I raced around my studio apartment, whirling-dervish-like, shoving all my necessary performance accoutrements in my laptop bag---got the mic, ok, now the power cord….shit, the plastic packaging rings won’t come off and I’m late…sheet music, check---and the Amstel Light I shared with my friend Catherine wasn’t doing much to help my nerves. It just made me slightly gassy. (Or was that, “classy”?)
It was Sunday night, exactly a week from when Harry first invited me to sit in on a few songs with him….the night I had been preparing for and/or otherwise stressing out about (albeit in an excited, girlish butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of way) all damned week. I had a few songs prepared, I now had everything in the laptop bag, and I was all dolled up---good to go. Catherine and I hopped a cab and opened Rue B’s front door. The place was pretty empty---it was a warm yet drizzly night---but still had a little life pumping through its veins yet. Harry, seated at the piano, played a slow, melancholy number and looked up when I walked near and smiled at me, fingers sailing across the keys as if they were on cruise control. I ordered my favorite house cocktail (a spicy Bella Donna---the cinnamon ring allows you to make love to your drink with reckless abandon), not wasting any time to make small talk with Ben, the bartender, and downed it in four gulps. I was feeling nervous but not unbearably so…I’m always a batch of nerves before I perform anywhere, and besides, I was about to perform with an incredibly talented piano player who I’ve also minorly but memorably rolled around with.
So the pressure was, as they say, ON. I had visions in the shower earlier in the day of how the night could turn out. Some scenarios were disastrous (peeing down my leg in the middle of the song as a big framed print of James Dean falls on top of me), some were bad ‘80s movie-inspired (as I start a song, every bar patron gets up and all dances in unison to the music, and it gets so riotous that everyone spills out of the bar and starts dancing on top of parked cars and up and down lampposts), and some were just pathetically cheesy---but kinda fun (as he plays and I sing, our eyes meet, entranced with each others’ sheer musical genius, our notes in perfect synch and harmony, and we’re both so enveloped in the electricity of the moment that as soon as he hits the last note we fall into each others’ arms, he throws me backwards into a dip, and we kiss passionately).
I also had a spark of inspiration….for about 10 seconds, I thought about changing the lyrics of this verse from “It’s Alright With Me”: It’s the wrong time And the wrong place Though your face is lovely It’s the wrong face It’s not his face But it’s such a lovely face That it’s alright with me to It’s the wrong song And the wrong dance Though your pants are bulging They’re the wrong pants They’re not his pants But they’re such bulging pants That it’s alright with me My face must have look just like peppermint patty's when she yanks the football away from charlie brown when he's punting, making him fall on his tuckus every time. Thankfully, everything did go pretty well, in the end.
I’m notorious for forgetting lyrics (and I hate scatting as a general rule) but I actually did OK on that front…we jived well with each other, the crowd showed us some love, and thankfully the mic cut out right when I was screwing up royally on Sophisticated Lady…and when he turned to me afterwards and said, appreciatively, “Wow, I didn’t know you were a singer”, I thought I died and went to heaven. We made tentative plans to do it again next week and I’d have some new charts with me. I was thrilled about that and thrilled that I could finally relax.
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