Going down hard/the aging of the Boomers: Part Three – Dead Famous or, Strangers in the Night

Archive Kitchen in a cold-water flat on Perry Street, Greenwich Village (Gettyimages.com)

A winter evening in Montreal two years ago.  My wife and I are invited for dinner at the home of a friend and musician in the great Canadian north.  The other guests are musicians, writers and journalists, a good time being had by all. 

Half-way through the meal, a late guest.  Our host is overjoyed that she has arrived.  She is in her seventies, well kept but with that sense of ‘dues’ about her face; those lines of chiseled experience carved deeply in her cheeks. 

I was unaware of her identity. 

She was his partner for over twenty years:  he, the Dead Famous musician, Poet and composer who had recently past- away.  They gathered around her animated whisky-throated laugh.  She was full of nervous energy, someone who had lost someone and needed to be with others. 

I sat back like a good stranger and observed. 

She gulped down two shots of whiskey and the stories began.  The journalists had their memories tuned up.

There was an article here for the next edition of whatever they wrote for.  The questions came as if she were not at a party but at an interview.  She was becoming uncomfortable. 

Then I realized who she was, not from her time spent with Mr. Dead Famous, but from a picture of her I’d recently seen in a magazine article about a record sale for one of her paintings.

My wife was in the kitchen helping out with the mess.  I remained on the couch.  She looked over at me with a curious smile.  “I know you.” 

I responded.  “No you don’t.”

She walked over to the couch accompanied by her whisky-throated laugh.  “No, what I mean is I know who you are.”

I returned.  “Why?” 

“Because in 1974, I was at the Summer music festival in Central park.   You were the guitarist and violist with Tim Buckley.  I talked with you in the dressing room while you were warming up your bow arm.  I never forgot the fact that you played guitar and viola with Tim.  It was really beautiful.”

I was stunned.   I was having a vague recollection of that afternoon forty years ago.  (Did I just say FORTY years ago?)

She sat down with me and we began to recount the old days.  She and I were the ancient ones in attendance.  Two or three others gathered a chair and sat around to listen in.  We talked about the Village when it was affordable.  She mentioned that she had rented a coldwater flat when she first arrived in the late fifties for sixty-five dollars a month.  One of the listeners questioned.  “What the hell is a coldwater flat?”  She and I looked at each other and smiled.  You had to be a certain age to know that one. 

As the evening rolled by and it was time to retreat she offered to drive my wife and I back to our apartment in Vieux Montreal.  The road was icy from recent snows.  She navigated slowly saying very little on the road home.  She asked me if I were still playing music. I said yes but that I was writing and had just finished my first novel searching for a publisher. 

We arrived at our front door on St. Paul West and as we hugged and said goodnight she gave me a wry smile.  “After you get your first book published you may want to write one called Coldwater Flat”.  We both laughed and she drove off taking her uniqueness with her: a boomer with much history under her belt.

If you are still with us and perchance reading this blog; just to let you know—

I’m working on it.

                                (Copyright - Art Johnson, Monaco - 2014)

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