Friday, April 26, 2013

Seeing George by Michael C Keith

Jacob and Emily, on their way to the cinema, bump into George Harrison; by Michael C Keith.

The hope I dreamed of was a dream,
Was but a dream, and now I wake.
- Christina Rossetti

We had pulled up to the curb on Thayer Street on the East Side of Providence, a few blocks up from the Avon Theater. It was where we usually found a place to park on the busy thoroughfare. As I turned off the engine, I looked down the street about a half a block and noticed a man approaching in a flowing overcoat carrying shopping bags. There was a dull ring of recognition, a mild sense of familiarity about the person. Maybe I knew the guy, I thought. My wife was gathering her scarf and gloves to face the cold December air as I continued to peer at the nearing figure. And then BAM! It hit me.

"Oh my God, it's George Harrison!" I blurted.

"What?" my wife replied.

"George Harrison... the Beatle!" I repeated with urgency.

"Where? C'mon..."

"Coming up the street. Look!" I pointed.

She moved closer to the windshield for a better view.

"It can't... He does kind of look... You think?" she gasped.

We both sat frozen in disbelief as the former Beatle was now within a few feet of our car.

"How could it be, Jacob? What would he be doing here?" sputtered Emily.

"I don't know, but it's him," I insisted, having no doubt at all.

As the legendary performer passed, he gave us a quick sideways glance, which I returned with a broad smile of recognition. Emily jumped from the car and pursued him, as I tried to dissuade her. She ignored my plea as I watched Harrison move away through the rearview mirror.



"George! George!" Emily shouted as he rounded the corner.

"Hon, leave the poor man alone," I said, as we caught up to him. "She's... I mean, we are huge admirers of yours, George," I said apologetically.

"Love you, George!" exclaimed Emily as the ageless rocker continued on his way.

"Me, too, George," I added.

To our amazement the fabled singer suddenly stopped and turned around.

"Thank you, folks. I appreciate that," he said softly.

"Why are you here? I mean in Providence of all places," inquired Emily, moving closer to Harrison.

"Visiting my son for the holidays. He attends Brown."

Is this actually happening? Are we really having a conversation with one of the Fab Four? A hundred questions filled my head. Do you miss John? What's your relationship with the other two Beatles? Did Yoko really break up the group...?

"My husband teaches at URI... the University of Rhode Island," replied Emily, starstruck but still able to find the words to keep the dialogue going, which was more than I could do.

"Good school, I hear," replied George.

"I'm Emily and this is my husband, Jacob."

George extended his hand and we excitedly shook it.

"Are you here for long?" asked Emily.

"Just a couple of more days."

"It must be hard moving about with people like us stopping you."

"Surprisingly not. The students don't recognize us old crooners like they used to."

"Yeah, it's us oldies that recognize you goodies," said Emily, and I thought, Well, that will kill it.

Instead of being put off by her awkward attempt at levity, Harrison laughed.

"Say, would you folks care for some hot tea? It's bone chilly out here, and the house that I'm staying in is just around the corner."

"You mean with you?" I was able to ask despite my shock at the invitation.

"Really, George?" chirped my wife in sheer delight.

"I'm not seeing my son again until the morning, so I could use a little company. What do you say?"

"Oh, my God, yes!" answered Emily, about to burst with joy.

"Are you sure?" I asked, praying he was.

"No, not really," said George, with a impish grin, "Of course, I'm sure. Follow me."

This can't be happening. Tea with a Beatle, I thought, and I could tell that Emily was thinking the same thing. We followed Harrison in silence expecting to wake up from our fantasy at any moment.

"You live around here?" asked Harrison.

"Off Hope. We live off Hope... Street. Just up the way."

George chuckled. "Guess we all live off Hope, don't we? Well, here we are. This old manse belongs to the university and is loaned out to certain visitors. They keep a housekeeper and cook here. Otherwise it's a hulking emptiness. Come on in."

"Lovely," said Emily, as we climbed the steps leading to the entrance of the brownstone Victorian.

"Meets the needs," replied Harrison impassively.

The interior of the house struck us as the epitome of old world elegance.

"Let's sit in the drawing room. We can take our tea there. Care for something to eat? I can have the cook whip something up."

"Oh, please, don't inconvenience anybody. Tea is just fine."

"Well, it's no inconvenience. That's her job."

"Really, George, you're too kind. We were going to grab something at Andrea's before the movie."

"Oh, dear. I've disrupted your plans. You'll miss the film."

