Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jukebox, Chinese cafe

Just down Main Street from the movie house,
in the tiny false-fronted Chinese cafe
panelled with warm wood and worn arborite
where Joni might've plugged the jukebox
in 1951, when she was eight years old
before her family moved to Saskatoon
the counter still has spinning round stools
and there's a chrome pushbutton Rock-Ola
at the end of every red leatherette booth
where you can still punch up Unchained Melody
and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow on vinyl
and see the complicated changer in the back,
near swinging doors into a clattering kitchen,
load and play Les Baxter and the Shirelles,
but for quarters now instead of single dimes.

Joni too, years ago, wrote her name
in Clouds, Circle Games, Both Sides Now
on those metal-framed flipcard menus
A7, A8, C6, randomly slotted between
Elvis, the Beatles and the Guess Who
after her own hejira took her far beyond
the hot and dusty wheatfield soul of
this small windy western town to L.A.
and now different cloudy dreamers sit here,
ordering plates of fries and fountain cokes
or chow mein platters with eggrolls
or hot hamburger sandwiches with gravy
or thick cold chocolate milkshakes
made with handscooped Purity ice cream
in frost-covered metal blender cups
whirled by the antique green enamel
Hamilton Beach mixer behind the counter,
taking our own places staring out of a
condensation-blurred plate glass window
watching cars and half-tons endlessly cruise
a short street surrounded by a big sky
talking and wondering if we, too, will ever
drive off its end, into our own famous lives.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Joni...someone a bit older than I am once told me she sat and watched and listened to Joni play in a coffee house in Winnipeg, before Joni was JONI. But she was still brilliant, even back then.
Joni said it's OK to play chords on a guitar "incorrectly." In other words, make it up, and if it works, it works.

coyote said...

I gather she used at least 50-odd different open tunings as well, Nonny. So her chords would've been like nobody else's on earth, in any case. But you're right. It all sounds pretty fine. My favourite would have to be (naturally)Furry Sings the Blues...

singleinmany said...

you ought to visit takingthebrim.blogspot.com

coyote said...

Provocative. Stimulating. Exciting. My head is ringing still..