Davy's On The Road Again Ch. 13byoldhippie1949©
"Roll up! Rollup for the mystery tour.
Roll up! Rollup for the mystery tour.
The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away,
Dying to take you away, take you today!"
San Francisco is a cool town. I've always liked it. During the cab ride up to the concert, my eyes drifted past streets and areas that hadn't changed much since my salad days when I was just a step up from the hippies who hung out in the Haight-Ashbury District. It brought back lots of memories and of course, partial images because my head was pretty much in the clouds back in those days, literally and figuratively.
As we passed near the Embarcadero area, I was reminded of an event in my life that took place nearby and I related the story. "On this particular day in 1969, I was straight and cruising through the streets with Stevie, Lenny and a couple of guys in the band. We were going nowhere in particular that I can recall when we passed alongside an old building. Suddenly I stopped because a strange feeling surged through me. I told the others that I had this odd sensation that I had been there before although I knew that this wasn't so...sort of what Joseph Heller called jamais vu. I began to relate some history of that particular spot; about how there once was a hotel that stood on that spot before the great fire; about how I'd played cards and drank whiskey there with my friends, including Mark Twain. As we turned the corner, there was a bronze plaque on the wall of the building that described a hotel that once stood there and whose denizens included Mark Twain, Jack London and Ambrose Bierce, among others. My friends were as astonished as I. Anyway, over the next few hours, I led them on a tour of San Francisco before the fire and vividly described buildings, events and personalities of that time. I was as though I was channeling some ghost and he was speaking through me. After a few hours of this, it suddenly disappeared and I was lost, completely bewildered and unable to remember much of what I had done. The others filled me in and, as if in some mystical haze, we found our way back to the apartment where we were staying. I chalked it up to some drug flashback but I didn't forget about it. A few months later, when I returned back east, I went to the library and took out some books about old San Francisco. One book was a biography of the author, Ambrose Bierce and another was his collected short stories. As I read the short stories, they all seemed familiar to me and I knew how each one ended well before I got there. This was really strange to me because Bierce's stories all had ironic, trick endings. Then I read the biography and I learned that he was born one hundred years to the minute before my birthday. The biography also described many of the places and events I had described to my friends during my mystical tour guide adventure. It really shook me, but I realized that I had channeled Bierce or vice verse. Even now, it gives me the willies! But it really happened. I betcha Stevie could give a more accurate description of that event."
The others listened raptly as I related my adventure and the all shook their heads in wonder. Really, what could you say about something like that except that there are things in this world that are incomprehensible. Fortunately, we didn't have to think about it anymore because the cab pulled up to the Palace of Fine Arts. The women took a walk into the Presidio as Mark and I surveyed the outdoor seats, the stage, the view and the entire ambience of the place. People were testing mic placements and we walked around the venue listening to the sound system. Orchestra musicians were arriving and setting up as we walked down to the stage.
"Davy, I'd like to bring you up for the encore. We can do two songs and I figure that "Breadbasket" closes the show with you giving a spiel. How does that sound?"
"It sounds cool. Can we do them as a trio with Ma? I'd love to play with him."
"Sure. I think he'd be amenable to that. I'm going to run through the orchestra now and I'll bring you up for a run-thru and sound check after that."
"Great. Now you go get 'em, Mark. Make them sound as sweet as your fiddle."
Mark worked with the orchestra for about a half hour and it was going very well. Yo Yo Ma showed up around then and the sound improved dramatically. I think the chamber orchestra felt the pressure of working with such superlative musicians and it brought out their best. Mark worked extra on the concerto but, as I knew, he had no problem with the orchestra's support, they were as into it as he. He called for a break and came out to me.
"So how does it sound?"
"Sonically, the system sounds fabulous at all points around the venue, including near the water. Artistically, I think you could replace the horn section."
"Cute. There is no horn section."
"See?" Yo Yo Ma joined us and Mark introduced us. "I was just telling Mark that the First Cello sounded a little shaky."
"I agree, Mr. Harper. Maybe he'll buy me a drink." We laughed and sat down in the front row.
"Seriously, Mark, it sounds wonderful. The concerto has a beautiful texture. I bet you could play it in your sleep."
