Friday, November 9, 2018

When spirits flood the night, Day of the Dead in Mexico

              John Coltrane, Love Supreme is playing on the CD player he bought at the Thrift Store in East Northport, it was a gift he wanted to give himself for months.  The five-dollar investment is a good one since listening to the whole album while writing was something he would do at his parent’s house – last year.  The music and the writing was his escape, his refuge.  Tonight is not that much different than the other nights last year when he wrote.
              His youngest is not talking to him, needs some space so he gives his baby as much space as she needs.  The other children are talking to him and his ex his reassuring them, he is not abandoning them. Not in the slightest, but it is difficult for the youngest, although she is fifteen - this is all new and everything new will be new and she, like the rest of the family will need to process the divorce.  Not that it will get easier, it will become acceptable like a limp. 
              The CD skipped for a second and maybe the five bucks was not a great bargain after all, but the radio works and there is a tape player. 
              The younger ones are in a play tonight and he is in his room, keeping the requested distance and he is alright at this time. 
              The CD skipped again, and now John Coltrane is chanting, Love Supreme.
              He closes his eyes and listens to the drums, rim shots, the piano, McCoy Tyner and the bass and the full sound fills in the empty spaces.
              Martin listens to the wind outside.  Meli is at the movies with a friend, she looked beautiful when she Face timed him, he told her so.
              Last Friday, they were together in Taxco, Mexico celebrating Day of the Dead.  Colorful banners swayed in the night breezes and it began to rain lightly which was a rarity, one of the taxi drivers explained to Meli.  Martin thought it had to do with him, being one of the few gringos in the town.  He noticed a few others and wanted to see if they were like him, a lean middle aged man walking and kissing a woman who was decades younger than he was, but he did not linger too long on the thought since age was something he accepted instead of letting it crack the joy in their relationship.  It was a thought and he let it pass.
               She is the happiest person in the world and he has not laughed as much with anyone.
              Meli wanted to get her face painted and she urged him to do it, this could be the only time he celebrated Day of the Dead, and he should get it done.  He reluctantly agreed and in a few minutes found himself sitting on a bench as a high school girl applied white cream and powder and then black onto his face.  Meli reached out and they held hands as the girls talked to one another about an ex-boyfriend, the one putting makeup on him said he was with someone new, but at least she wore his school jacket before his new girlfriend.  Meli explained what they were talking about. 
              “Instead of thinking about him, you should be focused on your math.”
              “Yeah right.”
              He was done in five minutes, eyed the armed police in the square with some concerns especially since they carried loaded machine guns and there were a lot of them off to one corner of the square.  Some women were talking to them as slowly they sipped their Coke bottles.  
              It began to rain harder and yet they walked around the village, holding hands and taking selfies.  They spoke to her mother and father, and it looked like they’d just woke up her old man, who barely said a word to Martin.
              “Honey, we should go to the cemetery, it’s part of the tradition.  There’s a fair there and music and you can how the families celebrate their loved ones.” 
              Visiting a cemetery did not appeal to Martin in the slightest, he recalled the small cemeteries outside the villages in Guatemala, they were barren, the crypts or the brick forms which contained the bones let in the light of the day and he did not want to go there at night, visions of rats crawling out of the dark spaces were creeping him out.
              “I don’t know.”
              “Honey, this could be your only time to celebrate, Day of the Dead,” she said and smiled at him with her made-up face and he smiled back.
              “Well, ok, whatever you say.”
              “It will be fun, you will see.”
              Taxco is the city where VW Beetles are everywhere, the taxi drivers pulled out the front passenger seat, the passenger door has a cord attached to it, so the driver can pull the door shut after the passenger leaves.  There is normally a crucifix dangling from the rear view mirror, the back seat could be in good shape or not.  The ceiling sometimes droops down at times on his head.  The experienced drivers take off, beeping before every blind spot, racing down hills, through narrow roads where passengers better walk in single file or they will get hit…dogs dart out and back and if the traffic is slow will be nudged out of the way by a careless bumper.
              They made it to the cemetery and paid the driver and stepped out.  Martin saw a drunk woman laughing loudly.  It was a fair.  He felt out of the place, not only being a gringo in the town, but the tallest in the crowd and ready to call it a night. 
              “Honey, over here.”
              The place was a muddy mess. It was a wet fair where beer was abundant.  There were rides, music and games and they walked up a step, past some vendors who were selling food just before the gates to the cemetery.  Colored lights bounced off the bano and they we walked into the silent darkness.
              His breathing was calm.  They walked up a narrow lane past the lit chambers, the glass enclosures, the pictures, when they were living and able to smile for the camera, and now alas their families waited in this world with patience.
              Filling the night with folk songs they walked and greeted the others and scared the children who thought they were the dead. 
              Kissing in the light rain…the night welcomed them…

