Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
A while back, I went down to Horses Records to see a couple of bands play. It was an early show, but it was already dark as I walked alone down a quiet side street. I saw a guy ahead of me who looked like he might be going to the show, too. Maybe it was the across-the-body strap of his bag and the set of his woolly hat—and I took into consideration that I was probably totally wrong because that whole area has had an influx of young people and it seemed more likely that he was just one of them going to a cafe along the same stretch of East Hastings that Horses occupies.
Before we got to the corner, he crossed the street and went into the bank to use the ATM. At that moment, a 1970s muscle car—an orange and black Charger—pulled up at the light with “Smoke On The Water” playing through a rolled-down window. It was great! And the guy driving looked a lot like Burt Reynolds. The light changed to green, the Charger drove on and the guy with the hat and bag came out of the bank not having seen or heard any of it. I thought to myself, “If that guy is at the show, I’ll tell him about the small incident that he missed.” You know, just for fun. I crossed the road and walked past a slew of sandwich boards outside restaurants and coffee shops that weren’t there five years ago when this was … what do you call a neighborhood before hipsters move in? Working class? I dunno. Unpretentious? Not that I actually have anything against pretension.
I go into Horses, wander to the back and talk to Dan of the fantastic band Lt. Frank Dickens. There are only a few people in the store, but the guy with the hat and bag is among them. Eventually, while we’re standing around waiting for the replacement PA to show up, I tell him my story. He immediately uses a sentence that has the phrase “my girlfriend” in it and I’m thinking, “Oh yes, I get that. Don’t worry young bearded man with glasses, I’m not hitting on you.” I continue talking, referencing changes in the neighborhood, and he responds by saying that his father brought him here in the ’90s—when he was a teenager. Yes, yes, I understand young man. You have a girlfriend, and I’m 30 years older than you, but don’t worry, I’m not hitting on you. Really really really, I’m not. I’m just talking to you. Good lord.
Later, while he’s engrossed in examining LPs in the bins, I notice his head snap around when someone I’m talking to asks about my music. Still holding up the LP, he’s staring at me as if his assumptions about an old lady hanging around a record store chatting up young dudes such as himself has been blown out of the water. Quite a lovely moment. Not nearly as lovely as the Burt Reynolds look-a-like cruising E. Hastings with “Smoke On The Water” blasting from his muscle car, but still quite good.
“In Canada” from the album Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1996) (download):