Janet's Jargon

Fun lifestyles, charitable acts, great fiction, author support, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, Keith clan trilogy,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fun, Fate and Fame

I was going to the fundraising concert for the Cup O'Joy Coffee House in Green Bay WI on Friday night with our minister and his wife. After a very full and busy week, I was looking for a chance to just relax a bit. It was to be held at the Meyer Theater on Main Street. That was a wonderful plan, as my favorite restaurant next door to the theater was a little place that is sort of unobtrusive, but which favors great international fare. My mouth was drooling in aniticipation on the trip.

As luck would have it, we found a parking space just a couple of doors down from the restaurant and the theater. I am sure we have parked in that same spot several times before, but you know how you are when your mind is focused on something; you completely overlook the obvious.

We put some money in the parking meter and walked down to the cafe. As we stood in front of it, a young man came out and told us that the cafe was closed for renovations. Feeling more than a little bit disappointed, we headed back to the car, discussing what to do now as far as eating was concerned. As we stood in front of the car, Dave (the pastor) said, "Well, there's Al's Hamburger Joint, established in 1934. You want to settle for a burger?"

Disappointed, we agreed (mainly so we wouldn't lose our parking spot) and went inside. It was empty, except for the waitress, who welcomed us with "You look like you are from out of town and sort of lost. Welcome to the home of the greasiest and best burgers in Green Bay."

We laughed with her and Dave told her that we were indeed from out of town and that we were going to the concrt at the Meyer Theater in a couple of hours. She gave us a quick rundown of the specials of the day, then began to fill us in on the history of the restaurant. Al was the original owner, and it was now in its 5th generation of the same family. She was a true delight, and I couldn't help but be thankful that we were the only ones in "the joint." I'm sure we would have missed out on all of that fun history if the place had been packed.

Before long the cook (the only other person in the place) came out with our bread, the best coleslaw I have ever eaten, and our coffee. The gal said "That's the son-in-law of the current owner." He grinned and said, "Yup, I'm the outlaw. I married their daughter."

I had taken a couple of my brochures out and set them on the table, and he picked one of them up and asked what it was. The pastor said, "You didn't know you were going to serve a famous author today, did you?" He studied one of the brochures and handed the other one to the waitress. He said, "Hmm. These look really good. Do you have any of them with you?" I told him that I had just brought one copy of my latest book, "The Green Yea," with me. He said, "Sold to the highest bidder," and I had me a bonafide booksale. But that was just the beginning.

The waitress had been reading through her brochure and she began to ask about some of the other books. As I talked, I noticed that she was writing. After a few minutes (with Dave and Toni offering most welcome comments aBout some of the books they had read), she said, "OK, here's my list. I want these 5." She reached into her apron and counted out $60. "That's enough to cover the postage to send them to me, isn't it?" I assured her it was, and I thought that this was turning out to be a very profitable trip to have a lot of fun.

As we talked a bit more, they asked me to call the owner of the cafe and set up a booksigning for a ways down the track. "I can buy the rest of the books then," the waitress commented. I was so glad that other fancy place was closed for repairs!

At the concert, a friend I hadn't seen in quite a while came up to me with three of her friends and introduced us. She then asked, "What books do you have with you?" She said her friends wanted to buy some of them, and she wanted to get the ones that had come out since we had last seen each other. I told her that the only one I had brught was already sold, and I told her about our experience at Al's Hamburger Joint. She was all enthused about a booksigning there. "They have the best burgers in Green Bay," she said, "i can line up a whole bunch of customers for you. Just let me know when it's going to be."

After the concert, Dave and Toni were volunteering for some after efforts for the coffee house, so I was standing in the lobby, waiting for them. A woman came up and stood by a table near me and she kept looking at me. Finally she said, "I think I should know you. You look like somebody." I chuckled and told her that as far as I knew, I looked like me." She laughed with me, then turned to walk away. After taking just a few steps, she came back and said, "I know who you are. I bought some of your books when you did a booksigning at the Borders store here." I said that was very possible, as I had been there almost a year ago. She said she had bought two books at the signing, then had bought 3 more after that. She asked if I had any new ones out, and could she buy them? I told her that she would have to order them from Amazon or someplace online or have the bookstore get them if they didn't already have them. I gave her a brochure so she would know the ones she didn't have.

