Thursday, August 13, 2009

Living My Whole Life in One Night


I used to date a guy who worked in the financial industry and was frequently sent by his firm to various industry conferences. The conferences were hosted in nice locations – Arizona or Florida, say, in the wintertime – at well-appointed hotels, and he told me of having witnessed many colleagues who, at the close of a day of official conference business, tried valiantly -- perhaps even desperately -- “to live their whole lives in a single night.”

I had business out of town yesterday, and I put up for the night at a hotel in another city in another state. After checking in, I made my way to the bar, where a lone accoustic guitarist in a cowboy hat was playing Elton John covers for a small, almost completely unresponsive crowd. I took a seat near him out of sympathy, and, while I was able to fend off the advances of a traveling salesman who was unfazed by my mention of my husband and son, I soon found myself, glass in hand, sharing the mic with the guitarist in a rendition of “Sweet Baby James.” As the friend of a friend said to herself as she rode the city bus to the New York State Theater to make her début as Carmen at New York City Opera, “This is not as I had pictured it.”

Above: Bill Murray in his iconic turn as Nick the Lounge Singer on Saturday Night Live.

16 comments:

christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
christopher said...

Woops, ran some sentences together. Try again:
I'm shocked no one else has commented on this, so I'll at least mention that your post brought back some great SNL memories for me. Bill was the best sleazy Vegas singer ever...

Pentimento said...

Nick was a brilliant character! The main feature was how sad it all was. . . not just him and his profession, but life. A real existential skit.

christopher said...

Since you brought it up, you're right. Although the early SNL seems sophomoric on the surface, what made it great was the true social observations and commentary that boiled beneath the surface. Nick was sad and yet we all laughed.

I was the youngest kid in the family and wasn't allowed to watch SNL until I was a teenager. I'd hear my sisters talking about it every Sunday morning and wanted to see what it was all about. So, I'd sneak downstairs and hide behind the sofa while they watched it. I remember seeing "Nick" and wanting to laugh but couldn't because there was a weird feeling that made me feel sorry for him. Sort of like an Emmett Kelly. I think he was the real embodiment of Pascal's horrible contradiction that he saw in man. The glory mired in the filth. And all too real.

Pentimento said...

That is frighteningly well-said, Christopher. I agree. The segments with Nick are really too sad to laugh at. Did you ever see the movie "Waiting for Guffman"? With the exception of the actual, brilliant show-within-a-show, "Red, White, and Blaine," I felt the same way.

christopher said...

I haven't but I've heard it referred to many times. I'll check into it, thanks.

Pentimento said...

It's wonderful! You won't regret it.

Betty Duffy said...

I'll just add this: I have always, always wanted to be a loungesinger, and I'm very jealous--pathetic or not.

Pentimento said...

Betty, honestly, when I decided to write about my experience living my whole life in a single note, I was privately comparing it to your experience at the Dave Matthews concert. You had more fun.

Pentimento said...

"Night," not "note" -- that was not a typo but a Freudian slip.

mrsdarwin said...

living my whole life in a single note

Sounds like a novel waiting to be written.

Pentimento said...

LOL! Maybe a jazz-age tale . . .

Maclin said...

Oh man. I'm amazed that you consented to sing with the guy.

This resembles to an uncanny degree an evening in the mid-'70s when I went with a friend, a former mildly successful rock musician, to see a friend of his who was still in the game--appearing nightly at the Holiday Inn, perched on a stool with a guitar, doing pop covers. Besides my friend and me, I think there were two other people in the bar, middle-aged female drunks who clapped and cheered. Alas, no gracious classical singer came to brighten the sad atmosphere.

Pentimento said...

Maclin, you are underscoring the sadness of the atmosphere, and it *was* sad, and, you're right, a lot like the night you lived in the seventies. I confess to ordering my dinner to go and grabbing it and fleeing to my room right after "Sweet Baby James," but not before the salesman made it clear that he'd be at the bar waiting for me to come back (which, of course, I didn't). But, I dunno, when in Rome, I guess. . .

TS said...

That desire to live our whole life in one night reminds me of Jack Kerouac's search for "the center of Saturday night".

Pentimento said...

Good point, TS. I think the living-your-whole-life-in-a-night impulse is somewhat more desperate, though, and thereby more pathetic.