Tuesday, July 10, 2007

flower man jam

The Flower Man Jam started about a dozen years ago.

Some back story:
When I first moved back from Philadelphia/South Jersey area I lived with my brother is a swanky house that he and some buddies rented on Indianapolis’ Meridian Street. Meridian is the north/south street that bisects the city. The street is full of show place homes, including the governor’s residence (not that our governor lives there, but I’ve promised myself that I will not make this a political blog).
Once the lease was up brother and I moved to a house on the White River. J.R. was thinking about buying the house and was doing a lot of work on it in exchange for rent. He was also in the beginning of his relationship with his now wife, so he was not around very much. I was managing the very hip and cool Some Guys Pizza and working nights. A big project was often started when I was a work and I’d come home to no kitchen or door on the bathroom. I can roll with the punches pretty well, but the night (actually it was 2:00 in the morning) I came home to freshly lacquered hardwood floors was a challenge. I could not walk on the floors and my bedroom and the bathroom were on the second floor.
My brother decided not to buy the house and remembered to tell me on Christmas Day that we needed to be out by December 31.

One of my Some Guys coworkers had and extra bedroom in his house and needed some extra money. I gratefully moved in to Jeff’s house. Jeff is one of the funniest people that I know, and I woke up every day laughing. I lived there until I moved in to my current abode.

The neighbors were wonderful. Next-door neighbor Doris was in her 80s and caring for her brother, Jimmy. They are worthy of a whole post of their own. On Doris’s 88th birthday I arranged living room concert for her. The band consisted of AVS, Jeff, Keith (owner of Some Guys Pizza), and Helen (another neighbor). Doris said it was her best birthday ever.

That summer Helen invited the same people to her house for a ‘jam’. Her parents lived in an old farmhouse on the corner for over 70 years. The first part was built circa 1850 and the rest of the house was added in 1890. Karl and Bessie ran a landscaping and perennial business on that spot for over 60 years. The house has not changed much, the flooring is patterned linoleum and the bathroom is on the back porch.

The yard is amazing.

Karl was known as the Flower Man and he was always ready for a chat. If you brought him beer the stories got even better. If you brought it in a coffee cup it earned you a wink and a big smile.

Time spent with Karl and Bessie was time well spent.
Bessie died in her sleep the night after one of the early year jams. Bessie asked Helen to play the piano that night, and Bessie danced around the kitchen.

Karl continued to live in the house and sell plants and flowers. Helen would come to Indianapolis each spring, mid-summer and fall to help with the business. She spent the rest of her time in North Dakota helping her sons on their family farm. Helen continues to come back and run the business each summer.

The concerts got bigger each year and Karl continued to be the life of the party. Karl died three summers ago at age 95. The Flower Man Jam continues. My friend, Stasia Demos wrote a beautiful song about him, “Pushing Up Daisies”.

Fifteen musicians showed up last night—playing guitar, bass, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, tenor saxophone, accordion, ukulele and various percussion instruments. The songs ranged from old time-y folk to Led Zeppelin with a heavy emphasis on The Beatles. The musicians included college professors, syndicated morning radio show personalities, attorneys, stay-at-home moms and ministers. I am always amazed that musicians can play songs they don’t know and sound good.

I spent the whole time all goose-bumpy and happy.


Rachel said...

What wonderful memories Nora. It's so nice that they keep having the flower man jam. Sounds great!!

Cliff said...

You have surrounded yourself with lovely folks. That's for sure. I loved this entire post. The jam sounds like fun.