Today's Guest Blogger: Linda Lou Jane
who for some inexplicable reason has no blog. Yet.
"How I Met and Fell in Love with Suli"
In the late 1980s I found myself searching for a new home for myself and my two pre-teen children. I had called in response to an ad in the paper for a duplex apartment that was in the neighborhood I coveted, and what's more was in my limited price range. The somewhat odd landlady on the phone "didn't have the time" to show me the unoccupied apartment, and told me just to knock on the door of the already occupied side and the lady that lived there would show me her place.
This seemed to come as a complete surprise to Suli, judging by her expression when I knocked and said I was told I could come in and look at her apartment. The landlady obviously hadn't asked her if this was ok. When she recovered her composure, Suli was gracious enough to show me the basics (the apartments were laid out identically, in reverse, if that makes any damn kind of sense). I liked Suli and the apartment and was soon settling in next door to her.
Suli immediately offered friendship in the way of baked goods (to this day some of my favorite "comfort foods" are stuff Suli and only Suli can make for me). She told me about the good neighbors and the weird neighbors. She introduced me to the "porch kitty" that no one claimed but everyone fed. She warned me that everyone who drove down the mountain past our house always looked to see what was happening on our front porch, so I should be careful of prancing around nekkid with the front blinds open. She introduced me to her co-habitants, Bingo and Elsa, who were, then, darling little puppies.
We soon discovered that we were both professional singers, after a fashion. Meaning that she truly had been singing professionally for some time and that I was just barely beginning to earn money singing. I learned that she was an excellent piano player. I claimed to play a little, but I saw or felt her wincing everytime I did get up the nerve to play in front of her. Though I had been a theatrical stage performer since I was 13, I was a novice at this "just stand up there and sing" kind of entertaining. No character, no script? I was used to be directed or directing other performers.
Watching Suli perform, listening to the way she uses her voice, that voice that always makes me think of bells and cool running water; and working with her over the years as part of a duo, trio, or quartet (one fun night the band name was "Three Chicks and a Dick"); and also in swing, jazz, and blues type bands, has inspired me over the years, and taught me many tricks of the trade. Most important, she has consistently been very supportive of any and all of my ventures as a performer.She applauds my successes and she sympathizes with me over the disappointing ones. I try to do the same for her. She makes a real, real, real good friend. Comes highly recommended.
Speaking of piano playing, I'd like to relate how the rest of my family met Suli. I'd gotten comfortably moved in and had invited my entire family over for the first family dinner at my new place. I had told Suli that I'd be having a crowd so parking might be a tricky situation. She warned me that she was going to be vacuuming or steam cleaning (can't remember which) and if she was making too much noise I should just bang on the wall and tell her to knock it off for a while.
While my family visited and admired my new digs, we heard a few bumps and furniture shoving sounds from next door, but nothing too terribly disturbing. Just as we were sitting down to dinner though, we hear and feel
this very big crash. I nervously said that my neighbor was doing some cleaning, and moving some furniture around, but my brothers insisted that this was not regular furniture moving noise. I didn't really think so either. As we raced outside to go next door, here comes Suli hollering for help.
"Mahalia has fallen!"
Well, that kind of stopped my brothers in their tracks. Just exactly who was Mahalia and Geez Louise!, she must weigh a ton if the impact of her fall had created that thunderous boom we had heard moments earlier.
So the family was intoduced to Mahalia, a seventy-eleven hundred pound (*whatever*) shiny black grand piano, that was (and still is) a cherished co-habitant at Suli's place.
As Suli explained, she just tried to move it a couple of inches to get at the spots underneath the legs, when one of the legs broke, and Mahalia crashed to the floor. A very nervous Suli asked for our help to get Mahalia back on her feet. I sure am grateful that I have a big Southern family with big strong Southern Brothers, and on that day, so was Suli.
In no time we had Mahalia delicately balanced back on the broken leg, and Suli had orders not to touch it again till she got some one in to repair it. One of the dogs had been resting under the piano, but had just enough warning to do one of those cartoon moves where your legs move like you are running, but you end up staying in place for what seems like about 30 seconds then ZOOM! just in the nick of time, he skidded out from under that piano and took off. More fortunate than Wile E. Coyote, Bingo escaped without any injury, save to his nervous system.
But back to the "nuts" of the story...
Suli and I began to play and sing together often. We had fabulous porch parties sometimes just by ourselves, yet often with other musician friends joining in. We sure would get those "what's going on over there?" looks from the down-the-mountain drivers when we had guitars, banjos, saxes, and other horns playing, and folks singing out on the front porch while Suli sat inside with the windows open and played the piano and sang loud.
We often enjoyed Slug Sunday Music Brunches that would usually begin with an 11:00am phone call from Keitha, another musician friend in the next duplex over. Her last-night's-whiskey-laced Southern drawl would come over the line: "Slug One calling Slug Central. Ya'll ready to make some slime trails? I got some bacon and some vodka."
Meanwhile I'm looking in the fridge. "Great! I've got some OJ, and Tomato Juice AND champagne even, ooh! and Strawberries! I bet we could convince Suli to make coffee and biscuits and provide the eggs."
We usually ended up at Suli's since her grand piano didn't easily travel. Pretty soon we'd be having our very own kind of church. It was Sunday, after all. Keitha would bring over her guitar, and soon we'd commence to eating and drinking and laughing and singing. ...sigh... Those were some wonderful times.
We've had some great moments over the years. Once she called me at work, and her immediate greeting was "Hey! Is this the Queen of Sluts?" Only it wasn't me that answered the phone. It was my supervisor, Joy, whom people often mistook for me on the phone. Luckily, Joy is a kindred spirit. " No," she replied, "This is the High Priestess of Sluts. You must want Linda." Then she handed the phone over to me with a big grin on her face. Suli was mortified to have made such a blunder, but that story has prompted many a laugh between us over the years.
Suli and I have done things musical, things memorable, and things un-mentionable with each other over the years. We've fought. We've cried and carried on. We've shared recipes, but never boyfriends. And over the years we have created a solid friendship based in respect, love and understanding of each other's faults and weaknesses.
Whoa, Nellie!! Did I just imply that either myself or Suli had faults or possibly weakness in our souls? Forgive me, I had momentarily forgotten that we are Goddesses of Light and Love and therefore, by default, we have no faults! Whew! Gotta keep my mind on my station.
Suli has since moved away and come back. I've moved houses about a dozen times. We're not in the same neighborhood right now, but we are working on that. I look forward to having her close by once again.
Suli, love, honey, dumplin. I'll guest blog for you anytime. I'll come wash your hair when you can't move your elbow because of some damned deranged dog, or I'll hold your hair if you need to bow before the porcelain queen. And you know I will fearlessly unclog your toilet anytime you get backed up.
Since the sun is bound to be over the yardarm *somewhere* in the world, I believe I shall have a libation in your honor. You know that if I could right now, Suli, I'd be lifting a glass of Jack Daniels in your honor. But I have a very nice Merlot that will have to suffice.
So, Here's to you - the one with the face, and the hair.
Get better soon.
I love you.
(So maybe I've embellished here and there, but who's to know. Besides, they can only prove the stuff they got pictures of!)
Linda Lou Jane