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Recent Sightings

By | June 11, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012
A list of notable things I have seen lately that I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of:

Santa Claus on a Harley trike leaving the Walmart near my mom’s house. If I were a big old man with a bushy snow white beard, would I wear a red thermal under my overalls when I went out for a ride on my hog?

A huge semi truck stuck under a bridge on Ashland, near Cortland, with about half of its roof peeled back like a sardine can, just like in the cartoons. Insulation was hanging out everywhere, and I think the cut was about six inches deep. The truck looked so big and the bridge so short compared to it, I’m surprised he even tried. I wish I knew how they got it unstuck. If I hadn’t been on my way to work, I would’ve liked to stick around and watch.

A huge man at the doctor’s office in Kenosha wearing a black concert T-shirt, which, upon closer inspection, said, “One night only! Coming to your town! Santa Claus!” When he turned around, I saw that, on the back of the black bowling shirt he wore over the Santa tee, was an airbrushed picture of Al Pacino from Scarface, lording over two piles of cocaine. Being airbrushed, the mounds of blow could have passed for clouds, but they were at the bottom of the picture. And two friends I mentioned this to later, who have both actually seen this movie, confirmed that the character is a coke dealer. And since this man made quite a large canvas, the piles were each about the size of a slice of bread. Seemed excessive to me.

Willie Nelson in concert! My friend Bob, whom I have known since the first grade, is a harmonica player, and has made the acquaintance of the harmonica player in Willie’s band. That’s Bob’s story to tell, but suffice it to say, Mickey offered Bob comp tickets to their performance in Waukegan at the gorgeously renovated Genessee Theater (I’m also sorry I don’t have pictures of that!), and I was lucky enough to be invited along. Willie Nelson is a cultural icon! And relatively current in the news! And who doesn’t love On the Road Again?

So, Willie is pushing 80, we think, but he still looks just like Willie, scraggly grey braids and red bandana rolled up around his forehead, and he still sounds gravelly like Willie. That kind of voice just gets more so as it ages.

Willie would start out most songs on his own, so he sort of sounded like he was talking, maybe telling a story, but then he’d strum a chord, or whatever it is guitar players do, and then the band would jump in and you’d realize he was singing, not chatting. Bob had mentioned the band had been playing together for some forty years, and they don’t rehearse. I wondered if they also don’t play with a set list. Maybe they just knew the music so well, Willie would just start a song and they started playing when they knew what it was, which was quickly.

Whether that was the case or not, they barreled through his songbook! Sometimes it sounded like he hadn’t finished one song before he’d start another. He didn’t even pause as he’d tear off his red bandana and toss it in to the audience, nor when he replaced it from a small pile of pre-rolled and tied bandanas sitting in front of the drummer.

On the way there, I told Bob I was excited to see Willie, as he is a cultural icon, but I felt bad that I couldn’t call to mind too many of his songs. But when he played, I pretty much knew them all. In fact, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t know most of them. I’m certain that I never had heard the one with a chorus of, “Whiskey for my men, and beer for my horses!” before, but by the end of it, I felt like I’d known it forever too. (Though the story of that song seemed to be valorizing vigilante justice, which I do find questionable.)

Summer nights and thunderstorms. Spring was awesome! It came early. Everything bloomed early. I’d forgotten how green and beautiful it is, and how wet and fertile spring smells, and how the smell of spring rain makes everything else smell better, too!

So summer’s early as well, and it’s amazing. Especially when it stays warm at night and you can bike around and play in the park, and between the city lights and the longer days, it takes a really long time to get dark, so the sky just gets deeper blue. I did try to get a picture of this:


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