Trumpets and Women
"Yeah," I said. "Ha-ha."
Just like that: "Ha-ha."
Robert and I went out last night for dinner followed by some live music. Acme is an okay place to eat. The Cajun-style food is good and filling, and the atmosphere is fun and bright. Exposed-brick walls are lined with hundreds of bottles of hot sauce greens and yellows and reds and the wooden tables are colorfully painted and happily chipping away. I had the sloppy meatloaf Po-Boy with white gravy and enormous sweet potato fries; Robert had the crab cake platter with their famous mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas. I was drunk after just one Brooklyn Lager; Robert kept at his vodkas with extra lime.
By 7pm, when it was time to make our way to Webster Hall, I would have been completely happy to have just gone straight home to say hello and goodnight to my warm, snuggly bed. Instead, we found ourselves out in the brutal New York City cold, struggling to find a cab. When one finally stopped for us, we were too distressed to realize that we were only two blocks away from the venue.
"Eleventh, brrr, between Third and Fourth." The chilly words floated in a white cloud of Robert's breath to plink and shatter against the thick plastic which separated us from the driver.
"Just Eleventh?" the driver asked, incredulously.
"Oh, damn. We're already at Eighth. I'm sorry about that. We were freezing..."
Before we could finish apologizing, we were there.
"Sorry about that. Here, this is for you." Robert handed the driver some cash, and we were back into the cold.
The short walk from the cab into the club actually took more time than the ride from Eighth to Eleventh.
"That was officially the shortest cab ride in the history of cab rides," I said.
Because Robert has worked with Calexico's publicity person for so long, we were given VIP passes, which allowed us to sit along the balcony upstairs: So many women in sweaters that ask for hugs and their tight jeans tucked into their tall, leather boots, just the way I like. Eyes and smiles and darting looks. Peeks and teases of belly and back. Hello, hi, hello, goodbye.
From this vantage point, it was impossible for us to mistake the opening act, Tim Fite, for anything but an opening act. For a moment, when we were still downstairs ordering vodka from the bar, I thought that Fite might put on an interesting show. He blended white soullessness with faux Baptist preacher lunacy, acoustic simplicity with electronic complexity. It was as much one-act play as it was rock show. Soon, however, good-humored attempts at audience interaction became obnoxious plunges into self-indulgence: "Let's count my fingers again. Just to make sure they're all still there. One. Two. Three. Four. Four. Four. Four. Oh, damn."
You're silly and sometimes funny, but, in the end, I just don't like your show, Tim Fite.
"How did crap like this get signed to Anti?"
"That's a good question."
And then came Calexico. Outrageously awesome with lightning-fast electric guitars, guiros and flamenco singers and rolling Rs, Calexico had the audience participating without having to beg. I want to be in Calexico. Give me handclaps and trumpets and all that sizzling percussion. Everything blended together so well, I found myself often unable to disengage one instrument from another. It was confounding and beautiful. For the last song of their set, Calexico was joined by flamenco veteran, Salvador Duran. The story goes that Sam Beam of Iron & Wine asked Duran to join them on the recording of In the Reins after seeing Duran perform in the lobby of the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona. On stage, his deep and rich voice came soaring through the many layers of sound just as it does on the album's first track.
After Calexico's set, Duran remained onstage. Alone, he filled the room with harmonica, handclaps, bootstomps, and all sorts of whispers and wails, pops, clicks, and grunts. He was some sort of wild, old animal, wrinkled and gray, but charming and gorgeous: "Thank you New York City. This was my first time here, and tonight will be our last night together. I don't know if I will see you again, but you will stay in my heart."
Call us crazy, call us lazy, call us tired and old or stupid and cold I wouldn't disagree with any of it but Robert and I decided to leave before Salvador Duran's final thunderous bootstomp.
It was a good thing we decided to leave when we did neither of us were prepared to stay out till two in the morning but I'm sure the show only got better from there. Iron & Wine was also scheduled to perform, and the grand finale would find all of the evening's performers sharing the stage. I hope, however, that Tim Fite wasn't included.
I grabbed my scarf and coat.
"Are you leaving?" asked the pretty stranger.
"Yes," I said.
"That's a shame," she said.
Outside, in the cold, we made our way up to 14th Street, where Robert asked, "Are you sure you don't want me to grab a cab for you?"
"Thanks," I said, "But that would be the second shortest cab ride in the history of cab rides."
We parted near Union Square. I walked the final two blocks up to Sixth Avenue, thinking of trumpets and women, and looking forward to sleep.