Saturday, June 27, 2009

we played the pavilion on wednesday, which isn't quite as big as it sounds, this being a very small town and all, and the pavilion being a wooden structure right in the center of it, with the train coming up one side of it, and two highways coming up two other sides of it. the trucks keep coming on through, and often turn north at that corner, and the city, after all these years, still has done nothing to protect this little shelter from the noise. still, it's shaded, which is big in this 95 degree heat wave, and it seems to have a constant breeze which makes just standing there not bad.

the instruments however aren't fooled by this illusion; to them, it's still 95, and 99 percent humidity. they never seem to stay in tune, and worse, the sweat that's everywhere just starts to make playing more difficult. we sounded ok, i thought, as it's not every day that we have all four of us, and actually, there were quite a few people there; most had brought chairs or something to sit on. that took planning, i thought; i sure don't walk around on hot summer days with lawn chairs, downtown.

we faced south, so i could see the train man and the big red caboose behind him, the whole time we played. he's actually my favorite statue, my favorite part of downtown really. there isn't much in the way of old buildings down there; there are a few, though, and one is remodeled, so it's better than it used to be, but the train man still stands guard, witness to all the trucks, and particularly the ones turning north, that seem to have to go through a few extra gears to do it.

the pressing heat, though, has been relentless; it's now been over a week; it's been over a hundred more than once, and it makes me feel old; i've been coming home, not wanting to go outside, not even wanting to run the hose or play with the boys out there. i mostly want to sleep; i feel like the world has already taken it out of me, just stepping out in the morning when it's already almost 90, cranking up the aircon in the car, just to go cross-town, and then doing it again on the way back- it makes me not want to go out later, stay home all weekend, etc. getting instruments across town at noon seems like an extraordinary hassle, just because i have to go from 95 to aircon a few extra times, you get the picture.

so i start to play the train song, one i've played for thirty or forty years, by the way, and one that i always make a point of saying, is about carbondale, even though it has centralia in the title. this song is a hopping banjo song, but i get a little excited when i play it, and a string on the banjo just pops right out. it doesn't break; it just pops. now i'd assumed, actually, that a train would come by when i played that song, but it didn't happen, maybe the city made a special plea with the illinois central to give us a break on wednesday at noon, but anyway, here we were, middle of the train song, and that string was popped out so bad, i just had to stop. just my fate, i guess. later in the gig they got me to play it again, and, second time, this time the set was about over, and i played it at a different mike, over where i could see the train man better, and this time it went ok, it kind of made up for the time before. there were people i knew in the audience, of course, that's usually true, but in this case, i felt a little better, as if, well, at least i did it, and i finished it. the train man stood, unmoved, silent witness. the flowers had come and gone from around him; i think maybe somebody had painted him recently too. the homeless had been using that pavilion quite a bit lately, too; maybe it was about the only shady place, certainly the coolest, and i can't imagine how you'd get through ten of these 95 plus days, all day, in any place outside. i can guess, though, why you'd want to turn north, even if you had to go through most of your gears to do it.


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