Gut Rumbles

February 12, 2008

Christmas eve

Originally published December 24, 2003

One of the most astonishing nights of my life occurred when I was playing guitar for a living and was booked on Christmas Eve at a bar on River Street. I thought the place would be empty all night and the boss would close up early. That's not what happened.

The place was PACKED, all night long. About 11:30 that night, the realization dawned on me that these people had nowhere else to go for Christmas. The crowd wasn't noisy and drunk. It was subdued and really into listening to me play. "Eleanore Rigby" flashed through my mind, but I didn't play that song. I was looking at enough lonely people from the stage without reminding them about it.

Instead, I started playing Christmas carols.

I don't know why I did that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I started with "Silent Night" and the next thing I know, the entire barroom is singing along with me. We did "White Christmas," "Oh, Holy Night" and "We Three Kings." I finished my gig for the night with "Jingle Bells." Everybody in the bar sang along with every song. I brought the house down.

That night, I felt sorry for those people, because I had family waiting for me and a place to go on Christmas Eve. They didn't. Tonight, I know why they were there and why they liked what I played for them.

Christmas Eve is one empty night when you have nowhere to go.

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