A lot of times, when I write, topics just fall into my lap like a spaghetti dinner on a white sport coat and a pink carnation (Forgive me, Mr. Robbins). Other times, it can be like typing the closed captions of a televised Bob Dylan speech — slow, unpleasant, and I usually wind up confused and frustrated. At times, when the latter is the case, I like to go somewhere public. I usually prefer to go the mall. There’s a simple reason for this. I tend to write about things that I find absurd or laughable. Simply put, people provide the best material and the mall provides a lot of people. Napoleon I once said: “There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.” At the mall, I can find both of those elements.
It was a great day to go to the mall. It was an almost unseasonably warm early April day here in Rochester, New York. It was nearly 90 degrees and the sun was beautiful and bright. I was wearing this really cool t-shirt. My wife got me the shirt. It has guitars on it that are painted all different colors. It looks like the paint is dripping off the guitars. It’s a really cool shirt. It was a great day to drive anywhere. I was elated by the fact I actually has to turn on the air conditioner in the van. That’s right, folks; 255 air conditioning wasn’t going to cut it. [For the unlearned, that is 2 windows down while driving (at least) 55 miles per hour. I’d appreciate it if my Canadian friends can provide the metric counterpart]. I saw an open parking spot and eagerly headed toward it. Unfortunately, a compact car coming from the opposite direction beat me to it. I let out a barely audible sigh. I figured I’d find another spot soon enough. It turned out that the driver of the compact car had an open spot directly in ahead of the original spot (leaving said spot open for moi).
I stepped out of my van and could not help but be overcome (once again) by how beautiful the day was. Apparently, the driver of the compact car had the same feeling. He approached me and said: “Is this a beautiful day in Rochester or WHAT?” He was a bald African American man about my age and height. He was quite muscular. This fact allowed him to offer a very hearty and firm handshake. He then complimented me on my t-shirt (I TOLD you. It’s a COOL looking shirt). He then explained that he was a drummer and also enjoyed playing acoustic guitar. This proved something I have observed many times. There are three things that can cause an instant bond between two men that have never met: gadgets, outdoor grills, and a love of music.
We engaged in a great conversation about music. We talked about different artists in a variety of genres: jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop, reggae, country. We talked about the unplugged craze of the early 1990’s (one of the best things to happen to the music industry). We talked about some of the great musical acts of the 60’s and 70’s. We went on and on about the great riffs of Cream, Blood Sweat and Tears, and James Brown (and that beautiful ninth chord he used over and over again). We actually sang lines to each other from acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Grand Funk Railroad. People passing probably thought we were freaks (so you KNOW we were having a good time).
We then decided to walk into the mall as we continued our impromptu chat. He asked me if I still played. I explained that tendonitis had, unfortunately, rendered me very out of practice. I then explained that I primarily spent my free time writing for my blog. We could have gone on for quite a while longer. Instead, we mutually agreed to get on with our day. He extended his hand again and shook my hand firmly. “I’m Warren Elliot. It was really great talking to you, man.” “I’m Shane McAfee. The pleasure was mine.”
I retreated to the food court to try and focus on a writing topic. I then stared at the people riding along on the carousel. My mind went back to my conversation with Warren. I couldn’t get a Hollies tune out of my head. I STILL can’t get it out of my head.