I caught the final bars of the Hesitation Blues as I entered the coffeehouse, “…can I get you now, or must I hesitate.” Pat’s finishing off with one of his signature songs suggested that it had been a good set for him. I pulled a key from my pocket, opened the little linen locker, and pulled out a new waiter’s apron. The principal reason for my covering my friend Paul’s shift was that I had the opportunity to listen to people like Pat Sky or Dave Van Ronk in performance. Sure I ran into them at parties, but this was different. I had a chance to watch them “work a house.” See how they took on an intimidating drunk spoiling for a fight, teased a reaction from a dead audience, and worked around disruptions.
I usually couldn’t afford the cover at some of the better houses around Greenwich Village. However, covering the odd shift as a waiter allowed me in where I’d never been otherwise. Aspire, as I might to be on that stage, it wasn’t going to happen yet. So I worked the shift, stood in the back, and learned from my betters.
Around eleven, I got off, grabbed my jacket and guitar, and headed off to the Cafe Whynot. I think I’ll try that bit of patter Pat used on the audience. It should work fine at the Whynot.
It was snowing, and things would be slow; it was the perfect night to try something new…before all the other performers picked it up and tried it.
Another night, and another dollar, in New York’s Greenwich Village.