Bart had to be on the Vineyard early the next day for some family get-together so I took Amtrak back to Providence. From the train I could see a lot of the green nothing between cities, ragged thunderclouds trailing gray rain in the sunny July sky. When I arrived the pavement was wet but the sky was clearing. I discovered I couldn’t really carry two guitars and the heavy duffel and my backpack without being horribly lopsided or giving myself a wicked hand cramp. So I caught a cab.
The driver took me straight up the hill, through the heart of RIMCon, and then down the other side toward the student ghetto where Roger and I lived. On Thayer Street people were out walking their dogs, jogging, buying frozen lemonade from vendors in yellow trucks, overdressed musicians were putting posters onto telephone poles and skate punks were hopping the curb.
“Let me out here.”
The cabbie didn’t even look at me funny in the mirror, just swerved toward a fire hydrant and jerked to a stop. “Five fifty.”
I paid him in cash and then dragged my crap half a block down. I opened the Ovation’s case and set myself up in front of the entrance to the ATM machines, across from the Copa and the ice cream parlor. The clock on the bank said it was two o’clock, and if I had any plan in mind it was to just play for an hour, then get some frozen lemonade for myself and go on home. After all, there were no street musicians in Providence. But I didn’t go home at three, or at four. I stood in the cool concrete shadow of the building and played until the dinner crowd was milling around and the lemonade vendors had long since left. I played songs people knew and I played things I made up on the very spot. The bright jangle of the Ovation bounced off the sidewalk like bells ringing and I could almost hear a kind of joyous music, like something coming from a church just over the hill, that I could snatch the bare gist of and run with. A song full of heart and meaning, but I couldn’t catch the words. And I made twenty one and change, to boot.
(Tomorrow, some Liner Notes, and then Friday regular posts continue with December of 1986. Because most of the semester is boring as s**t and we can skip it, right?)