Tora Estep and Andrea Dye

Tora Estep
“Tribute to Lady Day”
18 in. x 24 in., acrylic on watercolor paper

To Be a Singer
By Andrea Dye
Inspiration piece

If I didn’t make myself cringe that would be a more plausible goal. I don’t care for big concerts. All the drunk people and the fanatics are a drawback, not to mention the parking! But intimate venues with a charismatic and talented singer are a precious experience. There’s much to say for a single performer who controls the microphone, has everyone’s attention and delivers magnetic entertainment. What a gig! If I could sing, I’d dress up in flamboyant costumes and wear over-the-top makeup. I’d adorn my hair with feathers and dance in glittery shoes while flirting with the audience, tip jar in tow.

On my last trip to Paris, I stumbled upon a quaint little… I’m kidding I would never write a sentence like that. A friend who lives in St. Michel took me to a bar on one of those cool side-streets you only ever see in movies and I fell in love. She wanted beer, I wanted chocolate cake, and we both wanted to smoke outside under the heaters. Our waiter was Frenchly attractive, a bit dirty and by American standards only familiar with the idea of customers being the ones doing the waiting. Lucky for us, we didn’t care. Two hours and forty Euros later we decided this was our favorite spot for nighttime girl talk.

A few nights later, with her husband watching the baby, we returned to the same spot, got the same table and the same waiter. Music from inside spilled through the windows and it was the perfect French cliché. The later it got the more people arrived and by midnight there was a line of people waiting to get in. It’s fun to watch tourists drink and weave their way down cobblestone streets in heels. What is going on in there? How did we pick this unusual hot spot? Aren’t we just genius! As far as I could tell there was a woman singing and someone playing piano. They could have been Nazi songs for all we knew and then we heard a familiar Beatles melody. When a crowd of drunken Parisians are singing Let It Be it’s time to go home.

Another week went by and my boyfriend from Denver flew in for a few days to join me on vacation. Imagine my glee when I got to gloat about finding a sexy night spot with warm gooey dark chocolate cake. We abandoned my baby-ridden friend and bee-lined for said spot. Since someone doesn’t smoke, unless he’s really drinking, we went inside for a table.

The noises we’d heard outside didn’t do it justice! Reminded me of a Baz Luhrmann movie. Our waitress was dressed for a night in Las Vegas, there may have been 150 people in a room that should hold 50 and the piano player was a carnival caricature drawing come-to-life. I like to think his name is Philippe. He stomped and spat as he sang, flopping and bouncing on the bench he had undoubtably drenched with sweat by the end of his first song. To say Philippe was animated is an understatement. And to say I was jealous is probably overstating the obvious.

While enjoying the romance of our 12-inch table and the freedom of being English-speaking (so you may as well be invisible), I couldn’t help but imagine it was Mademoiselle Andrea singing and keeping all those drunkards’ arms swinging in the air with pride. If I could sing in a bar like this, I could be discovered and hanging platinum records in my Malibu mansion in no time. Philippe could do it all: sing, play piano and make slapstick faces without looking absurd. He was pure entertainment if I ever saw it…until… (we’ll call her) Jacqueline started her set.

I’ve never been gay, but I can succumb to a spell every now and then. I was lured into thinking she was the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. Ohhh, Jacqueline! We both have long curly hair that frizzes in this humidity, we could understand one another with no words between us. The language of frizz has far deeper a meaning than any words derived from Latin. No, don’t look at me Jacqueline, I probably have some creepy look on my face. Remember to smile at the boyfriend or he’ll ask what I’m thinking about. What a great singer, isn’t this fun? I’m so glad you’re here, honey.

I give her credit; her voice was impressive until she tried some American songs, and I was shocked back to the reality where calling someone a lounge singer is a universal putdown. When I could hold it in no longer, I mentioned she was beautiful and got the obligatory “No, babe, she’s not for me” response from across the table. All the more to fuel my fire. She had me hooked and I couldn’t look away. That brings me to my favorite point in many nights where I realize that no one knows I’m not drinking and anything goes.

We sang along loudly to Beach Boys and Beatles tunes. Nah nah, I know the words and you guys are all messing it up, what a silly thing to be proud of. In retrospect, not bad for people who don’t speak English. The tide pulled a U-turn and Jacqueline turned over the floor to an older man I could not lust after. Although Philippe was still playing, his energy was dying and I could tell Jacqueline was tiring with feigned enthusiasm and too much wine. Not wanting to let the perfection go I thought it better to leave than see the truth. They were just people at work and we were dumb American tourists lapping it up. Why is the world so harsh? And when can I see her again?

If I were younger maybe I’d audition for American Idol. Maybe I could move to Paris and get a job as the American singer and the French could adore me the way I adored Jacqueline. There aren’t many times in life you remember with such fondness, as I do, that night. And there aren’t many times you can ever recreate that sort of thing. That’s why it’s called love at first sight.

If I were a wealthy French banker I’d sweep Jacqueline off her ballet flats and pay for her anti-frizz conditioning treatments. I’d bring cafe and croissants to her in bed on Sunday afternoons and sing to her until she begged me to stop while laughing and spilling jam on the bedspread. It’s hopefully clear I’m not going to move to Paris, graduate from finance school and do that, but it’s fun to pretend that someday I could be with Jacqueline again and I could do for her in return something wonderful she did for me. I’d love to be a singer.

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