John Howie’s rich timbre.

Some of you probably read this on facebook when I wrote it several months ago. I’m reposting it for Mandey, whose blog you should not read because you’ll realize how mediocre my writing is. Mandey! Tag!

May 26, 2010

So I go to Henry Anderson park today with  my little babysitting charge Audrey and of course Annie, and there’s a few people there.

(Wait. Let me preface this anecdote with the fact that my friends always ask me if I’ve met any other mothers at the park. I always say no, because I don’t like most of the mothers I meet. Overbearing, cry longer than their kids if they scrape their knees, won’t let you pet their dog, superly overprotective, generally suspicious.)

We play for awhile. Annie in the baby swing, Audrey on slide. I notice two middle-aged women with a couple of young boys. They’re pushing them on the swings and one asks the other how old her child is. “Five,” she says. Then, I swear, practically right out of a caption on a cartoon in the New Yorker, the other woman asks, “Who’s your pediatrician?” And they get into a discussion. Not central to my tale, just an example of why I don’t generally want to get to know the parents I meet at the park. Then there was another woman, youngish, with two beautiful little daughters. Stick straight blond hair, friendly. Their mother might have looked like them ten years ago. One girl falls and hits her mouth on the ground quite hard. I gasp but the mom glares over at her and says, “Do I have to say I told you so?” She’s way more into the guy who tagged along than her kid (not child’s father). Obviously not material for “parent friend I met at the park.”

Then I notice a man with his son, over on the jungle gym. The son is normal enough, but is wearing a Tintin shirt. It’s a sweet shirt. I’ve never seen one. So I tell his dad, hey, I like your kid’s shirt. He says thanks. The dad’s got to be forty, at least. Grey hair, bald on top. A savage profile. Beaky, awful teeth. Looks like a bird of prey from the side. Baggy jeans, tee shirt, cowboy boots. Slouchy as the letter S. I was enchanted. Incantata, as my library Spanish cds croon.

So then I’m on the swing, holding Annie in my lap, and Audrey’s pushing us high. Bird of Prey and Son come over and start building a fortress in the sand nearby. He’s clearly a good dad. So I sidle over, it being Audrey’s turn on the swing, and I tell the boy that I like his fortress, but that it looks more like a bunker. His dad laughs beakily. I take it as a cue and sit down next to B of P. And he’s looking awfully familiar. So I ask him if he lives in town, because I was positive I’d seen him before. And he says yes. Says he works for a magazine above Carr Mill Mall. I said, “Oh. I wouldn’t know you from there. What’s your magazine?” And he explains that it’s a magazine devoted entirely to Bruce Springsteen. So I say, “Oh, a Springsteen fan,” because I don’t know a thing about him and I would never admit it. And he interrupts me, says, “No, hardly.” Explains that the magazine, while local, is actually hardly ever read by anyone in town. But that it has a fairly large circulation. And he’s not a subscriber. Interesting and all, but what was more intriguing was the fact that I was certain I knew this guy from somewhere else. He said his name was John, but it wasn’t ringing a bell.

Audrey, at this point, relocates to the slides and I follow her, Annie in tow. B of P and Son meander over as well. I should mention that he had an extremely deep voice. Very resonant. And I had just watched the most recent Office on Hulu last night, where the rep for Sabre tells Stanley that he has a “very rich timbre” to his voice. That tickled me. So B of P and I are standing on the sidelines, watching the kids play, and it’s getting awkwardly silent. I decided I should tell him that his voice had a very rich timbre.

I said, “You know, your voice has a very rich timbre.”

He laughed quite a bit, maybe more than was warranted. I thought perhaps he had also seen the latest episode of the Office.

I said, “Maybe I’ve heard you around town, on the streets even. Your voice is extremely distinctive.” He kept on giggling. I was perplexed but pleased. I should mention, by the way, that the other mothers this whole time were giving this guy a wide berth. He wasn’t the most wholesome-looking of individuals. He told me that his other job is a bartender at the Cave. I said maybe, but that I didn’t get out to the Cave much.

Eventually Audrey and I leave. John seems in a very good mood, much better than before we started talking. Shakes my hand and says he hopes very much to see me back at the park.

At home, Ashley and Annie and I are eating spaghetti and I tell him about it, really more as a funny instantiation of the way I can’t bring myself to talk to anyone at the park except a strange looking man. And I’m describing him, really getting into it, and Ashley stops, spaghetti in mouth, when I say his name was John. He swallows, says, “John.” I say, “Yeah. John.” He says, “You met John Howie.” John Howie! From Two-Dollar Pistols and that band we saw at the music festival! John Howie and the Something Somethings!

I told John Howie his voice had a very rich timbre. Ashley thinks it might just be the push he needs to get back, really get back, in the music scene. I’ll be happy just to see my one and only “park parent friend” again.


  • Yes! That’s who I’m talking about! The incredibly disarming, absolutely gracefully aging hipster with the practiced slouch and all that! We described him the same way! God I still wanna go into that office so bad and also I can’t decide whether I’m terrified that he might find our posts or thrilled that that’s a possibility. Guh.

  • Isn’t that wild?? Such a slouch! I was terrifically envious, and very glad that I’d worn undeniably hipster t-strap flats instead of the usual slummy fare. I think I’m more thrilled that him finding the posts is a possibility. Take me with you when you go into the Backstreet office! We’ll brush up on Springsteen facts beforehand.

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