We’d barely gotten warmed up when a man interrupted and told us he had some poets and singers coming soon, and they’d be using the space.
He walked away and we sort of puzzled over this unexpected twist. Then when nothing more happened we decided to keep on playing. Our few listeners seemed to enjoy it; some smiled and danced.
After a while people started arriving. Then more people, perhaps 25, mostly women, a few men, and some children. Mr. Manager reappeared and asked us to step aside. I packed up my pennywhistles, but my friend with the congas and the guitarist with his mic and amp were sort of stuck. I roamed around, at a loss. I was hired to sing and play, and that’s what I wanted to do.
A well-dressed lady stepped up the mic and began speaking about racial equality in the workplace.
“Things are a lot better now than they were in the ’70’s,” she intoned. “Back then it used to be master and slave. Now it’s man to man.”
She sat down to a scattering of applause.
I wandered around some more while someone sang a song, and then another poet spoke, and another. Finally, I approached Mr. Manager and asked to have a word with him in private. I said, my guitarist friend is too polite to tell you this, but we’ve been here more than two hours and we’d like to leave, but we can’t because you co-opted his sound equipment.
He reacted with angry denial -- no he had not co-opted the sound equipment, you can’t leave because you’re being paid, and you had better stop yelling. And he turned and walked away.
I hadn’t been yelling and said so. Who are you talking to, he said over one shoulder, as he kept walking away. Your backside! I observed ruefully.
After perhaps another half hour, Mr. Manager finally informed the gathering that we were packing up the sound equipment and the congas. Someone called out: that’s okay, we don’t need a microphone!
When we got to the car and loaded everything, Mr. Manager shook the guitarist’s hand and thanked him. Ditto with the conga player. Then he turned and walked away. I played too, I reminded him. He turned on me with more "bad dog" words. I encouraged him not to make it about me, and walked home savoring the cold, clear air.
It makes no difference to my life whether the president is a white transvestite or a black man -- in order to get there, that person must belong to the privileged master class whose pets have better health care than a lot of people. It is always master and slave, as long as the master is himself a slave to the illusion that he is somehow better (or she, worse); that his gain is not in some way another person’s loss.
Just got to keep on singing.