Paul Williams performed in the Carlyle Cafe at The Carlyle Hotel last week, an amazing first time experience. In spite of a wardrobe malfunction and forty three dollars for a pair of stockings on Madison Avenue, we made it to his closing performance Saturday night. Greg said that was my Mother's Day gift. Just amazing.
About one month ago, my brother, Tom, recommended the documentary Paul Williams Still Alive. So we rented it on a movie channel. It was a dramatic story about Paul's journey, his choice to live a life of recovery. I highly recommend it.
He and Tracey Jackson are coauthors of an upcoming book "Recovery Is Not Just For Addicts." Their website Gratitude and Trust is a prelude to the book. The posts and stories are kept real, the only way to be inspired. On their site, Tracey announced the Paul Williams event at The Carlyle. And when a few of us readers wrote in the comment section that we'd be there, she said to come over and say hello.
It is hard to describe the experience of listening to Paul Williams sing alongside his incredibly talented musicians. It was reminiscent of a moonless night eons ago when Mom and Dad took a few of us kids to Prospect Park, a beautiful, densely treed park that was other-wordly in Brooklyn.
The band shell was bright lit, filled with synchronized motion that created rich, exciting sound. Halfway through the performance, I leaned into Mom and dozed off, listening to the sweet symphony orchestra.
The tables in the Carlyle Cafe are tight and the stage is butt against the front tables, so the folks at those tables looked upwards at Paul Williams' face. The other option was to rest one's neck by staring straight ahead into his groin region. Paul looked down at the guy at the first table.
"I never sang this close to a man before, and it feels strange" he said. "And if it feels strange to me, it has to feel especially strange for you." Everybody giggled, which happened a lot. He is very funny.
At the end of his performance, and as a hoard of us exited the cafe, Paul was walking out, right in front of me. "Here's your chance to say hello," Greg said. I then overheard him say that he was looking for his son.
I did not want to impose, so I slipped by.
After we passed each other near the ladies room, I realized I'd just seen Tracey Jackson. I used to track moments like that, like keeping score at an awful baseball game. Opportunities that passed too fast, or that I wished I'd acted on. I discovered that holding onto regret guaranteed a continued cycle of missed moments.
It was a wonderful evening. And the lighting was soft enough to hide the runs in my forty-three dollar stockings.
"Don't you want to meet them in person?" Greg asked. "You always talk about their latest blog, and they are here tonight. You could say hello." I wanted that, but I didn't think I'd get close, so I said I'd instead write a comment on their blog, tell them how much I enjoyed the evening.
This choice was about to go down in the annals of missed opportunities. It was a moment that would not be repeated, at least not in the same way.
"Okay, let's go back," I said. What was the worst that could happen?
When we returned, Tracey Jackson stood near the door, beautiful and graceful. I introduced myself, and she remembered my name from their blog. "Did you see Paul yet?" she asked. I said no, I didn't want to impose. "Follow me," she said. "He likes to meet our readers."
There I stood face-to-face with the man whose lyrics I sang into hairbrushes throughout my youth. His story had now evolved once again into his fans' as was evidenced by an audience that laughed and dabbed back tears as we always have. The evening was a sort of high-five to the mixed experience of life and to Paul Williams who wrote lyrics and made music describing it all and then sang it for us, too.