Thursday, September 27, 2007

One Spring Morning Off Spring Street #14

"Maybe I wanted even the illusion that a woman was attracted to me."

The room was big; nothin' special really, though again my Texas put-down personality was at work here; diminish Detroit in front of the woman I was attempting to make love me back. I had her eyes, now I wanted to go behind those eyes. My sultry desires were pecking at my respectful side.

Once in the room Girl snapped on the wall radio; there was a teevee but no one turned it on--maybe it was one you had to put money in to get it to work--I don't remember, all I know is I don't recall it ever being turned on.

Immediately I hit the crapper, I was human functioning, and when I came out, BBJ said, "I got dubs on the first shower." "No problem, Cap'n J, it's all yours." "There's some duds for you in that clothes bag," he said, dashing into the bathroom--I heard him curse through the door, "Oh God-damn, son of a bitch...." Yes, I had fouled the Detroit air in there.

There were twin beds. A painting over the beds that I don't remember at all what it was--a portrait of Henry Ford? Of Edsel Ford maybe. There was a nightstand between the beds with a telephone on it. I started dialing room service. Girl grabbed the phone out of my hand. "Come on, as soon as you guys get cleaned up we're out of here." "I'm starving." Then I caught her eyes again; this time too close for comfort. I took her face in my hands and kissed her. She kissed me back. I remembered Frank Harris in his Life and Loves of Frank Harris when he said how he knew his precious 12-year-olds were ready to screw by kissing them and feeling their lips very hot--that's how he knew (Frank admits in this book that he couldn't get it up for women over 12--and he admitted to it but not from a guilty point of view but as a simple point of fact. Banging 12-year-olds wasn't considered pederasty in those great days when the sun never sank on the Brit Empire, especially when the object of pederastic delights were the 12-year-old daughters of the loyal subjects; though Lewis Carrol had a pederasty problem right in the middle of merry old England and he came through it just fine--his photographs of his "little" angels are now considered "art"; all over India, for instance, Frank Harris found the most popular prostitutes were the 12-year-olds--even the Brit homosexuals loved 12-year-old boys)--and Girl's lips were on fire. It triggered my Id and set my wild Libido loose on this poor woman and I pulled her over onto the bed and kissed her hard, and she kissed me back, and then I went to unzip the little black dress at the back and I started unzipping it and with my other hand I was up her dress feeling for her... and she then pulled her lips off mine and whimpered, "No, please don't. Please don't...please..." I scuttled off the bed like an unrocked cockroach and stood upright against the nearest wall, arms out like Jesus on the cross.

I looked at Girl; she wasn't looking at me. She looked crushed. I had crushed her like that bridge we crossed coming into Detroit had crushed me, allowing Detroit city to kiss my lips and find my lips hot....

Suddenly the room was cold. Then BBJ came out of the bathroom looking like a god-damn duke or earl...I mean he was dressed to the nines and even further. "Zootie," I said, being old-fashioned, remembering my brother as a young man sporting a zoot suit one day--but that was worlds behind me and I rushed into the bathroom quick and left BBJ in the room with his sister in the fetal position on the bed. I wondered if she was sucking her thumb? I hoped she was. She really was just a girl but I wasn't a boy anymore.

An Interruption by the Author That Will Affect This Story
Those of you who have been trying to follow this phosphorous-glowing salvation rope through this dark cave of a novel idea I started almost a month ago must realize here that this story evolved out of me one day unexpectedly coming across a book about a character who popped into my life one day who I had totally put out of my mind--for almost 30 years. In order to recreate that character in my mind, I started writing this episodic adventure I call One Spring Morning Off Spring Street, which in turn turned out to be a reconstruction of my own life, a reconstruction that out of necessity took me back to Detroit, Michigan, one spring Saturday night around April Fool's Day, 1962. I'll make a confession here and now afore rowing my boat further into this novel cave in which I've suddenly seen a blinding light of introspection (isn't it interesting how both light and darkness can blind you?). My confession: I have reconstructed this story so really real--so damn honestly--I mean even my imagination is stunned by this recreation--this "Girl" character who just spontaneously appeared out of nowhere in this story, shit, me and Big Bad John had to get to Detroit quick--we found we could fly free to BBJ's hometown of East Lansing, Michigan (actually the Lansing, Michigan, airport, though it's close to East Lansing, too), and I'm rambling because I'm now trying to avoid writing about this--it's an embarrassing confession for a writer--and I am the writer, I won't deny that--and this is all my story, not really the story of the character who came out of my past's woodwork and inspired this story, the character whose quotes I've been using to lead in to each new episode of this reconstruction of my life in order to go back and work this character into it. I mean thinking of that past has brought back to life in my life Matty Quick, another dude I'd totally put in a dark corner of the attic of my mind, my historical corner; Jesus Christ the guitar player from Brooklyn--I haven't seen Jesus in 5 or 6 years now, though I know he's still a guitar player and is working in a well-booked band in upstate New York; Robin Rothman--my god, I had totally pushed poor old Robin way out, far out out of my mind's remembrance, but bringing her back up, and all these side characters back up, Dirty Underwear, hell the story I could write just about DU--and then that brings to mind more characters from this time--EXCEPT....

