Ed. note: Patti Preston is Mitch’s girlfriend of nearly two years.
I was playing a gig up in Chilliwack a couple years ago. That’s about an hour’s drive from White Rock if there’s no delay. That’s as far as I’ll drive for a job because of the price of fuel, it’s only worth it to go so far. This gig paid really well though.
It was a pickup band. That’s just what it sounds like, a band put together just for this date. The keyboard player, Bobby Harris, called me at the last minute. I used to play in a band with Bobby a few years ago. The gig belonged to the guitar player on this date, he’s the one who hired Bobby and the others. But he had to bail out that morning when his wife went into labour. So he gave the gig to Bobby, who called a couple guys who live out that way but he couldn’t find anyone available to fill-in on guitar. He got me on the phone about three hours before the gig, just enough time for me to shower, dress, pack my stuff, make the trip out there and set up my stuff.
But before I unloaded the car, I wanted to make sure I was in the right place. Bobby told me on the phone it was a rock gig with a hip, jazzy/bluesy feel to it, for an upscale crowd, a private party at a local restaurant. He said the place was called Harry’s and he gave me the address.
I drive an old car, I don’t have GPS. I have a flip phone, I just make calls, I don’t do anything on the internet with it. What I’m saying is, I still use maps. Paper maps. The kind you have to fold like eleven times but you still can’t put it back in order when you’re done. So it’s kind of a mess and a bit hard to read. I thought I made a wrong turn somewhere but I wasn’t sure. Couldn’t find a place called Harry’s but I did find a place with Harry’s in the name. But this couldn’t be it.
It’s always like that with these pickup bands, things don’t get communicated very well. And with the extra confusion of the guy who booked the date having to bail, it wasn’t any surprise that I was at the wrong place. At least I thought I was. Polecat Harry’s Fraser Valley Taco House, Bar & Grille sounded more like a honky tonk to me.
It was huge. No doubt they had a function room or two in there for private parties. I left my stuff in the car and went in to see if this was it and if it was, to see where we were playing and figure out where to park and which entrance to bring in my gear.
The restaurant was very crowded and loud. There was a country-rock band playing in the lounge and you could hear it on the restaurant side. A sign said “Function Rooms Upstairs” so I went up to take a look.
There were two large ballrooms or meeting rooms or whatever on the top floor. The first one I walked into, turned out to be the right one. A dark-haired woman, a few years older than me, was testing a microphone.
“One, two, three. Woof,” she said.
I smiled at her. She was dressed in black, a tight shirt and jeans, cowboy boots…cowgirl boots, I guess. She looked real good. I was about to ask if this was Bobby Harris’ gig when she turned off the mic and turned to me and said,
“Who are you?”
She surprised me a little. I kinda mumbled, “The guitar player.”
“Is that what I call you? Guitar Player. Or do you have like a regular name?”
She made me smile. “Mitch,” I said.
“Mitch. Well, now we’re getting somewhere. Where’s Dewey? I thought this was his gig?”
“I don’t know Dewey. Bobby Harris called me. He said it was the guitar player’s gig but he had to bail ’cause his wife went into labour.”
“Oh my God! Sue’s not due for another two weeks, I think, or ten days, something like that. Wow, wow, wow.”
“Well, I guess I’m taking Dewey’s place then.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mitch Guitar Player. Or do you have some regular last name too?”
“Newmore. Mitch Newmore.”
“Well, Mitch Newmore, welcome to Polecat Harry’s Fraser Valley Whatever-it’s-called.”
I just smiled. She looked me over.
“I gotta say, that shy thing works for you. You’re kind of cute,” she said.
“Can I buy you a drink after the gig?”
“Whoa, Mitch Guitar Player! You’re not so shy after all, eh?”
“I am really.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re making an exception in this case. Yes, you can buy me a drink after the gig.”
“And you are…?”
“I’m the singer,” she said. Then she turned and walked to the ladies room.
I didn’t find out her name until she said it on stage when she was introducing the band. Patti Preston. I like that name. She made it up. Patricia is her real name but Preston is…like a…well actors and musicians call it a stage name and writers call it a pen name, I don’t know what photographers call it. That’s her real job, photographer. The singing is a side job for Patti. She told me her real last name but I better not put it here in case anybody ever reads this stuff.