Saturday, September 20, 2014

Play It Now

I had a bit of an obsession about seeing the windows.

After hearing a lecture about Sheltering Arms Hospital and its 71-year history on Clay Street, here, I'd been dead curious about seeing those operating room windows that used to be opened during surgery, admitting fresh air and flies.

The notion of such a thing alone got me to the Grant mansion today where the fine folks at Sheltering Arms were offering guided tours of the rooms, complete with costumed interpreters.

As we gathered for the first tour, the crowd was asked if anyone had been born at Sheltering Arms and, lo and behold, two people in the group had.

We were led from room to room where black and white enlargements of of photographs showed the original look and configuration of the spaces and people dressed in old nurses' uniforms (and one man portraying Dr. Hunter McGuire)  told us about the staff they were portraying.

The nursing superintendent told us about how strict she was but also about how she'd broken the law by setting a fire on the roof to stop crows from nesting up there.

We saw the short-term ward, the original columns now mostly covered over with walls and the pharmacy, originally lined with wooden shelves holding bottles of donated drugs.

Best of all, I got to climb the steps to the third floor and see the former operating room and the windows that had once been used for ventilation during surgery.

At the lecture, we'd been told that the view from those windows facing east stretched for miles but today's view as cluttered with nearby buildings.

Still, I got to see what I'd come to see.

We finished out that floor with a trip to the nursery, just off the hallway that led to the nurses' residence, another facet I'd been struck by.

Aren't you always on call when you live where you work?

Leaving the medical past behind and well satisfied at having gotten a glimpse of what had been only hearsay before, I motored west to meet Pru for brunch and music at Cary Street Cafe.

Everyone's favorite Neil Diamond cover band, Diamond Heist, was playing all afternoon, with "Kentucky Woman" being performed when we got there.

It was already a full house with a small bridal party in tiaras, a steady stream of smokers leaving to go out front to puff and lots of fans of the band.

During "Soolaimon," the two women next to me instructed me to guard their stools while they went out to smoke. They were bigger than me, so I did what they told me to.

After ordering black bean nachos, lead singer Will announced, "We're Diamond Heist and thanks for being here because it would be lame without you guys."

I was happy to hear they now have a residency at Cary Street, performing every third Saturday of the month.

"Any first timers?" he asked the noisy group and a few people raised their hands. "These are for you!" and they launched into "I Am, I Said" and "Sweet Caroline," causing a raucous singalong.

When the set ended, he promised some surprises in the second set, including full frontal nudity.

Surprisingly, some people still chose to leave during the break. Not us. If twigs and berries were a possibility, Pru and I were going to hold tight our seats.

In the meantime we ate lunch - my nachos and her French onion soup - and listened to Will explain that they needed to increase their repertoire of Neil Diamond songs, which, he told us, are hard songs.

The second set began with "Hello Again" and took off with "Cherry, Cherry" after he said, "It could be called "Kerry, Kerry" and screams went up from a group of women who began dancing in the aisles.

"Red, Red Wine" elicited the observation, "Red, red wine or yellowish mimosas," a nod to all the pitchers full of mimosas standing on tables around the room.

Lit cupcakes were marched up to the drummer Dean, celebrating his 32nd birthday and the whole room serenaded him with "Happy Birthday."

Someone requested "the "ET" song - "Heartlight" and Will admitted, "That's one on the "need-to-learn" list. This is one that was requested and we know it. That's a nice confluence there."

It was the rabble-rousing "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" and it had the keyboard player testifying mid-song.

Referencing this week's crowd-sourced Foo Fighters' show, he suggested the next crowd-sourced show should be Neil Diamond at the Diamond. Kind of brilliant.

"So we flipped the coin on the full frontal nudity ting and decided it was a really bad idea. There's not enough mimosas in the building for that."

They had a photographer there snapping pics for their Facebook page, so Pru and I smiled for the camera before she inched behind some big guy who barely moved to let her pass, saying to us and pointing to her breasts, "These puppies need more room. Want some?"

Um, no thanks, I have some of my own.

"I'm a Believer" and "Coming to America" got the crowd singing along on the chorus and for "Holly Holy," Will invited us to sing along or shake our moneymaker.

By then Pru was tired of sitting and wanted to exit, but I insisted we wait for "Cracklin' Rose," with the room screaming "Play it now!" in between sipping beer and talking to friends.

"We're going to close with a song we played earlier but had a request for,"Solitary Man," Will said. "It's related to full frontal nudity."

Only tangentially, I might add.


  1. neil diamond !! oh yeah baby .... what a rocker!!

    jonathan livingston seagulll soundtrack... get it on!!


  2. P.S. actually it's a secret but i kinda like neil...


  3. Say what you will, but the man is a genius at writing pop gems. You should come next time they play at Cary Street!

  4. true..& i even like some of his newer stuff -- "Delirious Love" a cut off of 12 Songs. so maybe we're all snaps at heart..juz a little.