Writing Girl back into my life has challenged me as a writer. Girl is real, folks, and I had put her out of mind and Detroit was where Girl came into my line of sight, my mind, my life...and Girl brought back that first-love wonderful little bitch who jilted me for that god-damn disc jockey and this has all upset me, dear readers (I always as a writer wanted to use that hook device--"Alas, dear readers, the averted eyes of the Captain caused his demise...."), upset me to the point that One Spring Morning Off Spring Street is having to turn into a Proustian effort, an effort I'm just not wolfishly up to. I mean the true story of Girl and me can be elongated into a whole volume--but I shy away from taking the story to its perfect ending--I can't write that here--it's really not a part of this character this story is really trying to get to to make a point about music and writers and evolving music and writers and writers wanting to be musicians and musicians wanting to be writers. [Musicians are not good writers most times--I can't imagine a novel by Charles Parker, Jr.; it'd be as awesome as his jazz inventions. The best book written by a musician--I like Charles Mingus's Beneath the Underdog (not his original title), though he had a lot of help writing that book. Frank Conroy who wrote the novel Stop Time was a jazz pianist in several cafes in downtown Manhattan back in the seventies. I love a couple of Oscar Levant's books--especially the tragic Memoirs of an Amnesiac. I've heard a couple of Artie Shaw's books are good but I've never read one. I know for sure Artie Shaw considered himself a writer in his final years, "I'm working on a huge novel I've been working on for ten years" [from a typed note Artie sent to fans writing and asking him for his autograph--it's signed but it's a Xerox of the original note--so it's a joke on his fans, too]. I love Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues, I really like that book, but Mezz had ghost writing help with it and admits it on the cover. Babs Gonzales wrote a book back in the 70s but I'm sure it's long out of print. Hoagy Carmichael wrote his life that I'd like to read. Hoagy was an interesting cat--a genius of the same ilk as George Gershwin--that American special genius--you find it in a dude named Zez Confrey, too; and you find it way back in the never-heard-until-now works of the great Charles Ives, my Classical father--and it's easy to drift from Ives over into the blues or jazz or r and b....

Anyway, I can't go on with this Detroit episode. It's important in that Detroit music is a big part of this story--remember, I've already mentioned Creem, the white rock and roll magazine that started in downtown Detroit before the Detroit blacks drove it out to an abandoned lake resort near Birmingham, Michigan--and that first time I was in Detroit I was hearing a certain music for the first time--the Temps, Little Stevie, the Supremes, all Detroiters--Harvey Fuqua who'd moved to Detroit from Philadelphia and brought a whole bunch of Philadelphians with him, and just think of the musicians and stars who started coming out of Detroit, and then there was Aretha Franklin--and I already knew who Aretha was from the broadcasts on the Mexican radio stations of her father's church services out of Detroit late, late at night, services in which young Aretha would always play the piano and sing a special song with the church gospel choir--and I loved the way gospel music swung--and I loved that modern gospel was invented by an old blues singer, Thomas Dorsey, a man whose blues lyrics were so sexually suggestive with great rhyming innuendos and he was so successful as a blues singer that he found Jesus and in reversing his songs, rinsing them clean of their many, many sinful stains, he invented gospel music--Tom was a great pianist, too. They even played Rev. Franklin's sermons on the blues shows out of Nashville and Shreveport--every record show had a "gospel" package near its end--Brother Joe May, the Thunderbolt of the Midwest and the Sallie Martin Singers--god those were great old revelation-type radio programs--white guys trying to talk black, selling record packages meant for the black market to black folks--from the record shops in Nashville (Randy's was one) and Shreveport (Stan's was the biggest and most influential record store in my neck of the woods--Stan, originally from Brooklyn, also recorded some of the now-forgotten blues greats on his Jewel label--like Buster Benton ("Spiders in My Stew") or the truly great Lowell Fulsom (Lowell's brother once booked a band I was in into a local blues festival--I made $400 that night--most I've ever made on a blues gig) "Reconsider, Baby")--

