Tuesday, December 31, 2013

my adrian belew story

Same Adrian Belew, different hat
I'm ashamed that I haven't posted a darn thing to my blog in 2013. But I shall remedy that at the 11th hour, with a story that has nothing to do with New Year's at all.

In fact, these events happened on October 5th, 1999. My now-ex-wife and I were going to attend a Richard Thompson show that evening, at a now-discontinued series of outdoor shows in Nashville called the "Uptown Mix." We decided to simplify our evening by also getting dinner in the Vanderbilt/21st Avenue Area, and we decided to eat at South Street.

Once we parked and walked to the restaurant, I went inside and put our name on the list. Then, because it was a pleasant early autumn evening, we plopped down on a bench outside for the promised 30-45 minute wait. Almost as soon as we sat down, I noticed someone oddly familiar walking our way.

A moment later, I realized who it was: not someone I knew personally, but King Crimson guitarist extraordinaire Adrian Belew. I had never even seen him in concert, but I knew he had moved to nearby Mount Juliet, Tennessee, a few years before. (We apparently traded Peter Frampton to Cincinnati for him.) He was wearing a hat and holding the hand of a little girl, presumably his daughter, and, yes, it was unmistakably him, probably doing the same thing we were - grabbing a bite to eat before seeing Richard Thompson.

And... he was walking this way! In fact, he and the kid were headed directly toward us, and I hurriedly whispered to my wife, "that's Adrian Belew!"

Belew and child stepped onto the South Street porch, but then Adrian grimaced, turned around, and headed back onto the street. As they were walking away at a brisk pace, I heard him mutter sotto voce to the child, "They recognized us."

I figured he had to be referring to me. I really, really thought I hadn't been obvious about recognizing him. Sure, I did whisper about it to my wife, but I deliberately wasn't staring at him, was not going to make any attempt to intrude on his evening in any way, wasn't about to hop up and gladhand him, etc. etc.

But I still felt bad about it. I figured there was something in my expression or deportment that had made him think that I was going to hassle him, and as a consequence, he had to change his plans for the evening. I wouldn't have wanted to inconvenience the man who played the world-rending solo on Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless," for gosh sakes, and somehow I'd given him the impression that I was about to throw my arm around him and tell him about how only I could understand the secret messages you hear when you play "Elephant Talk" backwards.

Several years later, among a group of friends, I was telling this story - and not telling it for the first time during these several years, mind you. I got to the part where Belew says "they recognized us," and my wife interrupted.

"It was me."

I was baffled. "What was you?"

"It wasn't you he was saying that about. It was me."


"Why? I thought you didn't recognize him."

(longer pause)

"I didn't. I had been staring at him because he was wearing a terrible hat."

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