Column | Post-storm reflections in Bloomington: Not all the snow has turned to water

The snow, which landed on top of an icy mix, stopped falling Friday morning.

Among Bloomington’s vital bits of infrastructure that were left frozen: downtown parking meters. By Saturday they had not thawed, and some drivers resorted to leaving notes on their windshields. The quickly jotted out messages were a hedge against getting a ticket. One read: “Meter is frozen over. Can’t see parking lines.”

For many drivers, a bigger challenge than feeding the meter was backing out of the parking space. It is not universally understood by Bloomington motorists that keeping the wheels straight yields better results, when a car is stuck in the snow.

The sound of spinning tires served as an alarm bell of sorts for patrons and servers at Function Brewing on 6th Street. More than once on Saturday, they answered the call by spilling out of the place to give stuck drivers a push.

By Saturday, roads were clear enough that the Bloomington Music Expo was held as scheduled. Thirty vendors selling vinyl records and merchandise filled the upper floor of the Monroe County convention center.

The live performances were bookended by Kid Kazooey & The Ballroom Roustabouts, who kicked things off at noon, and Jason Wilber with Charlie Jesseph, who wrapped up the show. In between were boogie woogie piano from Craig Brenner and folk music from Rodeola.

Visible from the second floor of the convention center is the Monroe County courthouse, which played into the Kid Kazzoey tune that celebrates the weather vane on top of the domed building. It starts like this: “I live in a town with a fish on the roof of the courthouse…”

It would probably be a mistake to pigeonhole that one as a children’s song. Baked into the lyrics is a history lesson. The words of the song give the Taliaferros and Charlotte Zietlow their due.

Rounding out the afternoon with some local music history was Bloomington resident Jason Wilber. He played with John Prine as his lead guitarist for nearly a quarter century. Wilber recounted the story of how he got that job.

When Wilber was 16 or 17 years old, Prine showed up to a Ragin’ Texans show they were playing at the Bluebird. Wilber was in the dressing room during a break—he was a friend of the Texans—and the band members convinced Prine to play some of his songs for the crowd. Jim Bracken, who was a lead singer and guitar player for the Texans told Wilber: “You’re pretty good at following along with people, why don’t you get up and play with them?”

“It was a huge thrill for me to be on stage with somebody like that,” Wilber told the Bloomington Music Expo crowd. They played a 45-minute set of Prine’s songs, Wilber said.

Then came the punchline, “And John was so impressed with my guitar playing that evening that I didn’t hear from him for 10 years.”

A decade later, the call from Prine’s manager came when Wilber was living in a little one-bedroom apartment in the back of Claudia Lappin’s law office, he said, which was rented to him by his friend Brian [Lappin], the bass player for the Ragin’ Texans.

On Saturday, Wilber played several of his own songs, including one called “Time Traveler,” which includes a lyric that almost sounds like it could have been inspired by Bloomington’s local politics: “It’s easy to see that we mostly agree, but all we ever do is fight.”

Wilber also performed a John Prine song that provides a counterpoint to grammar purists who cannot abide non-standard forms for the past participle of “to buy”:

Memories, they can’t be boughten
They can’t be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me

The song is called “Souvenirs.”

Only the second half of the opening lyric to “Souvenirs” is an accurate description of Bloomington right now: “All the snow has turned to water / Christmas days have come and gone”

With forecasted highs on Tuesday and Wednesday that are warmer than 40 F degrees, even the first half of the lyric might soon be true.

Photos: Bloomington Music Expo, parking notes, robins

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