My mother Ruth was a voracious reader- a fact my father used against her in their divorce. Her reading 4-5 books a week was an issue it seems, although one wonders what she was trying to escape? Bookshelves overflowing with Shakespeare to Jacquelyn Susann jammed the bathrooms and kitchen. My friends teased me about it but words were a big deal in my house, with ever clever bon mots under foot always.
So here’s my attempt at some.
Not good. I’m feeling violated. If you accept mediocrity, you deserve it.
Certain things are not meant to be fucked with. Whatever it is for whoever it is, some things are not to be disrespected. It’s sacrilegious and it brings bad karma.
For me besides obvious moral ethics, this also includes food and music. They’re both languages I’m fluent in and both communicate what is not needed to say. In my opinion to be able to speak without using words is a type of ultimate theater and in turn, too precious to be taken lightly. Mimes excluded, as they annoy the hell out of me.
For me, a bad meal is a wasted opportunity gone forever. It causes me to pout like a little boy. The same goes for a music gig. When you know how good they can be, you hate to have it go any other way.
I say this because both meals and gigs can and do go south on occasion and when they nosedive, we’re back to my original premise of “sacred compromised”.
Recently, I had the misfortune to have a less than stellar gig foisted upon me. Usually, my gigs are the best evenings of my week. Last week though, a sub of a sub caused a train wreck that harshed my mellow considerably.
My regular bass player was out of town for the holidays so he subbed out the gig to a completely acceptable player, which in a perfect world is how it should be done. This is common and I have no problem with it. The issue was that the sub who was supposed to play the following week as well, with out telling me in advance (so I could have called someone I KNEW could cover the gig) subbed it out to a less than adequate or desirable player and in turn compromised the integrity of the evening considerably. You NEVER send a lesser player, any more than you would go to a med school when you need a dr.
Are we playing the same tune? Are you aware that there is a quarter note pulse in this ballad we’re trying to play, one that you are oblivious to and playing in the wrong key as well?
“But it’s dark” you say. I know it’s dark. You’re in a nightclub Einstein. And I’m Sorry you forgot your glasses so you can’t read the music in front of you as well. This is the type of thing that should be a non-issue, should never happen. But it did, last week, at my gig.
It was all I could do to remain civil and get through the evening. I thought of firing him on the spot when it became apparent that he was a waste of space midway through the first tune. Trane would have, Miles would have, Betty Carter would have. In afterthought, I should have and regret not doing so.
Instead, I endured and allowed my sacred art to be compromised. I wish I didn’t. I feel so dirty.
I fell through the ice on my brothers’ birthday. I was 7 he was 16. I was playing on the lake that afternoon. Winterdusk. My father used to laugh and call it invigorating. We just called it cold. That was before wind chill. I guess it was always there, we just didn’t know about it. It’s just as well. It was a very naive time anyway. Among the few rituals my family observed was that all festive occasions were celebrated at our favorite Italian restaurant, Fanny’s. Anniversaries – Fanny’s. Mothers day – Fanny’s. Kennedy’s election – Fanny’s. So it goes without saying that on my brother’s birthday, here’s a stretch, we were going to Fanny’s.
Jimmy Rodbard and Mitchell Dubin had already gone home. Something about freezing their little asses off. I mean, what the fuck, it was January in Chicago on an ice covered Lake Michigan. I laughed. I was just “invigorated”. It starts getting dark pretty early at that time of the year. It was around 4:30 and my father would be home around 6 to leave at 6:30 so as to arrive by 7. It is my nature to push my luck and procrastinate, even at that unripened young age. I’m sure my fathers’ military precision had something to do with that. Dad coming home early, (it was Sunday night after all, and he had already worked the 6 days prior until 11 or 12) was an occasion not to be trifled with. He preferred work to home for reasons I wouldn’t understand until much later.
My sled was on the beach as no one was around to antagonize into pulling me. I was past the pier on the ice of the lake looking back unto the sand. Exploring like the child archeologist that I imagined myself to be (did I mention law kindergarten?). I was just off the pylons on the north side of the pier. In the summer we’d have bbq and sit there and throw the ribs bones in the water. The joke was that one day, a teepee of bones would be discovered in the water and the hypothesis would be that a huge seafaring swine once inhabited pre Mesozoic Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry had definitely made an impression upon me.
As I was diligently recording my data, I neglected to observe that the closer to the pylons I got, the thinner the ice was becoming. The male trait of being oblivious to your surroundings was also forming early in my psyche. I suppose when you are pre pubescent, these characteristics may be misconstrued as cute. But as an adolescent and young adult, that mistake will no longer be made.
I was about three feet away from the pylon, fascinated by whatever it was that was fascinating me, when I heard a crackling sound. Like thunder only higher pitched. Or a burning tree. That was the first thing that registered. Not the newly found ice water on my little ball sack, not the thought that we were going to Fanny’s for Ronnie’s birthday and dad would be home soon, but this sound that I can still remember late into the night of this predawn 40 years after the fact.
i got my fortune told in south beach over xmas. “your life will be completely different by march.” as she threw my hand back at me like it was burning her. he was dead by 16 feb or was it 17… it was over the international dateline. or is it under? shewasright. damn. a d-fining moment. no more fucking around. shiiit.
when something happens that catapults you to a new reality, being aware of it is half the fun. goodandbad … offtheplateau …intotheabyss… turnthepage. i can’t not do something. gilda said that she just assumed “he would always be here, i mean he lived every day like he wasn’t going to die.” well, he did. but if you gotta go, and we all do, what a way to go. 80 is a venerable age. add a 4 month world cruise and a babeinparadise, and you begin to get the picture. truly an inspiration. did i mention the return engagements of the aforementioned? not 1 but 2, count’em, harmoniconvirgences on my spiritualvortex. so, forced to act, act i do. the main thing i notice, is a new resolve. like, you’ve been groomed for something big, and you have to step up to the plate. schoolsout. i’ll try not to demand anything i’m not capable of… my confidence has increased, as has my extrasensory perceptions next. no idea. but whatever it is. i’m ready. when i wonder what’s ahead, it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there. the journey from here on out, is what the last one prepared me for. my soul evolved.
– Alan Lake