Thursday, October 24, 2013

Laughter, love and music among the ruins

Members of Last To Leave contemplate the beauty 
of a classic-car junkyard in Williams, Calif.
What are the ingredients for a memorable day? For those who are lucky enough to travel, memories are made by visiting a foreign place; using all of one's senses to punctuate the visit. On our recent trip to the states, I was lucky enough to spend one, perfect day in a culture and landscape, as foreign to me as any I have encountered. What made the voyage memorable were the sights, sounds, smells and tastes. And what made the day perfect was the company I kept. Here are some highlights of a road trip to Williams, Calif., with my son's band, Last To Leave (the best frickin' band in the world).

The band is invited to play for one of the member's family's annual customer appreciation day, and I am invited to come along. I am honored, but a little wary: I don't want to embarrass Luke or be thrust into the role of chaperon. My days as a high school band booster are, thankfully, long gone.

Melissa, the band's accordion player and will-be journalist

In the van, I sit next to accordion player Melissa, who has spent the summer as a journalism intern IN CAMBODIA (FOR GOD'S SAKE!). She wants to tap into my decades of industry "experience." I warn her against setting her sights on a traditional career in journalism, which seems to have a fragile future. But this confident, enthusiastic 20-year-old already is vastly more qualified than I to call herself a journalist. I hope she ignores my advice to become a medical technician instead.

Melissa tells me that our destination is a classic-car junkyard, which she suggests would be an ideal setting for a scary movie. I have never seen anything like this. Everywhere I look there is stuff: cars and parts, vintage signs, toys, bottles, bric-a-brac.

At one particularly rusty landmark, saxophonist Dalton accepts a dare to sit (for a brave few seconds) in a passenger seat with the door closed, despite the possibility of ancient, evil spiders descending upon him like Frodo entering Mordor.

Melissa and Naomi
An hour later, I find myself playing horseshoes with Luke. Another hour later, cheering on arm wrestlers. Eventually the 150-pound pig (stuffed with fruit and chickens???) that has been roasting on an impressive, home-made spit, is ready. 

Once the band is fed, it's time for music. I pull up a chair and take as many photos as I can before the sun sets behind a mountain of exquisite junk. I hope no one notices I am crying as the band plays songs that have become the soundtrack to which I cook in my kitchen across the pond.

Skye is Last To Leave's  
founder and soul.

After a stop for ice cream, we head east to Reno. The laughter and good-natured teasing continues. And everyone is singing:
Why do you build me up ... build me up ... Buttercup baby, just to let me down ... let me down ...

I love this moment, this day, this band. They are my son's adopted family. And for this one perfect Saturday, they have adopted me, too.

The violinist's fiance and band
photographer, Vinnie
The Reno, Nev.,  band, Last To Leave: Friend them on Facebook, 
follow them on Twitter, and find them making music in the most
unusual places.

My guy