The last time my sister visited me in my single gal Boston apartment was Columbus Day weekend 2004. I took her out to dinner with my friend Melissa at this extra crunchy vegetarian cafe that also doubled as a folk concert venue. I truly thought that I was showing TP the best of Boston's cultural outlets. Squash and goat cheese pizza with a live singer-songwriter chaser. What could go wrong? I gave the performance schedule a cursory glance and noticed that the live act would be a folk family, which is always a risk. The Partridge Family taught us that. So did the Brady Bunch when they gave us Sunshine Day. Everybody's smiling? Inaccurate. But I figured TP would be impressed since she was still in undergrad where live music usually means the emo girl down the hall playing the same Joni Mitchell song over and over on her acoustic guitar, whenever/especially when she's going through a break-up.
Dinner was so good; I remember feeling all mirthy and shiny that two of the best ladies in the land were breaking bread with me and that no animals were killed in the process. We were all three sort of giggly mock-planning my wedding in which both TP and Melissa would be star bridesmaids and it was probably the last time I wasn't stressed about planning my wedding. The fact that Loverpants and I weren't engaged yet may or may not have been super material.
The act began and there was just no question that this was a mistake. There wasn't even an intro song that was rocky that made us think, Oh, well, they're just getting warmed up. It was bad. They weren't necessarily bad musicians. It was that they were embarrassing performers: embarrassing themselves while making every audience member feel entirely ashamed for having stayed. The mom had this incredible mane of hair, and for every song, the hair was its own instrument. She was strumming on the guitar but she would hinge at the waist so that her hair swung like this really thick, wavy pendulum. It was hypnotic but also embarrassing. There were lots of stories, too. Ayiyiyiyi. Stories. Anecdotal introductions and interludes and postludes.
Meanwhile, the windows of the basement cafe revealed the foot traffic above in Harvard Square. Taryn, Melissa and I kept looking up at the feet headed to exciting places--wonders untold like dorm rooms and Chinese buffets--and we exchanged raised eyebrows and shifted in our chairs, trying to thwart the magical folk hair force field.
Just as we thought we had reached the official intermission of the program and were about to make a run for it, the folk family brought up their daughter, Anna*. She had been sitting as a patron in the cafe. She was a student at Harvard. Oh, cool. How neat that their daughter was able to attend her parents' performance ANNA GET YOUR DEGREE, HONEY. THEN RUN FAR AWAY. But as they ushered Anna onto stage, it was clear that she needed assistance. She was blind.
Oh. NO. We can't leave now. Who leaves a folk family about to introduce their blind daughter who goes to an Ivy League school and will probably win multiple Nobel Prizes before she even graduates?
Then her mother told us the significance of the next song. It was inspired by how Anna had once developed a brain tumor which rendered her blind. We are the worst humans ever. She had written a letter to Garth Brooks who was so inspired by her fandom and her courage. Seriously, the worst. He sent a limo to escort Anna to his concert and made sure that she had the best seats in the house as she was still going through treatments to shrink the tumors. Us? Nope. Nobody leaving here. Everybody psyched to sit here and listen to "Anna's Angel."
TP and I still sing "Anna's Angel" in spite of our unimpressive manes which could never hypnotize anyone. It is our penance for trying to pull ditch on A Mighty Wind: Cambridge-style, 2004.
*Names changed to protect the innocent.