I need to be in Montgomery in a few hours, but I have some time to kill. So I’m killing it by sitting in an old man’s garage, watching old men play music.
There is a banjo, a fiddle, a guitar. Behind them is an ‘84 Ford. Before them is an audience of three children. The kids are all ears.
The men play “Turkey in the Straw” and you’d swear they were high-schoolers instead of retirees. It’s all in the way they tap their feet.
Before they finish, Miss Gina quietly steps into the garage. Miss Gina is married to Martin, the guitarist. She is carrying four Miller High Lifes on a silver tray—and one diet soda for Mister Randy.
You don’t see many silver trays anymore.
She makes her delivery, then watches her husband play guitar in earnest. And though she is old, she looks at him the same way a sophomore would look at her high-school sweetheart.
The song ends. The children applaud. The old men take a few moments to catch their breath.
“Grandpa!” one little boy says. “Can you play that one you played last time, about the fishing guy with the pole?”
The men get right to business. They pluck through a few bars, singing, “You get a line, I’ll get a pole, honey…”
The kids start to dance. And if you’ve ever been lucky enough to see children dance to a song that predates their grandfathers, you’ve been lucky enough.
Miss Gina brings snacks for the children—using another shiny platter. This time, it’s sweet tea and butterscotch cookies that are so good they ought to be outlawed.
Miss Gina whispers to me, “Thanks for coming by today, I know you’re busy, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing Martin play.”
I thank her for inviting me, and for the cookies. I ask her how she met Martin.
“Oh,” she says, “first time I ever met him, he was playing at our school dance, up on a stage, back in Texas, and I knew I had to have him.”
Miss Gina admits that she snagged Martin using methods that were somewhat deceptive. Namely, Gina faked a fatal disease.
“You did what?” I ask.
She laughs beneath her breath. This woman is amused with herself.
“He was just SO cool,” she explains. “I had to do something dramatic.”
So one night, she and her girlfriend came up with a rare and deadly disease. They decided that this fatal condition could only be treated by an exotic potion from the Orient, or else victims would not survive.
“Keep in mind,” Miss Gina adds, “I was only fourteen, and he was fifteen, and I just wanted him to notice me.”
One day, Gina’s girlfriends approached Martin and told him about her “fatal” condition. The girls explained that Gina’s dying request was to go on a date with him, preferably to a movie.
“How long does she have to live?” asked Martin.
“Could be months,” one girl said. “Or it could be days.”
“Yeah,” said one girlfriend. “She‘s looking pretty bad, like she could go at any time.”
Martin overhears our conversation. He stops playing guitar and chimes in:
“At first I thought they were lying,” he says. “But when we got to the theater, I figured she HAD to be telling the truth.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because,” he says. “NOBODY kisses that wild on a first date unless they’re just about to die.”
Miss Gina giggles, but she’s not ashamed. Why should she be? She and Martin raised four kids together.
And I’m happy to report that none of their adult children are carriers of this rare disorder.
Anyway, music is important to this older couple. Sometimes, Miss Gina sings with Martin’s band in the garage. I ask her if she wouldn’t mind singing one.
She sings “How High the Moon.” Her husband plays a flat top in the style of Les Paul. He grins at her the whole way through.
The children who watch have no idea what they’re actually seeing. They think they’re watching two old folks sing an ancient song. But it’s more than that.
This is time travel.
During this brief musical interlude, we who watch are no longer in a modern world, but back in the old days. A place where men still grease their hair, and women still deliver things on silver trays.
These are our people. And they are disappearing, one by one, a few more every day. Soon, they’ll be gone, and there will be no more time travel.
The song ends. The children applaud. I clap. Miss Gina asks if anyone needs anything from the kitchen before she leaves.
“I’ll take another beer,” says Martin.
She approaches her husband to retrieve his empty bottle. But he withdraws the bottle from her and points to his lips.
“Nope,” he says. “Gotta kiss me first.”
She lays one on him.
Well, I’m sure glad Miss Gina got over her disease.