Friday, December 26, 2008

Circle in a square

About 100 years ago I drove my sporty Corvair to New York City to play folk songs in Washington Square. This was done on a Sunday and many other musicians were about it as well. While Washington Sq. is indeed that, the performances were done about the circular wall of the empty fountain's pool.
It was pretty large and you could easily find a spot far enough from the other pickers to afford you a little bubble for your music and it would be just fine, unless some Spade with a horn came bopping by and temporarily broke it. A Spade used to be a hip name for an African American; certainly cooler than A Club. Anyway, in those days it was important to identify people
with some sort of modifier. I think it had to do with smoking pot or something. I should mention that this guy Mike had come with me. Mike claimed to have lived in Greenwich Village before and was certain he could find us a spot to crash. (sleep) I was not too sure about Mikes ability to pimp my musical talent for room and board, but he was full of big talk and we were in New York on a Sunny Sunday and I had a D-18 with new strings.
I set up on the wall and started to play some guitar features in the style of Lester Flatt. People gathered and seemed to like the music. I sang Carter Family tunes that Joan Baez had made popular but I had known for many years and since I was shy and sort of country, they stayed to listen. At least they did until Mike came back and started working the crowd. I should mention that I was like 17 years old and Mike was 18. For some reason he had gained the attributes of Norman Mailer and Earnest Hemingway in that he was a fast talking he-man sort of guy and pretty much the opposite of the free spirit hippie movement that was starting to happen. I had made some friends while playing but once they got a load of Mike, they found pressing engagements elsewhere. Listening to Mike was a weird trip anyway. He claimed to have hitched cross country and back while writing a novel. Unfortunately the novel was lost when some guy who had given him a ride ditched him out in the desert at a gas station, taking the the nearly finished manuscript and the rest of Mike's stuff and tooling off down the two lane with the goods. All this plus the fact Michael claimed to have actually lived in the "Village" should have made him about 25 instead of 18. On the other hand, Mike was one of those Italian kids who start shaving at 12 and he was in fact a fairly tough kid. I figured that from a safety stand point it was probably wise not to ditch him even if he was queering my social progress with women who might like country folk singers and had apartments. I got tired of playing and went for a walk. About 3 pm on the big circle, I came upon David Grisman and some guys playing bluegrass. They had a big crowd and I figured I could fit in due to me being an actual VA. picker and them all being from up north and Jewish besides. Well I got my 18 out of his box and started to strum along. I was having a swell time until some chick taps me on the shoulder and tells me I'm playing out of time. I wasn't, but that old time rythm I used sounds different than your regular flat picking since you pick a bass note with your thumb then brush the chord then do a little strum as well. Never the less, it killed my buzz and left me feeling unhip and hungry. Mike was on my nerves too. He kept up this rap like "There's where I used to take my laundry, I wonder if they still have my shirts?" You got to remember, I was in High School with this dude, so I have to wonder when exactly was he able to pull off his young Hemingway/Keroac years? Some folks just try too hard. In later years, I ran into Mike off and on. Last time was in some bar. The years had piled on him enough to support his stories, but I knew that his marriage had failed and he was selling office furnature. I don't know about you, but to me, at least, some people you know just seem grown up their whole lives. Hell I remember kids from my grade school who looked like little old ladies or men and I bet now that they are little old ladies and men they look just the same. Well, I'm going to leave myself in NYC and just say that we got home OK. Maybe, if I had not had Big Mike, I might have found some direction and friends. They way things worked out I went back and played music in the studios and through the years I did have some high times in the music game and I'm still about. It's just another day I remember.

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