Play Double Down
Double Down is a song with a scene, not so much a story. There’s a vignette in my head. And maybe one day it’ll happen.

I pictured a little old guy sitting on the sidewalk, maybe on Duval St. outside Starbucks, playing a guitar. If you’ve ever been to the Starbucks on Duval St., you know there’s often a guy sitting there playing a guitar. And they’re surprisingly good. So here it is.

It’s morning on the Key West island. The mosquito plane has been over and the air is sweet and hot and not yet barometer soup. The sky is light, but the sun’s not up. It’s hours before the cruise ships dump their loads and the gutters flow with tourists.

The guy tunes up and then,… doop do do doop do doop doop do…. The first run is tentative. He’s not sure where the lick goes from there, but he likes the happy-go-lucky feel. Cause that’s how he feels. It’s cost most of what he’s saved in life to get here and buy a few hundred square feet of the American Bahamas. And its worth it. He plucked out the end of the lick again, stretching his fingers to get the inversion on the four chord. It’s rough, but he knows it’ll get better. He plays it again from the top. This time it runs like butter on hot toast.

He plays it until his fingers warm up and then stops and smiles as one of the other not-quite-homeless guitars squats down. Jerry, he thinks. Jerry says, “Play me that first part again.” So our guy plays it again, and on the second run through Jerry has it and they’re playing in stereo. Jerry has an old guitar with no apparent name brand, but the strings are good and so is Jerry.

After a couple repeats of the intro, they both know it needs to go to a minor for some development. So they slide up the neck together and hit the six chord in different places. It sounds like more than two guitars, the thrums and twings are bouncing off the store front surrounding them.

Somebody comes out the front door with a muffin in one hand and a soy chai latte in the other.

The guitar starts in on the riff again. Doop do do….

A pleased, unguarded look comes over the face of the Soy Latte and he stands there for a moment, not sure where he was going. He’s forgotten everything but these two guitars playing a song he knows he’s heard before but can’t place. Whatever it is it’s from a better time in his life, somewhere decades ago he held his mothers hand and listened to this song. He starts to whistle and the guitars look up at him and smile. Soy Latte licks his lips to get some better english on the notes and follows them through the beginning of the new development. He knows he’s heard the song before but he doesn’t remember where it’s going so he’s picking up each new chord as they lay it down.

The manager of Starbucks comes out and starts to tell them to move on down the street. But then she just stands there, one hand one the door, the other on her stomach. She’s thirty seven years old with a kid and a mortgage. But when she opened the door, she was twenty seven again, standing in the bathroom of her one bedroom apartment in Eden Park holding a pee strip that’d just turned blue. Her first thought wasn’t “is this good? bad?” Her first thought was, “Hello.”

She walked back through the store, tossing her apron on the counter. The three kids making coffee stared at her like she was an alien. Which she now was. She wasn’t the girl they knew. She wasn’t their boss anymore. She was her. Again.

In the bag she called a purse, though it was really a bag, was a plastic toy flute. Her nine year old son’s.

She didn’t breathe again until she pushed the front door open. Then she heaved as though she’d been holding her breath like she did watching Kate Hudson looking for the treasure in the underwater cavern in Fool’s Gold.

She hadn’t played the flute since middle school, but had encouraged her son to try because she’d been pretty good. She fitted it to her rusty moue, and blew a C. The song was in D.

She felt weightless.

There were a few people standing around the guitars now. Most of them had been in Starbucks. They were all whistling, but thankfully not loud enough to cover up the real whistler. She fit herself in a third above his melody and…. Dooooo dowee do do da do booop do do do doo doo dooooo.

The sun’s up now. In an hour it’ll be too hot to hang out on the Duval St. sidewalk.

But for just this moment…

Neil’s CD Country Music is available from iTunes and CD Baby.