Room 293, my room for the week, viewed Port Street, below the monthly rooms on the third floor of Hotel Julian and above the hourly and daily rooms on the first floor. Also on the first floor, located above the ground floor grocery, was a bunk or barracks room with twelve canvas and steel spring cots let by the night, two rows of six, one on each side, a three foot aisle down the middle. The Bunkroom opened at 7 in the evening and guests had to be out by 7 the next morning. The Barracks was closed during the day. A communal latrine at the end of the room served personal needs. Other than use of the latrine for cleaning and relief, the Bunkroom, or Barracks, was for sleeping only. The room was open to men or women, but not to couples. Singles only. But how Julian enforced that rule, I don’t know. Bunkroom conversation, if there was any, was sotto voce. If Hotel Julian guests wanted to hear or make noise, they climbed the back fire escape up to the rooftop, where an outdoor bar and grill, open to guests only, featured a house blues band Thursday through Sunday nights. The rooftop was closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and open from 9pm to midnight the other nights. I checked into Hotel Julian on a Monday, and it was a few nights later when I climbed the fire escape to the roof to hear the Weathered Weary Blues Band. Apparently, the band consisted of only one regular player, a guitarist who went by the name Jack Tar, and whether he came on alone or was joined by other players, he went by the Weathered Weary Blues Band. I got up to the rooftop around 9:30 and counted 9 folks including myself in the audience. I sat at a table in the rear and ordered a beer. But the tide was in and so was the fleet, and soon the rooftop filled to capacity, about 40 of us listening as Jack introduced none other than my disappeared flower girl who started in on “The Blues are Brewin,” accompanied by Jack Tar lovingly stroking an acoustic Gibson with a bottle neck on this little finger and a tall thin fellow blowing and sucking fills on harmonica. Up on the roof was lovely, and while dangerous waters might have been rising below, we paid that no mind as we got stuffed to the gills with the blues but never felt full.
“Weathered Weary Blues Band” is episode 21 of Ball Lightning a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads. (Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)