Monday, May 3, 2010

Mr. Wood

Ron Wood

You have to know something about Murphy. Murphy is a salesman, the most gifted I've ever known. He's got a twinkling Irish eye and the blarney true. The man could sell sand to the Saudis. Cars, large appliances, Western wear: name it, he can sell it.

Of course, it's the secret of all great salesmen: he doesn't sell products, he sells Murphy, and people buy. It's a joy to watch him work. Once he's got you in his sights, he's got you. You'll be signing on the dotted line before you ever knew what hit you, and you'll be smiling all the while.

But this isn't about that, exactly.

1988. I am awakened at noonish by a ringing in my ears. Opening one bloodshot eye, I fumble for the phone with one hand, for a cigarette with the other. I answer groggily


Man, you aren't even up yet? Sorry. Hey, great party last night.


Get up, get dressed. I'm coming over.


Ron Wood's signing books in Harvard Square.

Don't hurry.

Twenty minutes.


Murphy and I share a passion for the Rolling Stones, so I forgave him the wake-up. Twenty minutes later, I answered the door, showered, dressed, semi-caffeinated. Not exactly daisy-fresh, but ambulatory; that was about my best in those days. Murphy, undamaged by the last night's revelry, brandished a new red Telecaster.

Hey man, I'm going to have Ron sign my guitar.


I returned to the kitchen and the coffee. For the next few hours, we listened to the Stones, talked about the Stones, picked through some Stones songs, and otherwise prepared for our encounter with greatness. We measured time in beer back then, but we were young, our livers were strong. Ron would understand.

We hopped the train to Harvard Square and made our way to the Coop. I found and bought a copy of Ron's book. We got into a long but not outrageous line. We waited. We talked about the Stones, sang favorite bits of Stones songs, preparing for our encounter with greatness. We were young, happily drunk but still functional. We knew Ron would understand.

A murmur from the back of the room announced his arrival. He was preceded by a burly bodyguard approximately the size of a standard Frigidaire. Red hair, red beard, red skin that suggested a more than passing acquaintance with the bottle. Not someone to be casually provoked. The crowd parted like the Red Sea before Moses.

Ron followed. Tiny, skeletal, his complexion an unhealthy shade of gray. Armani jacket, pegged Levi's, tooled-leather cowboy boots. A dangling earring peeked out from his spiky hair. Despite his frail appearance, he radiated confidence. His eyes were surprisingly alert. Everything about him screamed rock and roll. We came to meet a Rolling Stone and he did not disappoint. He was everything you'd imagine. He was the real deal.

He sat down at a table, his bodyguard behind him to his right, arms folded. The line began to move: a handshake, a few words, an autograph, next. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a very buttoned-down man begin to fidget and pace. Clearly a manager of some sort, concerned that his bookstore was being invaded by long-haired freaky people, many visibly under the influence. He moved toward us, singling people out for persecution.

Then I realized his greater concern. Some of these long-haired freaky people had not purchased the book. They had the audacity to come to his store with a Rolling Stones LP or poster. He was losing sales. He sent a few people away. Then he got to us. I was safe, I had the book. He looked Murphy up and down.

I'm sorry. Mr. Wood is here to sign books and only books.

Aw, C'mon man. You're telling me Ron Wood won't sign my Telecaster?

Mr. Wood isn't here to sign "telecasters." He's here to sign books. If you don't buy the book I'll have to ask you to leave.

Now manager-man had no idea of Murphy's gift. I could see the wheels turning, though. Murphy had the same look he'd get when we'd be pulled over. In sixty seconds or less, he always thought up a good one to talk us out of a jam. I never saw him fail. I knew he wouldn't fail now. Murphy's eyes glittered. I smiled inside.

Hey Ron!

Ron Wood's head snapped up.

This guy says you can't sign my Telecaster.

I almost laughed out loud. Perfect. Ron looked up, his bodyguard leaned down. Ron whispered something in his ear. The bodyguard beckoned. Sheepishly, manager-man approached the throne. A brief huddle. The bodyguard took a lumbering step forward.

