Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wires on the Mountain

Sara had given me a Christmas or birthday gift that consisted of playing pool with Neil Young. The location was a bar somewhere, and many other people were there too. I realized that Neil would be splitting his time with everyone else who had booked the experience and that I wouldn’t be able to chat with him much. For some reason my dad was with me. Two guys who worked for Neil came in and sat with us, kind of prepping us for his arrival. One of them looked like him and I realized it was his brother. I mentioned to the other one that I assumed this was all for charity, and it was impressive that Neil would give his time like this. The guy shook his head no, it was not charity. “Oh, it’s a money-making enterprise?” I asked, and the guy left it at that.

When Neil came in he made the rounds and eventually came over to shake my hand. There was a bandstand with equipment set up and my dad said, with little enthusiasm, “It looks like Sting is going to actually play.” I was mortified that he confused Neil Young with Sting.

The pool games started. Sure enough, Neil wandered from table to table, taking a turn here and there in half-assed games where no one could remember what balls to hit. At my table he lined up a shot where the cue ball and the object ball were bottlecaps. I tried to gather up in my mind all the things I wanted to say to him, all the questions I might ask, but they evaded me. Finally I said, “You’ve played this game before, haven’t you?” I thought it was a clever reference to the hours and hours of intoxicated pool he played with his band while recording “Tonight’s the Night.” He seemed to get it. He smiled and said yeah, I guess I have. He missed the bottlecap shot and was off to another table.

I was disappointed in the experience but also disappointed in myself for not making the most of it anyway. I resolved to make some kind of connection with Neil. The next time he came around I remembered that he had started an ice cream business. “I didn’t realize you were so into ice cream,” I said, and he just kind of nodded and smiled. The event ended and we all left. There was a crazy old car in a driveway next to the bar, a big, wood-paneled station wagon from the sixties. A band of comedians were leaning out of windows in the building next to it, looking at it, looking at us. I found Neil seated at a sort of ticket booth in the wall of another building. This was my chance to have some meaningful conversation with him. “Neil, how’s your creative life?” I asked. He came out the door and walked with me. He said there hadn’t been much going on but that this morning he went outside and looked up and he saw there were wires on top of the mountain, and he found some kind of beauty or hope in it. I was suddenly very moved, close to tears. “That could be the beginning of a song,” I said, and he agreed.