I had moved just a short ways toward the door, all the time watching for Dave and Toni so I wouldn't miss them. Soon the mayor of Green Bay (I knew it was the mayor, as the MC had said that he was dressed in a tuxedo) came up and extended his hand to me. I was surprised, to say the least. He said, "Somebody at one of the radio tables said you are somebody famous and that I should meet you." I laughed and told him that I might be famous in Amberg WI, but he was famous at least in Green Bay, and probably througout the whole state, so he had a head start on me. He asked me what made me so famous and I told him I was an author and gave him a brochure. In a few minutes he was taking me over to meet 4 nuns (surprisingly, still dressed in habits--a rarity these days). He told them who I was, and I gave them each a brochure with the Patrick and Grace books on the front page of the brochure. Their attention turned to Old Habits Die Hard, with the Mother Superior on the cover. Well, they were hooked, and promised to get the Patrick and Grace Mysteries ordered as soon as they got back to the convent. Times, they is a changin'!

Nearly half an hour had passed and I asked a volnuteer if he knew Dave and Toni Pompo. He said he didn't, but that he would try to find them for me. I told him I wasn't in a hurry, and told him what they were supposed to be doing, but I wanted to let them know where I was when they finished their duties. He said he knew where they probably were and offered to go let them know that I was right by the front door. When he returned (the crowd had thinned down quite a bit by then), and like a true gentleman, he got a chair for both of us and he sat down and we began talking. He told me that he has two sons that he and his wife are homeschooling. He said, "I just wish I could get them interested in history. They just hate it!" I told them that I hated history when I was a kid too, then I told him about My Dear Phebe, a young adult Civil War book. He got all excited and said that he was going to order a copy for his boys, and then he said that he is on the board of the homeschooling association for Wisconsin and that he would pass the information along to them too.

When Dave and Toni got there, they apologized for keeping me waiting so long. I told them of all the fun I'd had while I waited. Dave said, "Next time we go someplace you are going to have to take a bunch of books along in your suitcase and I will be your go-fer to run out to the car to get them as I sold them." I told him that I really don't feel comfortable selling them in a place where it is not about me or my books, but that the venue is for the performers. He said, "Fine. We'll just tell people to go meet you at the car in a few minutes and you can sell them out of the trunk of the car."

Hmmm, seems to me that I've heard of some pretty famous authors who sarted out that way. Maybe I'm on my way to the "famous" part after all! I sure am glad we had a burger instead of a banquet!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Famous music makers--and me

From the time I was a very little girl (yes, I really was one--once!), music has been a very important part of my life. I began taking music lessons when I was 4 years old. I cheated. Yup, sure enough, and like usually happens, I got caught before too long. You see, my piano teacher would play the songs for me and I would hurry home and repeat them, just like she had played them. The only problem with that was that one day she skipped a page in my newly assigned song. So, I went home and played it exactly like she had done. When I went to my lesson the next week, she said, "But that's not the way it's written." I argued with her. "It's exactly the way you played it." Well, it didn't take her long to figure out that I was playing everything by ear, so I went home with a "note speller" and a new assignment, one that she didn't play for me.

Now, many years later, I am very thankful that she taught me to read music, but I am equally grateful that I can still play by ear. I often play in church, and if they ask me ahead of time if I know a certain song or chorus, if I don't, I can go to YouTube and find it and after listening to it a couple of times, I can "fake it," just like I did when I was 4 years old.

About 35 years ago my mother decided that it was time for me to have her old piano. She got it (2nd hand) when she was 4 years old; that would have been in 1915. How old it was then is anybody's guess. My parents had put it in the basement when we moved from southern Minnesota to northern Minnesota. There was no problem getting it down the steps, as the stairwell was not yet enclosed. Getting it out? That was quite a different matter. There was no way it would fit. It was a big old upright grand piano. My folks had a little room set off to the side of the house with a low roof on it. There was a coal shoot that opened up and it allowed my dad to shove big logs down to the basement to use in the furnace. He finally took the roof off and raised the piano up with his homemade tractor and hoist. From there it went into a logging truck and headed for our house in Grand Forks, ND, a distance of about 250 miles. The logger didn't even tie it down in the back of the truck. It made it safe and sound, and it didn't even need tuning. In fact, I had it checked by a tuner every 5 years, but it never needed tuning. They just don't make things like they used to!

