Matt attempts to live in the moment…muffs it.

The Downtown Seattle Association puts on a series of outside concerts every summer, and many of the events are at the Harbor Steps just up the alley from where I work. Angela and Mara braved the traffic and the heat to come downtown today and fetch me on my lunch hour. We walked over to the Steps, which have a large level space like a piazza midway up, ordered sandwiches at an adjacent deli, and found a place to sit just in time to hear the Dusty 45s start their show of Americana, Rockabilly and red hot Swing.

Givin' it up for the Dusty 45s.

Mara cheers for the Dusty 45s.

Most of their playlist were their own compositions, but they opened with Herb Alpert’s The Lonely Bull, which kinda put the crowd on alert that these guys were for real. The band was a lot of fun and the crowd was appreciative. It didn’t take long for people to start swing dancing in the space in front of the stage.

Angela and I could not dance together because we couldn’t leave Mara alone in the crowd, but a lot of Angela’s friends in the partner dance community tend to show up wherever there’s good dance music for free, so she danced with some of them. She also coaxed Mara out for a couple of swing numbers. I was really feeling it and would have loved to get out there, and Angela would have let me go fetch someone to cut the rug with, but I really only like dancing with her. We’ve got some moves, she and I. I contented myself with being outside on such a lovely day and hearing great music. 

Mommy and Mara cut it on the Steps.

Mommy and Mara cut it on the Steps.

I was starting to think I might have to go over to the sponsor booth and buy one of these guys’ CDs, but I didn’t have to. The lead singer, trumpeter and guitarist Billy Joe Huels, challenged the crowd to name a song in three notes and said that whoever guessed first would get an EP of their music. He blew three notes. They were three that I recognized, and in my mind I correctly identified it as another Herb Alpert composition, but Angela’s hand shot up and she nailed it as A Taste of Honey. Little did the challenger know, Angela would have guessed any Herb Alpert tune on a single note. They played the rest of the piece while Angela went and collected her prize. 

One of the lines the band sang today, and made us chant back, was “chase that dream!” It was from a song two of the bandmembers had written many years ago when they’d decided to throw caution to the wind and be full-time musicians. That story went deep into me. I sometimes feel that part of my soul wanders off while I’m shut away at my desk during the workday, and I grind away a good share of my mental energy turning it over in my head whether I’m selling myself and my family short by playing it safe and simply bringing home the biggest income I can manage.

So hot he's breathing fire!

So hot he's breathing fire!

So it’s bittersweet, but I thank God for little breaks like this (and — I should add — for the fact that I work for a company that doesn’t mind if I take a long lunch to go watch a concert with my family). I don’t know if they make up for forty hours of my life every week, but to paraphrase my friend Jeff, we can’t all be rockers,* and until I’m ready to plunge into some other adventure, lunchtime concerts and other escapades like this help me keep a measure of sanity.  

For a finale, Billy Joe had the end of his trumpet lit on fire. The crowd enjoyed this. I did too. That’s the kind of stuff you can do when you’ve tossed away your fears and followed the still small voice inside.

*Jeff actually said, “yes, Matthew, we should all be dairymen”, by which he meant emphatically that we cannot all be dairymen. This was during a discussion wherein he found himself exaspirated at my use of the agrarian life as the baseline for assessing how we as individuals and as a society are faring.

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8 Responses to “Matt attempts to live in the moment…muffs it.”


  1. 1 Kip August 5, 2009 at 01:33

    I have been pondering this post for a few days now, trying to gather thoughts. Maybe I misunderstand the title. I read that you did indeed live in the moment, and quite successfully. Working for a flexible company like yours makes moments like this possible, and I, too am fortunate to be able to enjoy a modicum of flexibility. So, is it that you are in a job that brings home the bacon, and that’s about it? I DO understand that. I enjoy what I’m doing, but it would be nice to sort of move into a more independent type of situation and do it on my own. Ah, the safety factor. Is that it, The Safety Factor? I don’t know, maybe Ami’s right, I’m MUCH too serious tonight!

    • 2 jstwndrng August 5, 2009 at 04:12

      Serious howsoever you may be this night, Kipper, you’ve gone promptly to the gizzard of the thing. Yes, it’s the fact that my job does not engage my body or my spirit in ways that I am finding increasingly necessary on a daily basis. Although I enjoy it while I’m doing it, and I’m good at it, and I work with a small group of really great people, it still is true that its main claim on my psyche is the salary. Louis did me the service, offline, of gently reminding me how great my situation is, careerwise, and I’m grateful for the reminder, especially since there are any number of people who would break major social tabus to do what I do and get paid for it. I’m really one of the lucky ones. I’m just in a carping mood. But yes, the Safety Factor as you call it. Maybe we should just add a wy and call it the Safety Factory, and let it refer to the whole of western corporate culture. I can see I’m going to have to duke this one out with myself in a major post down the line. You folks can help me dope it out.

  2. 3 mpg August 5, 2009 at 18:00

    > I work for a company that doesn’t mind if I take a long
    > lunch to go watch a concert with my family

    One cannot help but note, however, that you did happen to do this on a day when your putative boss was out of town… 🙂

    -mpg,
    the Putative Boss

  3. 5 Marni August 5, 2009 at 18:18

    Thank you, old and dear friends, for having your discussion as I was also puzzled by the title of this blog! Now I feel enlightened and can move along.

    • 6 jstwndrng August 5, 2009 at 20:16

      It always helps, when scouring my posts and their titles for subtext, to keep firmly in mind my entrenched shiftlessness and sloth, as well as my melancholy, my discontent with post-Industrial Revolution society and my chronic romantic pastoralism. Happy reading!

  4. 7 Gramma August 25, 2009 at 21:54

    H-m-m-m-m. All I could think of was something my grandfather used to say…:”How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He’d chuck all the wood that a woodchuck could IF a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I don’t know why that came into my head. Maybe because I’ve had only two hours sleep in the last two days and that’s about all that’s in there.

    • 8 jstwndrng August 25, 2009 at 22:48

      Mom, easy for you to say! 🙂

      I didn’t get a lot of sleep myself last night, so your little tongue-twister seems to be perfectly apropos. It reminds me of the time I got my tang tungled around my eye teeth and couldn’t see what I was saying.


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