and the Live Sex Show
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal
to Amsterdam, Buffy
A SOULFUL ODYSSEY IN SEVERAL PARTS:
PANAMA TOURS NEW ENGLAND
Nashville TN, 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 shelves here."
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
Through the velvet dark
across New York State to Interstate 81 and then south through Pennsylvania
into Maryland, hang a right, go to Parkersburg, split left, drive
another hour, get off and head into Glenville, WV. What we're really
talking about here is twelve hours of hard driving...
The last time I visited
my brother Gary and his family, I was a passenger, so I hadn't paid
much attention. I had no idea of how to find his place. I had been
trying to call him the whole way down from Connecticut, but there
was never an answer. Nicole had mentioned something about a folk
festival in Glenville, which is undoubtedly where they would be,
but when I got to Glenville I learned that the festival had been
the week before. Still no answer on the phone. Later I would learn
that an overloaded logging truck taking hardwood from West Virginia
to a furniture factory in North Carolina had knocked the telephone
line out. It's always something going out of West Virginia, never
something coming in.
Well, I figured, even
if they weren't home, I could always just crash there once I found
the place. I was deep-fried roadkill by now. Well, I did know his
address...sorta. Something about Wolf Pen. I asked a couple sitting
in a pickup truck in the drugstore parking lot where Wolf Pen might
be. They suggested that it might be back up the road a piece.
"Uh...is it in
a holler?" I asked. They looked at the flatlander like he was
crazy, because of course it's in a holler. This is West Virginia.
Everything is in a holler. Or on a ridge.
But I followed their
directions as best I could and soon found myself on a dirt road
winding back into the embrace of the hills. A branch turned left.
Should I take it? No, I'll just keep on going up a little bit more.
Come around a curve. There, parked on the side of the road, is a
red Subaru, its hood raised, and a footbridge across the creek.
Well, I think to myself, I'll get out here and ask these people.
If it's the right holler, they'll know the family.
Dogs barking. Skinny
red-and-beige sled-dog lookin half-grown pup with one eye blue and
one yellow comes across the footbridge and fawns sillily at my feet.
"Hello, puppy," I say. Then I hear soft conversation coming
from across the bridge. I cross the creek and look to my right and
see my sister-in-law Annette and my brother Gary standing in the
garden, waiting to see who's come to call.
Though we have always
been brothers, of course, he is also my oldest and closest friend.
Back when we were living in Florida, Gary had an epiphany: "Since
I was born in West Virginia," he said to me at the time, "it
would make sense that if there were a place I was meant to be, it
would be there." And he and Annette had packed up and moved
to Glenville. And except for brief trips back to visit family in
Florida, they have remained, having and raising their four children.
One son has moved back
to Florida, one to Charleston, WV, the oldest daughter is married
to a local young man, and the youngest, just out of high school,
is getting ready to go off to culinary school in Pittsburgh. She
is right now visiting friends in Parkersburg. I am disappointed,
for she is a favorite of mine.
"She says she's getting us used to the idea that she won't
be around much anymore," says Annette.
Sometimes, every once
in a while, when I am overtaken by some need to reconnect, there
is nothing for it but to go and visit Gary and Annette.
They live in a quiet
glen along the creek. In the morning the sun glitters off the dew
collected on the leaves of the trees and the grass in their yard,
creating a jeweled atmosphere reminiscent of Tolkien's descriptions
of Rivendell. Throughout the day they are visited by all manner
of songbirds, colorful flyers such as we no longer see in the cities.
Two grandchildren are up from Florida staying the summer. And there
is Ruby, the silly sled-pup who had been first to greet me, Pudge,
a venerable and patient old Norwegian Elkhound/Labrador cross and
two or three cats, the most interesting of whom is Blind Bob, a
completely sightless feline phenomenon who nonetheless has managed
to get around unaided for years.
"When we were re-doing the kitchen," says Annette, "we
had to move the back door temporarily. Bob kept running into the
wall. Finally he figured out the new layout, just about the time
the kitchen was done and the door was moved back. He ran into the
wall again for a while. It must have been mystifying for him."
I stayed with Gary and
Annette for two days, visiting with their daughter Ruthie and jamming
with her husband Jamie and his guitar buddies. On the last day Donnie
Ree, the youngest daughter, came home.
Early next morning,
I got up with Gary at five a.m., his usual time. Annette got up
soon after. We three sat in the kitchen quietly drinking coffee
until seven, when I got in the Volvo and left Rivendell for home.
My route took me through
Huntington, WV, where I had lived for nine years while growing up.
It used to be large, when I was small. At the time it was the largest
city in the state, with a population of around 90,000. Now, it has
shrunk because of industry moving out, but also because I am an
adult, and the streets and buildings are smaller in my perception,
especially the elementary schoolyard beside the railroad where I
had seen Dwight Eisenhower go by, waving to us from the last car
on his way to Washington in 1952 . It is the home of Marshall University...Marshall
College in my day...and the U is now the city's largest employer.
It took me just fifteen minutes to drive from Guyandotte, the section
where I was raised, to the West End and back onto the Interstate.
I drove into Kentucky.
I stopped in Lexington
to visit with my oldest brother, Jim. We talked about nothing and
everything for a couple of hours. He had a doctor's appointment,
and I had a date to keep with Patty. I left about three p.m. and
five hours later pulled in beside our bus,
"Phoenix". I had been gone for eleven days.
NEXT: PANAMA GETS READY TO INVADE FRANCE.