Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cocktail Jazz


A true story of what this life used to be like.-tb
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" Fuck me, I want to play " said Spank.

He sat straight up in his seat and rattled a finger tip
drum solo on the small table where he sat, in dark cocktail lounge on a cul-de-sac near the down town airport. He and his friend Slake were in the rear, and as Spank stared toward the front of the room, he could barely make out the musicians on the bandstand, a sax, piano, drums, and bass combo who were blurred by the hard, red burn of the lone stage light and the thick curtain of cigarette smoke that hung in the air like frayed curtains.

But even with his vision obscured by gleam and gauze, Spank could see that the hand members were engaged in a mission that obliterated the reality of the dive bar whose leather cushion booths had been slashed with knives, spoons, or forks and had been mended with seeming miles of grey duck- tape, whose patrons were naught but arms holding drinks latched to torsos whose faces and gray, withered lips sought the &anonymity~ of the darkness above the scant glows of the lounges discreet, lighting that revealed traces of a once gay-colored carpet that bared witness to years of endless trips to the restrooms, empty tables covered with smeared glasses where thousands of memories had been forgotten and recalled again, and particles of dust floating unfettered, swirling streams that made the room seem positively air tight.



Spank was still tapping his finger against the table, bobbing his head, squinting to see the combo as it rumbled on. The blues they'd been playing, slow and churning, had been going on for what seemed like the longest traffic light Spank had ever sat for, but the musicians kicked up the tempo.

Hand over hand, the drummer slammed his Sticks on the skins hard, like someone banging on a locked door, the bassist accelerated the blood pulse, and the pianist and sax player played a: twisted melody in frantic unison, a race to the last bar. Spank thought he cold feel a breeze in the room. Something seemed to disturb the curtain of listless smoke. He took a wobbling glance at Slake, who was reclined against his chair, taking a slug from his long neck Bud. He looked back to the bandstand. The sax player was in the center of the platform, completely still as though bolted in position except for the

streaking commotion of his fingers over the keys. A deluge of notes
filled the room, every honk and squeak a cry of escape, a gasp for breath, a memory of fresh air.
" Oh God, Slake " he said, leaning over the table,

" This is it, man. These guys have struck the lode..." Spank

paused and wrapped his hand around his Scotch rocks. " .. .This

what we've looking for all afternoon. I wanna play... "

He put his glass to his lips for a swig, but all he could
taste were the slivers of melting ice that dissolved instantly on his tongue.


" Where's our waitress " he demanded. Slake put his bottle on the table.
" Can't say where she went " he offered, his gaze divided the bandstand into shimmering half frames that danced with each other.
the bandstand and Spank, who's tapping had become arrhythmic

and fidgety, " But that shouldn't matter too much now, Spank,
you're about two and half sheets right now, and any more would
just ruin a good buzz. "
Spanks' finger stopped tapping, and his hand unfurled
in the, inches from Slakes' chin, as though asking for
loose change.

" C'mon, Slake " he said, his voice a whine, " just when the getting' good. We've been looking for some music, some seen like this... " Slake rubbed his chin and watched the path of his friends' hand as he moved it away from his face
and made a slow, sweeping gesture to indicate the lounge, the " It " he was signifying. Slake laughed.

" Tell you, buddy, we've been driving since one this afternoon
and we've been to six bars- all over the place, from La Jolla
and into the Valley, and now we're here near the airport, on a dead end street in a dump where A.A. should have a recruiting table, and you're telling that this is the place? Slake was still smiling and looked about the room and could see details Spanks' hazed vision couldn't: six drinkers, all men, sitting at the bar whose once rich mahogany had had-- its grain insulted with many smothering of varnish, faded and ripped travel posters hung on the walls with a Sixties Pan Am jet flying over the Taj Mahal, Big Ben and Diamond Head, the bandstand where the combo played
looking pathetic and rickety, -covered with an--- - incomprehensible variety of carpet samples fused together with duck tape probably snipped from the same all purpose roll, the musician~ themselves very old in a loud polyester ensembles ; shirts and flared golf pants, hunkering over their instruments, looking not at all transfixed by the spell of the music they played, but tired, with
their concentration fading.

The combo closed the number in irregular jumps and starts; somewhere in the upped ante of tempo they'd lost the thread of the instrumental dialogue. They spoke in tongues they couldn't find the words for the , sounds of the body beating its limbic memory against the keys and the animal skins, seeking passion, heat, fire in a cave. Sour notes, clashing pitches. Spanks' hand dropped to its side, and then his arm fell toward the floor. He felt dizzy.
" Fuck me" he said, "I wanna play ."

" You can find someone else to fuck you, pal, but I will say this: two- for- one specials will make you pay the cost for being the boss in half the time ." Slake looked at his watch.

" Ready to go? " he asked.

Spank was seeing Slake in double vision, and was ready to admit defeat when what he'd been doing all afternoon caught up with him. Slakes' smile shrank when he saw his friends' Cheeks swelled to the size of water balloons. Then he saw a jet
stream of lumpy puke burst from Spanks' mouth. Slake had the sensation of being stricken with a small fire hose.

The saxophonist was wiping down his keys with a dirty rag when he looked across the room to see what the commotion was. He saw one guy standing up, dripping with puke, trying to get rid of the stuff with desperate snaps of his arms, yelling
"You fuck face, you goddamned alike, I can't take you anywhere" while his buddy was face down on the table, nose in the wretch, moaning in a way that begged for a bullet.

The saxophonist perched his instrument in the stand and nudged the pianist, who was yawning and cracking his knuckles one by one and savoring the snap each joint made.

"Who are those two? " he asked, "never seen those two before."

The saxophonist gave a laugh that was brisk and snorting, contemptuous.

" More tourists " he said, , shoving his hands into his pocket," and its a good bet one of them just had a religious experience. .."

2 comments:

  1. Things are getting more like this all the time...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gerry Mulligan's solo on "Names Against Dad": sweet.

    ReplyDelete

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