all this
who am I, the devils prod at pride
why am I so important to me
and so meaningless to her
The stage no longer calls
the lights no longer pan scan and rise
to light an excited stage anticipating completion,
the marquee is tag’d wth graffiti
the punk with the paint can gets top bill
this a nightclub of shame,
of pain and no tomorrows
The fool still be dreaming of her showing?
Yeah, like in a movie, just in time for the showing,
thinks house lights will dim,
curtain call: the curtain rises
the music begins with new songs of love’s new beginnings
yet, the truth is this, the song is blues,
if shadow were a color
what hue would it be
in this house of empty seats?
She goes to a different show now
incredulously he clings to that which he should let go.
Here’s a toast to what he refuses to believe
her not showing by showtime
this show is one of broken dreams
another broken-hearted cowboy
No song here, no verse, chorus, refrain verse chorus again
this is truth, discord and disharmony
this is the blues of country
old man crying in rain.