Sometimes, you neglect to tell someone you love them.
And then it’s too late.
This confession comes considerably later than it should have – about thirty-five years later – but I’ve looked in the mirror, and it would appear time is moving rather rapidly. I’m figuring, it’s now, or most likely, never.
Also, my memory of this occurrence recently popped into my mind and, age again being a factor, if I don’t respond to it immediately, I will most likely forget. (And I’m being generous with “most likely.”)
My “better late than never” impulse arose after talking recently about being a warm-up man, and how, as an integral part of my “routine”, I would habitually sing the theme songs from every western I had ever watched, the highlight being a stirring version of The Lone Ranger, complete with my “one mouth” rendition of an orchestral accompaniment.
This whole concept – singing cowboy songs in the course of an audience’s watching the filming of a situation comedy – is even odder than it sounds, since, beyond its easily arguable inappropriateness, by the time I did this, there were no longer any westerns on television; in fact, many of the ones whose theme songs I performed had not ridden the airwaves for twenty years.
But I did it anyway, the first time, because I was new to the warm-up profession and I did not know what else to do, and subsequently, because the audience seemed to enjoy it. Even young people. Who had know idea what I was doing. (Maybe that’s that “new comedy”, the kind that’s enjoyable because it’s bizarre.)
Anyway, during a break in the filming long enough for an extended medley, I would take a deep breath, say, “I know you didn’t come here to hear me sing theme songs from old cowboy show. So consider this a bonus.”
And then, I would begin. No musical accompaniment. Just me, and my invariably nerve-trembly voice.
I sang “Rawhide.” I sang “Wyatt Earp.” I sang “Maverick.” “Bat Masterson.” “Johnny Yuma…was a rebel…” “Jim Bowie, Jim Bowieeee…” “Sugarfoot.” “Yancey Derringer.” Not the whole song. Just snippets.
Nor did I restrict myself to famous westerns. I threw in theme songs from shows that weren’t even on the network, but were instead in, what they called, “first run syndication.” Shows like “Twenty- Six Men” (Who Road The Arizona Territory). As as well as Saturday morning kids’ westerns, like “Buffalo Bill Junior”, who according to the theme song lyrics at least, was “the son of a son-of-a-gun.”
Finally, I sang this:
“Whistle me up a memory
Whistle me back to where I want to be
Whistle a tune that will carry me…”
And in sudden a burst of manic exuberance, I yelled,
Without missing a beat, a female voice in the darkness rang out,
“To Tombstone Terr-i-tory.”
At that moment, it was like time had stopped, and the world stood perfectly still. I cannot describe the look on my face because I’m on the inside. But I imagine it gave off an ethereal glow, akin to some Biblical person’s, encountering an angel. (The nice kind, not the kind that tells you to sacrifice your firstborn.)
I was smitten to my marrow. You’ve heard about love at first sight? This was love at first song.
I did not know how old she was. I did not know what she looked like. But if there’d been a rabbi in the audience, I’d have married her on the spot.
Because she knew what I knew. And was not afraid to sing it.
Did I race over and introduce myself? Did I ask her out after the show? Did I get her number, for future possibilities?
I simply relished the moment. And I left it at that.
I felt things, I thought things, I maybe even wanted things. But I decided, “This is perfect the way it is. Experience its exquisiteness, store it carefully away in your memory bank, and move on. (A decision my girlfriend at the time would have certainly approved.)
But now, with my time running out, I have to say it, the consequences be damned.
I love you, “Tombstone Territory Girl.”
And I hope all your trails over the years
Have been happy ones.