San Francisco, 1979: On Haight Street, the music store was originally called “Chickens that Sing Music.” There Dave Harp offered a class called “Blues Harmonica for the Musical Idiot”, and I signed up.
Dave used advanced technology: xeroxed lessons. I was impressed because, at my business, we’d thought ourselves thoroughly modern with a Gestetner mimeograph. So as to fit on one xerox sheet — expensive, fifteen cents per page, those early copies — he chopped the lesson up into different boxes, sometimes packed in sideways.
I still have these original xerox lessons, fading in a folder; Dave’s gone on to create a publishing empire and lives in Vermont with his sweetheart and babies, and gives talks about meditation and music all around the country. But back then he taught Blues Harmonica.
One day, in my studio apartment, I’d heard the blues walking up the sidewalk, underneath my windows. Later, as it turned out, he hired the Thumbtack Bugle and we put his posters up. But I digress. Back to Chickens that Sing Music.
I’d talked Bob into signing up, so there we were, sitting in folding chairs, awaiting the beginning of class. In walked a woman with a lot of curly hair. I liked her looks, and as she passed, I said, “Wow! You smell great!”
That is how I met my wife.
She wasn’t much interested. After class, I walked her back to her place on Stanyan, chatting about something. I didn’t ask to walk her home, just started blathering as she left the front door, and then walked along chattering, and before long reached her flat on Stanyan street.
It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I made sure to go to the next few lessons. Sometimes she was there. Sometimes not. One week, I concocted some reason to importune her for a ride from point A to point B. I asked her out. She declined. I tried again later. She accepted.
She told me later that she’d been seeing a couple of other guys, and liked them both better than me, and on that date she’d planned to tell me thanks but no thanks for the future. But it was some japanese restaurant on Union street, and the conversation went well, and saki and laughter decided her to delay turning me down.
And one thing led to another, and though she’d moved to Oakland, my motorcycle and I flew the Bay Bridge and through the freeways. Time was no barrier.
And then one day it dawned upon me that I would be a fool to let her ever escape. And so, fearful to the heels of my feet, I asked her to marry me in a moment. “Yes,” she said.
I did learn to play blues harmonica — blues harp, said properly — but I don’t play the blues harp much these days. Time came and went. I was married for a time, and then I wasn’t. For I was a fool; and I did let her escape. But that’s another story.