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George Gershwin Part 1: Laundromat

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011: Characters, Stories.

“You a musician?”

I looked up. I’d been drumming on the table, in time with the churning washing machines, as I read yesterday’s paper. Across from me I saw an older man, slim and rugged in a denim shirt and faded jeans.

“Yeah, I guess. Among other things.”

“Look at these hands.” The man spoke quickly in a gruff urban accent. His eyes were large and bright, his features chiseled. I saw that his hands were huge. “An octave and a half. I play piano. Live right up the hill. What about you?”

“I write mostly, play whatever. Sing. I guess guitar’s my main thing.”

“Play by ear, huh? We’re the lucky ones. First thing I teach is to listen. That’s what Duchamp taught me. Marcel? My name’s Gershwin. George.”

I shook his hand, took him in. Big nose, big ears. Looked early-to-mid fifties.

“No way. Gershwin’s dead.”

George smiled. “Fact is, he came to me in a dream. Ten years ago. Said I should take up the name. A vocation. Before that I was CIA. Strictly underground. You wouldn’t believe it, but to this day I pass them on the street all the time, here in the city. KGB, British Intelligence, hand signals, winks, just like gradeschool.”

I felt stumped. My dryerload had stopped and I began to fold.

“How old do you think I am?”

“Fifty,” I said.

“Sixty-eight. My wife’s twenty-four. Met her at a march in LA. You should meet her some time. Sings those old labor songs.”

Gershwin heard his own dryer stop and went to empty it into a patched canvas bag. The other denizens of the laundromat, Latino women and their daughters, looked up shyly from the benches along the window. George passed me on his way to the door. “Here’s my card. Call me.” And he was gone.

I stood puzzling over a neat, elegantly embossed business card bearing the name John Christy, Piano: Concerts & Lessons.

From Loft of Dreams: True Stories by Max Carmichael

  1. Marsh says:

    Love it!

  2. Christine Abedini says:

    Max….I love your stories…I bet we could have a marathon chatfest.
    Take care Brotha

  3. Christine Abedini says:

    Have you heard from Reggie lately? He is in my thoughts most days ya know?

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