Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Fridayful of friends, music, and sake

Friday night was one of those serendipitous evenings that just make you happy to be alive. It didn't start out so good. I had been practicing for a month to get ready for my second open mic night at the Coffee Bar. Last time the Ballad of the Polka Dot Lizard seemed to go over really well. The entire coffee shop went silent for the duration of my song. But, last time I had all these friends complain because they didn't know about it, so I just decided to cover all the bases this time and make a facebook event. I invited like, a hundred people. I was going to bust out the toy piano and do the Ballad of Katy Bee.

Well, I get there at 6:30 and can't find a parking space close to the Coffee Bar so I lug my guitar and toy piano from a block away. When I get inside there is no "stage area" at the front, just tables. I knew something was wrong, and sure enough, it was cancelled. Why? Because they share a PA system with the Hub City Bookshop and that night the bookshop was having a reading. "Lady Parts."

Yeah, I was bummed. Majorly bummed. I didn't know what to do with myself. I stood there for a minute, then slunk out. Still toting my toy piano and guitar. There were some guys hanging out on the patio, and as I was rounding the corner I heard one say "Yeah, I have my guitar in my car. We could hang out and jam..." One of the guys noticed me lingering, ever so slightly, before ducking my head around the corner. I really wanted to make music. Once I get the mind to make music, it is REALLY hard to get it out of my system. I guess it's kind of like a french fry addict at the scent of McDonald's. Anyway, there's this spot, called the "Pocket Park," and I've always wanted to jam there. It's really just a glorified alley in between Carriage House Wines and the Mason building, but it's nice.

It was particularly windy that evening, but pleasant. Didn't really want to go home, was kind of hoping I could somehow join whatever musical hangout was being discussed around the corner, so I just parked in the Pocket Park. Sat down at one of the tables, took the colorful pillowcase off of Timothy the Toy Piano, and started plunking on it, rather forlornly. I texted a few folks to let them know not to come to Open Mic. Then this dude comes round the corner. He very consciously does not look at me, and I don't look at him, but he stops just behind my peripheral vision and lingers there, all awkward-like. Then goes back around the corner the way he came, but a few minutes later, he's back. He stops about ten feet from me and stands there, pretending to make busy between his cigarette and phone. He was real big, real tan, slightly unkempt, maybe a little older than me. I wasn't frightened, there were plenty of people around, but it was just kind of weird. He tries to make small talk, and I talk back, but don't stop plunking. "So you're just going to stand there?" I ask. "Is that alright?" "Sure, whatever, you're not hurting me."

Then I thought, hey, maybe it's not enough that I texted a few people, since I invited like a hundred people to this thing, maybe I should post on the facebook event to say it's cancelled. But my Android app won't let you post on events, so I knew I was going to have to find a laptop or something. So I pack up Timothy and leave Awkward Guy to lurk alone. I ask Eric (remember the jam at Eric's apartment back when he was a WiR? He stuck around and works at the Coffee Bar) if there was a laptop or iPad I could use to tell my friends the event was cancelled. He let me use the iPad they use for a cash register. I logged on quick, trying to get off before a customer came and needed to make a purchase. Then I just sat down on the couch, forlorn once again, wondering what to do.

That's when Bryant texted me. He hadn't got the memo it was cancelled, and he was downtown looking for the Coffee Bar. Hooray, a friendly face. I was so glad to hear from him. He made it over and we sat on the patio talking for a while. Unfortunately the two guys talking about jamming had left. Fortunately, so had Awkward Guy. A friend from work came by, expecting to hear me play, and I had to give her the bad news. Then we saw Andrew Molinaro and another Hub-Bub friend. This was the first of four Andrew Molinaro appearances that evening. His Kermit shirt, green specs, and green sneaks lifted my spirits slightly. It was St. Patrick's day weekend, after all, surely there was fun to be had somewhere... Eventually Bryant and I decided we should eat dinner, and landed on sushi. Then another friend responded to my text about making alternate plans so we decided we'd all meet up at Miyako's.

