My Back Is Stilled Turned Against Reality--Yet Even My Dreamworld Is So Real
Notes From Two Notebooks
I, like Louis Armstrong used to, keep volumes of notes all in neat little drugstore notebooks, notebooks piled high by my bedside and another stack under a pile of books on the floor. Most writer-types do keep notebooks...don't they? I really don't know what writer-types do anymore. I tried reading a current novel (Shakedown by Charlie Stella) given me by thedailygrowlerhousepianist--we we're cattin' around t'other eve hittin' the Irish Pub-crawl trail (why musicians were called "cats"--from "cattin' around" as opposed to "doggin' around")--and we were hell bent for glory--and he gave me this book and when I got home, OK, my brain was a little sloshy, I tried reading this book but I gave up after the first couple of pages. Stella started right off being very pompously violent on the first page (like "You think you know violence, let me tell you about the violence I know and love and cherish") and I don't mean that violence bothers me; what bothers me about it is, as used by Stella, that it's a commercial gimmick to make books gritty sounding and gutsy promising (according to the PR hype on the book) and tough-guy-written--like Raymond Chandler taught 'em how to write dick books, detective stories, which is all this novel is, a fast-paced, short-sentenced, detective romance; yet, still Raymond Chandler can outwrite these modern posers. I expect real violence in a novel about violence (like Octave Mirabeau's Torture Garden) and I see violence going on constantly around me here in Gotham, but what writers like Stella write about is Hollywood-kind-of-made-up-graphic-arts violence--and speaking of things fading away, I'll bet 3/4s of the new New York City twenty-somethings have no idea what "Gotham" means in terms of New York City--unless they're Batman freaks--but even then do they associate Batman's Gotham City with New York City? Where would the Bat Cave be say young Bruce Wayne did live as a twenty-something in a New York City hi-floor luxury apartment? Central Park maybe? The Palisades...that could be possible since stately Wayne Manor would have had to be up on the Hudson there somewhere it was so big, bulky, and woodsy. Though I'm sure Batman was created by New York Citians and drawn here in New York City and, yes, Batman's Gotham City is New York City, but then I'm thinking like "good old days" thinking, very WHITE thinking. Listening to George Carlin again yesterday and damn how he hit us white folks on the head, nailed us, nailed us too solid, that's why he was so scary to the white male controllers of everything we say or do in this Land of the (We Think) Free and Home of the Stupidly Apathetic--and speaking of dumb shit, I saw on local commercial teevee that a local soldier had been killed the day before in Iraq and the teevee woodheads were making much to do of him as a patriot, you know, gun-ho for our phony president and his trumped-up War in Iraq, but then they got to the real story of why this stupid young man had recently reupped for a second tour of volunteer duty in Iraq--he'd just gotten there when he and another New Yorker got their heads blown to bloody pulpy bits by an opposition-to-the-US-invasion sniper. The reason he reupped?--he was black by the way--I have to emphasize that--(I'm impersonating Don Imus (the leftover pile of hardened-dung shit of bankrupt radio)--"Hey, you all misunderstood me" (in his fake "cowboy" way of speaking--Imus is talkin' like a "drugstore cowboy" as my dad would have called him))...SO, the reason this young New York black man had reupped for another tour of duty in Iraq? The Man was foreclosing on his mother's house he'd grown up in and before joining the US Army he was working three jobs to try and stop The Man from taking the house. Then, thanks to the glowing US Army recruitment brochure, he found out he could make more money in the army than he could working the three shit jobs every damn day so he signed up for instant duty and was instantly sent to Iraq. He made it safely through street-fighting in Baghdad, EXCEPT when he got back home from that first tour, he found out the bankers/lenders (The Man) were still intending on kicking his mother into the street. Thinking like the brave gung-ho trooper he'd become, he reasoned that the most sensible thing for him to do would be to reup for another tour of duty with the volunteer army, you know, take the reup money, yeah, the good old army offers these young fools maybe 10 to 15 thousand dollars cash to reup, give that to his mother so she could pay some on her mortgage debt, and that's what this poor fool of a young kid did, he reupped and, sure 'nuff, he was sent right straight back to Baghdad (by now Bush, McCain, all the war-lovin' nutjob politicians were saying the Surge had worked and the streets of Baghdad were fastly returning to normal--DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!). Once back in beautiful, safe Baghdad he once again tempted fate, soon learning that if you tempt fate long enough it'll bite you in the ass and sure 'nuff, he'd just landed back in Iraq when fate blew him unidentifiable all over a backstreet in old Baghdad (it only happened a couple'a days ago). OK, so, yes, mom will get the ten grand cash for his body from Uncle Sam but I'll bet you The Man will still kick her ass into the street--and while I'm on this subject: you don't hear much about Uncle Sam anymore do you?