Saturday was one of those days when my husband wanted to be anywhere but the adult foster care home where he lives now, so I pointed the car east, not sure where I was going, only knowing that the weather was warmer in that direction. I remembered an antiques store in Toledo, OR was selling off its inventory with 50 percent discounts. Why not? So we had wandered down Main Street and were on our way back up to the car with a pretty blue candle holder when I saw my friend Loie approaching with a glass in her hand. I had seen Loie twice that week already, at the Central Coast Chorale concert Sunday (fabulous!) and our Willamette Writers meeting on Tuesday.

“Sue Lick!” she shouted.

“You’re everywhere!” I hollered back. Not another soul was on that street to hear us. In fact, most of the businesses were closed. Toledo can be eerily quiet sometimes. As Loie got closer, I asked if that brown liquid in her glass was iced tea or something stronger. She just smiled.

Then she explained that another friend had seen us through the window of the Pig Feathers barbecue place and she’d come out to fetch us. “All your writer friends are there having a party for Trish’s birthday,” she said. “Come join us.”

I looked at my watch. Fred was due back at Graceland for dinner in 45 minutes, but I could make a phone call . . . “Okay. I’m going to go down and get the car.”

“Tell me you’re not just going to drive away,” she nudged.

“Oh no.” God no, a party where I didn’t have to dress up, entertain, or bring a potluck dish? Save me a seat.

A few minutes later, my confused husband and I walked into the restaurant to a rain of applause. Soon we were eating barbecue, drinking Hamm’s beer, laughing and making far too much noise. When I had arrived at the care home, Fred had been sitting in the dark in his room doing nothing, just looking angry. Now, for the first time in weeks, he was smiling, and so was I. It was exactly the right medicine for both of us.

Most of the folks there used to meet monthly, ostensibly to critique each other’s writing, but we spent more time eating and socializing, and nobody’s work ever got negative reviews. On Saturday, we decided to start meeting again, but this time it would be purely social. Cheers to that.

God is good.

Mardi Gras in Newport

“Lots of booze and boobs,” said my friend Tim, describing his Saturday working the Knights of Columbus booth at the annual Newport Seafood and Wine festival. Church choir rehearsal stopped dead. Boobs?

It seems some well-built tourist took the Mardi Gras Theme to heart. Apparently in New Orleans, everyone wears beads and if a woman shows her charms, she earns a chain. She asked one of the beaded Catholic gentlemen if she could buy a chain off his neck. No, he said. Well, what if I do this? And before they knew it, she’d lifted her shirt. He gave her his beads.

Tim said that by the time she left, she had a huge collection of beads around her neck.

Ah, Mardi Gras, the days of celebration before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This isn’t New Orleans, but we do know how to have fun.

Yesterday, I attended a concert by the Central Coast Chorale and the Calamity Jazz Quintet. The chorale, of which I was a charter member long ago, sang good old gospel songs like “In That Great Getting’ Up Mornin’ and “Steal Away.” Packed onto the altar of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, they sounded glorious. And the Calamitys rattled the stained glass windows. The music just poured out of them, especially Vicki Cox, leading them on trumpet. It was impossible to sit still. A little girl in the pew in front of me was on her feet in the aisle shaking her ponytail, waving her arms and having a great time. Occasionally her mother pulled her back onto the pew, but in a minute she was back on her feet doing what we all wanted to do.

As I sat there clapping and bobbing in my seat, I thought this couldn’t happen in a big city or a big church. The music might be just as good or even better, but the feeling wouldn’t be the same. I knew many of the people on the altar and in the audience, but we were all friends by the time the concert ended.

My friend Georgia had this blissed-out look on her face the whole time and she dragged me up to meet the quintet after the concert. As they played, we never did see the piano player, just the top of a gray-haired head rocking like crazy. I was amazed to discover the owner of that head was a woman in a wheelchair and then to realize this was Meg Graf, who had played flute beside me in our church 12 years ago when we first moved to Oregon. She moved to Eugene shortly after we met, so I hadn’t seen her in over a decade.The joy of music on her face lit up the whole church, and she was still playing as I walked across the parking lot toward my car late on that rain-darkened afternoon. Rock on, Meg.

Checking out the Calamity Jazz website, we learn that Meg and Vicki are sisters, and that there are other Calamity Jazz players who gather from all over the state. Plus, they have CDs to buy, so you can have Mardi Gras all year long.

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