The Old Folkie’s Home

Today being the third Saturday of the month, I managed to make it to Asbury Court in Des Plaines for Holy Moly’s monthly ecumenical service. It was pretty lightly attended, probably because of a competing holiday craft fair event, but it was a nice time and those that were there were our “frequent flyers.”

Father Paul and Mary did a reprise of their duet from last Sunday’s service of “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” with Paul on banjo, but as the words were printed, I joined in anyhow.

Some of the other old folkies that were there today were Richard, who was delighted to deputize a young St Nick’s member name Molly who was in attendance, very shyly, with her mother. Molly was very proud of her deputy sticker; Richard is a retired cop who writes children’s stories and always tools around in a souped-up electric scooter festooned with flags and patriotic cop stuff. He actually administered an authentic sounding oath when he gave Molly the sticker – something about “deputize you under the laws of the State of Illinois to uphold the Constitution” or whatnot. She was very taken with it as she silently clutched her pink stuffed kitten.

I mentioned that Paul had brought his banjo with him, which reminded Richard of the time he was playing the drums in a police marching band unit. Apparently, they got downtown for a parade on Michigan Avenue a couple of hours early, and one of the guys spotted a nearby bar. So they all trooped in (literally) and started playing, and the more they played, the more the patrons bought them drinks. So by the time they were rousted out by their sargeant to get to their position for the parade, they were already “half-smashed” by Richard’s estimation.

After the parade was over, they were chided by somebody back at the station house that had watched them on TV who said “Well, you guys sound like you were playing pretty good, but your (marching) lines were a ragged mess!”

Someone else that’s always there is Anna, a Jamaican lady with an emphatically black wig, a warm Islands accent, and a huge personality. She was sporting an Obama button, pinned next to a mess of chestal jewelry and a cross necklace. The button looked kind of home-made, with a photo of Obama and a flag graphic, not like one of the slicker buttons available from the campaign website. So during the Peace, I went up to her to greet her, pointed at the button and said “I like that button.” Her face lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I just LOVE HIM.” She got the same reaction from Mary, who also liked the button, and when I left she was just beaming about it.

We’re pondering what we’ll do for the December one, and Mary and I are plotting a “pulling out all the stops” program with favorite Christmas hymns, and maybe inveigling enough choir members to come for a kind of “dress rehearsal” performance of one of the fancy anthems we’re working on for Advent or Christmas Eve. We’re doing a Lessons and Carols service for the first time since I’ve been at St Nick’s, with all the prep and rehearsal that entails. And so we might pull out one of the special pieces for performance at Asbury, and hope to enlist the social director’s help in getting it publicised in their monthly newsletter.

As I left, the sound system in the main gathering room was playing 50’s oldies, and I realized that even though that music is 50 years old, I still associate it with images of teenagers. It seemed incongruous for a retirement home, but it’s not that far off the mark; some of the residents were young enough to be bobby soxers, although the oldest were probably in their late 20’s and early 30’s when the music I heard was new.

Which made me consider; in 30 years or so, will retirement homes play punk rock anthems on their sound systems? Elvis Costello? KISS? Hillary Duff? This continued to be on my mind as I drove home listening to WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, which featured “bubblegum” or pop music from the 50’s right through to today, and how some of it was able to transcend its own genre of “rock and roll.”

But as nobody at all sang along with us when Paul and Mary and I sang the old classic “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” I guess they don’t play old folkie music much at the old folkies home.

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