Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Rhythm of Life
It could be the combination – the uncatalogued uniform of the traveling musician in tight black jeans, leather jacket, guitar bag draped across a shoulder and some hip-funky, long, fluid hair worthy of shampoo commercials – that triggers an instinctive reaction spiraling deep into the labyrinth of inner cochlea. I secretly become Goldie Hawn's character in The Banger Sisters. It's not just because at heart I'm really a groupie – the gypsy road gig warrior in me is envious. I want to schlep my guitar across the universe and get paid for being a bohemian troubadour songster again.
Coolly moving to his own beat down the airport's people mover, he steps in time to my ipod blasting John Cougar Mellencamp's “Hurts So Good.” Osmotically, music speaks in an invisible language of the air. We are connected. I sigh, thinking he's probably going to some fat gig in New York or California and head to my own gate that flashes “Tampa/St Pete NOW BOARDING.”
The seats are packed with retirees, young tan bodies, and a few excited Disney bound kids who are already bouncing off the non-existent space between seat backs. As we reach cruising altitude, a stewardess is frantically looking for the traveling partner of an unconscious woman in the bathroom while 3 medically related passengers head to the stern to help. The captain turns on the seatbelt sign, announcing that we're heading into thunderstorms as Tom Petty wails about “Free Falling” in my sequestered world of rhythm oblivious to sharp, bumpy drops in altitude, calamity gawkers and screaming children.
Three hours later the Florida gulf coast comes into the port view. The captain says broken clouds and 90 degrees. I start peeling off the Colorado layers; the thick air drenches my desert skin as the palette instinctively craves an iced refreshment – a minty mojito in hand, I head down to the sand for the daily ritual sunset celebration. I'm thankful it's an evening solar party and not morning, although there were long nights we sat on that same beach as teens watching “the sun rise from the bottom of the sea”… even though we were on the wrong coast for that. But it didn't matter. We were experienced.
My mother's 80th birthday party was to be somewhat of a surprise. You just can't pull the wool over mom's eyes. She's also experienced. She’s seen it all at this point, heard every excuse in the book and saw right through every fabrication of why you're home after her dictated curfew. By the time my four younger brothers came of age, I had already ruined their chances of getting away with anything.
What mom didn't know was that we were arriving at her door in a 15-passenger stretch limo stuffed with her grandkids, best friend, champagne, chocolates, flowers and me. I would later swear I had been drugged to have agreed to ride shotgun-chaperone, confined in a throbbing disco-lit padded cell on wheels with all those hyped-up kids. Mom looked thoroughly surprised and somewhat confused to find herself cruising the beach in a pimp mobile. It was after the exquisite dinner for 30 of the immediate family that we realized a surprise party for an 80-year old, who was already exhausted from constantly caring for the 90-year old relatives, maybe wasn't such a good idea – although we're pretty sure she enjoyed the limo ride more than the ambulance.
Hospitals have so many unnecessary rules that shouldn’t apply to large Italian families of musical and theatrical persuasion.
“It's ok, we're with the band,” one of my musician brothers nodded in his best stage smile to the nurse who was reciting regulations governing how many people were allowed into the emergency room with their mother.
“Wait... she's in the band?” the nurse's suspicions were justifiably tweaked but by that time the entire entourage had slipped into mom's room, closing the door behind. Musicians have a back stage pass to the world.
Hours later, and a battery of tests seemingly unrelated to any of her symptoms, mom was declared perfect and we left with her.
“Don't worry, we'll send you the bill,” the desk nurse smiled and waved and then added, “What's the name of your band?”
The clan of bleached and dyed haired, leather clad attendants in tight jeans clung firmly to their mother and smiled back, while the bass player brother of the family shot a sideways quip, “You didn't give them her real name and address did you?”