The Spellbinding Fish Fry has a moment

Dating seems harmless enough, but you never really know what to expect when any two people come together; sometimes magic results, other times, an explosion, often, a fizzle. It’s a little like a chemistry experiment. It’s intentional chaos.

“What’s the music?” the Geeky Guy asked.

“Thpellbinding Fith Fry,” she said. He had to peak at the CD cover to understand.

Spellbinding Fish Fry was a jam band she followed. She was a Deep Fry, as they called themselves, and had gone to hear them one-hundred-and-twenty-nine times, following them around the country for almost four years, sleeping where she could, working when she had to. They were, in fact, going to hear them now in Massachusetts, the one-hundredth-and-thirtieth concert for her.

“Every thow ith different,” she said. “You don’t know when the betht one ith going to be; tho you have to go to them all.”

Spellbinding Fish Fry, he learned, had been together more than a dozen years, had none of the original band members, and had gone through four drummers, six rhythm guitarists, seven fiddlers, two organists, and three bass players. Some had come and gone and come and gone again. The Lisping Barista knew the whole history. It was all by design, part of the master plan, she told him. The only constant was the audience. They changed band members as people changed their underwear, to keep them fresh. Every new musician brought in new ideas, introduced new genres; every old member got progressively more stale, no matter who they were.

“I like that they keep it thtird up,” she said, and she explained she liked her personal life that way, as well. Keeping things stirred up, never staying in one place or with one person for long enough to get stale, no matter who they were.

They stopped talking and listened to the band playing its overlapping themes. For a while, nothing new happened. The musicians stayed on a pulse. Then things started bubbling up. The fiddler had a thought and made a decision. Extemporizing, she tried to pull the band in a particular direction. It was the moment, the moment everyone knows; when you get out of the way and make room for an uninvited guest.

The music was all about living in the moment, without memory or desire, intention or regret. The Lisping Barista was all about the moment, too. The Geeky Guy was along for the ride, his seatbelt strapped tight, hopefully behind some functional passenger side airbags.

A date is really a two person jam session, and a relationship, a jam band. In a date, two people come together and, though they may not be musicians, they play. Out of a basic rhythm of greeting and parting, question and answer, statement and response, hug and kiss, fondle and stroke, a new tune emerges. They may play old standards, or they may improvise. They may fuse genres, or clash inharmoniously. To varying degrees, or not, they make room for one another, share the stage, surrender the lead.

Perhaps because he had a thing for the fiddle player, the rhythm guitarist was the first to pick up on her new idea. The organ followed, and soon the whole band had fallen in line, although it was not like a line of soldiers, marching a fascist goosestep, eyes right, saluting their leader. It was like a procession of cows, all facing the same direction, but swatting their tails, grazing, cud-chewing, and mooing at different intervals.

The promise of the musical moment had been fulfilled, documented on a CD, and played over and over again to hear, but still the Geeky Guy did not believe in it.

The Lisping Barista’s trust in the moment seemed reckless. The forgetfulness of the road, the hypnotic music, the friendship of strangers appeared rash. Her belief that every new band member would add something good, that every new riff would not be discordant, that she could travel around the country, sleep in parking lots and bathe in rest stop bathrooms, paying no attention to a career, a long term relationship, a biological clock, all was too good to be true. Her faith looked imprudent. The Geeky Guy thought the Lisping Barista lived life a lot like she drove: a little too trusting that others would watch out for her when she was not watching out for herself.

And then he started to get nervous.


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S. Harry Zade

Writing a blog keeps me alive.

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