This Cannot Be Other Than the Best of All Possible Columns

R ecently, when the garage band I play in landed a slot opening for rock legend Chuck Berry at a local club, my bandmates and I gained a whole new appreciation for one of the literary classics. The following recount of the experience is offered, with apologies to Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire:

"It is demonstrable that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings. And the arms are clearly made for holding guitars or drumsticks, just as the hands are created for playing piano keys and the lips are designed for blowing sax; therefore we play rock all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best ."

Thus spake Col. Waxgloss, mentor and manager to our merry little band, the Candides, upon informing us that no less a personage than Sir Charles of Berry--who counted three and 60 years of age and consequently was a rocker of no small consideration, and indeed was a creative Father and Poet Laureate of Rock 'n' Roll--would have us share the same stage with him.

"Surely," Waxgloss intoned, "to play your music with Sir Charles would be the best of all possible gigs!"

We listened attentively and believed implicitly, concluding that next to the happiness of being Sir Charles of Berry, the next was that of seeing him every day, and the last was that of hearing the doctrine of Col. Waxgloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole kingdom, and consequently of the whole world.

When Waxgloss gave us the happy news, our eyes sparkled; our knees trembled; our imaginations soared.

When that most glorious day arrived, we lads were told to have our very best music ready to play at half past seven, and again at three-quarters past nine of the clock, for Sir Charles was of the mind that evening to proffer two sets--and we would precede him at both!

Arriving at the Hall of the Strand at the prescribed hour of half past three--for there was much work to be done before show time--we Candides were entreated by the chief of the stagehands to "Have a seat--we'll be right with ya."

Said young James the pianist to the other Candides, sitting on the floor, for no stand could be found for his keyboard, "You are perfectly right, gentlemen, this is precisely the doctrine of Col. Waxgloss; and I am convinced that everything is for the best."

Even though we waited idly for a mere two hours, even though the piano and sound equipment we were to share with Sir Charles still had not arrived, even though our sound check lasted but five minutes so that doors could be opened for the dinner crowd, we remained undaunted.

"Certainly, this must be for the best," I mused as I set my saxophone down. "What seems like a ridiculously short sound check must be their desire to ensure that we do not fret over unimportant matters. Yes, it is for the best."

Then we Candides waited once again, huddled together among the surplus extension cords and klieg lights, in a compartment next to the coffee machine that unquestionably must have been the best and most comfortable of all dressing rooms.

Following an abrupt "You're on!" it mattered not to us that we had been left waiting until the stroke of eight to begin, without explanation during the 30-minute delay.

Whispered I to bassist Mark as we took our places, "All praises to Col. Waxgloss--could there ever be a night, or a kingdom, or a world better than this one!"

We Candides played in the best possible way, and received the applause of the most generous of all audiences. This lasted a full 18 minutes, until a stagehand said curtly: "That's it. You're through. Chuck needs to start."

Hurriedly, we Candides collected our possessions, if not our composure, and departed the stage for the solace of our dressing room, mistakenly labeled storage, and waited anon, this time for the chance to meet Sir Charles and hear his legendary music.

"Be not concerned," said James, "for we have another chance to play next set."

We watched, gape-mouthed, as Sir Charles fiddled and teased and mugged and muddled the lines of his famous poetry. We marveled at the way he tested the listeners' loyalties while playing a guitar with three strings tuned sharp, the other three flat.

"Oh surely he must be the best of all guitarists to accomplish this!" said guitarist Jimmie in wonderment.

When Sir Charles left the stage after what, by Waxgloss' definition, must have been the best possible 35 minutes of music, we Candides had not time to ponder the sight of listeners being routed from their $32.50-each seats to make way for another stream waiting outside. For we had to be ready to play again.

Yet a puzzlement fell over us when the stagehand gruffly told Richard, as he adjusted his drum, "You guys won't be playing the second set. No time."

For the first time, we Candides among us could not think of how this embodied Waxgloss' precept.

Downcast Richard and guitarist Jimmie stepped outside in time to see their friends--whom Col. Waxgloss had assured would be accorded the most gracious treatment--being refused entry and, to their dismay, even scolded: "They ain't playing a second set--you'll have to buy a ticket like everyone else."

And so we Candides departed from the Hall of the Strand, never to win fame and fortune, never even to meet Sir Charles, and returned to our humble rehearsals in a garage belonging to James, where we had long played simply for fun.

"Perhaps," Mark was heard to say later, " this is the best of all possible gigs."

DR, Sherffius 1990

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