So Bryant hoists my toy piano and we make for my car, when we see, walking down the sidewalk toward us, the same guy I had overheard earlier, this time with guitar in tow. Hey, I said, are you up for jamming? 'Cuz I would really like to make some music right now. He said sure, yeah I was just gonna strum a little in that alley...So we go over to the alley, a.k.a. the Pocket Park, and his friend meets us there, and the four of us have a great time. That dude was rocking the toy piano, and the guitar guy just wanted to follow so I got to play the songs I was going to play at open mic and more. Their names were Zack and Michell. Zack had a long beard and glasses. Then their friend Drew who I had seen earlier came and brought more friends, and we played as the sun set and the wind settled down and it wasn't too cold and everybody was having a really good time.

Then one of them decided to run and grab some beer and Bryant and I decided it was about time to meet my other friend for dinner. It's about 8:15 at this point. So we part ways with our new friends, go to Miyako's, decide it was too expensive, and end up at Monsoon. That's when we see Andrew Molinaro for the second time, meeting up with some of his friends at Monsoon as well. Bryant and I both order a sake, forgetting that an order of sake is not just the little cup, it's like the whole little decanter thing. So we've got two decanters of warm sake with four cups to go with our noodles. Wow, we need more people to help us drink all this sake! At that point, I hadn't heard from my friend Micah about dinner and I figured she wasn't showing, and I was starting to think, that's a good thing. I didn't know her very well, but we knew each other from church, what was she going to think when she saw us with all this sake?

Well I soon found out because no sooner had I decided she wasn't coming than she shows up. I'd missed her text saying she was on her way. I kind of laugh off all the sake, ask her if she wants some (she politely declined) and we catch up. You know when you've got two friends who don't know each other and don't have anything in common and you're trying to set everyone at ease? It was kinda tricky. But Bryant had had most of the first decanter of sake by that point and had ordered more potstickers so he was feeling pretty good. And Micah is pretty sociable, so we had a nice little chat. She decided to take her food to go. We were mostly through with dinner by that point, but it was a nice visit. Bryant and I finished off all the sake by ourselves. It's rice wine. I guess it's a little stronger than regular wine but not a whole lot. Still we were feeling it. So after Micah left we decided to walk it off.

The weather was so great that evening. We headed back to the Pocket Park just in case our new friends were still jamming. They weren't , but guess who we did see. Again. Andrew Molinaro! We asked him if he knew of anything cool going on this evening. Yeah, actually, the Antibodies were playing at the Nu Way. Score! I love the Antibodies. They are one of Spartanburg's most established bands, serving up a spunky-smooth New Wave/surf sound that still rocks as hard as it did in its heyday 30 years ago. So Bryant and I decided to walk to the New Way from Ezell Street. It was slightly farther than we initially visualized. But again, it was a lovely night, we were full of sake and enjoying each other's company, so we didn't mind the distance.

We get there, the Antibodies are right up against the front door, so we sneak in the back. Actually it was pretty funny, the lead singer would give a hard time to anybody trying to come in the front door. He would even get a laugh out of walking outside in the middle of a song. He's a character. And of course, who do we see at Nu Way? Andrew Molinaro. We sit with him and have a bit of a chat in between rocking out to the Antibodies. The are so...just...mmmm. Narcotic. We joke about the "nasty" bathrooms and Bryant gets an ale. I get a Sprite. She doesn't charge me for it. Then, who do we see but Zack and Mitchell again, our friends from the Pocket Park. They invite us out to the back patio where they are hanging with friends. I was loathe to leave the Antibodies, but thought, maybe you can still hear them outside...

I was glad we went out. Met cool people who shared their pitcher of beer, also caught up with an old friend who used to come to our Hub City Jams way back in the day (Patrick Bryan woo!), and the band ended up joining us out there fairly shortly afterward. After some great conversation, invitations to other cool happenings, and having to decline more booze, Bryant and I eventually decided it was time to call it a night. It was shortly after midnight and I had planned a major homework day on Saturday. So we started the long walk back. Bryant grabbed a coffee at the corner mart, and we just chatted and reminisced all the way back to our cars.

A truly charming evening. But I really coulda done without that second order of sake. Studying was rough the next day.

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