A red pickup was parked next to a Volkswagen sedan. How brilliantly ironic.
We could see inside through the storm door.
Going up? We should. We had driven 400 miles to Nashville. Six hours, man.
A thin bearded man peered out.
His clunky glasses were secured with duct tape. Our idol, Silver Jews front man, the messiah of songwriting, the greatest living poet, known to maybe 30,000 people, David Berman, wore a long-sleeve, dark blue Tennessee Titans polo shirt.
This is the guy who wrote: “Inside the golden days of missing you/with the people of Cleveland/ who’ve suffered for so many years.” The Joos, as they’re nicknamed, play intelligent rock suffused with old country. Music for people who listen to the words.
We talked. He talked. We listened. I told him how I introduced my traveling buddy, Andy, to the Silver Jews.
He thanked me. David Berman. Thanked. Me.
“You guys came all the way from Mobile, Alabama? Wow. Hang on, I got something for you.”
Posters. He signed mine: “You found us!”
A random Friday evening in January. Ten of the most memorable minutes of our lives.
Andy and I have worshiped this music for a couple years — far fewer than any original Jews fan but no less passionately. We’ve idolized Berman’s lyrical genius. Drooled over his poetry. Never, though, have we watched him strum a guitar and hum into a microphone. He resisted touring for years, but now he’s sharing every bit of the music that is at once beautiful, funny and sad.
I still live in Mobile. Andy moved back home to Cleveland. The other day, an e-mail from him with the subject line “!!!!!!.”
“Silver Jews at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on Aug. 29. You coming?”
MapQuest says the Beachland is 970.22 miles from my front door.
I don’t know whether I should drive or fly.