Posted: February 9th, 2013
A week before December 21, 2012, I was in a Karaoke bar in South Florida. Why, I have no idea. I guess because it was in the way of me and having a beer, so I went in. A woman in her mid-twenties was standing on stage butchering a “Land Down Under.” I think of my son, who is presently in Australia, and start to fret. I hope he’s on high ground. Listening to that woman sing, I’m sure the Apocalypse really is upon us, and the great flood will follow.
As you know, fortunately, the end times didn’t work out as planned, and moe. is on tour. The band is doing a swing through the upper Midwest this week. All the moe.rons coming to the shows tell me how happy they are that moe. is back in “town” again. The band’s played in Michigan 3 times since September and Wisconsin twice since October, which has made these moe.rons ecstatic. It’s nice to see. We’re hitting Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana, too, and doing a radio show in Indianapolis, before going southeast.
On the road, you see all kind of things and meet many people. Every day is an adventure. In a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, the waitress, she calls herself a barista, is stern looking. Her hair is pulled back in a bun tightly, so tight the corners of her mouth appear creased in a permanent scowl. She kind of looks like the Joker working as a Librarian who hates her job. She’s giving me the once over, or maybe she doesn’t like my plaid coat. I smile. I’m not sure where she’s coming from. At this stage of my life I’ve come to know this much about the world of work and labor: Sometimes people end up where they’re at. Most times, people end up where they should.
I paid for the coffee and threw her a buck tip. I wasn’t sure if she smiled or hissed, but I stepped back just in case. It may have been too much, I know, but once again I found myself overwhelmed by the feminine mystique. Moving to a table, I do what I often do, pull out my pocket notebook and jot down a few thoughts and observations.
I leave the coffee shop and head toward the stage door of the venue, The Ark, where moe. will be playing an “intimate” acoustic show that evening. I hear a voice behind me, a woman’s, shouting. At first I think it’s her, the Joker, but it’s a woman with a camera. I noticed her inside taking pictures of pigeons on a magazine rack through the window, and rolled my eyes. Now she catches up to me and wants to take my picture. I’m guessing she likes her men in plaid. Red plaid. She said she has a website about humanism called the “Humanist,” or something like that, in Ann Arbor, and photographs the local scene. She saw me writing inside and wondered what I did. She said it like she thought I was unemployed. I said I was a writer, and she sighed before I finished saying, “and I work for moe.,” which meant nothing to her when I did. She took my picture with me holding my notebook near my face. By now, it’s hanging like a mug shot in a police blotter, somewhere on a day-in-the-life blog about Ann Arbor.
I’m now near the front of the venue, when I hear someone else shout out. I turn. It’s an old man with a crutch moving toward me like an Olympic sprinter. I’m beginning to think that red plaid is the new day-glow orange, or vice versa, because every stranger, everywhere I go, has something to say to me. “Can you help an old vet?” he asks. “I’m not a drunk. I need a dollar for a cup of coffee.” The degrees of homelessness in America, and throughout the world differ from place to place, as do the angles for panhandling. In New York last weekend, there was a kid with a sign that read “Why kid? Need money for drugs.” He was wearing Ray Bands, was dressed warmly, and compared to some of the human suffering and deprivation I’d seen along Broadway, he looked like a fool. The veteran in Ann Arbor repeated, “I’m not a drunk,” and added, with his hand held out, “even fifty cents will do.” A buck or fifty cents? This bum kept a tight budget. I’ll give him that. I look down the street at the coffee shop, and wonder how he’d be received by the Joker. I give him the change in my pocket, then look for the stage door. If I don’t get off the street, I’ll never be ready for show time.