I picked up my guitar from the backseat of my little white car and slammed the door. I wondered, possibly as other pseudo musicians do, if I looked cool. I was wearing a mustard sweater that screamed look here, green pants that stuck tightly to my already skinny legs, a black tank top to hide the extra love cushions around the waist, and brown boots that went up my calves. I tried to swagger my way across the street, but tripped as I hopped onto the sidewalk. It’s cool, I said to myself, I meant to do that. The problem was that I was wearing my guitar in public, and every time I do that I feel fake. My guitar and I have a strange relationship. We love each other. We play together, but most of the time we neglect the music. It sleeps upon the living room wall dreaming about fame, while I hunch over my laptop editing for a client who–fill in the blank.
Anyways, as I straightened my swagger back up and continue to walk down the sidewalk I stumble upon two fedora hats sharing a phone. Fedora one says, “It’s Suzie, Suze! Suze, hi hi! We’re just playing at the pub tonight. How’s New York?!” Another fedora hat comes by, “Who’s on the phone?” Fedora number two says, “It’s Suze!” And they all smile at one another. I wondered if they shared a wife. I continue my path onto the poorly lit street corner just in time to inhale some second hand smoke. I stop to breathe it in. I continue to walk. Running through my mind are memories of my childhood and guitar chords I had to remember in about three acts. C, G, C…meh, whatever. It’s Open Mic night at the pub and anything goes. Even fuck-ups, like me.
I pushed through the front wooden doors and people looked my way. For a moment, I could hear a whistling melody from a western film playing in my ear. I squint my eyes trying to find my friends, and the crowd squints back. I had inadvertently announced my entrance. These were not cowboys present. No, no, these were people who wondered who the brown girl was, and why she was wearing a guitar. A dart flew by and landed on the outskirts of the target, I was no threat, and people resumed their lives. It was probably all just my narcissistic imagination, but there’s no way of knowing sometimes. I believe in aliens for crying out loud. Anything is possible.
Sitting at the bar, three girls with flowery dresses hovered over their beers, one wore a straw hat. A slender woman smacked her thoughts together, her yellow teeth shinning between her black lipstick. She grabbed a young mans arm and said something like, “You know what I mean?” And I could tell that he didn’t. An older gentleman in the back wearing bifocal glasses looked around as if searching for new talent. There was plenty of it to go around, you could hear it in the room. An original R&B song on stage strummed on the guitar and those who were before him could not help but get lost in the moon. A man leaning on a pillar, about my height with dirty blonde hair, pulled his suspenders and looked at me strangely. I suppose I had forgotten to adorn my head with a fedora or a straw hat. My bad.
Yes, it was a typical night for hipsters and dreamers alike. The Irish pub lived in the border of Berkeley and Oakland, the in between land where both academics and urban farm nudists shared the joys of low cost homes, dorm rooms, co-ops, and shared gardens. African-American, Latinos, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asians, and of course the mixed babies. We were all there, breathing the same air, and thinking the same thing—I wish I was as good as the R&B singer on stage. I found my friends sitting on the floor and decided to join them. We waited, we played our song, and it was over in a matter of minutes.
I thought maybe I’d stay back and have a beer, but then I had to babysit one of my roomies who was dealing with a man who would not leave her side. He leaned over and focused on her nose. He liked her nose, and we know this because he told her. “You have a beautiful nose,” he said to her. The girl who sang before us looked at me as I tried to distract the nose obsessed man, who was trying to attract my roommate. The girl and I locked eyes, and then she flipped her hair. I was obviously not at the top of her musical hierarchy chart. I liked her voice, but she was singing for herself when she was on stage and the room was noisy as she performed. As for us weirdos, well, we had people whistling and clapping along to an old tune we thought everyone could enjoy. Something we didn’t write, but had all felt at some point in our lives. Country blues with June and Johnny on the mind–some fire lyrics that burned the old flames we thought about as we performed and slowly let it pour out with our fingers and voices. Sling twang! In another world we probably produced honey flavored barbecue sauce. Yes sir, for some who’ve sung Open Mics and Kareoke’s before, we know that those who come onto the stage have a big responsibility. People don’t want to hear your sorrow, people want to forget theirs. When you’re in a crowd that big, with strangers of all sorts roaming around—the best thing to do is sing for everybody. Because when it comes to Open Mics, suspenders, fedora hats, mixed babies and skeptics—the best thing to remember is that, in the end, we are all connected. And that my dears, is a beautiful thing.