“Hello,” said a voice on the other end of the phone; a baritone voice with a slightly gruff edge and warm tone to it.”
“Is this Pete Seeger?” I asked.
“Yes, who would you be?”
After the gigs in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Pony and I were heading back south. There’s an open stage in Morristown, New Jersey, that I wanted to see if I might get in on, and we thought we would return to the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, in Jefferson Township, to attend to a variety of tasks, both relating to business as well as mundane things like laundry and such. But I had something of a quest, as well. I knew that Pete Seeger lived in the Hudson Valley, and I thought to see if I could make his acquaintance somehow. With the ever-so-handy internet, I had even managed to scare up a phone number to try. I tried calling on Sunday evening, and was answered by what I assume to have been a daughter or grand-daughter or some member of the family, who told me that things were still a bit busy at the moment.
And that was the thing. In my research, I also discovered that Pete’s wife, Toshi, had passed away a few months ago. They had been married for some 70 years (give or take), and I could imagine the loss of such a long-time companion would not be an easy thing to adjust to.
Still, we drove down to the Hudson Valley, to a town near the one that Pete lives in, and for the first time, we dry-camped in a Walmart parking lot (along with some half a dozen other RV’s).
“Mr. Seeger, my name is Michael Engberg. I’m a musician from Colorado, on tour to promote my latest CD’s. I’m a friend of Harry Tufts, who runs the Denver Folklore Center, and he has always spoken very highly of you.”
Strictly speaking, all of that was true. For the record, Harry had not necessarily suggested I try to look up Pete while tour, but I just left that part out. I told Pete that there was a song on one of my new CD’s that was inspired by one of his songs, and that I was passing through the neighbourhood, as it were, and wanted to pay my respects and hand him off a copy of the CD. I told him our RV was parked in a Walmart parking lot in Fishkill. I asked if I might be able to buy him lunch, or coffee, or a beer.
“Well, I’m at home, with plenty to do, and my home is at the top of a steep hill, so I don’t think that would work,” he replied.
It was only later, after the phone conversation, that I realized he was concerned as to whether or not our RV could make it up the hill. I had forgot to mention that we have a tow car for short hops that could make it up most hills, no matter how steep. Pony later remarked that I should not have bothered mentioning the RV at all, but rather should have just said we were in town.
Yeah, that might have worked better.