Under the Stars, Behind the VFW

 We leaned back against the bumpers of a couple cars, half in , half out of the garage green room of the venue, a warehouse behind the VFW. Railroad tracks, a dozen junked Subarus, mist rising from river to city roof tops to inky stars.

“Is it raining?” Bran said, “ I unloaded 3 bags of stucco and left them by the front door when I left. Shit.”

Teddy leaned over and gently filled my plastic cup again. Damp concrete echoed the shuffle of feet, and music from the opening act spilled out the other end of the oil soaked bay, through a bright doorway.

“Doesn’t look like anything serious ‘til after midnight as far as the rain“ he said. “Oughta hold.”

My imagination floated up and wandered out, from the city to the country, in search of the bags of stucco. I could almost see them there, perched on the hill above a dark river under massive hemlocks, everything saturated with the sound of water and the slow drift of a vacant backwoods highway.

Not long ago I’d written a song called “Flowing West” about that river valley and a messed up relationship. The bags of powdered masonry slowly thickening in the woods felt right at home there. Teddy began to fill my cup again and I remembered we’d been talking.

“The start point of the mp3 I sent you is not actually the beginning of my Pro Tools session,” I said to him. “I’m going to have to send you the original files for your overdubbing”. He nodded and balanced the bottle back up on the SUV’s rear door latch. “ I’m thinking pedal steel,” he said, as Jared walked by tossing a smile my way.

The first warm night of the year was putting everyone in a good mood and everything seemed up for grabs – the night, the future, the new audience, the baby coming. Sasha held her hand like a blessing on the arc of her belly, an unconscious reminder to trust what’s inside.

The night then: a wave of bended time, of adrenalin and gear wrestling and laughter and snare hits and clouds of distortion and throbbing torsos and heated molecules of emotion. Coming down off the riser in the dusky half-light I stumbled into someone, someone I knew but who seemed bafflingly out of context. Then it dawned on me and I remembered all the nights playing at the Den, and Don handing me those tall, cool pints across the sculpted tree bar counter.

He was smiling his impish smile. “It’s good to see you guys playing together - when Carl told me the two of you were doing something I thought, now that could really work. I miss the music. “

His face seemed to be flashing pictures of every act that ever played the club.

“ Since we closed we’ve been playing our live recordings non-stop in the shop. We recorded some really great shows.” We stood silent commiserating for a moment. “Carl’s a good man.” he said. We both nodded.

“I should never have driven home that night,” I added. "I had no business being in a car. I took every back road I knew.” We nodded again.

At closing time I stood next to my car in the drizzle for a few last words with Teddy, in the pot-hole laden parking lot.

“Why do I always feel like I’m putting my heart out on the table while everyone else is playing a mean hand of poker, damnit, “ I said. Teddy paused in the way that only Teddy can. The stars seemed to brighten.

“That’s why I love you,” he said.

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