For the record, I don’t make it a habit to hang out in bars alone. Not that there’s anything wrong in that. I’m old enough to do as I please, thank you.
But I’d probably just spend the whole time watching the door, expecting any minute to see my mother rise from her grave and come haul me out by my ear.
That is not a sight I ever want to see. But I’m taking a chance on it tonight, going alone to a bar. The things we do for love.
The Backstop Sports Pub in Boulder City, Nev., has a long and colorful history. Originally built as a recreation hall by the Hoover Dam workers in 1931, it’s been the Backstop since 1993, a gathering place and watering hole for locals and tourists and other folks who drive over from Las Vegas looking for what’s described in the theme song from “Cheers” as “a place where everybody knows your name.”
They don’t know my name, but that’s all right. I’m just here for the music. I think my mother would understand that. She loved music. She and her sisters sang four-part harmony in a group they called The Cheerful Chimers. They sang in church, of course, not in bars.
But church, for me, is where I find it: in a stained-glass cathedral or the eyes of people I love; a sunset in my back yard or a walk along Monterey Bay; a leaky tent in the rain or a misty lake in Carolina or a smoky bar in Boulder City, where tonight my favorite band is playing.
They call themselves The West Coast Travelers. I like these guys a lot. I especially like the bass player. And not just because he’s my husband.
By day, he’s an editor and he’s good at it. I say that because he was my editor once and seldom changed a word I wrote except to save me from myself.
He doesn’t play music to earn a living. Few musicians ever do. Mostly he plays to stay sane.
Early morning, late at night, he takes his guitar out on the patio to play for the birds and give them something to sing about. He plays for our children and grandchildren when they visit or call, and sometimes he plays just for me.
He loves all sorts of music, but what he loves best is making music with his friends.
They are grown men, old enough to have better sense (than to strain their backs and blister their fingers and lose half a night’s sleep) but young enough at heart not to care.
They’ll feel lousy tomorrow, and look worse than they feel. But tonight as they’re playing “Hotel California,” they look like little boys.
I wish you could see them.
Maybe you have. Not my husband and his band buddies, but other musicians like them.
You can find them anywhere, small towns or big cities, in bars or churches or grange halls or just pickin’ and grinnin’ on somebody’s porch. They play any place, any chance they get.
Tonight as I sat listening, I looked around the room and watched their music work its magic on the crowd. The guys shooting pool in the back. The couple leaning close in the booth. The woman dancing alone, without a partner. The intermingling sounds of bass and guitar, keyboard and drums, voices and laughter and human interaction.
Music is a spiritual connector. It flows from the mind of the Creator through the fingers of the musician and into the soul of the listener. Like all art, it invites us to stop and consider some piece of life — a moment or feeling or image or sound.
Then it slips inside our most closely guarded places to remind us that we are human and we are not alone. We might not know each other’s names, but we know that we belong.
Making music can be an act of worship. Hearing it can be holy. Enjoying it is a gift.
My mother never showed up tonight. But I’d almost swear I heard her and the Cheerful Chimers singing along.
Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).
Ruth Ann Dailey is off today.