So Detroit music was about to interfere in my musical life--and soon there was Smoky...and soon there would be Don Ruffin...and then all of a sudden--there were The Wheels, MC5, holy cow, Iggy Pop, the Stooges, Ted Nugent...and yes, that's why I thought I had to go back to Detroit and remember that music back then. Instead, I remembered Girl. I don't know how to describe the hold Girl had on me. She was my Helen of Troy (also a bartender later in my New York City life at the Four Roses Bar that once was the hottest bar on Canal Street, right up from the West Side Mexican Cafe)--she was my Lilly Langtry (referring to Texan Judge Roy Bean's fallin' head over heels and greased bears for her (great Paul Newman movie))--she was my Carson McCullers, too, maybe--my Elinor Wylie--my Edna St. Vincent Millay--she was my Natalie Wood.
What Girl looked like. That's Natalie Wood; my masturbatory dream woman as a pimple-faced kid. And Natalie was a natural true beauty 'til that Hollywood lifestyle got hold of her and she ended up marrying Robert Wagner and partying hearty those two--except one wrong night they gave a cocktail party on their yacht...and you know the rest, I assume.

And to continue on honestly with this story of Girl, of going on out to the Roostertail--and we did--and how this trip ended up is too dark, too bewildering, too depressing, too frightening; I can't relive it, dammit. It almost got me court-martialed.

So, using my licence as a poet rather than a reporter, I'm fading out of Detroit and being sucked back to another street off Spring Street in New York City, back to the couch in Mike Roddy's loft's livingroom with the shadowy Leah loping around the walls as I picked up that copy of Creem magazine off the coffee table and started thumbing through it. "Don't get pizza grease on that magazine," Leah ordered. I looked at her. For the first time since I'd first met her my eyes caught hers and I held them there...but here I go more TANGENTS.... You, dear reader (and I hasten not to use the plural here), surely understand...or at least the artist in you should understand.

for The Daily Growler

We are sorry to say the Mets lost tonight to the crappy Cardinals, 3-0. A second-rate suitcase-constantly-packed bum named Joel Pinero limited the Mets to 3 hits. Pinero was once the pride and joy of Lou Pinella's Seattle Mariners but he never lived up to expectations; but, hey, tonight he was a Cy Young winner against the Mets. Philly has won already. Holy Cow, that means the Mets are now tied with the god-damn Phillies for first place.

The Yankees won tonight and Boston lost; the Yankees are 2 games out of first with 3 games to play.

The Mets and the Phillies have 3 games to play--the Mets home against the lowlife Marlins (they just swept the Cubs 3 games) and the Phillies are home against the Washington Nats who just swept 3 from the Mets. Pretty "down to the wire" and thrilling, eh, baseball lovers?

Unbelievable. You cannot predict baseball, folks; it's that simple.


Language said...

You forgot the best of them all: Treat It Gentle by Sidney Bechet.

Also, damn.

Marybeth said...

A ballerina living in Berkeley, CA has discovered your blog and has been reading even the back issues. This may not interest you in the least, except that... you are a wolf. I have an infinitude of comments on everything you've written. But most of all I have a lot to say about Matty, who I always called Matthew. It seems that I should have met you. I hung out at Matty's pad a lot back in '76, '77, and '78. I loved seeing the photo of 322 Spring Street-- a very important piece of geography in my own life history. I've been writing about that period of my life and writing also about Matthew circa '76, '77. I might like to share some stuff with you. I could improve your memory on some details of Spring Street in '77. Remember "Wipe your cheese please", Matty's little sign on his apartment door?

The Daily Growler said...

Please, Marybeth, tell me more...and more...write me something...

Matty and I were stone brothers under the same skin...did you know Robin, Mitch, David, Rick?


Marybeth said...

I knew Rick. He lived up on the 4th floor of Matty's building and was roommates with Kevin, another drummer, who played with the Jazz Mobile in NYC. Remember the Jazz Mobile? NYC was such a fun town. I also knew Jimmy Rizzi, a.k.a. Ratso. Jimmy and I had a little thing going on for about a minute and a half.

