CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
It takes a lot for royalty to comprehend the common man; what ordinary people take for granted is actually uncommon to them.
Such are the musings of the barber’s daughter this humid evening at the peak of summer on the Great Lake of Erie, as she watches the last private cello student walk out the door after completing the week’s lesson. Time for some uncommon entertainment.
Donning her hot pink pullover, red yoga pants, Rocket Dog flats, and widebrimmed straw hat, she drives down Liberty Street, across 12th, and right on Cranberry toward the “8 Great Tuesdays” free open concert at the Bayfront Amphitheater, just at the water’s edge.
Her friend Mike Miller on tap, with a pick up band gathered by Erie’s own Eric Brewer to include local wunderkind Hayes Moses, song stylist Brittany Morton from The Groove, vocalizing violinist Abby Badach, cover troubadour Angelo Phillips, Taylor Herbstritt (vocalist, and her former student) the show is a tribute, to the majestic musical entertainers who have passed in 2016. Prince. Bowie. Glen Frey. Natalie Cole…
She’s promised Mike. He used to be married to the eldest sister of her two cousins’ husbands, who were brothers. Ahh, Erie.
So, she gets to the parking, and it’s an hour in, and Mattie B and the Dirty Pickles are wailing Elvis’ Hound Dog, and every lot is full all the way to the edge of the two yacht clubs. Three thousand people, plus. The attendant, a teamster on a golf cart, tells her all she’s got is the Blasco library lot, where the shuttle will haul loads back to the venue.
Not one to leave a car miles away, and determined to listen from the comfort of her front seat, she stops to let a trough of imminent attendees pass, peering at the skinny old guy manning the “Boat Pass Parking Only” lot. She takes one more look at him, thanks her better graces, and keeps driving.
All the way out of the parking lot, and down the Bayfront to the Cranberry boulevard. Yep. In typical fashion, almost ready to bail; it has taken all she’s had to make this appearance, already her mind churning out what she’ll tell Mike later.
Then, she spies it.
A circle around.
A narrow, wending, disappearing way.
Something flips a switch. July 4th, from about three years ago?
Following the way, and her memory, she ends up at Plum, turns left, and there it is: Cascade Creek overlook, on Front Street. The sweet spot. A whole curbside, empty of cars; a grassy bank; three people, on a bench and wheelchair, respectively.
And, the music. Clear as a canyon. Every note. Every word.
Rolling all the windows down, she nestles in for an hour of nostalgia and solitude, the cross breeze just enough to keep the pink hot and the hat on.
Unaccustomed to merely sitting, she makes a list of clothes to wash. Loose fitting pullovers to hide her belly, and sleeveless for sweltering heat, and the new capri jeans with the control panel.
The Dirty Pickles finish with Johnny B Good and local newscaster Mike Shoop, whom everyone else calls Lou, leads the water balloon toss. And then, the headliners are up.
She gets out of the car. The red yoga pants have sprung a run up the center back.
The pink pullover gets a solid yank.
Sitting carefully on a slab of concrete bench, she keeps her eyes downcast as an elderly black couple walk slowly past toward a nearby bench.
A male voice that must be Hayes Moses’ cuts across the valley; then, Brittany counters with her smoothe contralto.
She turns toward the couple, seated on their bench.
Do they think they hear Hayes Moses? And, isn’t he a multi-talented boy?
Then, unmistakeably, it’s Mike Miller. He sings a spot on rendition of Glen Frey’s “Peaceful Easy Feelin'”. But, this is the last song she will name of the evening.
Thirty two minutes later, she has heard the entire history of the tenure of Erie Mayor Louis J. Tullio. Knows all about the incinerator fire and the endless dumptruck trips over some nine weeks to the mudpit landfill. Finds out why it is that Lou Tullio is the only mayor in the city’s history to be voted in by an overwhelming majority for 27 solid years. She knows all this, because she has heard it straight from the horse’s mouth: Douglas Watson, Deputy Mayor of the City of Erie, PA.
Resting on a bench with his wife, high school sweetheart Evelyn Stewart Watson, and their white toy poodle.
Mike’s set ends. The sun, deep orange red, touches the horizon.
The only name she doesn’t get, dropped or otherwise, is the poodle’s. Strangely, she hardly notices. It has been the greatest Tuesday in her memory. She has heard the story of kings.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 7/5/16 All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.