Sometimes when I create a post I wait until I have completed the piece to come up with a title. Tonight, let’s do something a little different. I’ll let you decide what the title should be. The contest is open to everyone. No prizes to be awarded except I’ll publish a post with all entries. This should be fun. Let’s see where this goes…
I spent my afternoon at a local retirement community where I played my guitar and sang for a roomful of very senior citizens. It’s semi – irregular gig that I have. It’s really a lot of fun.
The room demographics unofficially break down as follows: 25 total attendees, 20 women, 5 men and almost everyone well into their 70’s and beyond. Having played other retirement facilities I can safely say that women always outnumber men. So ladies, the odds that you will outlive your husband are pretty good and I’m sure that there are real statistics that will back me up.
At least a dozen wheeled walkers parked in the room and a pair of motorized scooters. My task today was to entertain these folks as they celebrated August birthdays.
Knowing my audience I chose a set list that included songs written way back in the last century. The oldest tune in the set was either ” I got Rhythm” or ” Lady be Good ” both written by the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. Other tunes included : ” All of Me, ( 1931), Route 66 ( 1946), ” If I only had a Brain” ( 1939) and you get the picture.
I like learning and playing these tunes. The lyrics really mean something and the chords are rich and full. Our motto ” I play no songs written in THIS century.”
I think that every song has a story. That is – Who wrote it? Where were you when you first heard it? Who were you with ? As Time goes By ( 1931), Satin Doll ( 1953).
So, I work my way through the set along with encouraging group participation. Sing along, thump the table, dance – we’re here for fun. I’ve Got you under my Skin ( 1936 – Cole Porter don’t you know.) I always channel my inner Sinatra when I sing this one.
The point of this post is not so much about my playing or singing. It’s about the people in the audience. Retirement communities in this county are a growth industry. They are popping up like mushrooms after a day long rain. But they wouldn’t be unless there was a constant supply of older people. That I’m staring my future in squarely in the face is not lost on me, not for a minute. I’m years away from living in a cottage on the grounds or on the assisted living wing.
It’s an odd society we’ve created with these ” retirement communities.” I guess we used to call then nursing homes. I don’t know what you do when your spouse dies, your kids live hundreds of miles away and you need a scooter to get around. I don’t know what to do when you need pretty constant medical care and someone to cook and clean for you.
So, this is where our parents and grandparents live now. I know that I’ll never have the financial wherewithal to afford living in one of these places. So, before I depress all of you and myself with my thoughts I have to tell you a story. I swear this is true.
One of the people in the audience is a guy I’ll call Jimmy because that’s his real name.
Jimmy grew up in Brooklyn and knew the Paterno family in Brooklyn way before Joe was the football coach at Penn State.
Jimmy and I talked about bands he saw growing up like the Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and on and on. He tells me that he used to go to jazz club in the city ( New York) that was owned by a guy named Jack Crystal. Yes, Billy’s dad.
Billy’s dad used to provide a home away from home at his club for traveling musicians back in the 30′ s and 40’s. One time Jimmy sat at a table with Benny Goodman. Benny had Gene Krupa with him and his great pianist Teddy Wilson. Jimmy wrote a letter to Billy telling him what great guy his dad was and Billy replied. Jimmy gave the letter to his kids and told them to take care of that letter.
Jimmy used to go Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, before they left for LA.
I’m trying to head for home on this post with a clear direction so as to make coming up with a title easier for all of you.
My overall impression of my afternoon and of all the other times I’ve played facilities like these is… I miss my parents for sure. I always see them out in the audience and I hope that they would be pleased at what I’m doing. Mom and Dad have been gone for many years. They grew up with the music I’m now playing. As a punk kid I really disliked it and now I’ve come full circle to embrace it.
Senior citizens have a lot to offer and I’m careful not to marginalize them or anything they say. I’m always a great listener. These folks in many cases were born in the 20’s lived through the Depression, WWII, elected Ike twice, witnessed a man on the moon and a black president. That’s a pretty full resume I’d say.
Music ties us all together. It’s great historical thread. We’re all more alike than we realize.
Time to wrap this up with a great version of a great tune I did this afternoon by the great Nat King Cole arranged by the great Nelson Riddle.
The bottom line is that I get great enjoyment from playing these songs and if I can share a little of my happiness with these folks then I’ve done my job. Where you gonna get a chance to sit and talk with a guy like Jimmy?
Good luck with a title because I haven’t got a clue.
How about ” An Afternoon with Jimmy.”