After we demolished the insides of Mark's house and shed, we left the detritus on the sidewalk of St. Bernard Avenue to be picked up at some point. Among the storm-ravaged stuff were old amps, Drifters' cds and Mark's backup Fender Precision Bass. (Mark had evacuated with only his main bass, the old Precision with what I believe is an anodized pickguard.) The backup bass was in pieces and had been submerged in the toxicity for quite a while.
At some point, Robert went by the remains of the house and grabbed what was left of the backup bass and took it back to Memphis where he and his family had settled after the storm. I don't think Mark gave the bass a thought, knowing how everything else in his home and utility space had been decimated.
Earlier this year, when Chris and I played at Folk Alliance, we stayed with the Mache family in their comfortable digs. Robert said "Peter, I have to show you something." He pulled out a Fender Precision bass and asked me if I recognized it. It DID look familiar, but I wasn't sure why. Its finish was, for want of a better word, rotten; the headstock's varnish had pocked into a weird kind of hoary skin, very different from what it had looked like before Katrina.
He explained that he'd rescued the bass in pieces from Mark's house, put it back together, cleaned it up and got it working again, and he planned to present it to Mark when we did the Drifters' gig at Carrollton Station. I was very moved by this act of love on his part, and I couldn't wait to see how it would happen.
Well, it happened like this. Robert, at the Station, showed Susan the restored bass and asked her when she thought he should present it to Mark. Susan, wiping away tears, said he should wait until after the show. But Robert decided the time to do it was right before we played.
Consequently, you had a stage full of Drifters, all knowing the story of the bass and its return to its owner, all choking back emotion knowing we had a set to play. In the center of it all was Mark, reunited with his old Fender, completely beside himself with joy and crying, and he told the assembled onlookers the story of the bass' resurrection. I think everyone at Carrollton Station who learned the story of the bass was similarly overwhelmed.
Just another happy ending that week....
(Mark Walton, Robert Mache, Susan Cowsill and the bass in question.)