Archive for November, 2009

A Last Dance with Valerie Crockett

November 14, 2009

Val and WalterWhen I heard the news about Valerie I had to stop and think about the last time I saw her.

Or Walter.

Or Emily and Jackson…

It had been awhile. Memories flow without order at times like this, yet one thing struck me:

Valerie poured her exuberance over those lucky enough to be near her.

Sorting things out I remember that my first dousing was at Clark University, with Zonkaraz playing a warm sunny Spring concert. At the side of the stage was an awkwardly twisting, twirling, gyrating coed whose moves brought a smirk to band and crew alike. She didn’t notice – or care. She kept dancing her dance. She wriggled her way into the music so sincerely, so completely that her dance was part of the music. The band noticed. The crew noticed. Mostly Walter noticed. The joy that filled her dance overflowed and turned smirks to smiles. Walter’s smile was so big he self-consciously pulled his chin in just to contain it.

Many years later at the Plantation Club – I think Duke was playing – I had gone up to get a live music fix in the hope of running into some old friends. With my usual superb timing I arrived right at the break and worse, I recognized no one in the place. I threw back a beer and got another to help me decide if I felt like hanging out with myself for the night. I kept an eye on the door watching for options. People wandered in from the parking lot and the doorman checked for hand stamps or took their money. It was all very business-like, very matter of fact. And then Valerie appeared.

Hugs for the doorman! Hugs for the couple just inside! Nobody was asking Val for money. Her currency was happiness and she was spreading it around like a sailor on shore leave.

We talked for a moment, swapping kid stories and catching up. And I no longer wanted to leave – the whole club was awash with Valerie – and it was the happening place to be and as soon as the music started, she danced.

That’s how it is when I think of her. Dancing in and out.

The last time I saw her was at the Hanover for the Zonkaraz reunion, but we were too busy to do much more than say “Hi.”

There is another memory that really stands out more for me; it happened a little before that. Walter was playing with the Prairie Oysters out at the Blue Plate. He hadn’t planned on playing this gig. The band was taking a hiatus so he could stay home to help Val recover after a recent treatment, but this one got missed and he felt obligated to play. And Valerie was feeling pretty good.

Again, I headed to the Blue Plate by myself knowing there would be some people there to hang out with and swap stories. The band started early and after the first break Valerie showed up. And again the spirits of everyone were lifted by the incoming tide that was Val. We chatted, we talked about our kids, the band started, and she took my hand and led me out onto the floor to dance. She twisted, twirled and shimmied and I did my best to keep up. I saw her smile, and I couldn’t help but smile back. Exuberantly!