--ever notice that? I like noticing things for maybe one last time as they fade away--most probably fading away until they're gone forever from thoughts or view--a lot of 'em will hang around for another decade maybe if they get notorious enough, but most of them, Whoosh!, gone! Like the first 20 years of my life was sent to its fate on a Westchester County, New York, dumpsite--like hundreds of my mom and dad's photos from way back into the late 1800s were suddenly gone, especially one photo I loved of my Wild Uncle Billy, he was my great-grandmother's cousin, wearing his chaps, sportin' two ivory-handled six shooters, one holstered, one drawn and held across his chest, with his western shirt and a ten-gallon hat and the big clunky-chunky Western boots, posed rather cutely by the trail photographer at a hitching post covered with a huge sheepskin (ironic since Billy was a cattle-drivin' cowboy and not a sheepherder)--oh and WUB had a fancy silk scarf tied swashbuckler-style around his neck, too--but he wasn't looking mean, he was instead looking starry eyed--and beneath the photo was the trail photographer's name and the city he worked out of, Colorado City, Texas, in this case, Wild Uncle Billy obviously working on far-West Texas ranches in the area, rounding up cattle and drivin' them over to the railroad loading pens at Colorado City, which later during the oil boom in the 1920s became a big refinery town--home of Cosden and Cities Services (now CitG0 and owned by Venezuela) refineries--and Wild Uncle Billy's old trail photo was burned alive on that Westchester County dump--the revenge of a woman I had wronged, and Wild Uncle Billy had probably done any number of women wrong--"It's in me blood!" me and Wild Uncle Billy are shoutin' to high heaven! Gone, too, were seven complete novel mss of mine--one an evil Bergmanian love story of woman worship--the sacred Rosalind, a woman's name that fascinated me while writing this novel while living in Mexico City with my wife, the mixed-breed (the beautiful rose of my life)--she'd cut my throat if she heard me calling her a mixed breed--and she could cuss me out in Spanish, English, and Italian--brilliant girl--and the nostalgic one in me tells me all the time, "You should'a stayed with that woman, you idiot--I mean, come on, she was young, beautiful, with a body men were willing to kill you over, but mainly she had brains, and it was her brains that made her so beautiful really, the brains behind that gorgeous..." "Ah, shut the fuck up, you weren't married to her!" "Got me there, pal. How 'bout that Jewish girl in Santa Fe--why'd you fuck that one up?" And Rosalind was burned alive along with six other novel mss on that Westchester County dump--one ms a detective tale--the main character, Andrew Tripellian, was a clone who'd figured out he was a clone and had studied up on the real A. Tripellian, you know, finds his real family...shit, what great works of art were burned alive on that Westchester County dump...but then, like I said, I am an observer of things as they fade away. I sit sometimes like the foolish thinker that I am and convince myself I could still, a la D.H. Lawrence, rewrite Rosalind from memory and get it pretty close to the original--and it was a long one, too--written when long novels were in. During some of those faded-away good-old-days.
Let's see, what can I glean from these notebooks:
1) "The El Salvadoreno (tilde over the N) Restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, looks like a good place to eat."
2) "By 'unconscious' he [Jung] means that the body of human instinct is situated below the threshold of identification: that it operates unbeknownst to man"--Phillip Wylie in An Essay on Morals.
3) Gunther Schuller (in his book The Swing Era) says the "riff tune"--a whole tune based on short riffs following changing chord patterns--was invented by Charlie Christian, the Oklahoma City-native guitarist discovered by John Henry Hammond, Jr., and his son-in-law Benny Goodman, and who died of tuberculosis here in New York City almost as soon as he got famous--back in 1941--[a year so full of things happening--all of which are slowly fading away--like that "Day of Infamy that will live forever...." for instance, or like Franklin Delano Roosevelt for instance].
4) Charlotte Bronte uses the word "hebdomadal" in Jane Eyre. Here's what Charlotte Bronte thinks is a beautiful woman (a Miss Ingram who the boss of the Thornfield Hall seems fascinated with), speaking through her character Mrs. Fairfax, the head of the servants at the Hall where Jane, a governess, teaches the bastard girl child the result of the boss's Paris adventures with a French dancer: a beautiful woman is: "Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck; olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr. Rochester's [Mr. Ed: the Hall's master who young Jane suddenly has the hots for--remember thewomantrumpetplayer's commenting sarcastically about young virgin Jane desiring to fuck her absolutely assholey Mr. Rochester so why didn't she?--and Rochester's desire to violate young virginal Jane is there, too], large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And then she had such a fine head of hair; raven-black, and so becomingly arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest, the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below her knee. She wore an amber-colored flower, too, in her hair: it contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls." [from Jane Eyre, Chap. 16.]
