On the drive back from a long weekend in Spain, we pulled off at a shopping area right before we crossed the border back into France.
I was on a mission.
At band practice, one lady would always bring in a thermo filled with a potent punch. After my humiliation and the obvious fact I was in Philippe’s crosshair, I needed allies in the group. As perceptive as Jane Goodall when sitting in that jungle, I too was trying to find ways of being accepted by the other musicians. Well, practicing and getting the trombone part down pat would have been the OBVIOUS choice, but I had another idea.
As I was pushing the cart down the wide asiles, I found what I was looking for, the liquor section. Now, I don’t normally drink. I have beer and wine at home when I entertain but I usually steer clear of the hard stuff. So my son stared at me, mouth wide open, as I struggled to get a 3 litre box of rum off the shelf and into the cart. “What are you doing?” He said incredulously. “Mommy is buying friends, dear,” I retorted as I headed to check out.
The next Thursday, I showed up early to set up my music stand and as brown-nosy as putting an apple on the teacher’s desk.. I set out the carton of rum. The others arrived and started saying hello when one of them spied the box. “Qui a amené ça?” She ask. I nonchalantly raised my hand, trying to look like I was studying my sheet music. The others saw it and shot appreciative glances my way. There was a spout on the box and everyone was spiking their punch.
So by the time we started, everyone was loose and in a good mood. Now my partner in crime, Eve, couldn’t make it that night so I was playing akwardly solo. And I was standing there even more akwardly whenever they rehearsed a song without a brass part.
But that night was different.
When Philippe called out that the next song would be “Shout” but the Isley Brothers, one of the backup singers motioned for me to join them. I put my trombone down and walked up to the mic trying to remember if I had garlic at lunch. This was a classic from my high school days back in Ohio. At every school dance in the cafeteria, they would play this song. So singing back up on the shobie-do wap…wap wap waps was not a challenge at all.
In fact, it was glorious. We were dancing and singing, the lead singer was on fire as were the guitars and the drums. A collective whooohoo went out when we finished. Before I even had a chance to leave the mic, the next song started.
Lucille Ball could not have found herself in a more awkward situation with Desi at the Copa Club.
The girls started dancing and I started to panic. I stared at their feet and tried to mimic their dance moves. I started to gain confidence until they started to sing. In Spanish.
The song was “El Negro Zumbon”.. umm what, come again? It is a classic known throughout Europe. It was even featured in the film “Cinema Paradiso.” I can assure you. It was not played at the high school dances back in Ohio.
So I tried to fake it.
Fake it as best as you can while singing into a live mic. In a language you don’t understand. While dancing a choreographed routine you don’t know.
Philippe thought he would help.
He slowly walked over singing and playing his guitar, enunciating the lyrics to me. He could have been singing in Greek. It is like when the teacher approaches and you don’t know the answer… Go away, I wanted to hiss, you are not helping. The song finally ended and signaled the end of rehearsal.
The others asked if I was taking the box home with me, I said no and told them to use it for the punch for the next time.
And after that night, I was sure there would be a next time.