"Being here with you is far better than any film," said Emily adoringly, and I concurred.

"This is an exceptional treat for us, George. No one will ever believe this."

"Well, it's nice to have a little company. I really had nothing planned for the evening, so you're kind to spend a little time with me."

"Our pleasure a hundredfold, George," responded Emily.

Again I concurred with my wife and ventured a question, hoping not to upset him with what he might consider as his personal business. "Your wife didn't join you on this visit to the States?"

"Actually she did, but she left for New York to attend a gallery opening of a friend. She'll be back tomorrow and then we'll be off to home the next day."

At that moment, the caretaker entered the room and asked George if he would like anything. Turning to us, he asked whether we'd prefer coffee to tea. Although neither of us were really tea drinkers, we both replied that we'd love a hot cup of tea. It seemed the correct thing to do around a Brit. Moreover, we did not want to seem demanding.

"Three teas then, Mrs...?"

"Murphy, sir," replied the middle-aged women.

"Yes, sorry. I'm not great with names. Could we have some dunkers, too?"

"Yes, sir."

The woman left the room, and George pointed to a leather couch and told us to make ourselves comfortable. Still in something of a daze, we heeded his directions. A guitar leaned against the arm of the wingback chair he sat in.

"Are you working on a new song, George?" I braved.

"Actually, I've been fiddling with a little tune since last night. At this point, it's really just a germ of an idea."

Harrison lifted the guitar, and ran his fingers across the strings. He then began to sing along with his new composition. Chills ran up my spine. About a minute into it he stopped.

"That's as far as it's gotten to at this point. Haven't found a hook yet, and I'm not crazy about the words."

"Would you play it again, please?" asked Emily.

Harrison nodded and replayed the song fragment.

"Stymied where to take it from here, but it will come. Always does."

"Do you mind if I make a suggestion?" said Emily, timidly.

"You a musician?"

"I play a little piano. Have since I was small. But I'm not a professional. I do hear things though... melodies."

"Great! Tell me what you hear, Emily," said George with an encouraging smile.

"Would you play it one more time?"

"Sure."

When he stopped, Emily hummed her idea.

"Could you repeat it?" requested Harrison.

In a fuller voice, Emily performed her theme line.

"Hey, that's nice. Let me try it," said George.

When he was through, he beamed with satisfaction. "Damn that's a hell of a hook! Can I use it?"

"Really?" Emily squealed. "Of course. I'd be so honored. I can't believe it. Oh, my God. I'm writing a song with a Beatle."

"Former Beatle," said George, amused by Emily's nearly manic enthusiasm.

During all this a lyric had come to me that I thought might improve upon Harrison's, but it was only my wife's show of bravado made me dare to say so.

"Please don't take this the wrong way, George, but I have a piece of lyric that might work. I used to write words to songs when I was younger, though I can't read a note of music. Would you care to hear it?"

I held my breath as one of the world's great pop song writers replied. "Well, why not, Jacob. May as well make this a community effort."

"If instead of the line 'Talking to the moving clouds' you sang 'Riding on the tropic breeze,' it might fit better... probably not. I'm way out of my depths and a fool for suggesting different lyrics to a George Harrison song. Man, that's brazen. Sorry."

"Let me try it with Emily's hook."

After playing the partially written tune twice with the suggested revisions, Harrison put the guitar down, stood up, extended his arms, and requested a group hug.

"You guys have done it. This is going to be great. I love it. It's all but finished with your help, and I'm going to list you as co-writers. My sweet lord, you've made us a hit. Let's write another song together - maybe even a whole album. How about...?"



From far off, I could hear Emily calling me. Then a brilliant shard of light from the setting sun pierced the windshield and temporarily blinded me.

"Jacob! Jacob! George turned back and smiled at me when he was almost at the end of the block. Do you believe that? Jacob? Hello? What's the matter with you?"

"Oh, nothing." I mumbled, feeling the full weight of reality descend on me. "I was just daydreaming."

6 comments:

  1. i didn´t expect to like this, but it really is very good.

    michael mccarthy

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  2. I couldn't help but smile as I read this. I want to say "cute" but that wouldn't be fair. Nicely done!

    Jim

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  3. I really loved this story. I was thinking "On, come on" closer to the end but the end of the daydreaming saved the day. Well done.

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  4. That should have been "Oh, come on".:)

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  5. This is a nice, fun piece. The ending made me smile :) Huge Beatles fan, here.

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  6. I like it. Stories that makes me smile are few and far between. Thank You~

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