Janis Joplin, green curry & New Year’s

I feel like New Year’s Eve is the one day of the year too many of us are trying to become who we’re not.

We’re kind of sick of who we are, and even who everyone else is by then, and we think, if we can just get this one evening right, maybe then the next 365 days will be different than the last 365 days even though they actually were each different just because how could they not be?

I took a shower. I put on some foundation and eyeliner and lipstick, and a new top that I’d bought on sale. I told myself it wasn’t for New Year’s but it kind of was. The sleeves were so flowing that, I imagined myself at some buffet table, those sleeves gathering seafood sauce, small dinner rolls and even bassinets for newborns, like magnets for whatever wasn’t tied down. Was it fabulous or ridiculous? I still don’t know.

I had big afternoon plans. As a regular 6 am riser, regardless of what’s gone on the night before, showing up at a little afternoon soirée where I could dress mostly like myself (minus those sleeves) on New Year’s Eve, pleased me.

I walked to Hermann’s Jazz Club on View Street.  A piece of paper had been hastily taped to the door. It read, Sold out! That slowed me down only momentarily, a question mark in my mind as I opened the door and stepped in. I passed some guy at the entrance who wasn’t really doing anything as far as I could tell and I said, “Is it really sold out?” But I didn’t give him a chance to answer as I walked right by and before I knew it, looking around for that elusive seat, helpless female that I’m not, a man to my right at a table of four at the back motioned to offer me a seat that was available beside him.  Finally, a break on the single supplement, I thought, relieved.

I sat down, wondered how they’d find me to get me to pay the cover because initially I was a little concerned about that but not enough to offer up cash when I knew they were charging $15 more than they’d usually charge just because of some artificial construct: New Year’s Eve.

I ordered an unsophisticated pint of Hoyne dark lager.

The band was playing softly, just the kind of old-style jazz I love.Take 5, Careless Love and tunes like that.

There was a real character on the piano, an older black woman. I was told she was originally from the U.S. From her perch on the piano bench, she used her exaggerated silences in response to questions as humour; a little feigned exasperation with the boys on the tenor sax and trumpet, respectively.

The sounds flowed out casually following short huddles of decision-making. Bass. Drums. Trumpet. Bugle. Fiddle. Tenor sax.

It was just the kind of afternoon that makes the day feel celebratory, like you’re one of the few who got in on a secret; something special that you’ll carry around in feeling as one of those forever good memories

At the end of the afternoon, the man who sells roses, but not nearly enough, given the lack of sales I witnessed, showed up. The man of the sweet middle-aged couple in front of me bought a red rose, presented it to the woman he was with, undoubtedly his wife, while clasping her other hand in his, their eyes meeting, no words needed.

Then the MC said that the flower vendor was also a singer himself and after a few seconds, the woman at the piano yelled out that it just wasn’t right that someone should mention that and not invite him up to sing.

And so, they all huddled together as if deciding upon a play at some new year’s day football game and the band started up tentatively and when the flower vendor opened his mouth, ours fell open as well,  astonished at his tone all Bing Crosby-like. The man who’d offered me the seat in the first place, wondered aloud what I’d been thinking, which was, “Why haven’t these people made a CD?

These were the kind of thoughts I was having as I realized how tired I was of doing things on my own. Like this is my 37th marathon and, as I should be, I’m tired. Tired of all the decisions, all the planning, all the doing, all the trying to make a living, all the failing, all up to me.

But not so tired that I’m willing to spend time with anyone who can’t make it better, really better if you know what I mean. Whose conversation can’t entertain me or who annoys me less that I annoy myself.

But carry on. One foot in front of the other. Buoyed by my delightful afternoon experience, I thought I might proceed with my second tentative plan which was to head to a local church that was having a potluck and then showing a Sally Fields movie about some 60-year-old spinster, (the advertising words, not mine),  who decides to sign up for an online dating site, even though, let’s be honest,  that felt like it was hitting awfully close to home.

As I made my way back home, I kept trying to convince myself about my dubious plan to set foot in a church for a new year’s meal when I’d never even been there before to recite something as simple as the Lord’s Prayer.

“You can leave. You don’t have to stay if you feel weird or bored,” said the voice in my head. “Just check it out.”

I envisioned opening the church hall door to 37 lesbians and 17 other middle aged women between the ages of 47 and 85 because with that choice of movie, they couldn’t possibly be expecting any men, could they? Maybe that had been the plan all along.

Before leaving for Hermann’s earlier, I’d prepared some green curried chicken with rice, just in case. For the potluck. I’d tested it out for lunch, and chuckled to myself thinking about the spiciness,  imagining some unsuspecting, hangry old dear digging into my green curry contribution and choking on the chicken which would be a lot spicier, I imaged, than the typical fare offered up at United Church buffets.

I began having the kind of doubts that can waylay the best of intentions.

By the time I came home, I unlaced my new boots, lied to myself about going out again, threw the green curry in the oven to reheat, punched in 350 degrees, and proceeded to watch a wonderful documentary on Janis Joplin instead.

I admire her for being ahead of her time, for being so who she was in spite of the grief it caused her. I could relate to that, to a much lesser degree.

And before I knew it, it was time to count down to the last 35 seconds of 2017. I chimed in with the voice of Knowledge Network before raising my mug of mint-lime tea, even though I had a small bottle of Henkell Trocken in the fridge.

And here’s the thing: I was happier than anyone should ever be just for managing to stay up until midnight on new year’s eve.

Meditation on a suburban concert

She went to a concert last night.

The older man carried the evening through clarinet, alto sax, and the sweet precision of the notes from his flute.

The piano player banged the keyboard, added trills like too many adjectives in a poem, and betrayed the musicality of all but a few pieces.

The bass player seemed afraid of the audience.

There was a furry-haired little boy whose enthusiasm could not be contained by his exasperated parents and she wondered why they didn’t just give in, appreciate, not stifle, his joy.

The older woman beside her hummed along, slapping at her left thigh,

keeping time to the Woman from Ipanema and Autumn Leaves.

Behind her, the shaggy-haired eight or nine-year old unwrapped his candy, the one his mother must have slipped him, as if he was slowly peeling a Band-Aid off a bad cut.

In spite of all that,

thanks to her meditation classes,

she managed to incorporate every sound, welcome it all,

accept what was,

breathing in, breathing out.

She closed her eyes and let it swirl,

the organized melodies from the stage,

the messy soundscape all around and even

the small win for what she deemed her own emotional progress.