My friend Kay ( of www.lookingforbeauty.wordpress.com) is our new neighbour. She has halfway moved into her house and is in the process of acquainting herself with neighbourhood services. On Friday we drove to civic center where she can access the Government Agent’s office to renew her driver’s licence, to Municipal Hall where she can pay her house taxes and apply for a business licence, and to the Public Library where she can freely feed her extensive reading habit. Yesterday, we drove around to garage sales to help her look for storage shelves to house her vast number of drawings and paintings and she scored a good set of shelves. Afterward we went to the farmer’s market, a local weekly outlet for people engaged in small scale vegetable gardening. We met a lot of my acquintances, to whom she was introduced and to whom she extended invitations to visit her in her new home. One advantage to living in a small community like ours is that very shortly one can establish a group of like-minded friends and acquaintances with whom to share in interests and activities. Kay is rapidly becoming comfortable here.
Rumpole, Martha and I had planned to take in the Jazz and Blues festival last night, and invited Kay along. To simplify our going as a group to this concert, I invited Kay and Martha to a casual supper at our house. Martha declined, as her son (who lives in Victoria) expected her to make supper for him before returning home via the ferry. Kay had spent yesterday afternoon painting her basement floor, so she was happy to not have to cook for herself.
I had dinner ready by the time Rumpole had arrived home from his office. He was not ready to eat, and, excited by the prospect of meeting fellow musicians at the festival, left without eating. Kay and I were to meet him somewhere on the grounds of the Festival; Martha had prearranged to meet us at one of the coffee purveyors on the site. Kay and I ate, set aside some supper for Rumpole to eat when he returned home that evening and drove downtown to the Festival venue.
I am somewhat embarrased to admit that I requested senior admission and was granted the same without question. The ticketseller taped a silver-coloured wrist-band on my arm and gestured in the direction of the gate. Since I could not see well, I had missed the sign at the ticket booth that listed admissions. Seniors were 65 and over. (Oops, I am only sixty, but now that I think back on it, if anyone wants to see me as older than I am, that is fine by me – as long as I get the senior’s discount. Is it my fault that I look older than my years?)
Kay spotted Rumpole right away. “Where do you see him? I asked.
“He’s right over there! Can’t you see him?” responded Kay. I looked and looked over the crowd seated on the lawn, a vague, flickering, foggy multi-coloured sea. A poorly-defined black oblong, up-thrust above the surface of this mass wavered back and forth. Rumpole’s arm in his black jacket? I aimed myself toward that uncertain sign-post and crept toward it cautiously. Up close, the dark seated shape resolved into a grinning Rumpole.
He took my collapsible chair and set it up, and asked “Where is Martha?”
“She should be over by the Starbuck’s kiosk. Where is it anyway?” I said, peering about uncertainly.
He aimed me in that direction and I approached, wending my way slowly along the path separating two groups of seated attendees. I hung about the kiosk trying to glimpse Martha’s characteristic silhouette topped by a mass of gray curly hair. No Martha approached, nor was she standing anywhere nearby. I gave up and made my way back to Rumpole and Kay.
The music was blasting away in a rather kicky toe-tapping blues rhythm. Rumpole was seated, grooving to the music. Kay was standing and craning her neck around to see if she could recognize anyone she knew. I goofed and bounced around to the sounds, and hoped that Martha would spy where we were.
“What do you think of this crowd of seniors?”asked Rumpole at the end of a particularly lively song by a growling duo.
“Just because they are all sitting down doesn’t mean every one here is a long-tooth” I retorted.
“Well, there is no one dancing! And look at all the canes and walkers going by on the sidewalk.”
Beside us, on a rug on the grass, two teen-aged girls sprawled, not really affected by the music. They were intent on playing about with some lit-up fibre-optic gizmos and chattering on about who knows what. Their parents, sprawled on portable chairs, looked to be in their late thirties. (Surely, they were not the only youngish people at this concert?)
