Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pretty Leaves and Boney Freeze

The Dynamic Duo once again traveled to Fayetteville to Smokeys On the Gorge to play yet another bone chilling wedding. Last time, Lisa shivered and shook, so she prepared by wearing layers including a coat, scarf and gloves with holes cut for the fingertips. Even then, the wind cut right through. Damn. One man looked her straight in the eye and smugly remarked, "It's not that cold." The gentleman, and I use that term loosely, had not been out on the cold for over thirty minutes holding a metal rod (which leeches the warmth from your hands) all in the vain effort to play music. People are cattle.

She had been driven nuts by the wedding party, the father in particular. Normally, you can make arrangements by phone or by attending the rehearsal the night before, but these folks insisted on a sit-down at her house. For what seemed days, she answered questions, played her flute and explained all the pertinent details. Then, the family asked, "What if you can't make it at the last minute? What if something happens to you?" Dumbfounded. Never been asked that one before. Let me consult my crystal ball.

Then they had a rain plan. A very reasonable idea, but there's was to call us on the day of the wedding and tell us whether the ceremony was to take place at a church or at Smokeys. Logistically, this would mean that both the church and Smokeys would have to be decorated in time. We never did get a call, but later found out that the florists had put a stop on the duel decorating idea. Besides, after meeting them, they were clearly gay and we know gay doesn't do sloppy decorating. It's a wedding people, not a fire drill.

Smokeys is high on a mountain overlooking the New River Gorge. To have a wedding outside late October is a complete gamble, especially atop a mountain. When we left Charleston, it was in the 60's, but as soon as we arrived, the chill crept into your body. There was easily a ten to fifteen degree difference and the sun appeared to have other plans that day. I abandoned the idea of my suit jacket and opted for a thick sweater I had brought just in case. Turns out, it was a smart move.

When you are a duet playing for a public event, you must remember that if someone can walk on or over your equipment they will. If you play flute, you stand a good chance of getting your teeth knocked out. People are cattle at these events, mindlessly plodding into or onto anything. We are invisible. We took a position directly outside the door leading down to the deck. We put our amps in front of us in order to project the sound to the deck below and to create a barrier that hopefully would discourage people from walking on our stuff. We even put up a music stand and the dolly to create a solid wall between the amps. Sure enough, a woman decided that instead of walking a few more steps, she would just amble over. Unreal. I am convinced that if Lisa was not standing there, more people would have done this.

The sky was gray, little bits of drizzle and sudden Arctic blasts were the norm, except for one moment. The minister said the Irish blessing to the couple and just as he said, "May the sun shine on your faces and the sky be blue above you", as if on cue, the sun transformed the scene into warmth and light. People collectively gasped. The minister reiterated "the sky being blue above" one more time for a welcome laugh. Then, it was back to deep blue freeze.

After the ceremony, we played some jazz and with each tune, it got colder and windier until our final tune was just a joke. All sensible people were warm inside while the idiot musicians played to no one and fulfilled the remainder of their contracted service. I finally declared that I was frozen and had no more music to play. It was ridiculous, but this is what we mighty gigsters do for money. We have to. It's a pain, but the pay is good. It makes up for the indecision and craziness of wedding families. And the blue freeze.

We were hoping for some food and beverage afterwards, but all the food was taken away by the time we finished. The father of the bride had given us a check, the wedding party was being introduced and it was clearly time to leave. (You should never expect food, but like the hungry scavengers we are, sometimes it's good to get a little extra. It's payback for the humiliation, you see.)
Humiliation? What? You ungrateful bastard! Let me enlighten you.
SIDEBAR: A bandmate of mine revealed this little tale to me and it fits perfectly. He spent an evening at the home of a fellow Latino and his wife. After dinner, they played music from their native country and it must have sounded good because my friend innocently suggested that they play out somewhere. The look of insult on their faces was quite clear. He had crossed a line. It was as if he had just suggested dessert and a three-way. The man worked for Dow or some place like that and how could he stoop so low as to play music in public? My friend was truly hurt and astounded by this attitude. You see, people truly think like this. They may patronize musicians and even admire them, but in some circles, they are no more than low-life beggars.
Back to our humble tale.
We cranked up the heat and headed on 19 South. I was beat. The cold had really gotten me this time around. I was happy to head home.

The road hummed along, the heater keeping us toasty, I started to reflect privately about my so-called career as a musician. What strange and unexpected paths. No ivory tower for me. Nope. Lisa and I have been doing this for a long, long time. I think of us as front liners, seasoned pros who go where we're told, as long as the money is right. I'm absolutely sure that some of our ilk would think themselves above such a common gig as a wedding. (I could name names, but I don't need to make my point that way.) I don't have the luxury of such a position and I am proud of what I do. Besides, all of this is good blog fodder.
On Sunday, I felt fine all day until evening when I sensed something had gotten a hold of me. At bedtime, I got hit with the chills. I shook and shivered under the covers. Body aches and fever followed. One more parting gift from playing outside on a mountain in late fall.

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