Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Singing At Night

I'm waiting for the 11D, it was later than usual for one of my trips downtown, hence ranker desert for a trip home, and my nerves, my nerves were not the steel thread they can be earlier in the day in a less ugly spot on the map . The police don't cruize past Heinz Hall quite as often after 11 pm. The duplication of '11' is bad for people with superstitions. It is only suprising how fast secular humanism can run from danger, and the cultural district starts to look bowery. This evening I was only one of two people waiting for the bus on Penn like two live chickens waiting for Colonel Sanders. And in the nervous fearful minutes, passing like heavy dumplings in rank stew, it seemed good, at first, that the the other guy struck up a conversation. He was working on his career in music. Country western.

The number '11' is never good, and the letter 'D' reminds me of a report card. The hopeful musician beside me asked if I knew when the bus was coming. This caused me to trip up. I have this thing I call the "Fred Rogers Reflex," which is an irrational need to sustain middle class courtesies while standing in a hell hole. I fished my bus schedule out, so to give a neighbor the exact time the bus probably won't arrive. I could see for myself the hollowness, since the bus is never on time, and the act of pulling out the paper schedule was an autonomic beourgoise ritual. People are supposed to be helpful, my ass. It was late, and the grunting of 'it's supposed to be here' would have been sufficient.

The musician warmed up immediately. The deceptive nature of common courtesy had been a regular tool in bag for people like Ted Bundy and Albert Desalvo, and less catastrophically, the pimply, sandy haired man nearest me launched into his recent past. "I just come up here from Nashville. Music industry in Nashville is all fucked up. I hear the music industry up here'll at least give a man a chance."

Going play by play, I was unaware that there was a country western music industry in Pittsburgh. A church or two got converted to recording studios a few miles out of town, and the outfits don't bring in much with the collection plate. The fact that this was happening against the humorless flanks of Heinz Hall brought optimism down a couple notches.

"Just bought this guitar at a pawn shop" He had his ax in a cheap boogie bag, like a body bag for a crumby instrument.

It's like saying 'that librarian is three inches taller than Roberto Duran.' I lost the rest of my respect for the singer because pawn shops are the outside worst place to buy a used guitar. You can score a good one anywhere, cheaper, unless you are the jerk I met at the bus stop. To strenthen his argument against Nashville, he said he's written more songs than Merl Haggard. Some people have more cavities in their teeth than others. He stepped closer to me and launched into one of his songs. He was smiling out a song he was proud of, and he was standing uncomfortably close. Had the bus come sooner, I would have heard less.

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