5) Buddy Bolden's original New Orleans band was: Buddy and Willie "Bunk" Johnson on cornets; Cornelius Tilman on drums; Willie Cornish on trombone; Willie Warner clarinet; Mumford on guitar; Jimmie Johnson (Bunk's brother) on bass; later Frank Duson replaced Willie Cornish on trombone. Bunk said every time he blew a clam Buddy Bolden would knock his cornet out of his hands. Finally poor ole Buddy had to be sent to the insane asylum and three dudes, Lyon, Brock, and Frankie Duson, the "Boys in Brown," took the band over and called it the Eagle Band: Sidney Bechet on clarinet; Sidney's brother Leonard on trombone; Bunk and Sidney Desvigne on cornets; and Joe Bechet on guitar.
6) The first New Orleans bordello to hire a house pianist was Countess Willie Piazza's on Bourbon Street. His name was John the Baptist. Then Jelly Roll came to town and played at Tom Anderson's Annex also on Bourbon.
7) Donna Summers on Tavis Smiley said, "It's all about the moment." Donna is currently on a comeback--I believe her first one, isn't it? She must be broke--I thought she married into the Geffen money--maybe not.
8) New word, "stay-cation," heard used on commercial teevee, meaning a "stay-at-home vacation."
9) Big Eye Lewis Nelson, the early New Orleans clarinet master was probably the first bandleader to ever hire a piano player, a man named Black Pete.
10) In 1914, Sugar Johnny, a cornetist, was the first NOLA-ite to take a jazz band north to Chicago.
11) Jack Papa Laine's White Reliance Band had two blacks playing in it, Achille Baquet (famous for his "Well in a Bucket") and Dave Perkins--both were so lightskinned they easily passed for whites. It almost drove Dave Perkins crazy--he got used to being white and it bothered his musical soul.
12) "Let us think back on the long history of occidental music and observe the invading sweetness that comes sooner or later over each new form of music. It is a sort of decadence which creeps over all art." Roger Payne Dodge, from an article on jazz critics in Ramsey & Smith's Jazzmen --a great little insightful book that takes you back into the jazz realities of the 1920s and '30s when jazz music was born for 16 years, was maturing, and was also facing that invading sweetness that Dodge says eventually creeps over all art.
13) Josh Groban--what an insipidly boring musician and singer! I accidentally stumbled over a Josh Groban PBS-special concert tonight. Josh was singing in his droopy-drawers quavering asshole voice in perfect harmony with some super-style black "perfect" chick singer who pompous-but-tenderly-sweet Josh brought out to show his white audience what a hip dude he was--"Look at me, a pampered little white asshole of a White Mom's delight, working with a swoogie gal!" My question is who were the what-looked-like 5,000 people at this concert? Screaming white girls holding signs saying they wanted Josh to come into the audience so they could hug and kiss him. Arghhhh! I already hated this upstart from years ago--I used to have a Website devoted to jazz and one day I put him and John Tesh on my most-electrified hotseat and tried to reduce them to "faded glory." John Tesh has since disappeared back into his fabulous "Christian" hotshot life with his movie-star wife! Like I hate Yanni, too. These are what the old jazz critics would call "makers of sweet corny music"--Popular music that is milled and not invented--milled for such an old-timey way of singing--I mean Joshie's voice quivers like the old Rudy Vallee white types of those long ago and almost faded away 19-teens, twenties, and thirties. No syncopation at all. Everything up-and-down rather pogo-style--total droopy-drawers music. And when Joshie sits down at the piano he plays just like Alicia Keyes, as though he just finished a John Schaum book on playing via chordal progressions. Bland piano playing and Joshie singing a song he wrote just for his admirers--and shit, folks, my last gig I drew 12 people--Joshie feels like it's over when only 5,000 show up for one of his extravaganzas. And oh yes, like all white pretender singers, Joshie has a band full of black musicians, especially one of those black wonder-dude guitar players (he reminded me of the too-much-peddle-effect playing of Kevin Eubanks)--and a definite all white stars who wish they were black (like the awful Michael McDonald, remember him and his screechin' trying to sing like a black woman?) need in their bands, a black drummer. I'm jealous. Hell yes. I'm jealous, too, that nowadays our pop stars are being picked by a bunch of unknown fops--like why are there so many English judges on all our pantie-waist teevee instant starmaker shows? Like a show called "So You Think You Can Dance." One of the judges is a Brit fop, an old dude who carries on, I say, Brit style for minute-upon-minute on just why or why not a dancer is great, mediocre, or worthless. My question is, when did Brits become dance experts? Let's see you dance like James Brown, you fop. Let's see you dance like Sammy Davis, Jr., you fop. Let's see you dance like Michael Jackson. Let's see you dance like our best American modern dance groups today! But the main point of this note is that I hate Josh Groban--even I could blow his smarmy ass away could I get in a cutting contest with him.
for The Daily Growler