Wow…what a bizarre experience I had last night!
To give you the full experience, I’ll go back to the beginning…
All the way back in 2015, Becky (my wife) asked me to take a pair of her high heels somewhere to get them repaired. Since she has a 9-to-5, I have a bit more flexibility to run some errands during the day. Well, occasionally some things slip through the cracks, and sure enough those heels sat near our front door for over a month. She had reminded me a few times, and I just really kept dropping the ball on this.
Well, finally she actually needs them and the pressure is on for me to not fuck this up. I fired up the computer and asked the Google machine about shoe repair nearby. A map pops up and I see that theres one called Al’s Shoe Services that’s just a few miles from our apartment. I gave the place a call and a man named Larry answers the phone. I told him my story and basically begged him to help me out with a rush job since I kept forgetting to get this handled. He is as nice as can be and even makes a few jokes about the whole thing – says he can get it done for me same day! I was so grateful and excited because this place was a few minutes away and I could squeeze it in to drop them off before a string of appointments I had throughout the day.
I drive on over, and this place is tucked onto this cute old fashioned strip mall along the train tracks near Elmhurst Rd. and Rt. 14 in Mount Prospect. I walk in with Becky’s shoes in my C.M.J. canvas bag to a warm greeting from seemingly the only employee there. The building had a ton of decoration all over the walls – sports memorabilia, musical instruments including a trombone and a dulcimer, a small rocking horse for children, and so much more. This place felt cozy. I noticed a small “Beware of Dog” sign as a tiny friendly terrier came out from a nap behind the counter.
After scoping everything out, I returned my eyes to the gentleman behind the counter and started to tell him what I needed. He politely interrupted to ask if we have met before. I was a little surprised by the question and told him that we hadn’t.
“Well I’d like to go through a little tradition that happens when two people meet for the first time,” he said, extending his hand. “My name is Larry.”
I felt like an asshole. “Hi, Larry. I’m David.” I reached out and shook his hand over the counter.
Just then, he turned away from me to grab something hanging from a hook on a wall behind him. They were two small decorative cymbals with writing that I could not read and pictures I didn’t understand that were attached by a worn leather strap. He told me they were Tibetan Tingsha Cymbals. He held the leather between his thumbs and forefingers and rang the two cymbals together. He explained that this was a custom for meeting new people, and he gestured for me to do the same. I did.
This wasn’t quite what I was expecting when I wanted to get my wife’s shoes fixed up.
After handing them back to him, I glanced at my watch to see if I was running late yet. Not quite, but I needed to make this relatively quick. Larry carefully hung the leather strap across two hooks to make sure the cymbals could resonate for their full life.
When he turned back around, he gave me the history of the shop, and told me that they were in their 76th year of being in business. Then he asked me about the shoes. I handed them to him and he quickly diagnosed the issues with them and said he could get them done right now while I wait, or I could come back later and pick them up. I opted for the latter.
Before I could transition to saying goodbye for now, he looked me over, saw my rings and my necklace and started asking me about the origins of them. I told him that my necklace was actually an urn containing my father’s ashes and that the ring on my right hand was a Claddagh ring from Ireland. The wedding band didn’t need much explanation. After that he asked me if I was an artist. I suppose the standard-issue musician uniform of black t-shirt, leather jacket, black leather boots, jewelry, and black wayfarers may have given me away. I told him I was, indeed, a musician. He continued to ask some questions and I guess sensed the sense of urgency in my voice before letting my go, but instructing me to bring my guitar back when I come to pick the shoes up.
Several Hours Later …..
I was worried about how long this was going to take before I even got to Al’s Shoe Repair. I didn’t have a specific time restraint this time, but I did want to bring the shoes to my wife as soon as I could.
There was a parking spot directly in front of the shop and I sat in my van for minute deciding whether or not to bring my guitar into the shop. I had been teaching guitar lessons, so I already had it with me…might as well bring it in. What’s the worst thing that could happen.
I walked in, and this time Larry had a customer sitting at the counter chatting with him. I figured I’d hang back and let them finish up, as to not interrupt. Larry made a large gesture with his arms welcoming me back and exclaiming that “David Paige is in the building!”
“This is the guy I was telling you about” he said the the woman at the counter.
Larry had set up a microphone and plugged it into a small amplifier. He put on his best radio announcer voice and began to announce that we were going to perform together. Evidently, Larry is a jazz flutist. I told him I played mostly original rock music, and he was just excited to start. He got his flute out and pointed the microphone at me.
This is what happened next…
I learned a really important lesson. I feel like I regularly rush through life – task to task, appointment to appointment. I rarely slow down enough to enjoy the spontaneous things in life. This was so much fun!
“Absoflutely” was Larry’s response when I told him that I had a great time jamming. Gotta give credit where credit is due!
Also, the shoes looked perfect, the cost was low, and he even gave my boots a free shine!
Let me know what you think of this partial tune in the comments below. It’s going to be on the new EP I’m currently recording!