A boomer’s street life serenade

If you like the music of our era— and as boomers we can proudly say that virtually every generation does— then you’ll like this excerpt from music lover Alan Paul’s new book, Mercy: The Devil is in the Details… The chapter is called Streetlife Serenade. Maybe you’ll even wish you were sitting on the patio yourself.

The old man sat on the front bluestone patio of the white house on Rock City Road listening to the music of Blind Faith on his iPhone. He could afford to live in one of the more chic sections of town, but this was where he felt most vibrant. He was right next door to the Colony, with its live music from local and not-so-local bands playing virtually every evening during the tourist season. And he didn’t even mind the tourists so much; after all, they came like pilgrims offering homage at the altar of the cathedral which imparted raison d’etre to an entire generation.

The house on Rock City Road.

“Blind Faith” was one of his favorite albums of all time—well, his time, anyway. He couldn’t help but call a collection of songs by a specific artist or group an “album,” even though his kids and grandkids mocked him mercilessly for this and other back-in-the-dayisms he frequently spouted. Just to annoy them, more than anything else. The album “Blind Faith,” by the group Blind Faith was essentially one-of-a-kind; it was the only album that this particular group of consummate musicians— Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Ginger Baker— ever made together. Though all the members went on to make wonderful music on their own or with other groups, this former vinyl platter and the music it embraced, were transcendent to the old man.

The iconic street sign at town center in Woodstock.

It was an unusually pleasant late August evening: cool, fragrant and utterly perfect, as few August evenings can claim. His wife of forty-odd years sat next to him; she squeezed his hand gently and when he looked at her still strikingly beautiful face, she smiled and motioned ahead at something in the distance. He looked there just in time to see the neon-orange ball of the sun, partially obscured by pines, beginning to sink below the crest of Artists Cemetery hill. He and his wife had witnessed this particular otherworldly meteorological display hundreds of times since they’d lived in this house, but they never grew tired of the experience.

Part of the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, which features prominently in Alan’s story.

The rising symphony of cicada song, coaxed him out of his thoughts; or maybe it was his wife’s second, not so gentle, squeezing of his hand. He looked over at her again; she was frowning now, her brow furrowed, her face dark with concern. She gestured once more to a point in front of them, across the road, slightly to the right this time, under a streetlamp which had just that moment flickered to life. There appeared to be an elderly gentleman with a squarish head and bushy mustache, wearing an ill-fitting dark suit standing under the garish light.

Alan Paul

The lamp blinked again, and the figure it illuminated now looked like a young man with a horribly disfigured face, wearing some kind of military uniform. Once more the light flickered and the tableau it shone upon this time was populated by a short, headless, heavily muscled man with a serpent’s tail, surrounded by a small herd of hideous looking creatures.

Just then a chill current of wind, with October on its mind, washed over the man and his wife and blasted a wind chime hanging above them. It made a sound not unlike a crystal chandelier being struck by a baseball bat. Some moments later, when the last of the wind chime notes had faded into the night, they both heard faint laughter in the distance. Except it wasn’t really laughter at all, but something even more chilling than that cold blast of late summer wind which had come, like a warning, out of nowhere.

So much for that once utterly perfect August evening…

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