Editor’s note: Suzanne Bowyer was a finalist for the Courier-Herald’s columnist application process. With December having five editions of the newspaper, Ms. Bowyer was kind enough to allow the Courier-Herald to publish her application column as a special opinion piece.
Around the middle of April, in the depths of the spring COVID-19 lockdown, I started noticing that my neighbors were getting together every so often in their cul-de-sac for cocktails, setting up their lawn chairs six feet apart in the early evening and chatting for a few hours.
One evening I received a text inviting me to join them. I poured myself four fingers of bourbon, added a cherry, slung a plastic adirondack chair over my shoulder and headed across the street. I was pleased to be invited. Relatively speaking, I’m still a new kid on the block and I took this as a sign that I am not considered a pariah of the neighborhood and could thus rid myself of a few more bricks in my wall of worry. I also craved a little human socialization much like everyone else.
I was, however, a little concerned that during the course of conversation someone might bring up the fact that I had been out in my front yard earlier that week weeding my garden, making Marianne Binetti proud. I was extracting my undesirable greenery while listening to my music with earphones, which is something I rarely do.
In fact, I avoid wearing earphones in public at all costs because I can’t carry a tune to save my life but always end up singing my favorites nonetheless. I don’t always get the lyrics right either, often making verses up as I go or just really emphatically mumbling at high volume.
This is not a syndrome unique to me – there are a few of you out there and we hear you and laugh and roll our eyes and privately think “thank god that’s not me.” So I don’t know what came over me that day but it’s certain I wasn’t thinking clearly. There I am listening to my “favorites” playlist, and, yes, unfortunately for any one within earshot, singing along at full lung capacity as I pull up dandelions, bissfully unaware of the cacophony I’m torturing the neighborhood with.
I’m the first to admit my singing should be considered a felony. I’m pretty sure that anyone in a 200-300 foot radius that day was privy to a rendition of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” like they’ve never heard before and hope to never hear again. And to make matters worse, I usually complement my vocalizations with body gyrations that any innocent bystander will find downright disturbing.
Likewise for my rendering of “Jessie’s Girl” which is of particular embarrassment to me. For clarification, I am not a Rick Springfield fan. To be honest, even if I was I would never ever admit to it. I just happen to like that tune and you have to admit it does make for a fairly good sing along.
In 2007, Rick played at the Emerald Queen Casino. I did not go. As I said, not a fan. I did, however, meet him that year. I was at SeaTac airport waiting in line at Starbucks when along came Rick and his entourage. He was hard to miss what with his dog collar studded black leather outfit and his perfectly coiffed gel-stiff hair. Since I think he was pushing 60 at the time, I assure you it was not a good look up-close and didn’t scream “I’m ready for air travel.”
And what did he do? He butted in front of me in the Starbucks line, that’s what he did. It wasn’t a “who got there first” type of situation – I was very clearly in line, just not being rude and encroaching on the next person’s space, pre-COVID.
His entourage hesitated. You could see they were clearly in a quandary as to whether to follow suit and be with their idol or do the right thing and get in line behind me. I was still grappling with the fact that not only had someone just charged in front of me, it was Rick Springfield with (gasp) wrinkles. This was a shock in itself. It was then that Rick’s manager (I least I think it was his manager, he seemed to have had some sort of governance over the group) apologized and lined up behind me and the rest dutifully followed.
Rick’s manager was a pretty observant guy and quickly pointed out that he and I were wearing the same Puma running shoes, which served to divert my attention from wrinkled Rick. Honestly, I thought the shoes were a bit effeminate for a guy but he pulled it off and we chatted. At one point I do recall Rick turned around and questioned why everyone was “back there” but he was obviously so jonesing for caffeine he didn’t wait for an answer.
All this proved that my lifelong distaste for Rick S. was not unfounded. But “Jessie’s Girl” remains on my playlist. My music selections can be quite diverse; for example, I had my gutters replaced this summer and the owner of the business (an Enumclaw local) and I spent about as much time extolling the virtues of AC/DC as we did discussing the merits of beefing up my downspouts.
Sadly, my friends do not all share my musical taste. I saw Jon Bon Jovi at the Tacoma Dome years ago but could not persuade any of them to attend with me. I ended up having to convince my dental hygienist to tag along. Although she knew none of Jon’s songs she was a trooper and ended up completely mesmerized through the whole concert by his perfect teeth as displayed on the jumbotron. He does have pretty awesome choppers, even today.
I have to confess that what I don’t have is a lot of country music. I know this borders on blasphemy for many of you. Shania Twain is the extent of my country repertoire. Does she count? Don’t get the wrong idea. My favorites include a fair number of contemporary artists as well. I’m not living in the past…..that much.
But back to the cul-de-sac cocktails. No mention was made of any hair-raising musical interludes that week in April. Perhaps my neighbors were too polite to bring it up, or, more likely, they had covered the topic in depth before I arrived.
Here’s to a safe and joyful holiday season, filled with your favorite music, Zoom get-togethers, lots of take out from local eateries, the Enumclaw Hometown Holiday celebration and similar festivities. And remember to sing like no one is listening (or watching) and laugh about it.