LATE Wednesday Night (take two)
Originally, I began this entry with a long and poetic metaphor about climbing in the foothills and staying so focused on avoiding the spines of cacti and putting one foot in front of the other on the red rocky trail and breathing that you lose the perspective of how high you've climbed, how far you've come, until you turn to see the city spread out beneath you, the Rio Grande twisting and flashing in the late sun, the secretive Mt Taylor holding the sunset -- and suddenly you realize that everything is magically, wonderfully, perfectly okay.
Believe me, it was much longer and lots prettier, but then my computer blipped out on me and all was lost.
So I shall simply cut to the story. The real story of tonight. But first, as Matt Pickett would say, let me back up.
Madison, Wisconsin. Spring of 1995
On the basis of a few songs on a mix tape by the Divine Heather James, I accompany her to a Dar Williams concert at the Pres House on campus. I know very little about Dar, and absolutely nothing about her opening act, a musician named Peter Mulvey. Peter Mulvey comes out on stage in a tee-shirt, ripped jeans, and beat-up converse all-stars (I love him already). He stands on the edge of that small stage and plays some driving acoustic folk/rock, singing about the LA riots and about falling out of love and about dreams. I am enchanted. Later, I go up to him, buy an album (Rapture), and shyly tell him I liked the show.
Peter Mulvey's album Rapture features two versions of a cover of The Waterboys' song "Whole of the Moon." The second version, my favorite, was recorded in the subways of Boston. Mid-way through the song, you can hear people in the background, and Peter stops singing for a second to thank someone (presumably for dropping cash into his open guitar case). At the end of the song, you hear the train pulling away from the platform.
Somerville, Massachusetts. Summer of 2000.
I am living in Somerville (aka Boston), and have a two-hour commute to work every day. This commute begins, every day, with a walk of just over a mile from my apartment to the Davis T (subway) station. Every day I walk to the T, go down several flights of stairs and escalators to the platform, and catch an inbound (red line) train to the Harvard Square T stop, where I get off the train, head above ground to Harvard Square, and catch a bus. I think of Peter Mulvey and his Boston-T-recorded song sometimes as I ride the train, wondering if he ever played in my station, the Davis stop. One morning -- a rainy, gross day -- after walking more than a mile through the driving rain, I get to the T station and happily hear that we have a musician today. Even though 70% of the "music" that happens in our T station follows the loosest definition of music, I'm happy. As I skip down the first staircase to the turnstiles, the music becomes more clear, and I can hear that it's actually quite lovely. On the escalator down to the platform, I finally place it, realize why it sounds so familiar -- holy shit, it's Peter Mulvey! I am so stunned and happy that I go up to him immediately and say, "Peter Mulvey!" He says yes? I say, "Hello -- I love you --" or something... he invites me to sit down next to him, and I do. He continues to strum on the guitar as we chat. I tell him that I saw him in Madison years ago, and that it's so great to see him here because I always think of him in these subways, playing "Whole of the Moon." We talk about Wisconsin (he's from Milwaukee) and Boston and opening for Dar. And then, tragedy of tragedies, my train arrives. I get up to leave, thank him, say goodbye. As I'm crossing the platform to step through the silver doors of the red line, Peter calls, "Hey Molly -- nice shoes!" I look down and realize -- we're both wearing converse all stars! I wave back to him as my train pulls away from the station.
Time goes by -- I leave Boston and go back to Grinnell -- and I tell the story of How I Met Peter Mulvey as one of the highlights of my summer in Boston. I even tell it on "Hot Dish (For Lunch!)," the radio show Sister Mary Hoeschen and I co-host on 88.9 KDIC FM senior year. After seeing him in the Davis T, I buy a copy of the album he'd been selling that day, The Trouble With Poets.
Later, my mother hears an interview with Peter Mulvey on NPR, an interview in which he's talking about his new album which was recorded entirely in the Davis T Stop. My mother promptly buys it on amazon.com and has it sent to my house in Iowa. I listen to it and happily remember my summer in Boston.
Albuquerque, New Mexico. Earlier this week.
Monday morning, and I am driving home from work at 11 am because I have a terrible, debilitating migraine. Listening to Radio Free Santa Fe, I hear a song that I like, just as I am turning off Tramway onto San Rafael. I think to myself that I should remember who the singer is because maybe I should pick up an album of his. The DJ comes on and says, "that was Peter Mulvey from his new album..." -- and I think, ooh! a new album? I must get a copy! -- "...and Peter will be playing in Albuquerque on Wednesday night...." I catch my breath. What? WHAT?
By the time I get home, my migraine has me so confused and fucked up that I can't function. However, once I recover, I track down the place where Peter's playing and reserve a seat. The man calls me back to give me directions. The concert is part of a series called the "House Concerts" -- and suddenly I realize that it's actually in a house.
Albuquerque, in someone's HOUSE. Tonight.
Not knowing what to expect, I head down to the Old Town area shortly after work. The house is in a fancy gated community called "The Gardens." I have to buzz in to have the gate opened. I find the house without trouble and make my way up to the front door. Yep, it's just someone's house. A man greets me at the door and says, "Make yourself at home! There's a TON of food in the kitchen, and the fridge is stocked!" The house is nice, elegantly decorated -- and filled with about 40 folding chairs. I arrive about 20 minutes before the concert is to begin, and only 6 or 7 other people are there. I get myself a drink -- a diet pepsi, though the fridge is full of beer and wine coolers and juices -- and look around.
