The man looks to be in his 50s, with a tan face and well-groomed mustache. But at this moment his mustache seems to be coming undone.
“You rode your bicycle across Mexico??” He fidgets uncomfortably.
“Yeah, I got to Playa del Carmen and then realized I was pregnant and needed to come home.”
“Well….” he seems to be searching for words. “Well you know what I would say about it if you hadn’t gone already… you know I wouldn’t advise doing that! Alone… on a bicycle…” He trails off.
I smile and squeeze his arm. “No harm came to me!” I head into the kitchen to find the others.
Dick’s kitchen is brimming with chattering, smiling, laughing people, arms laden with potluck goodies… pasta dishes, giant chocolate cakes, guacamole dip that is “actually made out of asparagus!”, chips, loaves of bread, soup and numerous bottles of wine.
They’ve all come to see The Love Sprockets perform tonight, and to visit with old friends, break bread and drink wine… and whiskey… and banana daiquiris…
A lovely lady with long blonde hair and a wreath of green leaves and purple flowers on her head rushes to greet me. “Jahnavi! You made it!” Golden exclaims over my pregnant belly, and Lloyd looks at me in shock.
“I didn’t know you were pregnant!” he says, with what looks to be something like reproach on his face.
I’m wearing a slinky, form-fitting dress so that all of my old Baton Rouge friends can get a really good look at my big belly. I only see them once or twice a year, so this is their chance to see me in full baby-bloom.
“Well,” he concedes. “You make being pregnant look good!”
I sit down next to Golden to catch up.
“I was reading your blog the whole time,” she’s saying, “And I was scared for you when you were getting so tired, and than you found out you were pregnant, and…. oh…. But it was so funny when you did the whole pregnancy test in Mexico and your friend was there…” She laughs like tinkling bells.
I see Phil, our first Baton Rouge host from three years ago. He and his wife, Goldie, had taken Addison, Nic and I in on New Years Eve, on a cold, blustery day during our cross-country bicycle trip. We had been instructed to draw up a menu for that evening’s dinner and describe the dishes enticingly. He had taken close up shots of everyone’s mugs that night, even Zoso’s. We all look windburned, bedraggled, and Zoso’s mustache was the color of a hundred snacks, meals and drinks of water that had dried into it. But Phil loved Zoso. He fed him special, handcrafted meals alongside his own two dogs, and lovingly referred to him as ‘Yo-so.’
When I step in to give Phil a hug, his eyes widen with surprise. “I didn’t even recognize you!”
I eat spoonfuls of his spicy bok choy, ginger soup, while he tells me about his idea for the nights events.
“I would really like to hear the development of your music,” he tells me. “A song picked for each stage of your career together.”
“Like, a chronological set list!” I say.
“Yeah, okay, something like that.”
After I’m done with my soup I find Addison unloading instruments from our car and tell him Phil’s idea.
“Cool,” he says, “That sounds like a good idea!”
And then he discovers the missing space that his set of 10 harmonicas, which he carries in a black case, should have been filling.
“Oh no….” he groans. “I think I left them in New Orleans!”
“Oh no….” I commiserate.
We had been on tour since Tuesday, and tonight it was Friday. Thursday we had driven to New Orleans and performed at a quaint, co-op of a cafe called The Neutral Ground. Perhaps because the venue is so covered in artifacts collected over the years, and only lit with soft, glowing lamps and christmas lights, it was hard to see that he had left his black case on the piano bench off in the corner.
“Well at least I have one harmonica,” he whips one out from his pocket. “And it’s in the right key to play Wade in the Water and Soul of a Man.”
That night we all go on a journey together, sitting cozily in Dick’s living room, people cuddled together on couches, smiling and clapping from rocking chairs, or peering from the perch of a wooden kitchen chair to see over the heads of the others.
We tell the story of our meeting, starting the band, bicycling across the United States, and finally arriving in Austin. Each song we play fits into the story, and has its own story behind it. When we get to the part of the night’s journey where we talk about me leaving Addison and biking across Mexico, people sigh, laugh and make commiserating noises. We each play a couple of solo songs to show what music we were playing while we were apart.
Even though we let people get up and take a break halfway through, I am still so impressed and touched by how some of them sit and listen the entire time, following the story and the songs, with no complaint of boredom.
This is music as I feel it must have been in ‘the old days’, before TV, wifi and YouTube. The traveling musician arrives at your doorstep and the village gathers to feed them and gather stories from them about the lands they’ve visited, and to hear the songs they’ve carried with them from other places that perhaps the villagers will never see themselves.
It’s not about the musician, not about how they look or idolizing them as some kind of sex symbol. It’s about the music and the story and the community that’s come together to listen and discuss love, life and death with one another.
Here are some more pictures from our Houston, Baton Rouge and New Orleans tour: