I was out of breath the day I met Van Morrison.
I couldn’t help it.
My wife, Estelle, has known I’ve been a fan of Van Morrison for a very long time. “Hymns to the Silence,” “A Night in San Francisco,” “Enlightenment,” “The Healing Game.” I could go on and on.
Two years ago Van unexpectedly stopped in to The Beat Museum. He even posted about it on his own Facebook page. Van mentions Kerouac and the Beats in a number of his songs. From the lyrics alone, you can tell On The Road and The Dharma Bums were a big influence on him.
Yesterday my wife and I were just beginning a workout at the gym. She works out a lot more than I do. It’s a little game between us. She pushes me to go work out more often than I would ever think of doing. I try to get creative with excuses as to why I can’t go. I was about five minutes into a planned one-hour bicycle routine when my cell phone buzzed. It was Brandon and Bob at the museum. The text read: “Van Morrison is upstairs touring the second level.”I read it three times, checking the date and time to be sure I was reading it right. Van had stopped in two years ago, but I happened to be at Cheap Pete’s on the other side of town.
I stepped off the bike in a flash. I ran up to Estelle on the treadmill behind me. She had her earbuds in. I mouthed the words, “I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go.” I showed her the text I’d just received. Her eyes flashed and she smiled and said loudly as people do when they’re wearing earbuds, “You’ve got to go.”
I ran to the locker room to get my clothes, calculating how long it might take me to get from the other side of the TransAmerica Building back to North Beach. I sent Brandon and Bob a text, “I’m on my way. You guys have got to keep Van there at least another ten minutes.” I half ran and half walked fast back North Beach. I came in to the museum huffing and puffing and spied Van standing by the ’49 Hudson. He was digging it.
We spoke, exchanged pleasantries. He really seemed to like our place and asked a few questions. I quoted a line of his from a song called “On Hyndford Street” (Hymns to the Silence, 1991) where he says, “Reading Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac over and over again…” He knew I was a fan.
Later, after talking about poetry and making a few purchases Van split. My wife made it back to the museum about twenty minutes later after finishing up at the gym. She walked purposeful up to Bob and Brandon. “OK, you two. How did you arrange for Van Morrison to walk in the door so Jerry could get out of his workout?”
It was a good day.