Under a bowl of upturned stars, I listen to wooden music, breathing in heat. Outdoor concerts on blazing nights celebrate June. Our Rocket Market hosts singers on a concrete stage, until 57 degrees finally falls. Daylilies, bright hosannas, thrive on 43rd and Scott's rich green. Sunsets on Tuesday and Saturday night light a hundred faces. In my canvas chair, with the first chord's comfort, I write lines for winter fuel.
This is an unlikely place for hand-made music. The Rocket Market is a gas station, a high-end grocery, a wine destination, a glassed-in refuge in rare rain. Inside, regulars claim a sweet view of bikers and grandmothers, clapping. Every note can be heard. I savor each song, as tiny girls in pink dresses(cupcakes with legs) totter by. I enjoy slobbery kisses from exotic dogs: I've met Rhodesian Ridgebacks and otherworldly Borzoi who pose calmly, knowing they are beautiful. One brown enigma has his own chair. He is always expected, so expensive his owners won't say "what he is."
We all wait for the pink -and-blue, when lenticular clouds flare with light, painting flowers, audience, and instruments in end-of-the-world gold. For more than a decade, this Rocket music was an orange popsicle in August, loved by all.
Alas. There were "noise complaints," from the same summer Scrooges, yearly. Harmonies rose in the trees. When 18-wheelers motored by during ballads, fans cheered the annual salutes. We always waved, as kids in red boom-boom cars Yahoo-ed through yellow lights. Singers held last notes, then finished to huzzahs and applause.
In August 2009, Dave was on solo guitar. He took a note from a Rocket rep, then announced, mid-verse:"This is the final concert, ever. We've been cancelled for 'noise.' Get up and dance!"
The stars were ours; the melon moon was glowing. We weren't ready to lose. Everyone had tried to please; musicians had turned their amps inward, hushing their Martins. Rocket clerks listened, turning the volume, down, down. Leaning in, you could hear if you worked at it. Cancelled?
Wine-sippers, joggers, and neighborhood gardeners mourned. We all e-mailed Letters-to-Editors, drew up petitions, alerted musicians. Alan, the Rocket's owner, wanted compromise. His picture on the front page showed the front-of-building sign: We Lost. Our silenced parking lot stage went dark. Stacked chairs were taken away. September crept in, scented with apples.
Then, Grinchly hearts cracked. In mid-autumn, we got our music back, one half hour shaved off for complainers. Fans wore fuzzy socks and brought quilts, like children readying for bed. Guitarists finished that almost-last-summer with lullabies, a sweet truce. We packed away August's sorrow and anger, fiercely glad.
We have come back since, for Rocket charm, canine companions, creamy coffee, and luscious music cutting through the dark. Sometimes, beauty wins.
Barbara Ellen Baldwin is a book reviewer/online tutor, and vets writing online for finely crafted print journals. Work is forthcoming or has appeared in: Prick of the Spindle, Barnwood, The Brooklyner Web, Conclave, A Journal of Character, Constellations, A Journal of Poetry and Fiction, Poetry Northwest (Commentary tribute to friend, Carolyn Kizer), Clover, A Literary Rag, Fugue, Speakeasy, Gulf Stream, The Lullwater Review, West Wind Review, The Snail Mail Review, Pivot, Blue Unicorn, The North Stone Review, Art Centering, and elsewhere. Baldwin studies ASL with signing coaches when time permits. She is currently working on songwriting, and performs for fun in a music jam at her favorite indiebookstore.