I met Matty when I was 17 and he was 26. The first time I met him was in the basement of the building that housed the music department at Brooklyn College. That was in Sept. of 1974. I was walking through the band room down there and this wiry litte guy with a mop of wiry curls and a pair of wire rimmed glasses was hanging out of the door of the percussion supply closet. He said "Hey, you're cute. What do you do around here?" I told him, "I play the trumpet". He said "Now, if you had any sense at all, you'd stop blowing that horn and you'd marry me. Why don't you come in here and I'll rape you." I was an innocent kid and a little scared of him just then. I had him pegged for completely insane but I also was intrigued and thought he was actually kind of cute. As I got to know Matty I realized he wasn't insane at all. A madman maybe, but not insane. He was brilliant. He was sort of the star of the Brooklyn College music department. He was a rock and roll drummer who had come in to learn classical music and he soaked it all up like a mop. He learned so fast and so well. He was wonderful. I learned so much from Matty, just musically, initially, then in other realms.

The percussion emsemble at BC was the happeningest thing there. Through them I was turned on to Edgard Varese's Ionization, Bartok's piece for two pianos and percussion, Elliott Carter's piece for solo timpani, and loads of other great stuff. Not to mention Gene Krupa. Those guys had a little marker, BK or AK. Before or after Gene Krupa.

Kevin, who roomed with Rick, was also a Brooklyn College music major and member of the BC percussion ensemble. Kevin was 29 when I met him. Those guys seemed so ancient to me at the time. Kevin was also a major flirt and started driving me from BC into Manhattan, down to the Staten Island ferry in the evenings since I lived on SI and had an insane commute and he was driving to lower Manhattan anyway. Eventually he brought me to the pad at 322 Spring Street. That's how I started hanging out there. I started hanging out with Kevin in Jan. or maybe Feb. of '76. I was actually very excited to be hanging out with Kevin because I knew he lived with Matty and I was fascinated by Matty. So my intentions weren't pure there.

When I met Matty I assumed that he was my age and I didn't believe him when he told me that he was 26. I asked "So what did you do between highschool and now?" He told me that he'd gotten married, had a kid and gotten divorced. I didn't believe him at first, but eventually I met his ex-wife and his beautiful little boy, Sandy, who was a miniature Matty. Sandy looked just like Matty only with straighter, blonder hair, and 20 years younger. They looked like a set of identical twins that had been separated by one of Einstein's relativitstic rocket rides. Sandy was so smart, too. Did you ever meet Sandy? It was mind blowing to meet Sandy. He was reading "Death of a Salesman" the day I met him and was liking it. "This is a really good book." I think he was 7 years old then. I glanced over his shoulder. He was on page 34. He was really reading it.

We were visiting Sandy and his mother Louise in Pittsfield, Mass. Sandy asked "How long are you going to stay, Matty?" and Matty answered "I'm always going to stay Matty. I'm not going to change into anyone else." Kevin told Sandy "Some people are comedians" and Sandy said, about Matty, "He's not a comedian, he's a brat." I just cracked up. Sandy at 7 was just what Matty must have been at 7. It was hilarious to see.

I knew a lot of Matty's girlfriends and became very close to one of them, a beautiful Jewish woman, also from Staten Island, who was named Randi. You must have run into Randi at some point. She also looked just like Matty only with straighter, blonder hair.

Matty was Tim Hardin's drummer back in '76. Did you know that? Matty put me on the guest list for a gig they did at the "Bitter End". It was one of those rare periods of functionality in Tim Hardin's life. He spent so much of it pinned under the wheel of his herion addiction. Matty introduced me to Tim saying "This girl's a trumpet player." Tim told me that he started out on trumpet, had been a beebop trumpet player and pursed his lips into a trumpet emboucher and exhaled. I could have guessed he was a jazz guy but I wouldn't have guessed bee-bop. Cool maybe. I could hear Chet Baker in my head doing "Misty Roses". The bee-bop influence was invisible to me.

Matty, in talking about Tim Hardin, said he was a way better song writer than that ugly little no-talent Jew that everybody made such a fuss about, meaning, of course, Bob Dylan. I thought that was a strange thing for Matty to say, seeing as he could have won a Bob Dylan look alike contest, hands down. And besides every white girl on the planet, just about, wanted to make it with Bob Dylan, and not a few black girls too. I asked Randi if Matty was suffering from a case of racial self-hatred, and she said "Just self-hatred, period".

There's a beginning. I can tell you a whole lot more, too. But not now. I actually have to go to work and other mundane things. Thanks for replying to my post.