Jazz Night At The Oceanic Brew Pub, Part 3: How You Loved Me On Mars

Dan McClenaghan By

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The Oceanic Brew Pub's waitress, Rafaela, told the owner, Roy Leahy, not to hire that dumb ass pianist and his chihuahua again to play on Jazz Night. But Roy ignored her. The place had gotten a lot of publicity out of the duo's previous engagement, when pianist Sinbad Rindowski's howling vocal accompanist chihuahua, Sweetie Pie, damned near got eaten by a python that had set up shop inside the house piano. The snake—at the Rindowski's first touch of the keyboard—lunged up out of that lair like the devil himself. Word got around about the incident, and San Diego's Channel 7 News sent a reporter up the next day to interview Rafaela, who demonstrated for the camera the move she'd used to make the snake let go of the little dog: a low crouch, right arm with its weapon (a can of pepper spray) extended, lunging in like a pistol-packing member of a law enforcement SWAT team, spraying the serpent and saving Sweetie Pie's life.

But the second engagement of Ridowski and Sweetie Pie didn't work out. The chihuahua, with a memory like an elephant's—freaked out when her partner tried to take her inside the brew pub, writhing from his arms and dashing away down the alley, Ridowski in hot pursuit, the sheet music he'd dropped fluttering in his wake.

Rafaela, checking her watch as show time rolled around with no performer in sight, cursed under her breath and stalked up to the bar where she got into a loud, hot argument with Roy, blaming him for the full house/empty stage affair. Everybody in the place heard it, and they went into a shifting-in-their-chairs, averting-their-gazes-from-the-combatants mode as it seemed that things might come to blows. But the fortuitous presence of vocalist/pianist team from Los Angeles (stage names Venus and Pluto), who had pit-stopped in Oceanside on their way to show in San Diego, saved the day, taking the stage to play a handful of tunes, opening with "How You Loved Me On Mars," a strange but beautiful under-the-radar gem from the pen of vocalist Kathleen Grace and pianist Josh Nelson, included on Nelson's Exploring Mars (Origin Records, 2015), a tune that would be destined for inclusion in the Great American Songbook if there were justice in this world. It is a tender and gorgeous ballad, treated by Venus and Pluto this night with respect, if not the full depth of emotion and panache present in Nelson and Grace's original version. They followed it up with "Stella by Starlight" then "Moonlight In Vermont" and "Fly Me to the Moon," before rounding out the show with "When You Wish Upon A Star" and the Beatles' "I'll Follow the Sun," adhering to their customary outer space theme from start to finish.

It was a polished performance that earned a standing ovation, and as the duo stepped back to re-take their seats, the tip jar took on a good deal of weight.

Rafaela refused to accept pianist Pluto's credit card for their tab, and vocalist Venus refused to take the proffered funds from the tips jar. Hugs ensued, and then the musical duo was off to San Diego, as Sinbad Rindowski continued his pursuit of Sweetie Pie, who had led him on a circuitous journey through the old downtown street grid and eventually out onto the city's pier, beneath a twinkling stars and the grinning crescent moon and the unblinking red eye of Mars.

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