Saturday, January 29, 2011
It happens rarely, but the doorman was flummoxed. I arrived at my regular time and found the guest band cooking and customers well into their drinks (?). This is a full 45 minutes before the regular 9:30pm start. The bartender signaled me to conference. I walked past the former doorman who was seated at the bar (??), and saw the club owner who was dressed like Blossom from the old TV series—hat, her long hair, and a shy “I’m not here” look on her face (???). If we were playing “What’s wrong with this picture,” I was definitely stumped. I WTFed the bartender who said, “They just started and the cover is $7 tonight, not five, and they’re only playing until 11pm.” I did what I should: adjust and adapt. I like the group—they’re young, they’re good, and they’re take on the traditionals is unique—but their geriatric timetable is confusing. I caught up with the club owner, complimented her on the teeny-bop look, and demanded a fistful of Washingtons to accommodate the odd cover. “I’m sicker than a dog…going home…good luck,” she said before taking her cute Blossom look out the door. I eased into my post and enjoyed the avant garde melodious jazz coming from the band and imagined myself in a larger city’s black laminate past—especially when they did their exquisite take on Grover Washington’s Mr. Magic. The $7 cover requires higher math skills and surgeon dexterity to extract change for the 20’s and 10’s. Even the patrons fumbled a bit, like the jazz-woman who gave me a five and two singles. When I discovered that one of her singles was a ten, I chased her down to correct her overpay. She was surprised. When did honesty become surprising? The karma of my honesty was repaid by another customer who surprised me with a $5 tip—a sweet woman, indeed. In this what’s-wrong-with-this-picture night, there appeared to be plenty that was right.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
By definition, jazz clubs should be mellow. An oasis of cool. The club was just that tonight. The tables were filling with pleasant, jazz-loving folk. However, there was a major title-run NFL game involving our team taking place, so the band was glued to a TV in the back. The band reluctantly broke from watching the game. If they were preoccupied with gridiron hope, it didn’t show in their playing. A couple from 50 miles away told me they’re celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this weekend and came specifically to the club just as they had two years earlier. I urged the bartender to take extra special care, since we'd like them back every year. Right after they were made to feel comfortable, a young woman with dark brown eyes entered the club. I learned she’s 27, a jazz singer, and born and raised in Puerto Rico. I suggested, if she were interested, that she tell the bandleader and that he may invite her up to sing. Which is what she did when the band was on break. I heard the bandleader asking what songs she knew. After the impromptu interview, the old pro mumbled to me that she may think she’s a jazz singer but she doesn’t know many of the old standards. “Maybe, but it wouldn’t hurt to give her a break—if she’s got stage presence and youthful confidence, she could learn any song you like and be fabulous.” I regretted saying what I did because I thought I had crossed the line. But to my relief, he did call her up and her voice was quite sweet. The game had ended in victory for our home team and the club had been filling with the post-game happy-drunk crowd (which is better than an angry / depressed, we-lost-drunk crowd). Last memory of the night: a young man wearing a team jersey doing some kind of joyous, interpretive dance to the music while weaving through the tables. I said to the club owner, while sipping my end-of-shift scotch, “He’s actually pretty good, maybe we should hire him as our official interpretive dancer.” She deadpanned, “He is very fluid but I don’t think I stock enough beer to keep him fueled.”
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
There is something creepy and amazing about realist painters. Anyone who can replicate down to an errant eyebrow hair the human face is totally gifted. Brooklyn artist, David Jon Kassan, uses oil paint on wood panels to capture the essence. But even the 19th century Realist Movement wasn’t as real. How real is real? Kassan is photographic real… 3D real. His photorealist paintings remind me of Duane Hanson’s sculptures. There isn’t a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum where I don’t say “hi” to the Janitor who reminds me that not all that is real is really real. (It’s too bad that a sign is now posted there to tell visitors the obvious: “hands off!” But clearly, good art does make us want to reach out and touch it.)
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Almost from the moment I arrived at my post, the trickle of customers began. The first was a chocolate-skin beauty who tried her best to connive her way in without paying the cover. “I thought if you arrive before the music, you get in free? I came here for the singer, when does she start?” Her coy obstinate ploy was becoming irritating, so I told her to come in and have a drink and when the music starts she’ll have to pay. She sidled up to the bar, pulled out a tea packet and asked for hot water. The bartender adroitly suggested that she try across the street where they serve food then come back when the music starts. She bought it and left. The bartender growled, “she’s got money—I saw a healthy wad when she was fishing for her tea bag—make sure she pays the cover.” She returned after her tea and I gladly did. The entitlement of beauty stopped at the door. The club was filling nicely when a guy pushing an empty wheelchair clunked his way in. He was using the chair like a walker, although it appeared he could be in it. I asked for the cover and he said, ”I’m a musician.” To which I said, “Great! Then you understand how the door makes live music possible!” He started fumbling with his chair as though leaving, so I invited him in. When he parked his wheelchair off to the side and walked unaided to the bar, I thought “what a brilliant scam.” A little later, the guest vocalist walks up to me with the miraculously recovered biped with his off-kilter grin and says, “He doesn’t need to pay, he’s on my guest list.” I guess I was so impressed with the audacity and thoroughness of the wheelchair scam that I didn’t have the fire to tell her she doesn’t have a guest list. He accomplished his goal of avoiding the five bucks at the door. In hindsight, I missed a matchmaking opportunity… the tea-drinking beauty and the wheelchair scammer beast.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
The jazz club was closed over the holiday weekends – both Xmas and New Year’s. It’s been three weeks since the doorman’s stern and stoic face cast an appraising gaze at those entering the club. During the break I renewed my membership in the International Academy of Doormen (formerly the Royal Academy of Doormen) and mailed off the equivalent of 20 British Pounds Sterling to the London office. I also took time to relax before the crackling hearth fire with a snifter while rereading The Strict and Unwavering Code of the Professional Doorman—which the core of the slim tome was published in 1647 (out of respect and to honor the English writer Francis Meres (who had passed away that year), especially well known for his Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, a commonplace book that is important as a source on the Elizabethan poets, and more particularly because it is the first critical account of the poems and early plays of William Shakespeare). This first night of twenty-11 was exceedingly slow. We had two pleasant couples seated at tables for the majority of the night. A young Hispanic couple joined them late in the night and I think I read the young lady’s ID from Mexico incorrectly. She was born in 1990, so unless she was born in the first seven days of this year, she was underage. (Crap! I need to be more diligent.) And then another Hispanic couple stopped in for a quick beer. The woman had long brown-black hair that reached down to her waist and her boyfriend has something to do with carpet cleaning since he got into a long discussion about dry extraction vs. wet chemicals with the club owner. I was lost in his lady’s hair and the trio’s rendition of a Freddie Hubbard song to pay close attention to his spiel, thus I have no idea which carpet cleaning method is best.