Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jazz Refuge

Some friends and I had a "date" night on Monday. The whole point was fun and relaxation. We began with good food and great conversation and were just beginning the second half of the night, strolling around downtown, when I noticed that one of my favorite jazz places wasn't doing what I'd thought they were doing.

I'd called on Sunday and gotten a voice message saying they were having a concert "tonight and tomorrow night" and that the cost was $25. So I had nixed that as a potential source of fun. I like the place but that's kind of steep for my non-weekend funtime.

So . . . when I saw from the other side of the street that the small crowd just did not look like a "jazz festival" in the making (as it had been billed), I decided to check it out. Sure enough, the voice message was a day old and didn't apply to this Monday. I recognized one of the band members I was accustomed to seeing there and discovered they were scheduled to perform. And within moments, we were welcomed in with great enthusiasm and told that there'd be no cover charge. (My previous Mondays had proven enjoyable and well worth the small charge so I was ready but pleasantly surprised when none was required.)

The crowd was small, as I'd mentioned, but soon a camera crew entered. And then more folks followed. And more folks. And more folks.

Curiosity had me in its grip so I finally inquired as to what was happening. The hostess explained that the local news was covering what businesses were doing in response to the hurricane victims "flooding" the city and that this club had decided to open its doors to all the nearby hotel guests at no charge and entertain them.

Soon what looked like busloads were filing in. Children in t-shirts and shorts. Young men carrying baby strollers (though I missed the babies). Entire families. They all had the look of the recently surprised in their eyes. They weren't scowling. They weren't smiling. They simply looked like they were concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

While not the same, I remembered that same look in the eyes of those most affected by Tropical Storm Allison here a few years ago.

However, when the young teenagers entered it was a different story. I'm not sure where they were from but I think they were more like stalled tourists rather than refugees. They shared that "casual-but-it-took-hours-to-accomplish-this" look. And they were all quite drunk already.

If you're reading carefully, I've used "teenagers" purposefully. There's no way they were all 21!!!

For the first few moments this clashing of cultures . . . families fleeing and teens partying was delightful. Everyone was trying to forget, to escape, to let the music do what music does . . . take you to places you need to be at the moment.

But after one young man adopted a woman twice his age (and I may be being extremely gracious to the very good looking but definitely not young woman) and the two preceded to do what comes naturally in a bedroom but seemed a bit awkward on the dance floor . . . and then the husband of said woman awakened from his stupor and decided to reclaim his bride . . . and then the young girls took to the floor in conga lines with beers held high . . . well, it felt like time to go.

On the drive home, I got a call from a friend from Washington state. We hadn't spoken in a few months and it was so good to catch up. This morning I checked on family in Tennessee. All these calls got me to thinking. "Stuff" gets lost all the time. In the next few days, the destruction of this natural disaster will be tallied and re-tallied and the financial toll will be beyond comprehension. But friends and family truly are the valuables. That sounds so trite but, God, it's true.

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