Ma suggested that in the final movement, they make the decelerando a little more dramatic. They looked over the score and selected the measure in which to begin the slowing down. That settled, they wanted to discuss the encores.
"First off, I want to say how excited I am to play with both of you in this setting. I've never played in a classical setting and the opportunity to bring my music to this audience is a wonderful opportunity. Now Mark and I discussed "Breadbasket" as the final number. I'm torn as to the other number. Also, Ma, none of these songs are particularly difficult or unusual and so I'm certain that it will be easy for you."
"Davy, it's what we bring to it and how we express it that makes the music, you know that."
"What are you split on?" asked Mark.
I took my guitar from the case. "I was thinking that I could join the two of you on a traditional jig or waltz and we could just cast an acoustic spell - no lyrics. But then a song came into my head that I would just love to hear us play. You know, an old acquaintance of mine, Bobby Charles, passed away and there's a song of his that is so gentle, so fragile and so tender, it would beautiful to hear us blend...do you know "Tennessee Blues?" Here, let me play it." I played it for them and both wanted to try it out immediately. We stepped onto the stage and I began to pick and sing.
"If I had my way I'd leave here today,
I'd leave in a hurry,
I'd find me a place where I could stay,
And not have to worry,
A place I could use,
A place I could lose the Tennessee Blues."
They came in as I began the refrain and it made me shudder.
"I'd find me a spot on some mountain top,
...A place I could use,
A place I could lose the Tennessee Blues."
We took a break. Mark added a soulful bluegrass lament as Ma's cello curled around it and then took the lead. They were dancing together and I was the beat. As they moved toward the verse, I picked a counter riff and the three of us walked into the verse smiling.
"I'd try to forget all my regrets,
I'd keep just the good times,
...A place I could use,
Someplace I could lose these Tennessee Blues."
We ended the song in the same manner as we ended the break and we all nodded to each other.
"I knew you guys would nail it. That was fucking beautiful."
"I think I remember Bill Monroe doing it and I sort of referred to him," said Mark. "That was so sweet. I have an idea. We can do that song second. First, we can do something like "Orange Blossom Special..."
"Mark, I was thinking something more like "Ain't Misbehavin'," suggested Ma.
"Oh yeah, I like that. Let's try it. We'll start it and Davy, you come in with the melody."
They began to play and it reminded me of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. As they swung out of the intro, I added a Django flourish and began to pick the melody in his style. When we ended, we all broke into laughter and high-fives. That was a keeper. I quickly ran through "Breadbasket" and the show was set. We broke for dinner just as the women returned.
The concert was a joy from the first note. I loved sitting in the audience between Amy and Deb. It was a very different feeling for me. Completely sold out, the audience was enthusiastic and the outdoor setting added a relaxed and festive air. Mark was a wonderful host and the orchestra followed each nuance he and Ma added. By the time he reached the encores, it was already a full and satisfying evening.
When he and Ma returned for the encore, he addressed the audience. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a friend I would like you to meet. He has an interesting effect upon me. He's an inspiration and a catalyst as well as a consummate musician and artist. Without any further embarrassing chatter, please welcome my friend, Davy Harper."
I walked out to polite applause as Mark and Ma opened "Ain't Misbehavin." It worked perfectly and this time, we all added more to it, giving it a real Hot Club swing. We ended it with a wild coda and the audience went nuts. Inside, I was having a major kvell - I had turned on a classical crowd...and with swing jazz! Wow!
"Oh, that felt sooo good. My thanks to Mark O'Flannery and Yo Yo Ma for allowing me to share you with them. As a musician, I can only say that is what's it's all about. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. (Much applause) Now, before the show, I suggested this tune by the late songwriter Bobby Charles and these two cats nearly brought me to tears. Let's see if they can do it again."
I began "Tennessee Blues" and they walked in like welcome guests. Having played the song earlier, they added a depth I hadn't heard before. This time the song was even more bittersweet; we were like three old relaxed pickers sitting in rockers on the front porch. They made my singing even more heartfelt and soulful. During the break, it sounded like an authentic bluegrass weeper and when I returned to the final verse, my voice broke on the first word bringing a certain anguish or dolefulness to it. I have to admit, the affect of the three of us was simply gorgeous and the audience appreciated it, showering us with a standing ovation.
