I don’t eat much meat. I do enjoy food of all kinds, but plants form the basis of my entire diet, with very rare exceptions. But, I have tasted the best smoked pork butt on earth, and I know a little place on Horse Mountain where the BBQ ribs are the defining standard, and I have eaten a great deal of the best beef jerky ever, and I have made the second best myself, tied with my dad’s efforts. I have smoked turkey, chicken, pork loin, beef brisket, whole hams, salmon, even cheese, and it was all fairly fine.
So, John and I had a good conversation as I pulled up to his mail box one morning. There in his driveway was a nice-looking meat smoker, and I commented, and then we commenced to “conversate”, and we talked wood chips, cuts of meat, temperature, duration, and then we agreed that sauces are simply not needed if the meat is done just right. And we agreed on everything I mentioned as I said what cut of pork I preferred and how long and what kind of wood to use and so on. I put it all out there first, so he would know that I knew, and he’d relax and tell me what he thought. Eventually we could talk about anything, maybe the next time I happened by. Just before I left, he said can you wait just a second and I said you bet, and he came back out with two rolled up paper towels smelling of a well-pleasing sacrifice. I unwrapped one and chewed on the sublime contents, gave him a verbal thumbs up, and saved the other bundle until I’d be on Ray’s farm.
Five minutes later, I drove down that gravel road that leads to Ray’s old farm tractor with the mail box attached to it, all sitting in the center of what used to be 75 acres of the finest vegetables around. I always drive down that road and stop by the chestnut trees, halfway to his tractor. There, I turned off the engine, smelled the freshness of the air. I could hear the rustle of the wild grass in the winter wind and I looked to the west, past the three trees to that one tiny “Christmas” tree, where I saw it happen. I saw Christmas arrive, right there as the sun was setting one evening last December. I unwrapped John’s best effort, smelled the smoke, and prayed the heck out of everything I know and things I want to know. And there was music surrounding all of it.
Another time, I was taking a couple of packages up to a porch, and then went back to get the mail to put it into the box on the street. I heard a voice, and when I looked up, it was an older woman, significantly older than I am, but fit enough, and she said in a slow, mellow 60’s drawl, “Hey man . . . thanks for the boxes on the porch.” I grabbed her mail and took it to her on the porch, and she said, “That’s cool man, that you brought the mail up. Hey, do you like banana bread?” I am thinking that she has been smoking weed, seriously, or maybe was getting into the drink a little early, because she was so relaxed in her tone and manner, and when I said she was mellow, that does not even come close.
Yeah, I like banana bread, I said. Hey man, then come on in and I’ll get you some. Okay I said, and I am thinking that it is okay, but barely. She walked with a steady, languorous step into her house and I followed. I could hear music from my truck, and as I got closer to her doorway, I heard music inside. I stepped through behind her, and cool jazz was playing from a very fine stereo system on the right, nestled among books. On my left was a set of mismatched drums and some cymbals. I told her that from what I could see, I liked the way she lived, and she actually said, “Yeah, dig it, I like it too. Come on into the kitchen. “Who’s the drummer?” I asked. Oh, that’s me, man. I just put some things together over there to make a set so I can play along with my records. It went on from there, and I could tell that she was just one well-balance individual who did not need any mind-altering at all and had not had any, and we talked about music and the requirement of real butter at room temperature to accompany that bread, again wrapped in a paper towel of offering. My time was up, I had to tell her, so I took the gift with me, saying thanks, and on the way out I picked up the brushes by her drum set and did a little riff with the hi-hat and snare drum and she said dude that was just a teaser, and I said, there’s more where that came from. You gotta come back sometime man. And I thought that I would; and I knew that the next time we could talk about anything. And it would be groovy. I took the bread and butter, got into my truck and wept along with the music that still filled my truck.
I could write dozens of stories like that, of encounters here and there. They all have one common element: everywhere I go in that truck, and everything I do, and everyone I see, and every thought I have, and every prayer I pray–they are all accompanied by the most glorious soundtrack, so perfefctly timed and presented that it has become divine in origin to me. It has been the source of so much good that I cannot begin to write of it.
And “it is all made possible by the generous contributions of the supporters of classical music, like you”, they say all the time here on Portland’s All Classical, 89.9. “You make moments of beauty possible,” they said today.
It is the long-time supporters whose names I heard last Saturday, and those who give in memory and honor of others, like I heard today. And even during a pledge drive, it is still accompanied by the wonder of music: a true comfort and a glorious bringer of joy and giver of hope and revealer of beauty and provider of clarity and dispeller of doubt and I could say more . . . and I will . . .
Here is one in return (by Lalo, last heard on 89.9):
Title photograph © 2018 Timothy Waugh