I sometimes go to my local Potbelly’s sandwich shop for lunch by myself. I usually have the tuna on wheat, a cup of cream of potato soup and water because I don’t like soda. I always bring a journal and my favorite pen – a fine tip gel pen, because it glides smoothly on the heavy-stock journal paper I like to write on. I usually park myself by the table between the front door and the soda dispenser, so that I get a good view of people coming in and those that get fountain drinks. Sometimes I write about the people I see. Sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life.
I have a unconscious habit of going on Thursdays. I know this is unconscious because I don’t wake up and say, “Oh, it’s Thursday, I should go to Potbelly’s”. It’s more like on Thursdays, I feel like having lunch at Potbelly’s and when I go, I’m not really aware that its Thursday until I walk in and see the man in the little “stage” area, playing blues-rock on the acoustic guitar. And then I think, “oh, yeah, it must be Thursday”.
He’s an older Caucasian gentleman, late 50s/early 60s, graying hair and goatee, usually dressed casually but decently. I typically arrive by noon, so he’s all set up and I walk into the sounds of blues-rock music, like “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” or “You Look Wonderful Tonight” or something like that. It’s actually quite a treat. I like listening to him play. I love acoustic guitar, and while I never really thought about it, I guess I am a fan of blues-rock too, because a lot of it is quite soothing. It kind of just cradles the soul, if you know what I mean.
The man sings well, plays well. He even whistles well – strong, clear, no mistakes. I know this because Sitting on the Dock of the Bay has that long whistled verse. I can’t whistle well, so I’m always impressed by those who can whistle a tune vibrantly.
The first couple of times I thought he was handsome. This time, notsomuch.
Because this time I came early, at 11:30 instead of noon, I saw him before he performed. He ordered lunch first, so I just watched him a little while I ate my lunch. Usually he has neatly trimmed facial hair, but today it looked like he didn’t bother for a while. He looked tired, worn out, and underemployed (he must be if he’s getting gigs at a sandwich shop).
I noticed his clothes. His jeans had a quarter sized hole in the backside, just under the back pocket. Yeah, you could see skin. It was peculiar. Not because he had a hole in his jeans, but because when he faced away from me, I kept staring at it even though I didn’t want to. I was thinking…you need a new pair of pants when you play out in public; you might scare people…or be blogged about by that quiet woman in the corner watching you and scribbling things in her journal. Thank God he went to sit down and I could stop staring at his butt.
He spoke a lot to the too-young waitress. The girl looked like she was barely legal. She showed him something on her iPhone. She kept paying him a LOT of attention. She never came over to me or any other patron to chat. She was a groupie, I guess.
But getting back to Mr. Holey Jeans blues-rock player. His voice was gravely and I detected what seemed to be a slight slur to his words. That’s either his natural bluesy non-singing voice, or he had imbibed some alcoholic beverages before he came over.
I felt pity for the man. He seemed so, I don’t know, broke and broke down.
I guess that’s why he sings the blues.
I continued to eat my lunch and observed people, like the overweight red-headed woman with closely cropped hair, and at the buff young bucks, and the just barely-out-of-adolescence girls with too much blue eye paint, and listened to the smart-ass behind the counter hollering orders in such an ostentatious way that it was obvious he was trying way too hard to be witty.
I wrote in my journal about all of them.
This time I was on the side of the front door, right by the tiny stage, and I was writing so intently in my journal that I was shocked out of my thoughts by Mr. Holey Jeans blues-rock player himself. I looked up and there he was…asking me to borrow one of the extra chairs at my table. Why he didn’t take one of the chairs at the table near the stage, I don’t know. I consented softly, and thought a moment about asking him for a name…so I could write about him. But I was a little embarrassed since I felt like I was caught writing about him. My voice sounded a little weak. I briefly considered telling him about the hole in his pants…but thought that would make him self-conscious. Probably not a good thing to tell someone just before they are going to perform. Even if it is just for a sandwich shop.
After he took the chair, I watched him finish setting up. I noticed that his card on the ledge of the stage just said “Hutch”. I thought it should be “Dutch”. Dutch sounds more cool, even if it’s more like 70’s-era biker-gang cool. Hutch sounds like a piece of furniture.
Needless to say, by then I was nearly done with my lunch. I was growing bored with writing, bored with waiting for him to play. I wanted to go to the bookstore and so I didn’t stay long to hear him play. I stayed until the end of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. I had an extra $20 I was going to spend at the bookstore. I decided to not spend that money on myself and I dropped it in his little basket. I didn’t look at him while I did so. He interrupted his song to say thank you and then continued playing.
I silently hoped he’d use the money to go buy a new pair of pants.
Copyright 2010 Casey, The Sprightly Writer.