The open mic at the pub near my house that I used to frequent shut down before Christmas, and I haven’t found a replacement yet, but I had heard of something called the Tucson Musician Club from the guy who hosted that open mic, and after e-mailing with him about it a bit, decided to go check it out this past Tuesday night. I decided to go easy on myself, leave the guitar at home, and just attend and observe to get the lay of the land.
The monsoon had been brewing for hours, and the sky threatened as I drove downtown, but in June there is usually more bluster than action, a few random sprinkles and gusts of wind the worst of it in the end. Nonetheless, I made sure my windows were up as I pulled into O’Malley’s parking lot, because you never know. Tucson is a sprawling city that has wildly varying weather depending on what part of town you’re in.
I walked towards the bar with the slight nervousness of being in a new situation, wondering where the group was gathered and if I’d find them easily, double-checking the e-mail I had in my purse to make sure I was at the right place, because Maloney’s, another Irish-monikered bar, and O’Malley’s share a parking lot. I had barely walked in the door when two men at the bar end closest to the door looked at me and smiled in welcome, and I thought perhaps they were the greeting committee, stationed at the door to corral and direct wayward new members, an impression that grew when one stood up and approached me and said, “Hello! We’ve been waiting for you!”
I smiled, but before I could finish getting out the words, “You have?” I found myself suddenly wrapped up in a hearty hug from a substantial smiling businessman who looked to be 5 or 10 years older than myself. I was hugged with such enthusiasm that I thought he must be confusing me for someone else, so as I broke the embrace I said, “You don’t know me,” with a tone that was equal parts politely correcting the mistake I thought he was probably making, and warning him to back it up a little, because while I didn’t feel like I was in danger, I get a little prickly when men assume that my female body is public property they can help themselves to.
“I know you, and you know me,” he said. “We all know each other. Everything in our lives has led to this moment, bringing us all together here, now.”
Under less baffling circumstances, I probably would’ve agreed with him philosophically, but my mind was sprinting, trying to figure out what episode of the Twilight Zone I’d just walked into. The other man who’d spied me as I walked in and who was evidently with this guy was looking on, amused, maybe, but he said nothing.
“What’s your name?” I said, though I’m not sure now why I thought that particular bit of information would clarify things at all.
“Names don’t matter,” he said, but then, perhaps in light of what can only have been a wary and skeptical look on my face, offered, “I’m Craig.”
I was momentarily taken aback, and not sure I’d heard him over the din in the bar and my own confusion, and said, “Craig?”
“Who are you looking for here, Kristie?” he asked, all amiability.
“The Tucson Musicians’ Club,” I said.
“That might be them in the back,” he said, gesturing to another room behind him, and as I looked past his shoulder at a bunch of folks milling around accompanied by the sound of a band tuning up, it seemed a reasonable guess.
“Okay then. That’s where I’m headed.”
“You have a good night, Kristie.”
“You, too,” I said as I made my move away from him and towards the back.
Two hours later when I headed for the restroom, he and his pal were gone. I still don’t know what that was about, (or why my being present in pubs where amateur music is being played seems to be an irresistible enticement to exuberant displays of affection towards me by strangers). Maybe this was just one guy’s schtick, his line, his way of getting the cheap thrill of a random boob graze during a hug through the element of surprise.
Or maybe it was something else entirely.