Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tin-man Hula dancer

Thursday, I conned some dear friends of mine into going with me to a concert. The concert was in historic Webster Hall in the Lower East Side of New York City. It is one of these ancient places in NYC that remains much the same as it was a hundred ears ago; only the crowds have changed. It is from a different era: the grand, over-mirrored, multi-floored structure clearly once housed gala balls, elaborate receptions and political banquets in its heyday. It now hosts concerts of all sorts, as well as hip-hop dance nights and a ghoulish annual Halloween party (although I’m sure ghosts from bygone days still roam the halls fortnightly in pressed black tuxedoes and silk ballroom gowns). Thursday was a night for a few ghosts of my own less-than-rowdy college days. We were there to see a band that I’d “grown-up” with in Stillwater: Cross Canadian Ragweed. A mediocre (or at least used to be mediocre) Red Dirt band that I can say with confidence composed the soundtrack of my life at OSU and the relations thereof. From ‘lake tunes’ to ‘break-up tunes’ to ‘make-up tunes’ to ‘hook-up tunes’ to ‘driving-too-fast-down-a-dirt-road tunes’ – this band provided them all.

My friends had never heard CCR as they are all from other parts of the country and the band isn’t well known outside of Southern Plains. They acquiesced, as they too often do, to join me based on my word that they would have a good time. We began the evening with some burgers and beers (a fitting beginning to an evening of Red Dirt), and then progressed to a rather empty hall. I was upset until I realized that less people would provide fewer impediments to the necessary lubricant for the evening: whisky. It wasn’t long before one Black Label led to another. Nervous anticipation of the flood of memories was telling me that I clearly needed to be loose enough to take it with grace. CCR began to play a new tune of theirs which eerily nags at my current placement as if they are trying to desperately hold onto their niche in the soundtrack writing business: ‘New York City Girl’.

As often happens when I’m exposed to Red Dirt Country (or any Country music for that matter), my feet began to stomp as I swayed on the 2 and 4 (surely this is a combination of conditioning from nine years in marching band and too many nights spent dancing two-step at the Tumble Weed Boot-Scoot’n Saloon during my Stillwater days). My hips began to rhythmical follow a rough figure-eight pattern, somewhat like a Tin-man Hula dancer. As the whole of my body was driven by the stimulus in my ears, and fueled by the memories of my past, my hind-quarters began to protrude and my shoulder shrugged slightly (at this time many unqualified observers describe me as something of the chicken-dance aficionado). I assure you chicken-dance this is not. Such was my posture for most of the evening – when I wasn’t running to the bar to re-lubricate with my ‘pals’ Johnny or Jim (No Jamey for me - too close to the Ides).

We had staked out a comfortable spot in the middle of the ballroom. But this wasn’t going to be good enough for me; I moved to the very front. My neck was wrenched and the sound quality was awful, but I needed the connection with the band. I wanted to look into the eyes of men with whom I shared a common adolescence. Men that had driven the same streets of Stillwater, who had felt love and broken hearts in that town, who had closed down the same bars as I when loneliness needed one more drink. I also wanted them to know that I supported them fully as a brother from the same distant place and culture. Our paths to Webster Hall could not have been more different if you’d tasked a child with a crayon to plan them. But we had started in the same place, and managed to rendezvous for that evening – and I wanted them to know that that wasn’t trivial to me. We had all worked hard, and I was enjoying what they were providing; they needed to know. I spent the remainder of the concert poised there at the front, singing and shaking my hind-quarters surrounded by strangers doing the same. I did momentarily run down to the coat-check to shed my striped blazer (no need for style at this point), don my trucker hat and grab a folded-up Oklahoma flag that I wanted to give as a thanks to the ‘Boys from Oklahoma’. I gave the flag to the guitar tech and reassumed my posted at the front of the now crowded ballroom. Grady Cross acknowledged my now-exposed Mike McClure Band T-shirt with a swipe across his chest, a nod and a smile. The remainder of the show was packed with classics from my years in Stillwater. I reveled. Finally the show was over. I excitedly found my friends who had managed to enjoy themselves despite my absence.

We stuck around for the following act, Cowboy Mouth. It was a riot, but I wanted to find CCR and hang out. I struck up a conversation with the merchandizing guy, Nathan, on the return leg of a restroom trip. He went to high school in Dewey, OK, so it was easy enough to make a connection and get some information from him, “The band is hanging out and having a few bears at the ‘Thursday Scholar’ around the corner”. Uncertain of the name I replied, “The Thursday Scholar?” He nodded. I was off. I grabbed my friends, asking in the hustle if they knew where the ‘Thursday Scholar’ was. The more knowledgeable of the friends howled, “The Thursday scholar?” “Yes, do you know it?” I replied. She erupted in laughter!! “I believe you mean the ‘Thirsty Scholar’” she chuckled. Certainly chagrinned, but firmly undeterred, we set-out for a “scholarly” place to imbibe with rock stars.

1 comment:

Holls said...

i know this means that you're going to continue with another post about hanging out with the band @ the "Thursday Scholar"!

if you ever write a book of memoirs about your whale-humping adventures...i'd be the first to buy a copy! in fact, i'd better get an advance signed copy! i really enjoy reading what you write...there is sort of a melodic tone to it...if that makes any sense. i think you might have a gift young grasshopper.