Two weeks ago, while in the throes of recuperation, I sent up smoke signals in a column and on Facebook, asking for assistance. While I received many responses, my iffy Internet connection made it nigh-on impossible to follow up with most of them in a timely manner, and my frustration level reached the boiling point when I realized another weekend was going to be a wash for me.
Just before my phone line failed, gal pal Nora Brown (www.norabrown.net ) reached me, having read my on-line plea, and we chatted about how this column actually gets written—which (under normal circumstances) involves me leaving the house (haven’t done that in two months), driving to one of several events (can’t shift or clutch for another four weeks), taking photographs, (oh how I miss my pictorial chronicle of all things Catskills) and interviewing the many artists, actors, singers and writers that I usually encounter during my workweek.
Nora is a performer/actor/writer herself, so her willingness to fill in for me seemed like a good idea (at the time). I’ve seen the Bette Davis classic film “All about Eve” (“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”) a few times, but it never occurred to me that Ms. Brown’s talents might threaten to cast mine in the shade, so I happily gave her the green light and breathed a sigh of relief that she would represent me (with husband George in tow) in my absence.
In hindsight, I should have seen it coming: “Nobody can replace you,” Nora intoned. “Your class and style in reporting on the arts world is unparalleled. The most I can hope for is not letting you down or sounding like a hack... but I’ll give it a shot and get back to you,” she concluded before the line went dead.
Sure enough, two days (and 37 phone calls to my Internet provider later) there was a transmission from Nora. “Hoping that the upheavals in your life are ‘standing down’ she wrote. “The main focus is to regain wonderful health and so get back to your many activities in the cultural life of the Catskills. George and I enjoyed your ‘assignment’ to attend Saturday night’s show at Baker’s Tap Room in Yulan, NY (www.facebook.com/pages/BAKERS-TAP-ROOM-II/285499317800 ). It was an amazing night after a snowfall, slippery roads, lots of stars and cold.”
Being aware of Nora’s experience, it should have dawned on me that she would be descriptive recounting her evening out, but I naively assumed that nobody could be as pithy as myself, and read on. “Baker’s was crowded when we arrived. Although the advertised performer never showed up, performer Jeremy Langdale (www. jeremylangdale.com) arrived with his band. The great music began and we moved to the bar for coffee. The restaurant emptied out but the bar was busy, with people playing darts and drinking, and several of us sitting on stools, listening to the music, which made me really want to dance. Next time, perhaps. One retired New Jersey fireman did some moves.”
By this point in Nora’s narrative, I had become ever so slightly alarmed. Her description was interesting, colorful and informed. Since I had innocently asked her (not suspecting that she would be so good at it) for a few words on the performer, Brown’s review continued: “The driving electric blues of Jeremy Langdale and his band were brilliantly on display at Bakers Tap Room on Saturday. Langdale covered a wide range of artists, including Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Bob Dylan in his rich and varied blues guitar rhythm, ably backed by Gary Brooks on bass and Sam Brookstein on drums. His style is reminiscent of Muddy Waters & Eric Clapton.”
“Wow,” (I thought to myself). “If I didn’t know better, I would think I had written this myself.” Reading on, Nora expressed her own humble opinion. “Especially powerful was the Beatles’ ‘All the lonely people.’ The Langdale Band has played up and down the Hudson Valley in recent years. Let’s hope they can be lured back to the Upper Delaware Valley region again soon.”
Suddenly horrified by my substitute’s fine ability (thank goodness she can’t take a decent photograph!) to describe the evening, I made a silent vow to never call in sick again. Nora concluded her message by saying “If you want us to head out on assignment next weekend, please let me know.” Hmm. I don’t think so, Nora—you are far too good (IMHO) at doing my job. Apparently, I am replaceable. Come hell or high water, I’ll be (meekly) hitting the streets this weekend. Too many understudies waiting in the wings.