I spot him right away. He is talking to a tall man with silver hair who is animatedly talking about... well, something. I catch bits and pieces of the conversation -- something about corporate whores, I think, and Clear Channel. Ah. I try to summon the courage to go up to Peter Mulvey and tell him that I've met him twice before, once in Madison and once in Boston, but the tall man will not let him go. The tall man is swinging his wine cooler bottle around for emphasis. Peter sips at a diet pepsi. He catches my eye over the man's shoulder and smiles at me. Twice.
Eventually, I give up on the idea that I'll talk to him, and go take a seat. The room -- the house -- is filling up. I sit in the front row and pull out my journal, which is fairly new, and small enough to fit in my purse (I love that!). I write until the first set begins.
Peter sits on a high chair that looks like it's been pulled from the breakfast bar. He's just a few feet in front of me. Tonight it's just him and his guitar, playing to an audience of maybe 50 people in someone's living room. The first set goes well, and he plays songs from all three of the albums I have, as well as new songs and covers. I am purely, simply happy, and bask in the all's-well feeling I always get in the presence of great live music.
At the set break, Peter puts his guitar down, stands, and walks up to me. "Hi, we've met before, right? You look so familiar...." I stand, placing my journal on my chair, and say, "Yes, actually we have." [I am REELING. I am STUNNED. It is all I can do to act even remotely like a human being.] Peter says, "Not here, right?" I nod. "In Boston?" I say, "Yep. Well, actually we met at the Pres House in Madison, like a hundred years ago, and then we met again on the T in Boston a few years ago." Peter says, "I KNEW it!" Then he squints and says, "At the Pres House in Madison? Was that when I opened for Dar?" "Yeah." "Oh my gosh," he says, "that was... nine years ago!" I nod again. "Nine, a hundred... same difference." He smiles. "So how did you get from Boston to Albuquerque?" I tell him that I made a fairly arbitrary decision -- right about the time I first met him -- to move here when I grew up. He seems impressed, and we talk a little bit about Wisconsin, about Madison and Milwaukee. He tells me he has friends in Madison who are expecting their first baby. We talk about how I've now seen him in three of the four states I've lived in -- all but Iowa. "I play Iowa sometimes!" he says. I say, "Well I'll have to make sure I get to an Iowa concert!" Then he notices my journal. "Oh, I LOVE that kind! I have the same one! It opens flat, right?" "Yeah, that's why I chose it," I say. "They're great -- but so expensive! What's the point of spending that much on a journal when you just burn through it, right?" This is exactly what I thought when I bought this one. I smile.
Then a woman comes up with a CD for Peter to sign. He winks at me and turns to her to play the famous guy. She introduces herself and says, "I'm from Madison!" Peter says, "So is Molly! What's your name again?" "Karen," the woman says. Peter introduces us: "Karen, meet Molly. She's from Madison, too. Molly, Karen." Karen and I chat about Madison as Peter gets dragged away by some old ladies with sharpies who want him to sign their CDs. Karen HATES Albuquerque, and can't wait to go back to Madison. She moved here for a boy, and a job. Now she's "stuck" in graduate school. I say that I miss Madison, but that I'd miss the mountains if I left. Karen says condescendingly, "Well, New Mexico's a nice place. You have fun here." A few minutes later, the tall guy comes up to me and asks me if I'm a writer. He tells me that he's a producer for NPR, and asks me if I've ever heard this show where they ask random people on the street what the top headlines of their lives are. I say that I have, and then I have to tell him what I liked about it. He seems earnest, but just desperate for validation. I'm polite, but relieved when the lights blink for the second set.
The second set is even better than the first, with several Ireland-inspired songs. At the end of the set, the audience spontaneously gives Peter a standing ovation to make him come back and play an encore. He jokes, "Mom, I got a standing o at the concert tonight! Yeah, it was in someone's house.... so what's your point?"
Afterward, I head straight for the door -- it's getting late and I have to work tomorrow. Peter catches me as I'm leaving and says, "Hey, it was great to see you again! Thanks for coming!" And then he hugs me. [A voice in my head is jumping up and down yelling, "PETER MULVEY JUST HUGGED YOU!!!!!!!] I smile and say, "Yeah, it was great! Thanks!" He says, "Well, hopefully it won't be so many years before we meet again, huh?" I laugh and agree. A man passes us and says goodbye, and then Peter turns back to me. Recalling the vow I made to myself earlier in the evening -- I promised myself that if I got to talk to him, I'd keep in mind the fact that he's just a guy, just a person that could easily be a friend of mine, and talk to him no differently than I talk to my friends -- I say, "Hey, during the second set I was thinking about the first time I saw you play, nine years ago -- you were wearing ratty jeans and converse all-stars, and you seemed nervous. You've come so far since then, you're really doing wonderfully. Congratulations." "Thanks," he says, and then jokes, "yeah, I'm grown-up now -- my voice finally changed!" We laugh, and say goodbye again.
I practically fly out the door, wanting to scream. PETER MULVEY REMEMBERED ME! PETER MULVEY HUGGED ME! AAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!
So that's the story for tonight. Keep an eye on the mailbox for invitations to our wedding later this summer.
The ABQ Famous Person List:
1. Bob Graham asked me if a lobo was a type of wolf. Later, he asked me to order him a milkshake.
2. His wife used to teach English in Newton, just like me! And she told me I was a good driver.
3. John Kerry gave me the thumbs up.
4. I met a bunch of other dem candidates -- as well as Governor Richardson -- at the after-debate party.
5. Natalie Goldberg led me through writing exercises in workshop. (!!!)
6. Lou Diamond Phillips likes my jacket.
7. PETER MULVEY HUGGED ME!