Life, One Sip at a Time
©2021 R.G. Ryan
Classic cars of all shapes, colors and vintage lined the street along with hundreds of appreciative strollers drinking in the lines and shapes of automotive history.
The Beach Boys cover band across the way pounded out the hits as onions, sweet relish and chilidogs saturated the air with the scent of nostalgia.
We were in a city, known for its small-town flavor, that was hosting the first of a summer series of classic car shows.
We spied a coffee shop, and since coffee is always a great idea decided to just sit for a bit.
To the left of the entrance, a sixty-something man wearing a Hawaii shirt and beige Ivy Hat, was tuning his guitar on a low stage in front of a small sound system.
It was a very nice guitar—custom by the looks of it.
With most of the action out on the street, the customers inside were few and far between, my wife and I comprising more than half.
He didn’t seem to mind though, launching enthusiastically into a very good version of Elvis’s, “In The Ghetto,” “The Impossible Dream,” and other songs from the sixties.
I have to hand it to him, in spite of his age, the guy could sing. And his guitar skills were remarkable!
Between songs he kept up an easy banter with the, um, crowd, i.e. the four of us (the other two people were with him) and explained that he was going to do a few songs he had written. Before each, he gave a brief context from which he had derived the inspiration for writing the song, all quite interesting.
And the songs were good.
That is, until his final song.
Even now as I write this I’m not sure if he was serious or massively pulling our collective legs, but he—with a totally serious face—talked about his love of…wait for it…coyotes. He loved them so much, in fact, that he had composed a special song in their, well, honor.
Strumming his guitar lightly, in a rhythm reminiscent of classic songs from the old west (think “Cool Water” by Sons of the Pioneers. If you don’t know who they are, forget it!) he invited us to “sing along” when he got to a certain point.
Shooting him a puzzled look, he explained that we’d have no trouble, “Knowing when that was.”
So, he starts singing.
It wasn’t a bad melody, and the rhythmic chord progression was pleasing to the ear.
It was when he got to the chorus that things got a little weird. The words went something like, “So sing with me, coyote brothers; sumpn’ sumpn’ sumpn’ and the world will see a forest symphony.”
You’ll probably think I’m stretching literary license to the absolute limits, but I swear I’m not making this next part up: At that point in the song, he began to howl; his two friends howled, one of whom had joined him on stage; the baristas howled; my WIFE howled!
Me? I stared, mouth agape with, “Seriously?” forming on my lips.
A new batch of customers walked in, thus doubling the attendance.
The chorus came around again.
They howled as well.
I felt as if I were losing my mind.
My wife kept poking me in the ribs and giving me the look that said, “You’re just an old party pooper.”
Now that I think about it, I’ve never known what that means, exactly. How does one go about “pooping” a party? I mean is it, God forbid, to be taken literally?
With a jaunty, “One more time,” he launched into the chorus again.
“So, sing with me, coyote brothers…”
This time around the patrons and employees hoisted their lattes and bellowed as if it were an Irish drinking song, only without the fighting—unless, of course, me “fighting” to keep a straight face counts!
The howling was nothing short of…inspirational.
And, yet, I remained silent and the guy still hadn’t cracked a smile, which led me to conclude that it was not, in fact a gag, but something near and dear to his heart.
“And the world will see a forest symphony…”
And I thought Ocean Beach was quirky!