I'm between cars right now and had to catch a ride home with one of our delivery drivers the other day. Donald is from California. There must be a worm hole in California somewhere that sucks people in and dumps them out, bewildered and resentful, here in Arkansas. Everyone who is from somewhere else is originally from California, with the exception of me. Donald is in his 60's and has a band. He's been putting flyers up in the windows at work for their shows at various VFW halls and family functions, he brings in burned CD's and is always sure to let us all know when his shows are. To my knowledge nobody at work has heard the band. I felt pretty certain that on my way home I would be the first.
After a fair amount of small talk about why education in America is failing our children and how frustrating it is when those children grow up and get jobs working for people who buy auto parts from us, he started rummaging around for a CD. What I heard next was not half-bad. The band, and I've failed the reporter in my father because I didn't think to ask the name of it, is Donald singing and playing this bluesy guitar, someone on bass, and someone on drums - all older men. The song that he played was a cover of Dusty Springfield's "Spooky." I like that song anyway, but the way they did it was really good. Donald kept talking though, first about the quality of the recording, explaining that, of course, the drums are way too loud and if they had just listened to him when they were making it it would sound much better, then he started telling me who was playing what, then he got really into it and was dancing and saying things like "this shit is HOT!" and telling me about all the women who rush the stage at the VFW halls. Which led into his days as a guitar player in California. People used to say that he was "the blackest white guy they ever saw." I didn't get what "they" could possibly mean by that because I was looking at a 60-year-old man dancing in an old pickup truck wearing denim shorts with white socks up to his bony knees. He pretty much looks like the whitest white guy you ever saw. Apparently he used to play guitar in a lot of blues clubs in LA, and he was good at it. Based on what I heard he still is, really. As I was getting out of the car he was telling me that this one time Janet Jackson saw him play before she made it really big and wanted him to be a part of her band. He turned it down because he was married, "and that marriage didn't even work out anyway." He didn't seem too broken up about it, but the fact that he mentioned it makes me think of him driving back and forth to Little Rock everyday picking up and dropping of auto parts, wondering what his life would have been if he he had just gone ahead and left his wife and went on the road with Janet Jackson.
I remember one time when I was little Mom was talking about some movie scout wanting to use our barn to film a scene for "Huck Finn," the one with Elijah Wood. I thought at the time that they would probably use our barn and that Elijah Wood would probably fall in love with me and I could be famous with him. They didn't end up using our barn, but for a long time I thought about how different my life might have been if they had. I guess we all have little off-hand chances at totally different lives. I could be Mrs. Wood somewhere right now, hanging out with the other Hobbits and running around New Zealand. Donald could be mourning the death of Michael and helping to care for Prince, Paris, and Blanket. NAPA is lucky to have us.