Sunday, September 23, 2018

New fiction, living near the beach


Working on this piece of fiction:

The ceiling fan was on slow, spinning under the dark ceiling, the fan he has used to settle his mind was turned off since it was chilly with the wind coming off the water.
           The beach is a five minute walk from the cottage.  Yesterday, he took a long run, fifteen miles to prepare for a half marathon.  After the run, he changed and walked down to the beach.  No one was in the water, it was chilly.  The water was dead low and he gingerly walked as far as he could, stepping over rocks, considering there could be shards of glass somewhere and a deep gash could be an emergency.  There were no broken bottles, but there were a lot of rocks and the further he walked away from the beach, the more rocks.  He assumed the water would get deeper.  It didn’t, staying up to his knees.  Looking out into the water, it appeared it was shallow for another 100 yards. Instead of trudging further out, he found a spot and plopped his body into the cool water.  The water was warmer than the air, and he wanted to stay in for as long as possible.  The tide was coming in, but it would be hours before he was able to run into the water and go for a real swim, perhaps the summer was over he thought as small waves crashed around his head. 
           This was supposed to be the place he could walk down to the beach at any time and get in a swim.  He could count on one hand how many times he went swimming over the summer, well maybe seven which is closer to the truth.  The sky was clear, the Connecticut cities across the Sound were clear, he could make out buildings.  He was the only soul in the water and to the folks walking on the beach, wearing jackets, Martin looked like a man desperately capturing the loss summer.  Typical for him.  Always clutching onto to the last bit of summer.
           Standing up, the swimming suit was cold against his penis.  The rocks he avoided were under his toes, and yet the water was clear enough to make out the dark objects under the salty surface.  He dressed quickly, walked back up the beach, found a broken Becks bottle of beer and tossed the shards into the sea grass, away from any unsuspecting foot or potential beach blanket. 
           Walking back to the cottage, he had one thought, taking a warm shower and yet there was the thought that the ever present homebody, Wayne the owner of the cottage where Martin rented a room would see Martin and jump into the shower.  It has happened frequently, Martin goes out for a run, who’s in the shower when he gets back?  Wayne had an hour to jump in, and yesterday, he had two full hours and even longer since Martin walked down to the beach. 
          The front door was open, music playing on his stereo and the bathroom door was closed, he called it.  Wayne was in there, either taking a shit of taking a shower.  Martin went into his room and heard the shower and gave him the finger.

Thank you for reading this

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Grateful for my ex-wife

           You may have noticed there have been minimal entries on this blog.  Starting today, that is going to change.  Funny, I have seen too many entries in stale blogs that started this way, the blogger regretting not posting as much and perhaps not writing as much? 
There are reasons for not posting which I will describe in some detail for you.  I’ve been writing for this blog and have a few that I may post at a later date, but I wanted to get this one out today.  I’ve thought about it for a few weeks and here we go.
Ali and I are in the process of a divorce.  A former therapist and perhaps an attorney would suggest I use the phrase, “We have come to a mutual decision that our marriage should come to an end.”  Sounds formal.  It does not explain what occurred or why or who is to blame.  Let me be clear, I accept responsibility for my behavior that led to this “mutual decision.”  Let’s move on.
Instead of explaining what happened, I would like to say that I appreciate the years I had with Ali.  I was a witness, watching a shy 18-year-old teenager become an articulate and strong woman.  I watched how she grew from a timid and insecure young mother, not sure if our children would love her - to a mom with wealth of knowledge, love and compassion.  The children adore their mom.  I want to say, thank you for your mothering and raising four incredible individuals.
I want to thank her for the years we had together.  There were some rough patches when my fear and insecurities were evident and I was harsh to her and the children at times.  I would not put myself in the category as abusive, but on occasions I was harsh. 
  Throughout the years, we had some amazing memories, sitting outside in those summer nights and waiting for a shooting star, sitting in the shallow water and watching the minnow’s nipple on our feet and legs.  Spending time at her grandparent’s house, learning what being a family was all about - in the Italian tradition.  The decades of New Year’s Eve’s at her parents, starting at Nana and Pop’s and the trips we took with her parents into NYC, DC and Baltimore.  Add all of the trips to Disney World, cruises, auto trains, I cherish those times.  I miss those times and miss my family.
I was grateful waking up next to Ali.  Not too happy when she woke me up with her snores, but I enjoyed watching her sleep in.  I enjoyed making her laugh which was difficult to do, but she has a great laugh and when her giggling starts, it does not stop!  I’m going to miss those opportunities.  I hope she shares her laughter will someone else when she feels the time is right.
I am grateful to have had wife like Ali.  She was a good friend and I hope eventually, we can maintain some kind of friendship.  Tomorrow, will be two weeks since we signed the divorce paperwork.  Afterwards, we walked outside together to the hot parking lot, both of us cried and held each other.  I told her that she’s moving on.  We’re both moving on.  She’s in the process of buying her first home, within the school district which she serves a board member and keeping Joe and Bella in-place to graduate with their friends and classmates.  She's holding so much together and yet it was time for our marriage to end with the stroke up a pen.  In six to eight months, on a cold winter day, we will be officially divorced.  

          Thank you for reading this.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Henry Rollins and his picture show arrived in Philadelphia for two nights


Henry Rollins played two shows at Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre.  The first night was sold out.  My brother and I were there.   We ate dinner across the street at a little hole in the wall. We ate there before.  The food is served fast and fresh and is delicious and cheap.  Dave is familiar with the waitress, “You should have seen her ten years ago, she was hot.  I know she doesn’t look like it now.”  Our waitress barely squeaked a word and wore a dark green combat jacket and a scarf inside the cold place. Somehow my brother could still find her beauty underneath the layers. 

Rollins.  Let me tell you, I was surprised.  This show was not the spoken word performance I have been to.  I wrote about a few shows in this blog.  The last Rollins show was meant to be my last for The Henry, but time heals all wounds as they say.  Maybe my soon to be ex is reading this?  I can see her shaking her head.  I digress. 

This show was different, he said and he did as he said: I will stand on stage right, which is to your left and I will stand here through the night so you can see the pictures I have taken.  Something like that. 

Rollins, the world traveler, the repeater of certain jokes like his impersonation of George W and the man’s struggles to speak.

The story of riding a train through the winter in Siberia.  Who would want to travel to Siberia in the winter, only Rollins since it's a good story.  Eating on said train and vomiting in shared public restroom.  I have to add, his description of the intense cold – stabbing you in the bones, the way his breath hung in the frost air for seconds before collapsing was classic Rollins - hysterical.

Vivid pictures appeared on a screen to the center. His appreciation for the diverse people he met and who he took pictures of was like peering into Rollins’ mind for a couple of hours.  He has traveled over the world, 130 countries, 7 continents, including a rehashed piece about his penguin adventure in Antarctica.  There were some rehashing, but not too many.

