Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm listening to Trees with Bells, leaning on the grey formica of my desk, adjusting the strap of my velcro mary jane, and dreaming of the moment, most probably sometime next week, when I can turn off my alarm clock and just sleep, for hours and hours.

It's been an intense week and a half. And it will keep on with that pace until the end of the weekend. Although my house guests have returned to Chicago and I am no longer caravan leader and tour guide, the Soul shows are over and the shimmying and shaking has ceased, I've still the Skybucket Showcase in Tuscaloosa and 6 more glorious days of hospital work.

The show. The Soul shows. The adventures with Emily Oddo and Sean Michael McCarthy and Alan Fritz. I flew up to Chicago on the 11th. It was the day after the liquid bomb scare in England, so even though I had packed everything in a beuatiful tight little suitcase for the first time ever. Dear Lord, I was proud. I ended up having to check it anyway. When I arrived in Chicago, Emily whisked me away in her jeep to the Skylark to meet her friend Josh and then to the Inner Town Pub, where we drank PBR with her friend Jason. And we bought tamales. Here was this little man with a cooler, floating through the door. Emily and Jason turned on their bar stools in his direction and pulled out some cash. Cheese Tamales. The little man handed Em and Jason each a plastic sandwich bag full of corn husks. We sat at the bar and peeled back the husks to reveal the splendor of late night cheese and cornmeal.

We walked a great deal during that week. Emily lived in Wicker Park, so alot of good restaurants and bars were only blocks away. I'm not used to that. I drive everywhere. The suburb of Birmingham in which I live does not even have sidewalks.

Saturday was spent running errands. We picked up Brian and Mary from the Airport in the morning and took them to Record Dugout and to a small amazing mexican restaurant where Emily ordered everything in spanish. I think I was kind of worried that being rather new to the vegetarian way of eats Chicago would be disappointing. The truth is that I could not have been staying with a better host. Emily took me to My Pie and the Flying Saucer and we stuffed our faces with some of the best tasting food I've ever had. She was as excited as I was for me to experience new things. We drank cocktails from the top of the Hancock building, ate rice from a hollowed out pineapple. I ate some cactus (that's what it was, wasn't it Brian?)

After dropping Brian and Mary off at the Hotel, we met John and Ralph and Roscoe at the Hide out. Ralph was practicing with Adam Fitz and the incredible group of musicians that Adam had assembled for the show. Ralph was standing, back to the door, facing the stage, the band, directing the horn section through the song. He would sing into his microphone "bah duh duh duuuuuh...." Pointing at the three young men, the smiled seriously thoughtful smiles and went about their work. Adam watched Ralph intently and followed with a quiet rhythm. He seemed to know every song of Ralph's by heart already, in fact I'm sure he did. Soon, he would break out into Set Me Free...singing it at the top of his lungs, with wailing soul that would make Eddie Hinton proud. At that moment, Ralph would laugh and clap his hands and jump back and shout. I don't know that Ralph had ever heard anyone ever sing his songs, apart from that Sam Frazier cover that John had played him at the Arby's in Montgomery so many moons ago. One could tell how sweet it was to his ears. I turned and Roscoe Robinson was standing in the doorway. He had left his gumbo to cool and had jumped up to see what all the fuss was about. Later, as the band broke and walked towards the front door, Roscoe would stop the band members to say "If that boy is gonna sing like that, I'd best stay at home." Adam was a surprise to Ralph and Roscoe alike. He was a bit os a surprise to me too. I'd had his album for months. Although I'd found several songs quite infectious, I'd not taken the time to really listen. Now, I'd have to make the time.

(to be continued)

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