Recently, driving around in the Jeep looking for something good to listen to on the radio, I began to think about a CD I own.
By thinking, I mean, wondering where it is. When The Good Man and I moved in together several years ago, I boxed up a lot of stuff and stored it away.
Over the years, occasionally I'll remember something that I want or need and it's a hell of a rodeo to find it.
So I put the thought out of mind. Whatever. It's just a CD. I can probably find it on iTunes or at the library or something.
I tried to dismiss it.
But this thought came with a long strip of Velcro, and wouldn't let go.
A voice in my mind kept asking, "Where is that CD? You need to listen to it."
When you get a voice that adamant, it's kind of hard to ignore.
But I tried.
Resigned to satisfying that damn voice so it would shut up, I suited up. Our storage is under the place we rent, and that happened to be a very cold and very rainy day.
Determined, under the house I went, poking around in boxes and bags, knocking stuff over and getting lost on that long winding lane called Memory.
Finally, I did find a very heavy box that had a bunch of CD's, and also most of my VHS movies, that I'd packed away.
I heaved, grunted and lurched the box upstairs and started picking through it.
A lot of heavy memory stuff burbled to the top, clamoring for my attention, which I gave.
But nothing quieted the voice. I kept digging and finally, yes, I found the CD I was looking for.
Best of the Blues, Vol. 1
Yeah. A "best of" compilation. Forgive me ye Gods of the Blues.
I bought this CD back in 1997. I'd just moved to the Bay Area and some good friends (also New Mexico transplants) had introduced me to the thriving blues scene in San Francisco.
I only tangentially knew the music. I'd listened to some B.B. King, some Muddy Waters and some John Lee Hooker in my time. The popular stuff. The stuff everyone knows.
But back then, San Francisco was steeped in the old ways.
During the course of the next decade, I received what can only be called a Blues Education.
I watched some of the not only best blues musicians, but best musicians period, play in craptastic bars like the old Grant & Green (the remodel took the soul out of it) and of course The Saloon, the oldest continually operating bar in the beautiful City of San Francisco. It dates back to the 1861, which means it survived both the 'quake of 1906 and Prohibition.
There were nights it was too cramped and too hot (and back then, too smoky) in The Saloon for my tastes, so I would step outside the front door. I was dating a musician at the time, so the dyspeptic doorman had to be nice to me. He would let me sit on his stool by the front door where he collected the cover charge.
I'd take his chivalrous gesture and lean back against the battered wood door. I could feel the driving beat in my spine, and I'd watch the fog roll over the tops of the buildings in North Beach.
I learned about the three Kings (B.B., Freddy and Albert).
I learned about Chicago blues, Delta blues and the just plain blues blues.
I heard a thousand different versions of "Matchbox" and "Shotgun" and I watched guys try to be both Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King. I began to understand why some songs grab you by the gut and sometimes a song that should grab your gut doesn't (hint: it has a lot to do with the drummer).
Today, I'm a suburban girl with a quiet, happy life. No regrets here. But sometimes I miss the family I made back then who took me in, protected me and helped me learn the old ways.
You know, they call it stormy Monday...but Tuesday's just as bad.
This one musician, a hell of guitar player, used to tear it up for four hours, and at the end of the night, he'd ask the frenzied crowd, "Did you get healed?"
And he'd get crazy, drunken, full-throated hollers in return. The music mattered. It got us on a cellular level. We got healed.
I may need to see about a Saturday in North Beach soon, because something feels amiss. It may be time to go back and find if it's possible to get healed.
Until then, I'll take the ministrations from that ol' CD found at the bottom of a moving box.
Image of Ron Hacker, arguably the best slide guitar man in SF and maybe even the world, onstage at The Saloon. (No, he's not the guy I dated, I'm just a massive fan.)
Photo by Scott Palmer