22 December, 2011

A Cat Named Q, And I Still Hate Casinos

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A Cat Named Q, And I Still Hate Casinos

Merry Christmas, kids. One more week left in the year, so we’ll save the year end bullshit for next week. This week we’ll try to talk about something that seems interrelated to the spirit of the holiday, or some such nonsense. Not to be left out, happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers and friends. Festival of lights and the oil and the dreidel and all of that. For some reason, dreidel isn’t in my writing software’s dictionary. Oh wait, yeah it is. I spelled it wrong. I fixed it though. So you’ll never know how I first spelled it. Oh, science! OK, let’s continue.

I’m going to talk about what the season does to people. How it breeds out of character behavior, and hypersensitivity to things atypical to the other eleven months. For context, I’m going to tell you about my singer, Q. 
Q, whose name is Marquis for those keeping an ‘Andy’s Cover Band Fantasy Team,’ sings in my band. Tall, thin, ostentatious black dude who has some quality pipes. For singing, you dirty children. He plays some keys too, and is a stellar gig riotstarter. He yells a lot to the audience. He can take a joke. He can go home with any girl there. He’s my friend, and he did something special the week.
He’s a special guy, Q is. Without revealing too much of his personal life, he’s seen some strife and tragedy. I tend to not hang out with those who haven’t, it seems. But he’s an interesting cat. Full of energy and opinion and talent. Recently, we gigged at a casino bar.
If you read me often, you’ll know how much I loathe casinos. I may hate gambling as much as I hate drinking, but I’ll have to do some more research before I reach that conclusion. This place we gigged last week isn’t the worst casino we play. Not nearly as depressing as some others, and for some reason, our crowd there is pretty receptive. Casino crowds are odd. You’re not really playing for a group of people who are interested in sitting and watching a band play. They are a transient crowd; they walk from one machine to the next, one table to the next, and when their throats get a little dry, they wander into the nearest booze slinger and sidle up next to another gambler on break (or prostitute, of which there are many) and drink to recharge while tossing a couple dollars into the video poker machines that are strategically built into the bar. The faces at most casino gigs are ever changing, but at this place, we seem to keep people. At least, all of the times I’ve played there. I’ll save you the details of the shitfaced woman at the front of the stage that we kept calling (on mic) kangaroo, or the details of the guy who looked like Michael McDonald, or the homeless guys who got kicked out, or Dan and Q both standing on a table while singing; a table that looked ready to collapse at any moment. I will tell you, though, that this bar is kind of shitty, and it is literally stuffed under an escalator that leads to the buffet. They have bowls of pretzels at the bar, though. That’s pretty cool.
So that’s the place. (A place that has ‘dolphin’ in the name, yet the giant sign has a tuna on it.) In between sets last week, of which we are required to play four at this gig (boo), Q went to play a casino game. He came back quickly before the next set, and this was our conversation:
Q (holding up a stack of chips): Check it out.
Dan: What’s that?
Q: I just won some money.
Dan: You’re kidding me.
Me: Doing what?
Q: Craps. Never played before. Put $20 down, and bam. $400.
Dan: Man, fuck you.
Me: Seriously, you asshole.
Then Q bought everybody drinks. Times I wish I drank. I’d have ordered one of those $75 martinis with the kind of shit in it that oughtn’t be in a martini. Like cumquats. We played our next two sets, which was fun and filled with on mic jokes about people watching us, and requested songs that we don’t usually play. I’m sure they sounded peachy. There was some good natured ballbreaking about the money Q won, and at the end of the night (after the bartender gave Dan a phone number left for him by a legitimate prostitute) we packed up and went home.
The next day we went to a holiday party at a club we play frequently. Q was there and he, Dan and I had a good time. (This is where the point comes in; ready?) Marquis and I had this conversation:
Q: Yo, you remember that money I won?
Me: Yeah. You going to give me some, you prick?
Q: No, man. Well, I went to PJ’s to have a drink.
Me: In Township?
Q: Yeah. They were having a toy drive for Christmas. I took the money and bought toys and brought them there.