When I moved to northeast Wisconsin after Ivan (my hubby of 42 years) died, my only regret was that there wasn't room in the U-Haul trailer for my piano. I lamented having to leave it behind almost every day from then on, until...

I was at a historical society meeting and a woman asked me about my piano playing. She said she had seen in the paper that I was going to play at our church's semi-annual community spaghetti feed. I laughed and told her that I didn't know I was playing for it until I read it in the paper too. She asked me how long I'd been playing, etc. and I told her how sad the loss of my piano made me feel. She asked, "Do you want mine?" I was dumbfounded. I asked her how much she wanted for it. She said she would be happy if she could come over and listen to me play sometimes. She had bought the piano new in 1948, but she never learned to play it, and her hands have so much arthritis in them that she couldn't play it now, even if she knew how. So, in a couple of days 4 fellows from our church moved it over and I had it tuned. (Yes, it needed it, but I was delighted to take care of that.) So, to Dorothy Willey, if you see this, THANK YOU--from the bottom of my heart.

There is a local group of widows (we prefer to call ourselves Rain Dancers) who meet once a month. They asked me to play for them, so we met at a church and I gave my very first solo concert. When I asked them how many songs they wanted me to play, they said, "Enough to fill up 30-45 minutes." Who says you are too old to try something new?

In the meantime, along the way, my music has led me to some very interesting and wonderful musical friends. I guess my first "famous" musician would be George Beverly Shea. I was in college in Minneapolis, MN when the Billy Graham Crusade was there. I was in the choir, but Tedd Smith, the usual pianist for the Crusades, got a flu bug. George Beverly Shea needed somebody who could transpose I'd Rather Have Jesus to a key that was low enough for him to sing it. Since I played by ear, I got the job. Tedd Smith recovered before the actual Crusade began, but it was an experience of a lifetime.

When I was a missionary candidate near Philadelphia, my accordian had a leaky bellow, and somebody at a church I attended one Sunday suggested that I ask the musical director, Alfred B. Smith, if he could fix it. I did, he did, and...well, another part of my musical history. He has written hundreds of well known gospel songs. While I was there, I also got to spend an afternoon with Ike and Mamie Eisenhower at their Gettysburg Farm, and I got to play their piano while we all gathered around and sang. But that's fodder for another blog--another day.

More recently, I got acquainted with a wonderful lady, Martha Reed-Garvin. I heard her on her radio program, Musical Memories, and e-mails led to phone calls, and to her son, Brad. Brad is a singer at the Metropolitan Opera Center in New York City. The friendship with Brad began because he had written a wonderful mystery, With the Voice of Angels, and he was looking for help in getting it published. It is now out from Star Publish LLC. He was gracious enough to allow me to sing a couple of Christmas carols with him on my radio program, Marketing for Fun and Profit, aired weekly on http://internetvoicesradio.com .

Another wonderful musician who has crossed my path is Job Christianson. He was a singer on Broadway for several years, but he returned "home" to Grand Forks, ND, after his mother passed away. When Ivan died, he was at the church when I called the pastor to make funeral arrangements. He called back in a couple of minutes and asked if he could sing for Ivan's service. I told him Ivan would be delighted. He sang "He Raised Me Up," a most fitting song, since Ivan had been confined to a wheelchair for 11 years.

My most recent musical experience was when I got to accompany Don Shire, a world acclaimed trumpeter. He is known in Wisconsin as "Wisconsin's own musicionary." He has traveled to many different countries. He allowed me to play How Great Thou Art with him at a recent service at our church. Afterwards, he gave a citywide concert in the local ball park pavilion. Before the concert we were talking and the conversation turned to Bill Pierce, a radio musician who passed away a few months ago. Don said that he had played with Bill Pierce, as well as Huntley Brown and his most recent CD was recorded with the Don Marsh orchestra, so he said, "Since you have played with me and I have played with them, you have played with them by proxy."

Oh, yes, I love the world of music. To see pictures of some of my famous partners in tune, go to my website (http://www.janetelainesmith.com) and click on the page "Making Music" or click on the title at the top of this blog entry.