Yesterday was our thirteenth wedding anniversary and to celebrate Eric and I left the house – together.
Last year at this time, we were under quarantine and a friend brought groceries and placed them carefully at the end of our driveway.
This year, to mark the day we got married those now starting-to-seem-like-many years ago, Eric and I made a plan to drive to Albany. Not exactly a romantic location, but we thought it would be a good idea to buy some actual life vests to wear on our little boat, and not those kiddie orange ones you can get anywhere. There’s a mega-marine store north of Albany.
“This’ll be fun!” I said. “A real outing together.” I think like most couples stuck at home for over a year, we use errands and grocery shopping expeditions as rare moments of individual exploration. I admit I visit our local Walmart on extra-grim days just to walk around and see people I haven’t sat next to watching Escape To The Country every day for the last going on fourteen months.
Funny, we actually live in the country already. Our country looks nothing like the British TV version.
Eric called the marine store, and I made a reservation with our friend Howard who has a burger joint/bar in Troy, New York we’ve been wanting to try. It was a blustery day but they’ve just opened for indoor dining.
Turned out the marine store only had XXL vests in a stars and stripes pattern and though we’re working our way in that direction, not quite there yet, so we changed our plan and decided burgers and then a visit to the music store north of Albany. Parkway Music is conveniently located in Clifton Park, just around the corner from where the Nxivm cult lived. I needed my banjo repaired. Eric had an issue with his Teisco bass. If we timed everything right we might even see the Nxivm house before sundown. You take your fun where you can find it.
It felt like old times as we prepared to leave home. First off- I couldn’t find my banjo.
I remembered cleaning the house and putting a load of extra instrument cases in the basement. This kind of thing was unprecedented until recently – both the idea of me cleaning and having a fairly tidy and dry basement to store stuff in. I remember back in January 2020 when I was coming and going with my book and tour dates, and Eric was working over in England, the guitar and merch cases filled our living space and I just wished we had “time to clean up this place! I’m tired of living in an equipment depot!” Be careful what you wish for my friends. Vacuuming has become my middle name. I even treated myself to a bottle of furniture polish the other day.
Eric located the banjo case in the basement but – it was empty. I looked all over. I started to feel like something really sinister had happened. “WHO…would steal… a banjo?” With all the guitars, amplifiers and other pieces of equipment in our house, what kind of madman would risk prison – and ridicule – lifting a humble banjo? I thought I must be losing my mind.
Years ago, in a hotel room in Mulhouse on the border of France, Switzerland and Germany, en route to some tour dates in Germany, we’d been getting ready to check out after a fitful night’s sleep, when I realized I couldn’t find my leather jacket. I looked everywhere, and became convinced a thief had entered our room in the night, tiptoed to the cupboard and removed my cherished jacket from a hanger while Eric and I both slept, then tiptoed back out, not even bothering to help themselves to at least one of the guitars that sat conveniently cased and ready to go beside the hotel room door.
Just as I’d been heading down to report a theft to the desk clerk in Mulhouse, I’d remembered rolling up my jacket and sticking it under the hotel’s flimsy excuse for a pillow — before trying to sleep under the thin “European-style” duvet.
These are the things memories are made of. This is what marriage is all about! We have a witness to our moments of occasional grace, but mostly our supreme idiocy.
Eric and I laughed and laughed as I suddenly remembered sticking the banjo out of the way and into a milk crate when I’d done a zoom concert the other week – “stupid broken banjo won’t even sit on a guitar stand”…
We put the instruments in the car, just like old times, and drove north. Had a great lunch and hit the music store. My banjo was repaired and while Eric chatted with his pals there, I strolled around looking at guitars. Inside little booths, the men of the Capital District wailed on various axes and amplifiers. I tried out some Martins and Taylors in the acoustic guitar room. A ten year old boy sat on a stool across from me for a few minutes showing off some heavy metal style licks on an acoustic. I imagined that we’d start playing together and how heartwarming that would be but he kept very aggressively shredding and that’s just the way it is in these places. Boys with their toys, be they ten or seventy.
After a while I wandered back out through the basses and amps. I heard a warm tremolo sound coming from one of the booths. It was a siren song, an almost visible current of sound – like perfume in a Disney cartoon – so alluring I had to follow it. Who…what…is making that gorgeous noise?
I peeked through a doorway. It was Eric, sitting there with a guitar and an ancient amp he’d had his eye on. The very thing I sometimes leave the house to get away from had pulled me back in.
“Maybe you could let go of some of the equipment you already have to get that one?” I said.
Yes, this is what marriage is all about.
“It was a cold December night, I was sorting out my life
You were headed for a mess but you didn’t know it yet
As I pushed in through the crowd, you were turning your amp up loud
Then our eyes met – do you remember that?”Do You Remember That