Lost Solo

Ahhhh, The Laundromat.  What a wonderful place…  With a busted dryer, it’s off to the local washing house here in Reno NV,  to do the weekly wash.  There was a time, I lived in the San Fernando Valley, where the local washing house was a place I looked forward to visiting.  It was a very clean laundry, and at the time of night I would visit the owner was usually in doing repairs, cleaning and collecting the days booty.  To look at this Kat you might think, Machinist or Mechanic, after all he did work on the washers and dryers himself.  The Patch on his blue uniform shirt said “Al” Coulda been Alan, or Albert, I never asked.  A to himself diligent manner, and definitely focused on his tasks at hand.  Grey, short, high and tight military style cut with horn rim glasses.  A weathered sort of Kat that didn’t say much.

After many months and many coins deposited into machines that, without fail, would perform with precision rhythm a percussive concert that would get my feet and hands tapping every time, sitting at the end of the isle waiting for the cycles to complete.  One day I brought in my guitar, I had an idea.  The percussive sounds that I heard every week had kinda taken root.  I counted the beat and the sound the washing machines made.  I would have my quarters lined up in the slots and try to start my three or four washers at a time at the same time as close as I could.  The count was about 120 beats a minute.  It was a Kachunk a chunk type beat… I would begin in the Chunk… chunk kachunk ka – chunk a – chunk, chunk kachunk – ka chunk a  – chunk…

Sliding in the coins, there it was… The sound of water flowing into the washer like a cymbal crescendo.  Preparing myself for the the percussive symphony to begin.  The click… wait for it… Chunk kachunk ka – chunk a – chunk…  I began to strum in an the usual drop “D” tuning, then flat picking in a pattern with the beat.  Everything I expected to hear.  This went on for the cycle then came the spin.  I hadn’t concidered the spin… Without a hitch, a pattern of notes started to flow.  High on the neck the notes seemed to oscillate with the whining of the electric motor spinning faster and faster.   Repeating the pattern over and over till “CLACK” then the crescendo of the splashing water began.  Working a hammer on D chord with no strumming, my fingers seemed to have mind of their own.  Hard, then soft, D, 4 counts, D7 4 counts.  Like I was now part of the machine, as if I had left my body in a dream the Chunk a chunk ka – chunka a – chunk, began and back to the flat pick pattern then adding a strum.

The next spin started, and like magic I started the solo pattern again, repeating, repeating, then the Clack Click!  It was done… Silence, only the humming of the lights in the ceiling.  I opened my eyes to see out the large store front plate glass, it had started to rain.  Something about a San Fernando Spring Rain, you can smell it even if you are in a sealed room.  I could smell the rain and feel the cleansing.

As I was putting my guitar in my case, I looked to the corner and there was Al.  As I was opening the Washers to put the wet clothes in the basket to cart to the dryers, Al said, “Pretty nice Kid”.  I said thanks and started the dryer.  Al and I talked for a while.  I explained the idea I had, and that’s when he told me he had played Violin in the back on cool nights.  Seems he had dreams of being a Violinist in a New York Orchestra, But with money tight he went to work in his Fathers machine shop and that was that…  I wondered what “that” was for a minuted but never brought it up.  I could see from corner of his eye as he looked the other way, he still held that dream in him.

After the last towel was folded, I bid my good evening to Al and see ya next week.  He said something to me as I was walking away I’ll never forget.  “Hey Kid, Never put it down.  Never leave it alone, it’ll always be there ya when you need it”…  I turned and smiled.  “Thanks Al, you too.”  Al Smirked and said, oh, you don’t have to worry about that”.   On my walk home it was barley drizzling, still taking in the clean wet air.  I had visions of Al playing his Violin in the shop in the back of his Laundry, then I began to cry and laugh at the same time.  I had a vision of Al, Playing his Violin in that New York Orchestra, everyone in tux’s except Al…  There he was with his blue uniform shirt and jeans, Playing, living his dream…  Heh, I guess ya had to be there…

When I got home I put away the clean stuff and thought about the solo that was coming from nowhere.  I pulled my Guitar out of its case and tried to reproduce what I had played.  I closed my eyes and could play the chords.  But the notes I had played while the spinning cycle was running, the pattern was gone.  I could not bring it back!  At first I was pissed but then I thought, wow, was that even me?  was it something that came to me only as a gift for thought.  I sat on my couch meditating to see if I could bring it back…

I woke up in the morning with my guitar still in my lap.  Thinking I lost it… then something came over me.  The words Al Said as I was leaving.  Sometimes I wonder what Al is doing.  I never saw him again after that night.  A week later I got an offer and moved.  Actually I moved into an apartment with a washer and dryer.  I could still never reproduce the sounds made that night at the San Fernando Wash House.  Hmph.  Lots of good ideas came of it, but never the same…

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