“This appearance is complimentary, right?” asked Teresa, the Activities Director for the Plum Tree Care Center, in San Jose, CA.
“No,” I replied, calmly, diplomatically, as I handed her the invoice and the filled-out W9 form. “You’ll see there, on the invoice, that you’re getting nearly a 50% discount from my usual fee.”
“I will not be able to process this until June,” she says. It is the first day of May, and I am wondering how long it will be until I see payment for this gig (if at all).
I’m setting up my sound system and tuning up my guitars while Teresa looks over the invoice.
“Engberg. What kind of name is that?” she asks.
“It’s an old Swedish name,” I answer.
“Oh, so you can do some Swedish music for us?”
I am thinking that I really don’t know a single Swedish song. Ironically, just the night before, I was trying to make Pony feel better by playing the movie, “Mama Mia” for her (Pony has been wrestling with a cold that’s been hanging on for a few weeks now, and “Mama Mia” is a favorite movie of hers). For a brief moment, I wonder if I could possibly pull off an ABBA song of one sort or another. Nope. I don’t know either the words or the music well enough to make that attempt. I mentally file a note in my to do list to learn an ABBA song. Because….. well, because you never know when you’ll be playing in a nursing home where a five-foot-tall Filipino Activities Director is going to look at your name and ask if you can play and Swedish songs.
It is the first day of May, and my performance coincides with Arts and Crafts time in the common room (which also doubles as the dining room), so a dozen or so of the residents are gathered at a few tables, making flowers with green and yellow construction paper, scissors and glue. I am finishing with tuning up my guitars when Teresa introduces me as coming from New York. Honestly, I have no idea where that notion comes from.
“Actually,” I tell the residents, “ I am from Colorado.” I introduce my first tune, “The Star of the County Down”, and launch into it.
When I finish, Teresa says, “So, if you are from Colorado, you can do some John Denver for us?”
I can do some John Denver, of course; whether or not I’m from Colorado. I learned a handful of John Denver tunes years ago, while still growing up in Iowa. I suppress the impulse to sort of shake my head in wonder, and introduce the song.
[continued with part two: Still a plum of a gig]