This was not a night of celebrity worship.  It was a night when we can see many sides of the shared planet.  To listen to Henry tell us about a boy in an orphanage who was lost in mind and spirit, I share his picture.  Nothing could break the child's spell or inner pain.  The desperate mother digging through a mountain of garbage with her children, her left hand outstretched as if she was poking into some hideous.  Her daughter smiles to the camera.  The Buddhist monks, his description of why he liked the picture, the orange robes in contrast to the white bowls. 

The last picture I am sharing is when he auditioned for Black Flag.  It's in inspiring story of a young Rollins taking a risk to follow his passion.

Rollins was not there to objectify.   He wants to share their stories in front of audiences who can pay for a night out, and may never want to see parts of the world which is ravaged by war, poverty and starvation.  Yet, it was in these places he dared to go that he discovered humanity – true generosity was abundant, sharing whatever little they had. He felt safe.  He can tell us that there is nothing to fear.  Iranians are good people, so are Syrians and North Koreans.  We are all one for a brief dot in time.  I hope you can catch this show.

Thank you for reading this

Monday, November 20, 2017

Brian Blade blesses The Jazz Standard

11/20/2017 14:25

For those of you who have not seen Brian Blade, I strongly recommend blessing your eyes and ears to see this man rip over a simple drum kit.  He is an artist and has formed a compact group of musicians who will whisper to your angelic soul.
There were a couple of tickets available for the last night’s gig, Brian Blade & The Fellowship band played at Jazz Standard.  It was the last show after a five night run.
I went into the city with a friend.  Another sober friend who has been blessing in my life.  I brought my sketch pad.  Found a parking spot a few feet away from the entrance to the club.  We went in and saw Brian standing against a wall talking to someone.  I put my coat down, excused myself and brought over the pad to get the man’s autograph.  He was at the bar by the time I got back and I spilled out how I was going to sketch and how many times I’ve seen him.  I was like a little kid telling Mr. Blade how much I respected his work.  He was soft-spoken and sounded surprised that I’ve seen him as many times.  God bless, were my parting words. 
I was back in my seat, the light dimmed in the house.  The band took their places on the stage.  The music began.  Seltzer with lemon, one for me and one for my friend who was excited about a night out. 
The band was tight, Jon Cowherd on piano, Myron Walden, alto sax, bass clarinet, Melvin Butler, soprano and tenor sax, and the ever present, cheering Chris Thomas on bass.  
Not knowing the music which was a mixture of free jazz, fusion.  At first it was a slow somber setting, but the music increased in energy and pace.  It leveled off once again.   Jon Cowherd merged so many styles and yet each song spoke to me. 
Eventually, the set was finished.  Brian spoke, introduced the band, and told us what they songs were played and said God bless. 
They came out for an encore, This Little Light.
The show was over.  Paid the bill and we were back in the car, passing streets and steaming street caps. Heat kicking on.  Dodging taxis who were out to kill me.  The gigantic Met Life building, and drove over to the East side and up and over the 59th Street Bridge.  The shimmering water, the colored lights on the water, the cold water leads to the endless ocean, and the twisting roads led me to the Long Island Expressway.  Think it would be a breeze on a late Sunday night?  Think construction.  Think Northern State. 
After walking down the driveway, just before going inside, I stood outside in the frigid November air and gazed up at the stars.  Their lights.  The cold air.  I thought of the music I heard, and imagined Brian Blade smiling up at a different ceiling.  Good night.

Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ravi Coltrane at the Village Vanguard

11/14/17 08:08

Sunday morning.  There were a couple of goals I needed to complete, a walk in the woods.  The VA woods which I used to walk and ride my bike in, before mountain biking was popular.  I had a BMX bike, but I would ride a Schwinn Stingway or a ten speed with thin tires through the woods if I didn’t have anything else.  My BMX had a plastic cover across the handlebars that said, Disco Sucks! 
This was the place where I brought a BB gun to shoot unsuspecting birds and squirrels, rabbits, the last two with a pellet since the BB would pop off them.  I was an amateur hunter with my lab mix and a few disturbed friends.
A middle aged couple were just leaving the woods as I was entering.  The woman wore a helmet.  I felt like telling her, when I was a kid riding through here, I didn’t wear a helmet.  I let her go without insulting her, besides she said hello to me, so I should be nice.

