Saturday, December 6, 2014

Suitcases of Memories

I'm back from the land of dial-up connections.

Today was part two of helping my parents reestablish some order in the house, another day of being around the most eccentric parents imaginable.

While Dad and I are in their bedroom emptying boxes, Mom comes in clutching a small handful, telling Dad that she has his stuff. What stuff, he wonders, in a house full of stuff?

"Your wallet, your calendar and your Constitution," she says in a tone of voice that says "duh!" Of course my ultra-liberal, political savvy father would keep a small, leather bound book containing the Constitution close at hand. Doesn't everyone's Dad?

Oh, and by the way, my parents really do still have a dial-up connection at their house. It took me hours to type my blog post last night using their computer.

They really do live in their own little world.

While the plumber -an old timer born and raised in the area - was there today, he brought up Hurricane Hazel in 1954, reminiscing about its devastating effect on the low-lying northern neck village where my parents now live. "There were chickens and cars floating down the road," he informed us, leaving me with a visual I'd never before considered.

My Dad tried to match his story by sharing that 2003's Hurricane Isabel had washed up a ham, an Adirondack chair and boxes of frozen peas on their property, but I gave the round to the plumber.

Of course, I didn't tell Dad that.

Driving home on a winding one-lane road, I was behind a blue pickup truck, its bed loaded with red plastic baskets full of oysters, no doubt the result of a full day's work on the gray Rappahannock. Even so, I doubt the oyster man was any more beat than I was after toting boxes of books down two flights, cleaning dozens of windows and moving furniture.

So while I was home in time for some kind of Friday night, I was too late for the book reception I'd hoped to attend and not sure I was up to a 10:00 shoegaze show.

I compromised with an early evening new grass show at Crossroads. While ordering my drink, the lead singer, Kelly, of Church Hill Music Co. informed the crowd, "Oh, there will be dancing tonight," making me glad I'd come. Her all-male band - upright bass, guitar, banjo - looked a little surprised at this news.

Since the show was just starting, I was able to find a seat on the long bench facing the band, making myself comfortable with the cushion I found there. The woman next to me had a camera in hand and was already taking pictures of the musicians.

When a couple of newcomers pulled chairs next to us, she suggested they sit in front of her for a better view. "I've seen them before," she said nonchalantly, admitting to me that she's schlepped instruments for them before.

A groupie, a girlfriend or a wife, take your pick.

One reason I enjoy music at Crossroads is because of how casual the staff is with the band and customers. Like if a server has a beer for a woman in the corner, she'll just hand it to the guitar player and expect him to pass it back to the drinker. We're all in this together, you know?

The band's repertoire was all over the map - Suzy Bogguss, Brandi Carlisle, Shania Twain - but she tied them together by saying, "This song is like so many of ours, about a woman trying to forget a man." Good luck with that, honey.

She looked to be younger than the guys in the band, confirming it when she mentioned "The Goonies" and called it the best movie ever and asked, "Anyone?" No one, absolutely no one. I've never even seen Goonies.

Saying the next song reminded her of the '80s, the woman next to me looked at me and we both laughed. Unless she has toddler memories, Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" more likely reminds her of movies she's seen about the '80s.

We weren't unkind; we gave her credit for a soulful rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine" and her gender pronoun changes. And my favorite lyric of the evening came from a Trisha Yearwood song, "They Call It Fallin' for a Reason." Can't say I'd ever heard a Trisha Yearwood song before tonight so I was grateful for the exposure.

Tell me what are you supposed to do
When you've been kissed like that?

I did notice that every time she told us that the boys were going to do a number for us and stepped back, the trio kicked into some classic bluegrass, displaying their chops.

A glass got knocked over behind the band but they just played around it, leaving it to be cleaned up during the break. Everyone knows a broom is a buzzkill mid-set.

The guy next to me recognized "Hallelujah" from the first two notes and after a nice cover of it, the singer announced, "That's the best song ever." On the other side of me, the woman leaned in and grinned, "Every song is the best ever."

Dolly got representation with "Jolene" followed by the unlikely "One Love" by U2. No one could say CMC's set list (by the way, charmingly taped to the shoulder of the upright bass) wasn't eclectic and wide-ranging. After doing the Lumineers' ubiquitous "Ho Hey" ("I belong to you, you belong to me, sweetheart"), Kelly said, "That's our hipster song for all you hipsters out there."

She wasn't looking at me.

Because the songs covered so many genres and decades, anyone in the room was bound to like something at some point. When they did John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery," I saw one of the staff singing along to every word as she did her late night duties behind the counter.

There's something right about a world where people sing along to John Prine, don't you think?

Sometimes the guitarist John took over singing duties, say for a Springsteen song or the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face," lending a different energy and sound to the group. And while the bassist and banjo player got no mic time, both were talented musicians underpinning every song.

By the time they got to their last two songs, parts of the crowd had come and gone and come again but a core group (including one third of John's extended family, someone joked) held fast, including me and my photographer buddy.

We were rewarded with the one-two punch of Linda Ronstadt's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" followed by the uplifting "I Can See Clearly Now" to close things out.

I'd been eased out of dial-up land and back into the land of the living. Love you, Mom and Dad, but glad to be back.

Only thing missing was that dancing I was promised.

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