"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

May 15, 2015

The Thrill is Gone

BB King is dead.  Of course I have a story, which includes a major moment of kicking my como-se-llama in hindsight.

I love music of most kinds and adore concerts.  I can’t afford to pay for my own ticket anymore so to pacify I've begun compiling a list of groups I've seen LIVE; even one or two up close but not-so-personal.  I’m still adding to it ‘cause I keep remembering that the Cowsills and Liberace count, too.

So Tino was dead over a year and I was recovering from my left leg’s uselessness.  I’d fallen badly and pinched my sciatic nerve near the tailbone, and when I awoke my leg was dead but for a toe, which heralded hope.  The feeling would return an inch a month, my optimistic Doctor advised, but even for a short person I was looking at a long time.   You don’t appreciate your limbs until you can’t use one.

My painful recovery was faster than expected and I danced at that year's company Christmas party.   I never did inherit Mom’s talent as an Arthur Murray dance instructor (in the ‘40s), so the gimp leg was a great excuse for not dancing well.  While I twirled in my little Donna Summer-nights dress I thanked my lucky stars the damage wasn't permanent.  Grief was awful enough, but grief and suddenly handicapped was something else.

Earlier that year BB King came to Portland, Oregon, and pal Vicki, who was my lean-to shoulder during those dark times, invited me to attend the outdoor concert. I’d heard of BB King of course and loved Eric Clapton’s blues, but even if I’d never heard a note out of Lucille, King’s guitar, I’d have gone.  You don’t miss a chance to see a legend.

It was a beautiful afternoon and minor act followed minor act.  As the hours progressed my leg became uncomfortable to the point of tears.  It’s like being in a plane with the seat belt sign lit and you have a leg cramp.

“Are you f___g joking?”  I read her eyes, but Vicki gamefully obliged when I begged to leave, just as they were announcing BB’s presence onstage.

She’s not singular in dismay at my behavior.  Years earlier I'd called my Sister at work in Manhattan, excitedly talking her into attending an open-air Frank Sinatra concert at the Garden State Arts Center that evening.  I thought by that time he only performed in London or Vegas, and was flabbergasted there were still tickets available.  Lawn seats, but they’re the best kind on a nice summer night.

His voice was croaky as he strolled around the stage with drink in hand, but it was FRANK!! The crowd overlooked his fumbled lines and gave standing ovation after standing ovation, while I kept picturing scenes from The Godfather.  Oh wait, I know this one,

“It’s Jack the Knife.”

Mack the Knife (click for YouTube clip), Hillary chided.  “Why are you even here?

‘Cause he’s a legend.  I’m glad I saw Lauren Bacall starring in Applause, the Broadway version of All About Eve.  I met Richard Chamberlain after his performance with Blythe Danner in Blithe Spirit, and I watched the riveting spectacle of Tom Jones…where else… in Vegas. Well dressed ladies in packs threw their undies onstage for him to wipe his pits and toss back, ewww.

Braggadocia?  You betcha.  It helps get me through my current dirt-poor experience, which I know won’t last forever.  Has taught me to appreciate the smallest stuff, and my off-the-wall memories prevent me from feeling deprived...of anything.

What was born of guilt turned into a real appreciation of BB King's music over the past 20 years.  If I could travel back through time to that concert I'd shove a stick in my mouth to bite down (for the pain) in order to hear every single note BB offered to us.  I'd use the same stick (for the boredom instead) at that Star Trek convention; I just couldn't endure long enough to see Captain William Shatner Kirk, damn!

But at least BB serenaded us out of the stadium, so that remains a nice memory. Legends like this rarely come along in one's lifetime.

So Rest in Peace, BB and Lucille.  And so sorry, Vicki, that I made you miss a giant as well.

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