Martha materialized, shortly. She looked quite glamorous, wrapped in a pashmina which matched her grey hair. (She also wore slacks and a shirt) ” I gave up waiting for you guys and grabbed a good spot close to the main stage” she announced. Kay explained the reason for our tardiness. I held out my silver wristband and commented on how good it was of the organizers to allow people of 60 and up to enter the venue on senior tickets. Wordless, Kay, Martha and Rumpole held out their wrists. Their bands were a royal blue; this meant they had paid twice what I had. They looked at me as at a lowly worm.
“I suppose, this means you guys expect me to pay for your coffees this evening,” I grumbled.
“Nah! You’re too cheap! You didn’t even pay the correct ticket price to get in here.” admonished Rumpole.
I was spared continuing criticism, by the announcement from stage introducing one of the headliners, Sonny Rhodes. The band performed a musical stroll, quite rhythmic and sprightly, as a warmup. Sonny Rhodes growled, groaned, and complained in a marvellous blues set. Rumpole waved me to stand up, grasped me under the arm and led me through the crowd closer to the stage. Martha and Kay remained back at our chairs. Close to the stage, a huge crowd had congregated in the area reserved for dancers. (Strangely, no-one seemed to be dancing.)
“Can you see the band better from here?” asked Rumpole.
Nope. They were vague shapes well lit by stage lights; but the sound was sure good up this close. The musicians took turns soloing their instruments during the numbers. The steel slide-guitarist made the most deliciously clear melodies; the lead guitarist coaxed some unearthly, impossible voicings of his instrument; the mouth organist chuffed, chugged, arpeggio-ed, and ranged his music from subtle whines to shattering screeches; the bass guitarist held together the songs with his skilled percussive beat variations.
Rumpole commented on the absence of a drummer. “Surely, there is a drummer”, I offered, only the band was so tight that no insistent drumbeats could be heard. He looked and considered the stage. “You’re right”, he admitted, “there he is, at the right rear. It’s so neat when the instruments interweave so well that they seem to play with one voice!” We stood there, holding hands, eyes closed and feet shifting to the music.
A light rain started to spit, intermittent at first. We walked back to where Kay was holding down the fort. She was chatting up the seated neighbours. By the time the Sonny Rhodes set ended, darkness had fallen. The techies broke down the instruments and started setting up for the Powder Blues Band. Rumpole’s band-mate came up to us in the dark. He wanted Rumpole to go down to side-stage to observe the workings of the sound system for the coming set; the band he and Rumpole belong to – Pyro Bob and the Maniacs – used the same company to operate their sound system for the recent Pyro Bash in July. The Powder Blues band needed a more complex sound system, so Rumpole eagerly went off to see what he could learn.
The rain was starting to fall faster. Kay and I were huddled on our chairs, commiserating about the coolness of the night and debating how long we could last sitting in the rain before running for cover. The Powder Blues Band began its set. I closed my eyes, felt the rain sprinkling my face and hands and listened to the wondrous interweaving of instrumental sounds. It occurred to me that these musicians had listened carefully to the big- band instrumentals of the 40s and 50s, because they married a big-band horn and saxophone sounds to the blues. As the rain continued, Kay and I bopped along, while seated. Soon, people seated near us began packing up and leaving. Rumpole emerged from the darkness and suggested we pack up the chairs and duck under cover nearby. We moved to a nearby building’s overhang and stood, listening.
The trees, planted around the perimiter of the big grassy square, were back-lit green silhouettes against a filmy pinkish grey night sky. The main stage glowed at the bottom of the field like a multi-coloured jewel. The gentle rain kept falling and the ambient temperature dropped.
Kay was moving around to keep warm. Rumpole showed no signs of wanting to leave. My sweater was moist and cool against my arms and I was becoming fidgety and cold. I suggested to Kay and we return home to the house for a good cup of tea. “You gals go ahead!” agreed Rumpole, “but I am staying to the end”.
Kay and I returned to the house. By the time we arrived here the rain was falling down in earnest. We wondered how long the concert would continue in the increasing downpour. We sipped our Rooibos in contented silence. Soon, Rumpole arrived home, wet, but very energized. He sipped some orange juice while he told us that the organizers shut down the show because the amps were not under cover, and could be shorted out by the rain. “They just pulled the plug” he said, ” and the audience scrambled to leave.”
We sat companionably in the warm kitchen discussing how much we each had enjoyed this concert.