Dapper Cadavers

April 26, 2008

Blue sky and a breath of warm air do wonders for Portland, especially on a Saturday in the midst of a cold spring. Among the throngs at the downtown Farmers Market are people with eyes closed, faces turned reverently toward the sun.

Strolling past baked goods and rows of vegetable starts for the garden, I hear a banjo tentatively strummed. Behind the vendors, in front of the Portland State University library steps, five young people line up and adjust their instruments: the banjo, metal washboard, plastic bucket bass fiddle, guitar, and accordion. No microphones or amps. Then they begin to wail and shake. Joyfully.

I’ve never heard the slightly off-key bluegrass tune, but it could be the fast-tempo soundtrack to my life’s happiest moments.

A crowd gathers. Like other parents did with their children, Suzame and I give Atticus a dollar bill to deposit in an open guitar case at the band’s feet. I should empty my wallet.

I ask the banjo player — a boy, really — the band’s name. “Dapper Cadavers,” he says. “We may be dead, but we died handsome.”

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