Mr. Wood wi' be soining books... AND guitars.

He returned to his place and folded his arms. Manager-man retired to his office, defeated.

Score one for the long-haired freaky people. We got our autographs, a handshake, a few brief words and it was over. Next. A bit anticlimactic, really, but cool all the same. I shook hands with one of the Rolling Stones. That was what I came for. That would have been good enough. But he came through for us. He made sure we'd get our sixty second encounter with greatness. And for that, I'm grateful.

You can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.

Respectfully Yours,



Hilary said...

Perfect! What a great memory from beginning to end. That song is running through my head now. :)

Dianne said...

the song is running through my head too :)

wonderful story beautifully told

Land of shimp said...

Oh that was the perfect ploy, indeed! Well done, Ron :-) Damn the man, and all that.

The Rollings Stones, oh me, oh my. I swear, every single last one of them looks like they must doing the aging for some Dorian Gray-type figure. The walking pictures, bearing the brunt of someones long-lived life.

The funniest thing is that everyone I've known who has seen them perform, has noted this. "And then this figure of wheezing antiquity came out, looking like he was halfway through the embalming process, and, did he look like eight miles of bad road."

That sort of thing, and then they always end with something like, "...but they could still rock hard."

Maybe they are all aging for their talent. Their exteriors are practically cracked, but otherwise, their abilities and gifts don't really age.

Hope you're doing well, Cricket!

Edited to add: Oh my goodness! My word verification? "ralkingu" ! Fitting!

Also, I'm sure I owe you an email, but in the meantime, I've a book recommendation: Ella Minnow Pea (that's the title).

Ananda girl said...

What a wonderful story and experience! I am soooo envious.

The Murphys of the world paint interest into what could be an otherwise mundane landscape. What a brilliant idea he came up with spur of the moment and likely the only idea that might have worked.

Kudos to Ron Wood for being the savior of the day.

lime said...

rock on most righteously! i love it when the ron woods of the world stick up for the folks who make the fame possible and stick it to the petty people who think they are big.

Suldog said...

I love a story with a self-assured hero who triumphs over evil, especially if the self-assured hero has an endearing flaw, say getting drunk in midday. Great tale. Hooray for Ron Wood, too!

Sueann said...

Wonderful story and a great memory!! Yes sometimes you get what you need! Well said!
Congrats on your POTW

järnebrand said...

Oh, well done! :) Wow. What a great story! Thank you for sharing.
You can't always get what you want... Maybe that's true. But you guys sure did! :) Good stuff!
Congrats on the POTW!

Brian Miller said...

ha. as a fellow formerly long haired freaky people...i admire the brass...nice job.

congrats on the POTW!

DeniseinVA said...

Oh my gosh, what a fantastic memory!

Dianne said...

I came back to say congrats on POTW :)

R. said...

The part that got me was the description of the bodyguard, very funny! I can relate to the waking up groggily part, coz thats what I did this morning after meeting a friend after 10 years last night, I just called in sick and meditated! Nice Post!

Land of shimp said...

Hey Cricket, just stopping back by to say congratulations on the post of the week mention over at Hilary's blog. Well done, sir. Also, the story lives on :-)

ellen abbott said...

I love this story. I had a near encounter with the stones myself at a tender young age. And I stress 'near' encounter. If you care to read it on my blog, it's called 'the time I didn't meet the Rolling Stones'.

ellen abbott said...

Oh, and congrats on POTW mention.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

love the song..

Unknown said...

This story was so good! I loved reading every word :) I am so glad he got his guitar signed. Awesomely cool! : )

LadyFi said...

I was riveted from start to finish. Great storytelling!

Shrinky said...

What a fantastic tale to tell to the kids! (And what a miserable little jobsworth that manager guy was sheesh..)

Sandra said...

What a GREAT story! I've known some "Murphy's" -- you've summed up the type perfectly.