The Drum Pick-Up

by Andrew Patterson

A Sunday evening, I had dinner at my parent’s house. I drove their pick-up truck back into town at around 10pm. When I got home I realized that, along with this truck, came an opportunity. I’d lent my drum kit to a friend to do a month long tour and now they were sitting in his friend’s living room. I had to get them from his friend’s house to my bandmate’s flat. This meant contacting G, my pal with the drums, him contacting his friend who was temporarily housing them, him calling me back, me contacting my bandmate to see if he’d be home, and finally, both G and I trying to track down a vehicle. A clusterfuck of inconvenience. We’d done this song and dance a few times over the last two weeks to no avail.

As soon as I parked the truck at home, I ran upstairs and phoned G. He happened to be at his friend’s house where my drums were being stashed.  Surely this was a sign. Everything was set. I’d head over and pick up the kit, swing downtown to pick up N, my bandmate who was finishing a movie, and drive him and my drums back to his house.

After getting stoned with my roommate and doing some furniture rearranging, I headed over to pick up the kit. As G and I were loading them into the back of my parent’s truck, a neighbor smoking on his front porch inquired, “You got a gig tonight?”

G turned and said “No, we’ve got a truck tonight.”

“I see that” said the neighbor.

After the drums were loaded in, I said farewell to G and hopped back in the driver’s seat. I looked at the radio in the truck and lamented the fact that I hadn’t brought a CD to listen to for this brief drive. I turned on the radio and tuned it to CKDU 88.1 FM. It’s about the only bearable station in our town, aside from Seaside FM, a volunteer run senior’s station that plays Beatles elevator music, Henry Hall’s version of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ and has a reoccurring segment where the hosts examine the weekly grocery store flyers.

But I digress…

As the radio came on, the cab of the truck was flooded with McCoy Tyner‘s effortless piano playing. I had tuned in half way through one of the finest jazz songs ever recorded, John Coltrane‘s version of My Favorite Things. I drove through the center of the city. The sidewalks were mostly empty and the streets were sparkling after a heavy rain. I rolled the windows down and let in the crisp Fall air.

I remember talking with a friend about this song a few years back, about how it was such a breakthrough for Coltrane and such a magnanimous hit. So bold, yet so gorgeous and accessible; all fourteen minutes of it. I remember thinking it was crazy that it would get played in full on commercial radio in the early 60’s (though, it should be stated, the more typical version for airplay was an edited single). ‘What a beautiful time to be alive’ , I thought to myself rather romantically. Yet here I was, in 2011, listening to it in full on a quiet Sunday night, driving through the city alone.

As I neared the house, a DJ’s voice came in over Coltrane’s soprano sax and said that fateful thing that good DJs often say: “Well that about does it for me tonight, thanks for tuning in”. I pulled up the long driveway to the left of the house and decided I’d listen to the last few moments of the song before heading inside. It was four minutes to midnight and I began to toss things around in my mind. How late am I? Is this a crucial four minutes? Is N sitting up there stewing, just waiting for me to arrive to drive him home? I decide to stick it out and enjoy what must be one of the finest songs ever put to tape, being beamed into my father’s pick-up truck by the glory of community radio.

As the song faded out, I turned the key and rushed upstairs. My other bandmate, S, was alone in his living room on his laptop.

“You blew it” he said.

“How long has N been gone for?” I asked.

“About thirty or forty minutes” he replied.

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