Tag Archives: John Prine

“Cathedral Bells Kept Time”

“Cathedral Bells Kept Time”

Nanci Griffith made that observation in her song/reminiscence; “Three Flights Up”.

I lived it…

…for a while.

I’m an unrepentant, nay, make that a gleeful old hippie. If you don’t know the term…look it up…please!

In my college years and early twenties my friends and I generally lacked;

  • Money
  • Computers, laptops, cell phones, fitbits, I-pads or pods, thumb drives…
  • More than three TV channels
  • Multi-tasking urges
  • Regular haircuts
  • Pizza delivery (don’t laugh, gasp – it’s basic human right in my book)

It was a nightmarish time; a time to survive and be made stronger by surviving.

<<  snort!  >>

We didn’t have reality shows. We had reality.

We didn’t have social media. We had each other.

To quote Ms. Griffith’s song again;

“There were blinking pictures

Of how we’d sit and chat.

Some of them are scattered

Some are shattered in my mind.”

I remember many all-night random congregations over kitchen tables in shabby apartments. Discussions that originated at that evening’s rehearsal or that evening’s session at the Paddock Club continued after hours, sometimes till dawn.

Bob Dylan nailed it in his “Dream”.

“I dreamed a dream that made me sad,

Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared into the room

Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,

Where we together weathered many a storm,

Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of morn.”

Earnest discussions, at times lubricated by beer and wine and carry-out burgers from Tolly-Ho.

We solved everything and solved nothing.

We knew everything and knew…the same.

“As easy as it was to tell black from white,

It was all that easy to tell wrong from right.”

We basked in the surety of our opinions about, Vietnam, the draft, Artaud, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Prine, Richard Nixon, Malcolm X, Ginger or Mary Ann; every burning issue of the day.

We were most sure of each other.

We listened to each other. We didn’t check our phones or email. We didn’t channel-surf. We didn’t update our Facebook page. We didn’t fact-check each other’s lies/stories. We listened and were entertained and, I think, mostly enlightened by each other’s presence.

“Cathedral bells kept time.”

Yes. Usually, we were in no hurry to part.

Last night a small group of people representing almost 400 years of friendship gathered with Janie and me at the house, ostensibly to celebrate Halloween, but really to celebrate each other. Dinner was great, Janie’s Halloween decorations were over the top, and the conversations were finally suspended (not ended, mind you…suspended) by the chime of Christ the King Church ringing 2:30am (I drift happily and deliberately from verisimilitude here, but you get the idea).

We solved everything and we solved nothing.

We still know everything and we know…less.

Checking in once more with Mr. Dylan…

“I wish, I wish, I wish in vain

That we could sit simply in that room again

Ten-thousand dollars at the drop of a hat

I’d give it up gladly if our lives could be like that.”

Last night…

…it was.

As nice as it was…I’m glad I didn’t have to fork over the $10,000 though.

Chapter Three; Cabana Daydreamin’

This is the third chapter because it is the third written. It may not actually end up being chapter three – does that make sense?

Whatever.

This is preceded by blog entries; “It Was a Close Day” and “Though the Booking Glass”. If you’re a chronological sort (guilty here), you might look at those.

 

Chapter Three; Cabana Daydreamin’

It looked like a dive.

It wanted to look like a dive.

But what kind of dive featured brunch? With Eggs Nova Scotia and Mimosa’s – good ones?

And there was the jukebox, the old soda shop kind at every table, with tabs on the bottom to flip that displayed the 45’s available for play – hit sides and flip sides.

And the mahogany walls…well…the heavily and redly varnished tongue-and-groove looked like mahogany…if you wanted it to and you squinted a bit. That pressed metal ceiling however, would’ve been expensive to fake.

Maybe it was a dive of sorts, but it was a dive with a lively clientele. On any given night, you might see a local oil-painting legend and his goat, a gentleman from a fine thoroughbred-breeding family in the garb of a drive-thru carhop (fully attired in roller-skates and angel wings), narcotics undercover agents that everyone knew and flirted with, lawyers, dentists, judges, teachers, preachers… and if someone played Artie Shaw’s version of “Begin the Beguine” on the jukebox, it would be a deadly race to see who among this population would be the first to leap (or crawl depending on the age of the contender or the number of drinks consumed) to the top of the bar to prove that America’s got talent years before television took over that function.

It was a real good time.

It was the Cabana Club.

At this moment though, it was a slow time at the Cabana, a sluggish couple of hours between lunch and the dinner/drinking crowd. There was one couple at a table trying to figure out what to say next to each other that would be effective but not too direct. There were a few barflies sagging over their second or third time-killers (depending on how much soul-cipherin’ was required this afternoon). Morey Duke was in the kitchen contemplating dessert while scribbling the evening’s menu specials. Paulie Gasper was holding court.

Paulie was the waiter/bartender/maître d/dishwasher/cook of the Cabana. Essentially, anything the owners (Joe and John) didn’t want to do that day became Paulie’s lookout.

But it was a slow time just now, so Paulie was perched on a bar stool overlooking the room and it seemed to be an excellent time to read the just-delivered afternoon paper……out loud.

Paulie was a local actor – probably the best Concord had to offer. Consistent acting work was scarce in town (paying or non-paying), while the need for an audience was in plentiful supply. Paulie surveyed his domain and determined that bedazzled and befuddled low-rent rendezvous wannabes and blurry midday philosophers would suffice as an audience. Joe and John had fled in the heat of the afternoon so there were no sober, adult voices to stop him.

“Ha!”

Paulie’s “Ha!” could cut through the thickest haze, be it composed of alcohol or hormones.

But just in case…

“Ha!” he re-barked.

“Check out this play review by our local Frank Rich.

‘Of the actors involved in Piecework Theatre’s latest effort; “Belfast or Bust”, the least said the better with the exception of a seductive performance by Stella Nolan. Ms. Nolan purrs her dialect with heat and commands the stage like a jungle princess after a warm rain.’

“What the Christ does that even mean? I wish he would just fuck her and get it over with!”

Paulie held for applause.

It came in the form of slightly belated, ragged laughter.

John Prine describes moments like this accurately; “Well, ya know, she still laughs with me, but she waits just a second too long.”

Paulie thought it might be best to refrain from holding out for an encore. Besides, just as he was delivering his punchline on the review, he’d felt something; a bend in the room, a quiver in the afternoon light, a sussuration on the jukebox (Percy Sledge offering some painful, keening psychoanalysis of “When a Man Loves a Woman”)…something…or nothing.

Morey popped up at the kitchen window. He fluttered his eyes and waved his finger in the air. Paulie went to him.

Morey stuttered; “Did you feel that? I think the boys are back in town!”

(Oh, yes-s-s-s. To be most likely continued.)