Last week when my writing circle met, the singer Joe Cocker came up in conversation. The general consensus of my friends was that they didn’t care to watch him sing. I didn’t say much because, I too, have found it difficult to watch him.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about Joe and a time he was significant to me.
In the fall of 2004, a group of us who were part of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society decided to meet in Miami for the Miami Book Fair. We met for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe at Bayside, then walked across the street to Miami-Dade College for the Fair. I drove to the east coast with my friend Diane. We had managed to get one of the last hotel rooms available, at a place that sounded like it would be fine. I cannot remember the name of the hotel — it was a Best Western or a Comfort Inn or something like that.
After a fabulous day of workshops and browsing the books, Diane and I went to Little Havana for a yummy Cuban dinner, then went to find our hotel. It was not easy to get to — we kept seeing the place and going around in circles trying to find out how to get to it. Finally I went down a highway up ramp with Diane freaking out beside me, just so we could finally get checked in.
The place was a dump. The furniture in our room looked like someone went to a flea market and picked up the most mismatched and ugly furniture they could find. We just wanted to get some rest at this point, and we knew that we had been lucky to get this room.
I cannot remember everything, but I think the hotel was pretty noisy with people in the hall, or a crying baby, or something. I know we had trouble getting to sleep. Then at 3:30 in the morning, a loud bass beat came booming through our walls. It was from the convention center next door where they were setting up for an event. After lying there for a half an hour watching the room shake and with no hope of getting back to sleep, we decided to just head back to Ft. Myers.
We managed to find a cup of coffee somewhere and were on our way across Alligator Alley in the pitch blackness of night. Joe Cocker’s album Heart and Soul accompanied us. This is an album of covers he did that is one of my favorites. Songs like “I Put a Spell on You,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Everybody Hurts,” “I Keep Forgetting,” and my favorite “I Who Have Nothing.” Joe’s music — and his rusty voice — was the perfect accompaniment as we watched the sunrise in our rear view mirrors, content to drive without conversation, leaving the busyness and noise of Miami far behind.