I didn’t have a bad time in Charlotte on Saturday. Everything went so wrong, it actually was amusing. My days (and nights) are seldom mediocre. Either things succeed or they fail. Saturday, all around, was epic fail.
Hmm. It’s going to be difficult not to leave something out.
Driving between Whitmire and Chester, S.C., I downshifted to fourth gear in order to pass a slowpoke. The clutch pedal stayed down. I limped to the side of the road and discovered I could pry the pedal back up with the front of my left sneaker and it worked again, until a while later when I pushed it and it stayed down. It wasn’t much of a problem until I got to Charlotte, where, it being St. Patrick’s, uh, Eve, I guess, detours and road construction abounded. When the clutch failed, I became fairly proficient at mashing the emergency-lights button and digging the clutch back up. I found Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe on the third lap around construction-riddled uptown. My iPhone never gave up on me, though. “Re-routing …”
Having a book signing on St. Patrick’s Day could have been a good thing, because people were everywhere. Having a signing in the middle of the celebration wasn’t. Poor Richard’s was upstairs over a Subway, overlooking a cobblestone street where automobiles are not welcome. Nowadays, since bars are smoke-free, the sidewalks outside, and in this case, the entire street, are smoke-filled and, on St. Patty’s, and carousing. It wasn’t an easy crowd to go through with a guitar on my back, an overnight bag on my shoulder and a guitar stand in my arm. Many thanks to Brian, one of Poor Richard’s owners, with the box of books. He even helped me on the fairly long walk back to the car.
At about the time the signing started, so did a street band below. It played Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” with male singers and bongo drums. Quite the strange set. Fortunately, I had a microphone. A good bit of traffic drifted in from the street. Some listened a while. Many were in search of a bathroom. I’m pretty sure that several buyers who signed up on the Facebook “event” didn’t show up because there were no nearby places to park. I’m very grateful for those who did show up and for the several who stayed for the duration. Adrian Parker bought me a beer. I needed it.
My guitar didn’t sound right, but I couldn’t be sure because the ambient noise made it difficult for me to tell. When I was almost finished, I discovered that the bottom E string wouldn’t tune. This was mystifying for a while until I discovered it was stretching. I realized this when it broke.
It’s really no one’s fault. Having the signing on that day wouldn’t have been bad had it not been at the very center of the city’s St. Patrick’s celebration. The folks at the store didn’t realize it, either, when the gig was scheduled. I did a good show, reading excerpts and playing songs. I think everyone enjoyed it. Brian and his wife want me to reschedule, and I want another shot at it, too.
My nephew, Ray Phillips, and his wife, Jessica, came and when it was over, asked me to join them at a bar/restaurant that was about a 15-minute drive away. It might have been 10 minutes if the clutch on my Honda had been reliable. We had a good time. I managed to get home safely, and once I got to the interstate, managed to keep the car in fifth gear all the way from the I-85 entrance ramp to Exit 52 on I-26, which is a mile and a half from my house.
You live. You learn. You set another date.
I’ll be back, perhaps sometime in May.