It's hard to be cool toodling down the freeway in a blue minivan
…or down a windy road
…in even in a parking lot at an old folks home.
Let's face it, it's hard to be cool at anything when you're part of the over 50 set.
But even if I drove one of those nifty Z cars (a candy apple red one, of course), or streaked my hair (perhaps purple or blue) or knew all the words to any song sung by the Black Eyed Peas, (Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night or Boom Boom Pow), whatever cool card I may or may not have had would have been unceremoniously snatched up and revoked last week.
Last Thursday, my BFF and former college roommate and I ventured out to see Leon Russell at the Granada Theater, a small venue in Dallas. Even though none (as in zero) of my students knew who our beloved Leon was, even though only one co-worker and my principal knew who our beloved Leon was and even though no one at school could name a song or even hum a few bars of a Leon Russell song, my excitement was undeterred.
So what if Leon is 68 years old? As a member of the Leon Russell mailing list, this lack of Leon knowledge was a travesty that ranked right up there with the entire Neil Young debacle from last year.
My friend Karen drove to the show. She drives a Mercedes (which makes her infinitely cooler than me). She doesn't teach (which makes her infinitely wealthier than me). She has a nice job that doesn't involve cooties, grades or rubber chickens (which probably makes her smarter than me).
Shortly after 7:30 p.m. we arrived in the parking lot in her cool, shiny Mercedes and started to pull into a space by the fence line where an elderly gentleman dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts and double knee braces was standing alone. Although slightly balding, the man had hair like Leon and a beard like Leon.
"Oh, look there's Leon," my friend joked.
"Don't hit him," I said, "that would be bad."
Since the parking spot was too tight, she backed out and maneuvered into another space. While walking through the parking lot, we saw the elderly gentleman alone again.
"It can't be. Why would Leon be walking around here by himself in shorts?" I said remembering my image of Leon from the 70s with his signature suit and hat. "Do you think it's him?"
No, couldn't be, we decided.
For a brief moment, I thought about going up to him and talking to him, but I dismissed the idea. I suppose I didn't want to appear foolish since we had already dismissed him as a Leon Russell wanna-be.
Instead, I did exactly what I tell my students never to do. I did nothing.
"Never be afraid to ask someone something," I always say.
"Never assume anything," I always tell them.
Several hours later, just before Leon was scheduled to take the stage, my friend leaned over and whispered, "I'm going to laugh if Leon comes out in a Hawaiian shirt."
"No way," I said.
But he did.