Me: No shit? That’s incredible, bro.
Q: Yeah. I feel really good about it.
Ho, ho, ho. Therein lies the point. Q, who by a stranger’s eye always has his switch firmly in the on position; Q, who routinely talks (and walks) a huge game with the ladies and the fun; Q, who is always “shuffling” to those who know what that means (and I just learned myself because I’m an old metalhead) took a simple thing that I hate, gambling, and turned it into one of the things that I celebrate, bringing happiness and joy to strangers. Marquis is my friend, and I know of his goodness and gladness and open-heartedness, but those who only see him on stage singing and shouting and doing the aforementioned shuffling may not. You kids should know of his goodness.
The greater arc here too is not about charity so much as it is about bringing happiness and beauty to people you’ll never meet or with whom you have no intention of forming a lasting relationship. I suppose that is charity, but in my experience of being a lame (that’s biblically lame, not in reference to my love of crap that is super nerdy) charity can be a four lettered word. I have a problem with accepting help and handouts. I think most of us with an inkling of self pride will concur. Part of that is my difficulty in bisecting charity from pity, and this donation of Q’s time and money with the toy drive is neither. It is the right thing to do, and the right thing to do is never in concert with pity.
This is sizing up to be one of those ‘go do something nice for someone because it’s Christmas and Jesus will love you more and Santa will bring you less coal’ kind of things, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t matter that it is Christmas. Well, it does in terms of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but I’ll keep that bit to myself so someone doesn’t call me a moron on the Mystic Facebook again. This is one of those examples of finding beauty in others and drawing it out to the light. I talk about this frequently, so you cats and kittens know that this isn’t Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph or Santa or that stupid dentist elf inspired. Not entirely, anyway. It is easier to remember around this year ending time. But giving a kid a toy something reminds him of his value, his beauty, and his worth. It’s not so much about the haves sharing with the have-nots, though that is a key component. It’s about saying to someone, ‘Hey, you’re beautiful and you have value beyond what you may think.’ What’s interesting about that is that if you walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, you’re beautiful and you have value beyond what you may think,” you’re a creepshow to most. But if you buy a toy for a kid and silently hand it to him; if you hand a dollar to a homeless guy; if you give a cigarette to a guy asking for one; if you buy a round of drinks for strangers; if you hold the door at the Wawa; if you yield the parking spot you’ve been waiting for to the other person waiting; if you smile and say ‘thank you’ to a stressed holiday help cashier; if you pick up the bottle the baby in the carriage threw on the floor unbeknown to the mother; if you pay the toll at the bridge for the cat behind you who let you in ahead of him during rush hour; if you do these things, you’re actually saying to that person, ‘I recognize your beauty, and I appreciate that you are beautiful’ in a way they’ll not dismiss. That’s what Q did with the toys and the craps money. That’s Christmas. That’s what we see, isn’t it. In the modified community. We see beauty, and we see it everyday, don’t we. Not just Christmas time, but every time. Every other time of the year, there are gifts to give as well. Subtle and as important. Like playing bass for people who had a rough day at work, who just want to forget the day, drink a beer and listen to music and dance. That’s a gift to people that I give, and in my bass playing, I tell them, ‘Hey, it’s cool. Your day didn’t make you unbeautiful, you’ve just forgotten for a moment. This is my reminding you.’
So Merry Christmas, kids. Go enjoy your family and friends around a dead turkey stuffed with bread. Go smile at a stranger. Go look into the sky alone at night and smile at yourself. Go be beautiful as the year ends, and think more on the beautiful happenings of the year rather than the tragic happenings of the year. Go be beautiful. Man, that wasn’t so bad. I should have saved that for the year end blog. Damnit; now I have to come up with something better. Stay beautiful, kids. 

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