Ma turned to me and whispered, "Mark is right about you. You bring everything up a notch. Thank you."
I was stunned by his comment and it took me a moment to recover as the applause died down. Mark saw my discomfort and took the mic. "As some of you may be aware, Davy and I are part of a movement to fill the shelves of Food Banks and Food Pantries around our state. This summer, we, with some famous friends, will extend our cause around the nation. It is imperative that this nation, the most bountiful on the planet, feed it's poor and unfortunate and help them through these difficult times. By doing this, we are stronger for it. Davy wrote this song in five minutes and we have adopted it as our anthem. Please, when you leave the concert tonight, please vow to go online and make a donation to your local food bank. It's just a little thing to do but it will go far...Davy?..."
I started "Breadbasket" and the three of us played with a vigor and a determination I had not heard in the song before. During the extended break, Mark made reference to Irish music, Ma made reference to Asian music and I answered with Mexican flavors. We resolved these airs into pure Americana and moved into the third verse almost proudly, with a cockiness. As the song ended, Mark played the last line of the "Star Spangled Banner" and we ended to roaring approval, cheers and, in an impromptu emotional celebration, confetti. We bowed and left the stage. The audience continued to cheer and call for more but Mark pointed out that there was a curfew for outdoor shows and we had already passed that a while ago. He suggested that instead they could get tickets to see John Sebastian at Zallerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, where we'd be sitting in. As a consolation, we walked into the audience to shake hands and sign autographs. It was a nice touch and the audience loved it.
When the crowd finally dispersed, the three of us stood together for some photographs. I thanked them both for allowing me into their space. Ma told me that earlier in the day, he'd had a conversation with our mutual business manager, Danny. Danny had asked him if he might want to take part on some dates of the summer tour and maybe even record with me. Ma told Danny he would wait to see how this evening's performance went since we had never played together. Now, Ma said, he enthusiastically wanted to participate. I told him how honored I was and hugged him. Mark and I were beaming as Amy and Deb finally made it over to us.
"That was as good as it gets," smiled Amy. "Each performance gets better and better. You guys make such beautiful music."
"Amy and I were crying at the end, Mark," said Deb. "Everyone here was so bursting with pride. I mean it was palpable! What a great way to end the show."
"I don't know where it came from," said Mark. "It sort of happened in the moment. I almost wanted to yell, 'Play Ball!' It just reminded me of a parade down Main Street, U.S.A., the way it used to be...like I was wanting to return to some traditional American values...it just happened."
"Is anyone interested in going for a bite?" asked Ma. "I know a really good Chinese restaurant a few blocks away, Dragon Well. Want to go?"
We piled into a limo and had a fine light meal and a fine time. During the meal, Amy asked how we could ever top that show and we explained to her that each show is different and with it's own unique attitude.
"It's not about surpassing the affect one show has over another. Each performance brings it's own rewards," said Ma.
"Yes. Each performance brings a different moment, one that you want to embrace right there and then." I said.
"Right. Some nights you may play better than other nights, some nights you may play differently but because each musician is listening and conversing with each other, you have a new and unique conversation...and that has it's own unique facets. It's a river that flows along...some days it's a low tide and some days it overflows the banks but it is always flowing." said Mark.
"Well said!" We clicked beer bottles and felt good. The limo dropped Ma and his cello off at the Four Seasons and then we headed back to Big Chocolate. "What shall we do tomorrow," asked Amy.
Mark and Deb answered together. "Sleep late!"
It was 10:30 by the time Amy and I rolled out of bed. Santo was holding his hind legs together and looking desperate. Mark and Deb were stirring. I took Santo out while Amy put up coffee. Poor Santo must have pissed ten minutes straight but in the beautiful Sunday morning, and in his silver and leather collar, he pranced around like a king in his domain. When we returned, Mark was sitting naked and drinking his coffee. Amy and Deb were in the shower and we could hear them squealing.
"And a good morning to you, my brother. How's it hanging?"
"Low and loose and full of juice, Davy boy. Ready to tackle this beautiful day. And you?"
