Monday, February 23, 2004

On One Side, Paddington the Bear, on the Other, a Bare Padded Cell

"Don't touch my bear," lil Bobbi Jo said. "Your bare what?" the boy replied knowing as always he was being a smart aleck, a wise guy.

A soft furry taupe colored bear lay on Bobbi Jo's pillow. The boy had mindlessly picked it up while thinking about much greater issues than a stuffed teddy bear that was obviously immaculately well taken care of, and the boy was later to learn had been the prized possession of a very young Bobbi Jo. Yet the bear he now touched had the scent of the current woman, a fresh, clean and scrubbed sea breezy smell that lingered in the boy's nostrils long after she had left the room.

Bobbi Jo was upset and the boy didn't think it was only because he had touched her bear. If that was all there was to it, the still painful 17-year-old memory would be a little too much to bear (bare).

Bobbi Jo had left in a huff. The boy was more of a wanderer. And now 17 years after he had touched her bear and she touched him bare, years after he recounted the story in countless therapy sessions more out of his own amusement than trying to figure out its continued hold on him, he still wasn't sure he learned his lesson.

He was always tired. He found his mind drifting at the same time as it remained obsessed with the minute details of his life and he wasn't sure how exactly that was possible. He flicked on the newscast and heard that down in the southwestern part of the state a woman had stopped her car to assist a man stranded on the side of the road. She got out of her car and he grabbed her and she had somehow managed to break loose and escape.

That night the boy had a restless dream where he was driving his car down an icy road and he saw a man with a broken down vehicle trying to signal him to stop. So he did, but just for a minute. The boy got out of his car and the man put a vise like grip round his throat. The boy jerked himself awake only to find his dog sized always playful black cat pawing at his neck. Another sleepless night.

The boy was in a place where he had to keep forcing himself to look forward, forward to future events, forward to things that were bound to happen rather than things long since lost and unexplained. So when it became public knowledge that his favorite artist/musician/singer/writer/inscrutable scruffy curmudgeon was coming to town again and this time at a friendly sized venue, the boy immediately went online and bought tickets through the artist's website a day before they went on sale to the general public. He purchased two tickets figuring he could find someone who would want to see the must see show.

But the boy figured wrong.

Facing the scenario of eating a $45 ticket and going by himself, the boy tried to convince himself that there could be worse problems in this crumbling world to face. Besides he probably would enjoy the show more if he went by himself than worrying about whether the person with him was at all enjoying what is always a spur-of-the-moment offering.

The boy had recently got a hold of a copy of a CD of this idiosyncratic artist's show last fall in Germany. This particular show featured a performance of the boy's favorite song from the artist, "Boots of Spanish Leather." The song was an early song written by a young lad who had only recently really had his heart broken. It's a song about a singer watching his girlfriend leave for a trip to Spain, not knowing if he'll ever see her again, and if he does knowing that their relationship has some irreconcilable differences. So in one of the few times in his career the artist lays it all on the line and touches something less than cleverly bare. And in a new arrangement of the song he nails it with precision and care.

The new arrangement takes an acoustic song and adds a lilting full band treatment that casts it in a new light at the same time as it reminds how it is our memory of how things once were, whether they be comforting or confusing that can be the place where one never quite leaves, not because of lack of effort but because it is too much to bear.

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