I only had to work the early half of the day, which consisted of two tables; a deuce and a three. The rest of my short day consisted of brunch prep for tomorrow.
I left the Club and went over to the Inn to help my old boss interview a chef candidate. We’re on great terms, and it’s fun to act as a consultant. Around 4:30, I head to the grocery, a large regional chain with a location up on Pantops Mountain – really, a mere bump – and headed in.
As is usual, I don’t have a shopping list; I’m just sort of making it up as I go along. I’m dressed in grey chef pants, clogs and an extremely bright green tie dyed t shirt with a huge, Celtic themed Grateful Dead logo on it. My hair is wild from the wind outside. I’m pushing my cart along. People are getting out of my way. Life is good.
I begin to notice the music coming down from above. The Rolling Stones doing The Last Time. Well, that’s nice, thinks I.
I’m wandering through produce, looking for garlic, picking up this and that. Around to seafood. Nah. I start back through produce and start picking up stuff to make pizza with.
Next song is CCR doing Have You Ever Seen The Rain? Alright. I hurrying right along, gathering food, grabbing some Jomo Lager, going over in my head what I need for pizza. By this point, the quick jolt of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit is playing. I notice people looking up and around, quizzical looks on their faces. They’re starting to get that incongruent vibe, too. Yeah, I didn’t expect to hear that going down the condiments and pickles aisle, either…
Feeling reasonably sure that I’m done, I head for the checkouts. Big lines. I pull into one and just as I do that light perky guitar riff that opens Desolation Row comes over the speakers. Now, I’m starting to think this is getting weird.
Behind me, I hear a whispered, “What the f^*k?”
I turn around, and there’s this skinny guy about my age looking up at the ceiling in amazement. He’s got a faded black t shirt with an upside down American flag, torn jeans and wild grey hair and beard.
He realizes I’m looking at him smiles, points up and says, “Bob.”
“Oh, yeah,” I reply. “Desolation Row.”
“Uh, this is getting really weird.”
“Yeah, I know. Did you hear some of the other stuff they’re playing?”
“Yeah. I mean, I listen to this stuff all the time. But not in grocery stores.”
He looks to the side conspiratorially, and says, “Ya know, I think I saw the produce manager trying to hang himself in where the potatoes are. I think Salvador Dali was going to kick the stool out from under him.”
“Yeah,” I smile. “I saw an old guy - mighta been Nixon - crumpled up and crying at the meat counter and another guy in black playing bongos on a Crisco can.”
That gets us laughing. We talk music for a few minutes. The line moves up. Then he smiles and says, “Ok. Now that’s really weird.”
“What,” I say.
“Well, at the end of each couple of stanzas of the song, the line moves up one. Right on the words, ‘Desolation Row.’”
So we both go quiet and listen. And sure enough, two stanzas later, right at “Desolation Row,” the line moves up. I’m next up. He starts laughing, and so do I. The cashier is looking at us like we’re crazy. She’s pretty young; probably around 21. She asks me how I’m doing.
“Fine,” I say. “Hey, do you know who chooses the music around here?”
“Uh, no. But it’s, like, really bringing me down. Who is this?”
The guy and I both pipe up, “Bob!”
“Oh. Him. Whatever.”
The guy and I roll our eyes and smile.
The transaction ends with the song. I go on my way.