Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do It Now or Kick Yourself Forever

      Some real-life events just couldn't make it as fiction.
      For more than thirty years, I've made it a point to reserve the three days of Memorial Day Weekend for Seattle's Folklife Festival, an extravaganza of ethnic music, dance, and food, a glorious welcome to summer.
      One of my favorite Festival performers, year after year, was Jim Hinde, a regular busker at the Pike Place Market. With his guitar for accompaniment, Jim projected his music through a warm, resonant baritone, rich with energy and emotion. Many of Jim's compositions were protest songs, taking their origin from the composer's experiences in Viet Nam, and the PTSC that followed that stint.  
      Sometimes, a tall, thin, white-haired man named Bob Crosby sang along with Jim, and the combination of Bob's counter-tenor and Jim's baritone never failed to raise every hair on my neck and arms to attention. If there's ever been a more gorgeous-sounding male duet, I've yet to hear it. At the 2008 Festival, when Jim's set was finished, I nudged my wife. "Crosby sings one song on one of Jim's CDs, but that's it. If they'd like to consider making a joint recording, what would you think of looking into bankrolling it?"
      Myra said she thought that was one of my better off-the-cuff, off-the-wall ideas. So I walked over to the singers, and briefly pitched my idea. They said yes, it did sound interesting. I told them my wife and I were going out to the midwest the following Monday, to attend the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival and do some book promoting, and I'd check in with them when we got back.
      The day before our return, we were visiting with friends in Milwaukee, and I told them about my plan. "I'm going to get right on it," I said. "Bob's pretty well along, and this is something people ought to be able to hear. I'd hate to have regrets."
      We returned to Seattle June 17, and as is her habit, Myra promptly set to work putting the past two-weeks worth of the Seattle Times into order, to read over the next few days. All of a sudden, she stopped shuffling pages, and looked stricken. "You're not going to believe this," she said. "There's not going to be any CD."
      It took me a moment to catch on. "No, you're kidding. Bob Crosby died?"
      She held out the article to me. Six days before, Jim Hinde, to all outward appearances the picture of hearty, enthusiastic health, had had a heart attack in his sleep. He was 56.

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