The thing I love about New Paltz is that there are lots of street musicians living in town. The air is often filled with melodies and rhythms. I find this to be either magnificent or really annoying depending on the musician and whether he’s picked up an instrument sometime within the last six months. Last Fall I heard tunes floating out of a second-story window from an apartment above the Groovy Blueberry. Jazz. Good jazz. These musicians had something goin’ on. I inquired at some of the shops and a young woman told me that the band was called Pirate Cat.
“They rehearse up there every night.”
“Are they playing around here?”
“I think they’ll be playin’ at at /root.” She pointed to a shop across the street. at /root is a computer shop/hippie hangout with a small stage for poetry and music. It turns out that Pirate Cat was scheduled for their premier performance at at /root a month later. I put the entry in my appointment book.
On the appointed day I walked into at /root around noon. A young man wearing thick glasses sat on a low couch with a computer on his lap. He had long wavy chestnut hair and was staring into space at a point just above the computer screen.
“Will there be any music tonight?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” The man’s eyes slowly came into focus as if he were awakened from a fantastic dream. He was smiling. “The owners went out for sushi. I’m just watching the place. Oh, wait a minute; I’ll check their Facebook page to see if anything’s listed.”
He soon told me that nothing was listed for that night and suggested I come back later.
After work I stopped back into at /root. There were a couple of folks behind the food counter, one of whom I had seen before. They were preparing drinks for a man and a woman seated at a table.
“Here we go. An Americana and a chai latte,” said a young man as he delivered the drinks to the table. I asked a man behind the counter about the evening’s events.
“Will there be music here tonight?”
The man glanced at two people to his right and then looked back at me with a blank stare.
“I heard that there might be a band called Pirate Cat playing here tonight. Is that true?”
“Yeah. One of them.”
“One of the guys from the band? Or is Pirate Cat one of the bands playing?
“Well that clears things up.” I paused. “Are they the folks who’ve been practicing across the street above the Groovy Blueberry?”
“Is that yeah ‘that’s the band’ or ‘yeah that’s just something I’m saying because I say yeah a lot?”
I looked into his eyes and noticed that even though we were having this conversation he was actually in a parallel universe somewhere, like a computer that was trying to download information from some distant cyber world. The image on the screen was not completely there.
“OK. Let’s try this…What time will this band be performing?” I looked at my watch and noticed it was seven-thirty.
“Well, they’ll be here either in about a half-hour from now or at ten o’clock.”
“Is that either at eight or ten o’clock or is that any time from now until ten? Either way it’s a pretty big window.”
I looked at the other folks in the shop. It appeared that I was the only person confused by this conversation. Was I missing some software that I needed to help me understand what was going on? Everyone was smiling at me. As I walked out the door I heard, “Hey bro, see you later.”
I didn’t get to hear Pirate Cat that night or whoever showed up at at /root, if anyone actually showed up at all. I settled into my living room couch, popped a Miles Davis album on the turntable, zoned out and got transported somewhere. When the stylus lifted itself off the vinyl, the night became quiet. In the distance I heard the sound of a lone drummer carving out a rhythm somewhere. I smiled. It was the kind of familiar sound that brought me to New Paltz in the first place. It would be the sound that would carry me into a deep and relaxing slumber that night.