COLUMN NINETY-NINE, NOVEMBER 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
PART THREE: A SOULFUL TRIP---PANAMA TOURS NEW ENGLAND
July 25 - - On the morning
of Friday June 26 I said goodbye to
my friend Sebastian and, aided by his hand-drawn map of a "much more
scenic" route, the Volvo and I set out for Middletown, CT, and the
Buttonwood Tree. In a little less
than two hours I had moved from the twisty backcountry of New Hampshire into the
mostly urban setting that is Connecticut. Towns,
strung like pearls along the Interstate, blended almost undetectably from one
into the next.
I arrived in Middletown at about
noon, and was directed via cellphone by Jennifer Hawkins, the Buttonwoon
Tree---proprietress, I suppose---to the Record Express store down the street
whose manager, Ian, is also the sound dude at the Buttonwood Tree.
I introduced myself.
"Hey, man, I see you don't have any Panama Red records on the
Ian shook his head sadly.
"Sold out...just can't keep enough of
'em in stock."
I fell over laughing.
Because Ian couldn't leave just yet
to take me for my sound check, I ambled across the street to get some coffee.
I discovered that here was also a good place to get a bagel and lox. So I
sat with my Jewish donut and French roast out on the sidewalk in front, worked a
couple of crossword puzzles, and put in a call to my number two daughter,
Nicole, who lives in Connecticut with her husband Carlos. She got back in touch
and said they would be down before the show, so we could get in some hang time.
Ian and I took the Volvo to the
club for the sound check. The Buttonwood Tree is a gallery, bookstore and
performance space that seats about twenty-five people. But it's been
"presenting underserved but deserving artists" for ten years, and I'm
glad to be considered deserving. After the sound check, I dropped Ian off back
at his store and recrossed the street to the deli. Just as I got inside my cell
went off. It was daughter number two. She and Carlos had arrived and were
waiting for me back at the Buttonwood Tree up the street.
We greeted each other with much
enthusiasm on the sidewalk in front of the club. I hadn't seen them since Patty
and I came through Arizona where they lived three years ago, and I was delighted
they were looking so well and happy together.
We all went in while I introduced
myself to Jennifer, and then we headed back to the deli down the street. Nobody
was really hungry and pretty soon it was getting close to showtime, so we three
set out in search of a wee bracer which we found at a Mexican joint between the
Buttonwood Tree and the deli. Then it was time for the show.
The audience was enthusiastic. The
sets went well. I sold a few CDs
and T-shirts and made some new friends whom I hope to see on my next swing
through Connecticut. I didn't have much time to visit with Jennifer, as one of
her children was ailing and she had to get right back home. I give The
Buttonwood Tree two thumbs way up. A
few nights after I played there, Roy Bookbinder came through. Its reputation as a small but important cornerstone of the
New England original music scene is justly deserved.
Carlos and Nicole and I headed back
to the Mexican joint, ate some Mexican stuff, drank some Mexican beer, listened
to some non-Mexican music. My kid is very loving (and a BeeAyBeeEe), and my
son-in-law a mellow laid-back dude. They enjoy each other's company, and seemed
to enjoy mine. We had a good time, but they both had work the next day and I was
anxious to see my brother in Almost Heaven. I left Connecticut about midnight.
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