The problem, or one of them, is the lack of music today. We have all manner of what people call music, but not the music of the sort we need, needed once and found, as we stormed the bastions and bastards who mired us in war, who shunned darker brothers and sisters, who made alienable basic rights to half of us without rhyme or reason, save greed and fear of loss of status, power.
Where are the songs now, calling us, you, to regain the victories, no matter how small that we won with our sweat and often our blood, eroded or taken over time by those who live in the shadows, who crawl out in the dark, who dread the light we would so willingly shine on them again.
With the stroke of a pen, they enabled me to write the story, gave a framework on which I could hang all manner of dreams and assumptions, inviting a search I never quite got around to making.
I wandered the beaches of Estoril in my dreams, stalked the avenues of Lisbon, looking for a familiar face, but found only ghosts.
With the stroke of a swab inside my cheek, a vial of saliva mailed, the story came apart, and a new story slowly unfolded, gone forever was Iberia, replaced by Scotland and Ireland, Wales, Norway and Germany, and my dreams were filled with the music of the bodhran and Highland pipes.
There is an art to creating a mix tape, more so to day, when tape is usually only found in museums and antique stores.
Then you chose carefully aware of the sonics, aware of the limits on time, weaving a musical tapestry.
You can do a mix CD but everyone knows that with tape you listened all the way through, for fast forward was only for getting to the end of the cassette to play the B-side, and CD’s have no B sides to play.
I was only in jail once, then for four hours, no charges and my biggest fear was that my parents would find out, or the cops would determine that I was only 17 and breaking the park curfew was not even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me a ride back to the park, told me not to go in but I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. I assured them, I’d go home and get some slee before reporting to the University for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder if that was possibly the cell that Joe Hill occupied once, or just what other manner of criminal I might have shared space with, hopefully someone not merely charged with violating park curfew.
Deep in a small forest, a murmuring brook reflects the shards of sun sliding through the crown of pines, its whispered wisdom infinitely more clear than the babbling of men holding the reins firmly in distant cities of power.
The birds know this well, sing of it in chorus, nature’s music, jazz scatting that the graying clouds absorb, an always willing audience, and the wind rushing by cries through the trees in the voice of long dead poets whose words offer a truth to which cloistered talking heads have grown deaf.
First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021
He would be the first to admit that he hated most things avant-garde particularly when it applied to either art or music. It was simply a matter of being in the moment, and he knew you could not be ahead of time for there was only the moment in which you were in.
It wasn’t until I hit middle age, which on my scale will allow me to live past 100, that I discovered that cats are Celtic deep in their hearts. Our cat, she who adopted me and forced her then owner to marry me, like it or not, was in love with the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes playing had her in my lap, unmoving. But she had her Buddhist side as well, sitting zazen for hours, longer if accompanied by shakuhachi flutes. She said that cats were discerning, were connoisseurs of music loved cello, viola and violin but barely tolerated the bass. It was why, she said, all the great composers wrote for the higher strings. And, she would add, as for dogs, well they loved country music most, reason enough for pity.
It’s jazz, it’s a club, but there what once was is no more, there are no ashtrays on the table, overflowing early into the second set, no cloud of cigarette smoke descending from the too dark ceiling. There is no recognizable odor of a freshly lit Gaulloise, in the trembling fingers of a young man trying to look cool, trying not to cough on each inhalation, in the calm fingers of a young woman who you know speaks the fluent French of her homeland. It is none of those things but it is jazz, it is a club and in this city, now, it must suffice.