#403: The Keyboard Player

November 24th, 2014

“Feliz Navidad!” he sang into the microphone positioned above the keyboard in the fifth-filled Mexican restaurant on Western. “Feliz Navidad y prospero año y felicidad… y Lazo’s Tacos!”

He chuckled a bit at his own joke, which was ignored by the smattering of people choosing to nosh on Sunday night Mexican food rather than wander the light, dripping rain outdoors.

He was seated on a stage in the corner of the place, playing and singing with abject joy on his face. He wore a gaudy blue blazer and a massive crucifix.

On the television screen behind him, a crime show’s victim of the week was splayed on a particularly gruesome autopsy table.

The keyboard player sang.

Two young white men slouched at their table so drunkenly it would have been comical had they not looked moments away from slugging anyone who crossed them.

At one point, one of them knocked his water on the table and just looked at it. A man came out with a mop to clean it. The white man looked at him with the same disregard he did the spilled water.

The keyboard player sang.

A family joked and laughed at a table as a mother cooed and calmed a crying child. A waitress with gray hair wandered the tables saying “OK?” to any request. The crime show reenacted the woman’s brutal, brutal murder in a number of ways as Ted Danson’s team of pros tried to crack the case.

And the keyboard player sang.

He sang with his eyes closed, head leaning back to croon into the mic. He swayed lightly, pointed a few times at an older man who also got the jokes. The keyboard player was silly, objectively clownish as a lounge singer stereotype in sky blue blazer and blingy crucifix.

He sang with true joy. Among tired waitresses, angry drunks, laughing families and late night noshers just looking to get out of the rain, the keyboard player was the happiest person in the room.

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You are currently reading #403: The Keyboard Player by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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