Hutch waited his turn in line, his blanket thrown over his shoulder and cooler in his right hand. I stood behind him, eyeing the people around us. They were young, bohemian types, very laid back. I glanced back, one couple tried unsuccessfully transfer a baggie of doobies to the other, but I saw it before the young man could hide it in the inside pocket of his vest. He caught me watching, smiled warmly, and flashed a peace sign. I nodded, giving him a smile. Hey…so I’m a cop…not on duty right now and this was my day off to spend with my partner, and he wanted to see John Denver. Today I was a normal Joe. Enjoying an afternoon in the sun with my best friend.
We finally come to the turn stile and Hutch hands the guy our tickets (I guess he didn’t trust me to not loose mine) and we got inside the venue and paused, looking around. Hutch glanced at his ticket…we weren’t in the seating area…we were on the grassy hill directly in front of the amphitheater.
Hutch spread the blanket, and placed the cooler at the bottom. He laid down, leaning on his right elbow. Beings I am a leftie, I leaned on my left. He glanced around, smiling.
I love it when he smiles. His whole face lights up. His eyes get all soft, and it just does something to me. Makes me wanna smile, too.
We talk a little, people-watch and then the amphitheater lights go up in the shell, and the orchestra begins to take their seats. Everyone starts to talk a little louder, and I must admit, it is a beautiful day for a concert. The crowd is behaving themselves and we weren’t crowded on the hill.
I could tell Hutch was really excited about this outing. He liked John Denver. Me? I’ve heard him, he broke out with his song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and it was impossible to not hear it on the radio. I’m mostly a rocker, like the Eagles, CCR, some Waylon Jennings but that is because my Uncle Al listens to him. Johnny Cash and the like. But this John Denver fellow, was kinda quirky to me. He looked pale, straw-blond cereal-bowl haircut, big ol’ round glasses, and his mouth was too wide. But he sang good songs…sometimes sappy (to me) but some songs made you look inside yourself…do some serious reflection. Anyway…Hutch had tickets and instantly asked me to go with him. I played like I wasn’t interested and he begged and begged. Finally, to calm the man’s nerves, I said yeah. I’d go. It was like he was a little puppy and had been petted on the head and given a treat. He had bounced around all happy and all. Hell, I would’a gone with him but wanted to string him along a little. Yeah. I’m mean like that sometimes.
John Denver comes on stage, his guitar strapped across his back, he waves to the crowd and they go wild. He sings an intro song, and then a booming voice says, “Ladies and gentlemen: John Denver!” The crowd really goes wild then. He strums a bit, sings a song, then announces that they are recording this live for RCA. People lose it. I look at Hutch, and he is sitting cross-legged, smiling.
I have to say, it is a beautiful event. I could smell doobies here and there, people were so mellow and shared whatever they had. Someone passed us a big baggie of brownies, I glanced inside and decided I better not, and passed it to Hutch. He glanced inside, looked at me “Should we?” and I shrugged, he smiled and passed it on.
As the night wore on, Hutch had moved closer to me. Our shoulders bumped a bit, and I just felt so mellow and easy. Hutch knew some of the songs, and sang along beautifully. Of course when the song “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” came on, everyone was on their feet stomping and clapping. That John Denver sure knew how to work an audience.
The song “This Old Guitar” was nice, and a few times I caught Hutch looking at me with a smile on his face. I’d grin back, turning back to watch John Denver on stage. When I’d look again, Hutch would smile again and nod a bit. The song “Matthew” I saw Hutch’s face become still. Guess it reminded him of growing up on his grandfather’s farm in the summer. He told me all about it. Such freedom! “Annie’s Song” got to me. Such a beautiful, soulful unselfish song written for the man’s wife. How much he must love her to declare it to the world, and being recorded for an album at that! I saw Hutch gently swaying to it, his eyes closed Be damn if he didn’t glance over at me, giving me that brilliant Hutchinson smile. Melts my heart every time. “Rhymes and Reasons” came next, and I smiled, Hutch had played it on his guitar for me once or twice. Hutch has a beautiful voice. I swear he could give ol’ John Denver a run for his money. They did an instrumental called “Blue Grass” and I could just see Hutch leaning forward, of course we were way too far away to see John Denver’s strumming but I knew Hutch loved this sort of stuff. I’ve seen him strum with the best of them, once he even did Dueling Banjos after a case we worked with a country band and they must have jammed for an hour. At the end, Hutch was hyped up, his face bright red from excitement and the encouragement of the band sending his confidence sky high.