The paths are the same, but the woods are smaller than what I remembered. 

A soccer game in the distance, fierce fathers shouting from a half mile away or more.  Their voices carried through the silence of the trees.  Moss on the sides of the path.  Leaves lingered on autumn branches. I closed my eyes and just listened to what the woods carried.  What memories this place held, what secrets did it want to share.

When my knee is back, I will go running in here.  I’d like to find a long trail and just go.  Me and my water bottles and a snack.

The day before I drove up to Hyde Park to pay my respects to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.  He was a French Jesuit priest who inspired countless soul seekers.  Controversial in his time and yet renowned.   He is buried on the grounds of the Culinary Institute of America - in what was a Jesuit seminary.   “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience.  You are a spiritual being in search of a human experience.”  Here is another, “It is our duty as men and women to proceed as through the limits of our abilities do not exist.”
I ate a delicious and late lunch in the school’s tavern.

I drove back to Long Island in silence.  Passing dark hills and listening to the hum of the tires.  I saw a sign for Purchase College, where I met Ali almost 27 years ago.

De Chardin: “Someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

At the end of certain stages in our existence, we discover a new beginning.

I wanted to drive into the city to see if I could get a ticket to see Ravi Coltrane who was playing at the Village Vanguard.  I’ve seem Ravi a few times, but this place holds history, is very intimate – only holds 120.  Last time I was there was to see Charles Lloyd.  I changed my mind and headed back.
This leads me back to the first paragraph, welcome back to Sunday.  All of Ravi’s shows were sold out at the Vanguard.  I sent an email, called the Vanguard, and thought of sending an email to his manager, yes I was getting obsessed.  I was on this spiritual journey and seeing Coltrane would put the comma where it had to go, keep on searching.
When I got back from the walk, I received an email, there was some cancellations for the 8:30 show.  How many did I need?  One please. 

Driving into the city, I get excited each time I'm driving on the LIE and can see the beautiful Manhattan skyline.  It was a clear night.
Twenty minutes later, I parked and was walking down the old stairs to the club.  I gave the house manager my name, his face is heavily scarred and wore a heavy grey sweater.  I was brought to my seat, after explaining I’d like to sketch.  Jazz brings out the creativity in me.  

I’m a mediocre artist.  Not too shabby for someone who rarely sketches. 

A mother and her teen aged son sat across from me at the same table.  They were in from Chicago, visiting schools, NYU, Columbia.  I was impressed with the kid’s knowledge of the various jazz trumpet players.  He looked like he was twelve and I thought of my son, visiting schools.  I couldn’t imagine sending him to Chicago. 

Ravi and the band came out to a sold out house.  We were packed in.  I could not believe how close I was and I sketched away, but could not see Eric Harland, the drummer.  I tried but to no avail.
Looking at Ravi, I saw his father so many times, his eyes scanned the heavens, his cheeks blew out, his long thin fingers raced across the instruments and yet there was peace in the room.  There was a sense that we were all a family for this period of time.   
After playing for close to an hour, using different instruments, the guitarist was brilliant - a British term which I will use here.  The young bassist held a smile throughout most of the set. Ravi closed the show with a Charlie Parker original.  Ravi brought down the house.  The lights came back on.  I had a chance to talk to Ravi once again and am impressed how genuine and humble this man is. 

“Nothing can resist the person who smiles at life - I don't mean the ironic and disillusioned smile of my grandfather, but the triumphant smile of the person who knows that he will survive, or that at least he will be saved by what seems to be destroying him.” Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
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Thank you for reading this.

When spirits flood the night, Day of the Dead in Mexico

              John Coltrane, Love Supreme is playing on the CD player he bought at the Thrift Store in East Northport, it was a gift he w...