Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Exchange of Gifts and an Adoption (Revised Edition)

At Blueberry Hill Chuck Berry sometimes signs autographs after the show. I didn’t know what happens at The Argosy casino, but I brought two pictures to St. Louis just in case. One was an enlargement of an old Creem Magazine photograph that I’ve carried around for nearly 40 years now: Chuck and Bo Diddley sitting and joking, Bo wagging his middle finger at Chuck, Chuck evidently scolding him with his pointer finger.

But my real treasure was the picture of Chuck using a little telescope when he was a child. I’m thinking the telescope is equipped with a solar filter—the front lens is covered by something and he’s pointing it towards the sun. He’s on a rooftop (one that is or was a few miles from where I sit typing.) He’s dressed as good as a kid gets dressed. He’s got a suit coat and slacks. He’s wearing a cap, backward. He’s got long, skinny, two toned leather shoes that wouldn’t have looked too out of place once or twice when I saw him perform in the 1970s. It’s one of my favorite pictures of the man (actually, the boy) and I figured it was the one I wanted him to see and sign if I got the chance.

So I printed two and put one in an inexpensive frame from Target.

I figure it this way. He doesn’t need or want what I might bring him, but I don’t like to keep asking for stuff from him. He’s given me and you enough. I’d like to at least make a gesture back in his direction.

We were lucky to get backstage briefly before the show with a pass that allowed us back afterwards. Honestly, I feel more comfortable in the audience. (Also didn’t want to lose those seats, which were good ones!)  So we visited for a bit, then took seats during the sound check, and stayed in them till the show was over.  Doug went backstage again after the sound check, so I asked him if he’d take the framed picture to CBII and ask him to get it to his dad.

At the Argosy it’s all Chuck Berry and his band. There’s no warm up or opening act. You get exactly what you’ve paid for and have come to see: which happened to be a very upbeat Chuck Berry, singing like a 30 year old, doing great rhythm and letting rip some wonderful guitar riffs. Every band member got a chance to shine. They even made requests!  So it was a good show, and Chuck kept playing for several minutes after he’d disappeared from view.

Then we went backstage again. 

Ingrid seemed to be leaving. I had something for her from Peter K. in Sweden.  I bravely introduced myself and my wife and got several hugs and kisses. These people are nice. She remembered Rebecca from stage.

I was talking to CBII when that familiar figure moved past me in the hallway.

That’s when either Doug or CBII pointed down to the framed picture on a chair and said “You’re going to give him that yourself.”

“I’ll introduce you,” said CBII.

A few minutes later it happened. He was leaving. CBII stopped him in the hallway.

“Dad, here’s a friend from Seattle. He’s got something for you.”

He turned, captain’s hat, dark aviator glasses, black leather coat, nice smile: this man is cool. He offered that extra large hand.

“Seattle friend!” he said.

“I wanted to give you this,” I said, handing him the picture.

He took it with two hands and leaned into it, smiling and shaking his head.

“Oooh-wee. Oh my!”

Sometimes you give a gift and know it's a good one.

“Where did you get this?” he asked.

“It’s online,” I told him. At the time I didn't remember where I'd got it.  I've since searched the digital archive and found that I got this copy from Peter K. in Sweden.  I’ve seen it different places for years.

“Come on! I’ve got to show it to (I think he said Patrick). And you’re going to see me do it.”

He practically runs down the hall where he finds a woman and man and shows them the picture. Everyone loves it. Chuck just keeps staring. I try to explore our theory that he was observing an eclipse of the sun. At least two others have a different theory: “Whose window were you looking through?”

He doesn't respond.  He just stares, smiles, and ultimately says: "Look at those shoes!"

I ask Chuck to sign my copy, which he does. Chuck, my wife Rebecca and Charles cooperate on some arithmetic and Chuck gives it the date 1937. A smiley face, too.

I tell him “All my life I’ve had two favorite things.” Then I remember that I'm standing next to Rebecca. “Well, three favorite…” Then, in my imagination my kids Jade, Gemma and Rafferty and granddaughter Leila Tulane walked up behind me.

“Four, five, six…” I start to say. I need some help with my arithmetic.  Chuck looked at Rebecca and laughed.

“I’ve always loved Chuck Berry, and telescopes. And this picture’s got both.”

“Well thank you,” he says.

“Thank YOU, for what you’ve given me, what you've given all of us, what you've given our country, and the world.”

He gives himself a British accent.

“Oh no, not at all!” he says.

I must have been distracted, talking with some of the others when he points to Doug.

"This is my son, too," he tells everyone, then shrugs.  "I don't know what happened!" 

You know, I'd always hoped that Chuck Berry would one day recognize me as a long lost, genetically inferior offspring, but alas.  It's Doug.  I'm just one of his "rock and roll children," like you and everybody else.

He lifted his dark glasses at some point, said his goodbye, and they were off.

Doug almost made it out of the room without crying-- but no way. 
Then off to dinner.

Nice night.

Thank you all.


Anonymous said...

Peter, As you know I was right beside kinda behind Chuck as the events you described where happening. As he went to leave he pointed back at me and said "This is my Son too"....He then lifted his hands palms up and shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't know what happened"??!! Thats when I couldn't hold back the "hurry home drops"..... I'll never forget it.....

CB message board ID - Busseybootlegger


Peter said...

Doug-- it was only the next day that Rebecca told me what happened. I didn't see! What a wonderful and unforgettable thing!