Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I've been meaning to post about Friday night. It was an eventful night for post-brain surgery precedents.

My friend, and fellow brain surgery survivor Lisa O. had hipped me to a night of music at what we used to call "the Community Center" in my hometown when I was a kid. Now it's named after somebody and is more artsy than 1950s attempts to keep kids off the streets.

A bunch of local musicians who call themselves "the collective" and comprise several local bands and various combinations of them were on stage for this event. It was scheduled for 8-11 but me and my youngest showed up around 9:30 to find I had to park a block away, a good sign for turnout.

Inside the hallway was crowded with middle school and elementary school kids, many of whom my son knew. He was happy.

Since I moved back to this area in '99 I've been in this place a few times and am always taken with the changes that have occurred since I was a kid, but also the familiarity of a lot of what makes the old building special in my memory. I've even read my poetry upstairs where we played pool when I was a kid but is now an art gallery and small performance space.

But I hadn't been in the room where the music was going on since I was in high school when it was used for what they used to call "Teen Canteens"—dances for high school kids. I had a lot of memorable experiences in that room so when I entered it with my little guy behind me, I felt overwhelmed that the space, though renovated since then, still evoked memories and at the same time I felt anxious and a little disoriented by the crowd and the loud music and the semi-darkness I was trying to decipher.

I almost turned around and left. But I saw my friend Lisa D. and her husband Frank at a table right in front of me and an empty chair next to theirs and felt, okay maybe I can do this. It took me a while to pay the seven bucks for my son and me and return my wallet to my pocket, feeling overwhelmed by the simplest tasks, but eventually I made it the few steps to my friends and sat down and the anxiety subsided and I was able to look around after a while and see people I knew or at least recognized from the community.

This was the noisiest and biggest crowd I'd been in since the brain surgery. Up on the stage a group of musicians and singers—ten people or so—were rocking the joint. Impressively. My friend Torre was playing guitar, one of them. I started to feel not only more comfortable but very happy to be here.

My youngest hung around for a while listening and then said he wanted to go out in the hallway and hang with friends so he did, while the various musicians on stage kept reconfiguring into different combinations for the Beatles and Stones songs they were playing in what they had set up as a little competition to see which group's songs were most popular.

My friend Lisa O. spotted me and stopped to commiserate and ask how I was handling it all. She offered me ear plugs, but I declined, I never liked anything in my ears. She asked if I could feel the screws in the plate in my skull and I said yes, in fact for awhile I couldn't stop checking them out now and then. She guided my finger to hers and I did the same for mine. Must have looked odd to others seeing this man and woman touching each other's skulls through our hair.

It made me feel very good, kind of secure, knowing she was there. I loosened up and started moving to the beat of the songs like the old table dancing days in Manhattan when there were ordinances against dancing so kids in the '60s invented all kinds of upper body moves for dancing in your seats at tables in coffee houses and such.

I spied a woman who I'd heard sing in a duo and trio situation with other women, I love her voice and her style, and was blown away by a young woman someone told me was fifteen but who looked a lot older, not in a trying-to way but in a solid way, like Janis Joplin always seemed older because she had such a powerful presence and voice, this young woman did too.

I was happy to see and hear my friend Matt who I hadn't seen in a while and was one of the first people I wrote about on this blog, a local Irish-American guy whose a terrific guitar player and singer and does Beatles and other classic rock songs acoustically or electrically better than most groups do their own original songs.

Feeling hungry I went and got a homemade chicken quesadia (sp?) that was delicious and handled the walk to the kitchen and paying for it all relatively smoothly and without anxiety. And after I finished that off, some of the women in the room had gotten up front and were dancing and Lisa O. motioned for me to join them and I did.

So, post-brain surgery this was the first time I'd been in a room with this many people, with loud live music, out this late (they went on well beyond 11PM), table danced or got up on the floor and boogied. I couldn't stop smiling I was enjoying myself so much.

But the post-op diminishment of the filter it's taken me years to build up to keep my mouth from getting into the kinds of trouble I was always getting into in my younger years led me to tell one woman she was "beautiful and unbelievably hot" which wasn't what I meant to say and I'm sure not what she wanted to hear from this older gray haired stranger. But that was a post-op first too. Hopefully I can return the filter to where it was before the operation when I not only would have know better than to say that but would have meant something else anyway, something more like: "Man it's fun dancing and being among so many people having a happy time."

Of course, the next day I paid the price and felt totally wiped out, and after some more things over the weekend I now feel like I need a long rest, but nothing permanent.


Lisa O. said...

i am so glad that you decided to come. and stay. and bring your little boy. and dance. i'll let you know about next gig as you can now become a groupie with me.
--lisa o.

harryn said...

so who is the better band you old flirt ...

Lally said...

Well I shouted out a few thoughts on that too. The Stones seemed to be getting most of the votes from the room, but after a Beatles tune I can't remember which one now I shouted to the couple whose table I was at loud enough for others to hear: "What songs or music that came before that song does it remind you of?" And when they couldn't think of anything I shouted "Exactly!" I also pointed out that Jagger went to college to study business and John for art (and got kicked out for being to far out with his art etc.) The Stones are the best at what they do and they developed a signature sound that we all recognize, over many decades. The Beatles were together for six years or so and created a body of work unmatched in popular music for originality, craftsmanship, musicality and presentation. In my mind the Beatles are to Kerouac what the Stones are to Burroughs. We know who the authentic working class ones are and who the posers are, even if the pose (Burroughs and the Stones) eventually became the reality and went way beyond posing by the end. But I appreciated right from the beginning of those two bands that the Beatles sounded like four English working class lads from Liverpool, whereas the Stones sounded like what they were doing their best to imitate some African-American artists who deserved homage for sure but it 'tweren't original, though I did end up digging their early version of "Little Red Rooster" despite the derivation.And don't get me wrong, I dig the Stones, though not some of their darker poses and lyrics and the influence they had, but the music.

harryn said...

i'm with you brother - from the first time i heard "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" on one of those hand-held transistor radios - i knew life as i knew it was going to change ...