"Same story here," I filled a cup and sat down. "That was a good night. I fell asleep replaying it in my head. Playing with you and Ma really made me play better than I've played in a long time."
"Coulda fooled me. We felt the same about playing with you."
The girls came out of the shower wrapped in robes. They joined us. Amy brought out some croissants and jam. I asked them what they would like to do today.
Amy said, "First I want to fuck you silly. Then I want to be a tourist in San Francisco. I want to buy stuff. I want to see the sights. I want to go out to eat."
Deb said, "All of the above but I also want to have all my holes filled...a little DP for me. And you two?"
Mark said, "I want to go back to sleep." He received a round of boos but I stopped them.
"I have to tell you two that I'm on the same page as Mark. In fact, and I don't want to sound like an old fart, but my back is bothering me today and I wouldn't mind taking it easy today either." More boos. "Wait," I said, "I have a compromise. How 'bout I call for a limo to take you two wherever you want and then you call us to meet you for an early dinner and we'll cab it. Good idea, right?"
They agreed immediately but still called us both names. Funny how we just didn't care. After breakfast, Amy actually did fuck me silly and Deb got her DP soon after. I was especially impressed at my ability to get hard again but damn, as I slipped into Deb's cute box, my package filled it. It was a fuckin' fun morning!
They dressed and the limo took them off on their spree. Mark and I promptly fell back to sleep for a couple of hours. I awoke to the sound of Mark in the shower and I followed him in. We had more coffee and then we took Santo out for a walk around the RV park. Many RVs were leaving and so the lot was busy. We walked toward Candlestick Park and walked around the stadium and the grassy lawns. I let Santo loose and he ran around happily exercising. For the most part, we spent our day rambling around and stoned. In some odd way, it seemed like a good yet productive day off.
The girls called and asked that we meet them for dinner at Piazza Pelligrini so we got our asses in gear and cabbed it up Columbus to Washington Square. I was surprised to see that we beat them there but they walked in soon after loaded with shopping bags and literally effervescing. We had a delicious Italian meal (I had this amazing pork chop with potatoes, vegetables, in gorgonzola cream sauce accompanied by a delicious 2005 Carignane). Amy and Deb promised us a fashion show when we returned and also hinted at some gifts for us. As we sat around coffee and dessert, a couple came by to thank Mark for the previous night's concert. They seemed very familiar with his recorded work and asked many questions. It was a pleasure to meet such knowledgeable fans and Mark was especially tickled.
We went back to Big Chocolate and discussed our plans for the next day. I suggested that we head out early to the Tesla facility so we could start our trip north soon after. I decided to call Larry and Meg to verify our stop-over. I had a very odd conversation with Meg. She told me that Larry was out and she didn't know when he would return. I could sense that there some something wrong in her voice. She said that if we still wanted to, we could stop by and visit her. I told her I would call her back after we left Menlo Park. Her conversation left me uneasy and I told the gang about it.
"I've always liked Meg more than Larry. She was always more down to earth while he was more of a rich show-off. When I first met him, he was a small-time concert promoter. He worked with Bill Graham for a couple of years until they had a falling out and he stumbled around for a few years. Meg had a thriving therapy business and they did well, buying a nice piece of property on Paradise Drive overlooking the bay. Larry struck it rich in the eighties with early investments in Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and Intel. He sent me lots of pictures of 'things', you know, like his new yacht, his private plane, et cetera, but rarely pictures of Meg or his kids. They were also both randy fuckers and she caught him several times with neighbors. He spent lots of time in the doghouse. Anyway, I sensed that there were problems going on right now and I could hear Meg's sadness and resignation. I don't know if it's worth going there to visit, and to be honest, except for a bag of pot Larry said he had for me, I'm not all that interested in seeing him...I'd rather see Meg."
"We don't have to go there, Davy," said Amy, "we can call her tomorrow and see what's up...play it by ear." I agreed. Amy and Deb said they wanted to shower again after a long day of shlepping around. They suggested that we get "comfortable" in the meantime and get ready for show-and-tell. Mark and I rolled a couple of fat ones and checked out the computer while they cleaned up. YouTube was nuts. The numbers were insane and the comments were voluminous. We also read some glowing reviews of Mark's concert.