Memento More

"Amy Rigby!" I'd come off stage not long before, at the river festival in Hastings on Hudson, and the woman coming towards me looked harmless enough. Middle-aged, but then who am I to judge? But there's middle-age and then there's...that frightening place I don't want to go, where the waistbands are extra-comfy and the shoes have gel insoles. Where an album is a "CD". It's always so close, so dangerously close.

"I love that song of yours, about the sofa." There's another key to membership in that special club - the inability to be precise about - well, anything. But to know your subject well enough that something resembling a key reference is possible. After all, there are only so many nouns - cast your net wide enough and one of them is bound to be right.

"Beer & Kisses"? I venture - I can play this game as well as the next menopausal woman.

"That's the one!" It makes me happy to have written a song someone can almost name. "And then there's that story Alexi Murdoch tells about you losing your purse..."

Now I'm looking a little befuddled, but that's not abnormal. "Wha-"

"Hi-la-ri-ous!" she cries. "He tells it on stage, a lot, about the time Amy Rigby lost her purse at a show - you know, when you two played together."

I start calculations in my head, about the first time I ever saw the name Alexi Murdoch and how it doesn't correspond to any show I've ever played. But - maybe I did, and I've forgotten?

"Didn't you lose your purse, at a show?" I remember my old group The Shams and the time we left a snazzy 70's handbag containing the tour earnings in the parking lot outside Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. It was returned to us the next day without a penny missing - no doubt good karma born of two or three days lost waiting for the van to be repaired in ...Columbia South Carolina. It's all archeology at this point.

There have probably been other frantic times, but had they been shared with Alexi Murdoch surely I would have remembered?

"There are quite a few Amys out there, maybe it was someone else," I tell the woman.

"No, no - it was definitely you he talked about!"

I tell her how much I loved his songs in "Away We Go", how that was the first time I even remember being aware of the name. The movie came out in 2008, but like many things that happened in the latter half of the last decade I only caught up with it this past year.

"Away We Go"? What's that?" she asked.

I spring into middle-aged action - I've got to convince her, to convince myself. "You know," I say, "it's got that cute, funny actress whose mother was Minnie Riperton?"

She looks blank.

"She was in Bridesmaids! Come on, Saturday Night Live...um -"

"Oh right!" We're in a frenzy of half-remembered names and incidents now, off on a tangent that thankfully has taken us away from my nightly public annihilation by anecdote at the hands of Alexi Murdoch and into the murky waters of film and late night television.

"Oh right, Roberta Flack's daughter," the woman says. Here's where I start losing confidence - those years out of the country have left me, a former fount of useless information, on shaky ground when it comes to trivia.

"No, it's Minnie Riperton." I say it as forcefully as I can. She shakes her head.

"Definitely Roberta Flack." Just like with Alexi Murdoch, there's a slight doubt in my mind that maybe I'm wrong and she's right.

But what does it matter? When I raise my eyes from searching the grass around the guitar cases for my purse, she's off dancing energetically at the front of the stage to African music.