Monday, July 14, 2014
The Girl From Iwo Jima And Other Wonders
Unorganized Hancock at the Mystic Theater in Rumford, Maine On Friday, July 11th, 2014.
Not all the acts showed up. I'm used to the music business. That's common. Sometimes the bands don't show up. Sometimes the owner doesn't show up. Mostly the audience doesn't show up, in my experience.
Summertime's sleepy in Rumford. People go upta camp, and bug out for other varied reasons. In the winter everyone goes to everything to forestall cabin fever. They call its Woods Queer here. Alone in a cabin drove people to behave strangely after a while, or even take their own life. The Mystic Theater is a cure for cabin fever. No one has cabin fever in high summer, but they showed up anyway. Not packed, but every table was occupied.
The man that runs the place is pleasant. He emcees, and does close up magic from far away, but no one minds, and his wife serves drinks and smiles at everyone, and they smile back. He asked me, with a hint of desperation in his voice, if the kids could split their act in half and finish the show as well as play early. They were just supposed to play a set of jazz and get off the stage. I said sure. They have hours of material if they play pop songs.
Other people sang to recorded backing tracks. None of them was bad. One of them was extraordinary, and I want to remember his name, but I can't. I want to remember it because he is my hero, and you really should remember your hero's name, shouldn't you? He is afflicted with cerebral palsy, I think. I didn't ask. He had a good deal of trouble getting around, but he got around.
There were some lovely young girls singing the usual sorts of things teenage girls sing. Disney princess songs and TV talent show winner pablum. I was surprised at how well they sang, actually. They were painfully shy. Painfully shy people often want to be on the stage because they're too shy to be in the audience, in my experience.
Then my hero got up. There is a short, spartan flight of steps to get up on the stage, and how he negotiated them, I'll never know. He did. He sat on the stool at the microphone that you can still see in the foreground of my sons' video. He sang some sort of faux-Broadway number I didn't recognize. You know the sort of thing. Pirates Of The Lords Of The Cats Of The Miserables or something. He sang it with the accent that his affliction visits on people, and he sang it strong, and he impressed the living hell out of me. While he was sitting on the stool and singing, his feet jutted out in front of him like an exercise, and waved to commands unheard even by him.
His grandparents sat in the front row, and had one-tenth the enthusiasm for him that I did, which is a great deal of enthusiasm indeed. Not demonstrative, exactly; visible, like a tear in the eye. Of course it would be more matter-of-fact for them than for me, a stranger. When he was done, he took his applause and made his way to the front of the stage, where he was faced with the stairs, now heading down, down, down. Both the owner and I instinctively moved towards him, and reached out our hands, but he waved us away, sat on his ass, and crab-walked his way down the risers and treads, then got up and sat with the two minor saints that brung him.
One doesn't forget a person like that; just their name.