It was such a beautiful, easy day. We laid on our blanket, the music floating over us, and a few times Hutch had simply reach over, grabbed my hand, and squeezed it gently. Music moved the man. It touched him deeply. He made me feel so warm, so good. I was so happy to share this with him.
When the concert ended, we gathered up our blanket and cooler and took our time exiting the amphitheater. The crowds were thick, and we just weren’t in a hurry. Trudging along, he turned to me and smiled.
“Can’t wait for the album to come out,” he grinned.
“We’ll have to keep our eyes out for it,” I nodded.
So…it was six months later I moseyed into my local record store and for the millionth time asked the lady behind the counter, “That new album out yet by John Denver?” Each time she’d send me away sad, but today she grinned, reached down and pulled out a brand new shiny album cover still wrapped in plastic.
“You will be the first in Bay City to own this,” she laughed. “The rest of the albums will go out on the floor as soon as you pay for this. I’ve been holding it for you, since you have been asking for it for so long.”
I was in shock. I swallowed, staring at the shiny album. It was a close up shot of John Denver as if shot by someone standing at ground level, looking up at the stage with close up lens. Orange, yellow, red and black were the background, and it the upper left hand corner it simply said “An Evening With John Denver.” I quickly reached for my wallet and paid cash.
“Am I really the first one to purchase this?” I asked.
“Indeed. I broke the crate open and just for you, put this under the counter. It is not even on the floor yet.” The girl looked pretty pleased with herself. On impulse, I leaned over, grabbed her face and gently kissed the side of her cheek.
“You are an absolute doll!” I gushed.
“You must be a huge John Denver fan.”
“No, I’m a cop and this is a gift for my partner. He is a big John Denver fan.”
“Oh my goodness!” she said. “That is so sweet! I am sure he is going to love this.”
So six months later after witnessing the in-concert recording, I have the album tucked safely under my arm and I drive straight to Hutch’s apartment. He is piddling in the greenhouse, humming to his plants, scolding some and encouraging others. I let myself in and head for the kitchen.
“Wanna beer?” I asked.
“Sure…almost done here buddy. What is on the agenda for tonight?”
“How about ordering a pizza, just sitting back in the dark and listening to music?”
“Feelin’ a little mellow tonight are we?”
“Yeah. I got you a present.”
He comes out of the greenhouse wiping his hands on a rag. “Yeah? A present? What’s the occasion?”
“Just because.” I grin. He comes over to me and gives me a one-arm hug. I love his hugs.
He grabs his beer and leans against the kitchen counter. I stand there, the album behind me. He is sipping his beer when I bring the album out, and hand it out to him. He puts his beer down, wiping the condensation off on his jeans. He reaches for the album, gives me a blinding smile. He sighs, looking down to read it. After a few seconds, his mouth drops open in shock, his eyes shoot up to mine.
“What?” he asked, his eyes bright.
“Yeah.” I grin happily. “Been keeping tabs on it’s release date. The girl broke the crate open to get this out for me. She held it for me so you are the first person in Bay City to own this album. Now that the girl sold me this one, she is putting the rest of the albums on the floor for sale.”
“What!” Hutch now stood up, his hands shaking slightly. “You did this for me?”
“Yeah. It was a great night, Hutch. I was so mellow…so relaxed. You were so happy…layin’ there all golden in the sun and enjoying yourself. When I heard they were recording live for RCA, I immediately knew I had to get this for you.”
“Awe, buddy.” Hutch dipped his head, still staring at the album. “Thank you.” He came over, album in his left hand, his right arm bringing me to his chest. “I love it…I love you…what an incredibly awesome thing you did!”
I smiled, feeling awfully happy and good inside. Anything to make my partner so happy, the album did it. “C’mon…let’s get it on the turntable and give it a listen!”
So. Hutch puts the album on the stereo and we both hunker down on the couch. Hutch sits with his back to the armrest and I lay between his legs, my back against his chest. The lights are off, the apartment is starting to get darker and darker as the sun sets. His arms are across my chest, and it is just so easy, relaxing and right.
As the album plays, he sings softly to some songs, his voice vibrating in his chest, I feel the rumble in my shoulders and back. His hand is lazily making circles on my stomach.
This is what I live for: making my partner happy. Just the two of us, snuggled on the couch. Not ashamed to show our love and affection for each other, enjoying the simple thing as music and time together.
How many partners have what we have? I don’t know. But I’d like to think we have something extra special…what we have is true.
What we have is Me ‘N Thee.