Friday, October 1, 2010

Me and Mr. Jones

What I am about to say may alarm you but I hope we can still be friends. Isn’t it very popular these days to be true to who we are no matter who or what that may be?  Since I strive never to allow a trend to slip by unacknowledged, I feel the need to come clean:  Last night, I went to a Tom Jones concert.  That’s right. Tom Jones.  Perspiration.  Tight pants.  Chords pulsing in the throat and veins throbbing in the forehead.  And that was me on the drive there— the Long Island Expressway was madness, I tell you.

You may be further disturbed to learn that my husband went, too.  One reason was the he didn’t entirely trust me to drive on the LIE and not wind up incarcerated for road rage but the other was pure curiosity after some very positive reports from a Tom Jones concert I previously attended a few years back with several friends from town. You know who you are, ladies and can thank me privately for not naming names. 
The crowd, milling about the parking lot of what was once called The Westbury Music Fair but now has been given—surprise!—a new corporate moniker, was decidedly festive.  There were women of all ages but there was so much wrinkled cleavage in the ladies room that I felt right at home…as well as a little frightened.  I was a tender eleven year old girl when I first set eyes on Tom and, for the two of us, the rest is history.  We’ve both grown older—apart but yet, somehow, together, Tom and I. He, head-lining in Vegas, wearing bulky golden pinkie rings as he cradled the microphone in his own signature style.  Me, I’ve been right here, wearing elastic waist pants and cradling a plastic cat scooper as I clean the litter box in my own signature style.  It hasn’t always been easy but we’ve made it work.

So, there I sat, waiting for him to come prancing down the aisle, leap onto the small circular stage in the center of the auditorium and kick-off the excitement.  We politely tolerated a comedian sent to warm us up even though we were plenty warm already but,  finally, the moment arrived.  His name was announced, the music blared but instead of Tom Jones, out came an elderly gentleman wearing a snazzy black suit and sporting a full head of white hair.  The crowd, to a woman, froze.  We sat still as stone as our fevered brains made the necessary adjustments and, realizing that this, indeed, was he—minus the Just for Men shade of Dr. Pepper—burst into delayed but sincere applause. 

He spent the next hour or so guzzling water, sweating (literally) through his suit, making self-deprecating remarks about his age (he’s 68) and attempting to revisit the past with an occasional creaky gyration or two.  The young girls got up and danced only to be immediately shouted down by those of us whose dancing-in-the-aisles days are on the wane.  The husbands brooded, visibly annoyed that a geriatric male was getting underwear, in every color of the rainbow, tossed at him, bitterly asking themselves, “Why does no one throw panties at me?”  The older women sat, some with their folded walkers neatly stowed in front of them, remembering younger, more limber times.   And the women my age—the 50’s crowd—both enjoyed the music and spectacle, resented the hell out of the leggy back-up singers and wondered if we could make it from here to wherever home might be, without another trip to the ladies room. 

Sir Tom (I have no doubt that Queen Elizabeth knighted him because she could find no other excuse to summon him to Buckingham Palace) put on a good show.  He can still belt out a ballad although he frequently used throat spray between songs and performed much of the show with a lubricating mint tucked into his cheek.  He also had a new repertoire of more thoughtful numbers which put less stress on the ol’ pipes. 

Despite his age, a few extra pounds and a head of white hair, he can still whip a crowd, albeit a very tame one, into something resembling a frenzy.  He can still instill something resembling jealousy into the men in the audience and he can still motivate longing in women who, with heads bobbing and toes tapping, still vaguely resemble the young girls they once were. That kind of thing works for Tom and me.  It always has.

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