But first . . .
See, I forgot my clip light so I was huddled up in the booth with a drawing pad surrounded by four small candles. The first set was a showcase of talent new and established. The Ditty Bops were the lead off, but I was struggling with the lighting, so I'm not sharing that drawing.
I was doing a little better when Sonya Kitchell took the stage. It's hard not to have feelings of deep jealous resentment when you realize that she's only 16 and already this good.
Dar Williams closed the first set. I'm a big fan of hers and have been since seeing her several times at the Cactus Cafe back in Austin. I have all her albums and once stalked her with Jonny at a free show down in Battery Park a couple of years ago. She's a delightful presence, tells wonderful and warm stories and then sings great songs.
I'm sure that a lot of folks who play at Joe's take the association with the Public Theater for granted. They're musicians not actors and it may not matter to them that they're performing in the North-wing of one of New York's great theater companies. Not Dar though. She noted that she chose her outfit as an homage to downtown theater, dressing like Ariel as performed by Parker Posey.
The second set was the Cowboy Junkies and my mind started drifting back to the first time I heard them. I was bar-tending at Hamilton's up in Chicago's Rogers Park. It was a college-joint and on Weekends there was a DJ spinning the dance tracks while drunken Loyola students performed mating rituals.
Somehow I convinced the owner to give me a budget to buy music for the booth. Now, I mostly worked the off-nights so I could play the music I wanted to and not feel responsible for creating an atmosphere geared towards cheap sex and binge-drinking. I imagine there's still someone going into the DJ booth at Hamiltons and wondering where the Rickie Lee Jones, Replacements, Connells and, yes, Cowboy Junkies albums came from.
Ah, yes. Chicago. Those were the glory years after the last appearance by the Bears in the Superbowl. The last time I went to a Bears game Doug Williams kicked our asses and Ed and I froze in the frigid 40 below zero wind-chill, watching Walter Payton and Gary Fencik limp their ways into retirement.
So. After the Junkies finished their set and I was somehow both mellowed and invigorated, I packed up my stuff as the Asylum Street Spankers set up theirs on the stage and I made my way over to my cousin Chris's place where I crashed on his couch for four hours. Then we made our way out to LaGuardia at 6 in the morning, flew with a last-minute first-class seat to the Windy city, hopped a cab over to cousin Lindsey's, downed a couple of early-morning beers and headed to the parking lot at Soldier Field for some serious tail-gating.
Now, my cousin Tommy has turned tail-gating into a Fine Art; he's the Picasso and John Coltrane of tail-gating. Tommy has a gas grill that attaches to the rear bumper of his car and he invited a couple of friends who were chefs from New Orleans to join us. As the snow fell all around, we mosied up to the bar at the back of Tommy's car and proceeded to eat a parade of mid-west and cajun delicacies. It started with shrimp, moved on to Jambalaya and red beans and rice, stopped briefly with a Turducken, coasted into a ham, and threw in some bratwurst, rice-stuffed sausage, and ribs to sweeten the pot. There were bloody marys, a cooler of beers and a table with wine, vodka and Jameson to keep us warm by the portable fire pit which was blazing away.
"Does the endless parade of food ever stop?" I asked Tommy. "When the game starts," he replied.
And so it did.
All I'm gonna say about the game was I have never had a better time at a sports event in my life and, despite the fact that it was in the high twenties and snowing, I never even noticed it was cold. I was wearing a one-piece snow-suit that Chris had loaned me, waterproof shoes Tommy took from his own feet and a knit cap made to look like a Bears helmet. Adam texted me during the second-half, asking me where I was so he could find me on the TV. I have never looked less like me than I did on Sunday; you couldn't have found me in that crowd with a telescope and a sharp-shooter. As the fourth quarter turned into the blow-out Bears fans don't even dare to dream about, I looked up into the brightly lit snow falling in waves down upon us and cheered my voice to a shred.
Then we high-jacked a limo, crashed at Lindsey's, tried to wake Chris so he could see the Patriots stumble, slept for four or so hours and hopped an early flight back to NYC.
By 11:00 yesterday morning we were unconscious on Chris's couch, watching Sports Center, so we could see what we had missed.
We didn't miss much.