Good Evening Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival,

You guys still sizzle. In the most unlikely places. Or perhaps precisely in the places where you from those early spirited years on wished to be heard.

Let me explain. To the north of the tempered village Durbanville is a little town that houses the oldest bar in South Africa.

I saw it on various occasions as I drove past it. It bugged me. The unpretentious and weathered exterior that up to today declines lipstick and mascara. No need for foreplay, it states. If, and only if you can leave your &$*% ego at work or at home, then dare to enter.

For a decent middle class citizen like myself, it seemed a scary place to visit. So I drove by and I drove by and still it kept laughing at me. Not even subtlety so. Bloody blatantly. But I would not allow myself to be drawn to the gutters so I resisted this strange little voice in my breast and I kept having my glass or two of subtle Chardonnay at absolutely glamorous venues in the quarters of the well to do.

The quietness of that ancient little bar kept taunting me week after week. I could almost hear the long gone whispers of its unpretentious visitors escaping from the crumbling walls.

It gestured about too many things in life ending in the frying pan, it complained about a deep tiredness, about too many things seen, heard, too much lost, too few successes.

It was and is a rather Stoic bar.

My well educated instinct told me to keep away. You would be heading for severe punishment in that joint, it reprimanded me.

I kept driving past the wry smiling little bar. Until one late Friday night. My partner at the time and I had a rather pleasant night out at one of the classy restaurants around and I still think that it was that third glass of wine that should be blamed for the decision to walk into that joint.

The time for bar fighting is long gone, I told the lady then at my side. Those guys in there are all old and powerless, I assured my companion.

I stopped the car and we got out. The late night blanketed the houses around and I can still remember an owl somewhere complaining about the fullness of the yellow moon.

I opened the bar door and a man immediately came over to greet us with an extended arm that had an open hand attached to it. It turned out that this was his way. To greet every customer in gratitude for his or her visit. Thoroughly thankful that these humans did not vaporize into the thickness of the night, but preferred to materialize in his humble little bar. Glad that they came by for what reason what so ever to have a drink and to carve away at the spread of painful things.

The smell of beer and brandy drifted through the low yellow light inside the bar. A few people looked up when we entered to assess who else was walking into the ocean swelling around their drowning bodies.

We chose a corner for some perceived comfort. It was passively presented to us by a woman who stormed out of the bar from that corner as we came in and who left a man looking rather sheepishly behind. He got up and joined some other guys standing swaying in a small circle. They quietly struggled to keep their low laugh soundless, but did not succeed. Whilst his disappointment bowed into his shoulders, he tried to lighten the atmosphere with a silly remark as he took a deep gulp from his beer. But all of that did not help, that woman was already twenty meters down the road and soon she would be a continent away. But the togetherness in those sharky waters was still miles better than the loneliness of his desolate bedroom.

In another corner two men with guitars were singing Woodstock and about the glory of that era. They had scarves around their heads like the hippies did in those wonderful sixties and they were sweating rivers down their pocked cheeks. Their lips made love to the microphones and the songs they sang by times undone the masters and at other times waivered precariously at edges of possible embarrassment. Gradually they and the microphones were getting more and more tipsy.

We ordered wine, made ourselves at ease against the wall and listened to the music. The main guy saw my slightly intoxicated enthusiasm for old times and glorious music and he winked at my choruses. Creedance, Crosby Stills, a little Neil Young and even later on ‘If you’re going to San Francisco’ and the like. I just drifted with no difficulty into life near railroads with Bobby Magee and toasted the glistening universe.

In the bar was a variety of clientele. The guy with his aggression strapped to his heart and his fists, a young girl playing pool and watching a middle aged woman forcing a young man to dance with her knee deep in her desperation.

And then there was the man without one front arm. I remember his name, but I will honour his existence by not mentioning his apt nickname. I first took notice of him when a roar of laughter surged from another corner of the bar. Above the general laughter one could hear the exuberant laughter of one individual. He made comments about something and then again he repudiated his own statements. He laughed at his own endeavours, almost surprised about the inherent kinks of everything that could be said in life. One could see that the people around him adored him. He joyously crumbled to their warmth towards him.

He was on a jolly station and so were I on that late night. He sensed that his alter ego came visiting that evening and we caught each other’s eyes as he came drifting through the crowd towards our corner.

“My name is S…”, he said as he introduced himself to us. “I am Wim”, I answered. We could only greet with one hand. His other one was gone. We hit it off well. Climbed the Grand Canyon, walked around the Drakens Mountains, slided into the Indian Ocean and poured it out empty on high ground.

He lost his arm early. Way too early. At a time when one needed an arm to play a winner’s game of rugby, needed it to balance yourself when dancing to a girl. But that cutting machine on their farm ended it all. The arm that they had to bury in the ground, could never be transplanted to assist the earthly longings of the soul. It kept shouting from its grave. Six times winning, seven times the lost. That included a wife and children.

So Friday nights he comes visiting the bar of the man that walks up to you with an outstretched hand of welcome. Numerous hands thereafter on your shoulders telling you that you are the greatest.

A glass one can carry with one hand. The girl at the pool table needs both hands to steady the game. The barman uses one arm to pull the handle that lets you have another draft of beer. The musicians use both hands to play the blues.

This and other things, S… and I conversed on. This way, that way.

The main singer watched me. He was merciless. Threw in music that I could not resist. My feet caught its rhythm. My shoulders remembered Bob Dylan. My fingers clicked to keep up with Creedance Clearwater Revival and that bloody John Foggerty.

S… kept talking and I kept listening, but one ear of mine was on the music. I cannot help, it is inborn.

And then he said that I must do it again.

What, I asked.

Do that again with your fingers, he said and watched my hands.

What he meant was that I had to click my fingers again to the rhythm of the music. The left hand and the right hand.

He was fascinated. About what he could see and feel but could also, on the other hand, not feel.

He actually tried to do it. Clicked with the fingers that he still have and with the flesh flubbed over his other armless elbow.

My partner at the time motioned me that it was time to go. I got up and in the process caught the eye of the main singer at the microphone. He started another song of yesterday. His eyes were on me but the very slow and dark rhythm had S… clicking away at the bar counter in mind.

So Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Foggerty…you started it. You take the responsibility for it. I wash my lilly white hands in your lyrics and your rhythm and I will not, I repeat, will not visit the Hotel California again.

So, Crosby Guys, may I play you a song. One that I personally made, you are free to record it…