We missed an opportunity at the jazz club. Since the Royal Wedding had taken place earlier, we should have hosted a night of royal jazz and let anyone wearing a hat in for free. The more Dr. Seuss-looking the hat the better. The band could have jazzed a version of God Save the Queen to be in he spirit. No such luck. Instead, we had a relaxed night dominated by couples (perhaps a Will & Kate ripple effect?). Pleasant-looking, happy couples of every ethnic stripe—ahhhh, American jazz…the grand melting pot. One couple, who live 45 minutes away, said they were very happy to be here—a rare night out. When I learned they have five kids, I discreetly slipped them their cover back. Told them that we “don’t want anything impeding your decision to come back here again, when you have the opportunity!” The dad laughed in gratitude and said, “Wow, we didn’t even have to tell you about our youngest child who has a disability.” Turns out their three-year old daughter has brittle bone disease or Osteogenesis Imperfecta—a one in 20,000 likelihood. Apparently in her short life, she’s had 40 broken bones vs. The Doorman’s zero broken bones in a much, much longer life. In my brief conversation, I began to admire this upbeat, loving couple and felt my day was complete. I had met an authentic royal couple truly worth admiring.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
It was a sepia night. Warm browns set in a nostalgic jazz setting. The trio captured the oasis-from-the-storm mood that was necessary on this rainy spring night. Couples were in a romantic Coltrane-induced mood. As the trusted doorman, I contributed to the ambience by wearing a 1940’s vintage tie that has a jazz pattern that would never be found at a men’s clothier today. The trio played their version of Alone Together that dates back to the sepia era that the night appeared to draw its strength from. One could feel the 1939 Artie Shaw & His “Symphony of Swing” Orchestra nodding their approval of the trio’s version of this now old standard. The small, but enthusiastic crowd gave the club an after-hours feel, as the musicians played for their own enjoyment between their martini breaks.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The jazz club was abuzz with activity. An extended cluster of 20-somethings permeated the club with their smaller groups tentacle-connected to the host group. The band played more aggressively to match the energy. Two c-notes came through the door, which meant I had to cash them at the bar—bye, bye Ben Franklins. Two alleged dignitaries came through the door—one is a member of a 1960’s British invasion band that sold 52 million records and had 24 gold hits. I made them pay the cover. Even though they hesitated, since they expected to get in free. They didn’t. Makes no difference to me—old or current pop star, Pope, or President—entering the jazz club is the equalizer. Everyone pays… especially those that easily can
Saturday, April 16, 2011
The rain-soaked black streets were near empty last night. Occasional smear of red taillights added color to the black and white film noir setting that was just outside the jazz club’s door. Occasional sheets of rain tried, but could not wash away a sense of desperation that hung in the air. But for a few, the jazz habitué stayed home. Several couples, a trio of women, and an unsavory lone wolf were the only ones to brave the twilight-zone night. The demiworld character paid the cover and had a drink at the bar. He smelled as foul as a slaughterhouse in summer. Apparently, his b.o. is minor compared to other habits that make him unwanted in our establishment. Fortunately, he left after his drink, saying he’ll be right back. The club owner and bartender descended on me as soon as he left and said “don’t let him back in!” To which, I responded: “Do I look like a bouncer?” We discussed various strategies (lies) for keeping him out—weighing pros and cons of each. It was becoming tedious and absurd so I said, “I am not a bouncer, but I AM The Doorman… I’ll take care of it.” The solution is so simple and powerful that I regretted wasting the eight minutes of discussion we had. He never returned but I was prepared to tap into the base level of universal human doubt. All humans are riddled with self-doubt. I planned to tell him: “You and I know you’re not wanted here. I don’t need to say the reasons out loud. You know what they are. So, to be fair to you…here’s your five-dollar cover back. And I think it’s very honorable of you to not make a big deal about this. Thank you.”
Monday, April 11, 2011
Elkhorn, Wisconsin-based Keep It Together Records is totally global. This feisty, independent music-publishing house is amassing an impressive portfolio of post-rock, emo, and indie groups that intrepidly tromp out their own musical paths. The American-Idol-repeat-play-mainstream doesn’t want ‘em (but the feeling is likely reciprocal). Keep It Together has recorded groups from Siberia (Russia), Rockford, Long Island, Washington D.C., Ireland, Michigan, and Japan (see their tapes on display in a Japanese record shop). The preferred, counterintuitive format is cassette (with fun color cases and different-colored tape,) although a couple of their 14 releases are available on 7” vinyl. Even if you’re not fortunate enough, like me, to be driving a 2004 car equipped with a radio-CD-cassette deck, it’s still worth purchasing at least one Keep It Together cassette to support the defiance associated with an against-the-grain musical art production used on passionately independent music groups. For four measly bucks it wouldn’t even dimple your budget to buy one cassette—like my current favorite, “We’ve Been Talking,” by the Irish band Enemies—if only to place it in your sock drawer to remind you that your feet could be walking you in a different direction.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
The jazz club was most pleasant. I was not feeling like wearing the formal doorman garb… so I didn’t. Wore my purple Chuckies, black jeans, black checkbox-pattern shirt, a skinny tie inherited from my father-in-law’s 1960’s-70’s wardrobe, and my pitch-black jazzman jacket. The look wouldn’t survive the corporate gray-suit expectations of a downtown bank, but it worked well at the jazz club. One of the first patrons arrived yammering on his cell phone. He looked me over and said into his phone, “Listen, the door guy is wearing Chuck Taylors with a suit and tie, we’ve found our new place.” The quintet with sax and trumpet stirred the souls of the nearly full house with their Mercy, Mercy, Mercy vitality. The eventually New Orleans-bound couple who drink Dr. Peppers (generous thirds of vodka and amaretto, topped with a lesser of Coke) showed up—the guy looking sharp with his black fedora, and his lady looked sassy cute with her short dress. Another fun couple sat a table away. She had black goth eyes, red-auburn pig tails, and a full-leafed, symmetrical tree tattoo on her backless dress back (the tease was there as to how far down the root system might reach). Her mate had a serious, but not overwhelming appearance that juxtaposed nicely against his neat, tied-back pony tail. I later learned, when I was helping them get a taxi, that they were in town on a free-get-out-of-jail respite from their three young kids granted by one of their parents. As I tucked them safely into the taxi, I said “When you come back, remind me who you are and I’ll waive the cover… as parents of young kids, you’ll never have enough money.” The surprised smiles on their faces mixed with the acknowledged “wow-someone-who-understands look” was worth it. On this night in history, the good karma of the purple Chucks was working… we had some interesting, good people in the club and the jazz group was playing tighter than Joan River’s face.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
The group we had tonight at the jazz club was a quartet. It sounded more like a trio with an extra musician. The trio was comprised of drums, bass, and electric piano. When they played together, they sounded great. But then, there was the fourth musician. The extra musician played a church organ and occasionally a trombone. First, I need to come clean. I’m not real fond of trombones. I like them in circus bands, 4th of July parades, and in certain Beatles songs. In a jazz quartet, a trombone works as well as….. a church organ. The dual keyboard thing with the occasional trombone just wasn’t working for me. It actually threw me into dark recesses of self reflection mixed with depressive anger. Fortunately, as a professional doorman I was able to sublimate all of that into appropriate behavior. The patron mix this night reflected the discordancy of the trio-plus-one. They were jigsaw puzzle parts from different puzzles thrown together into the same box. It was a strange night that could only be made right at the end of the night by several gulps of Jameson.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Postcards are fun to send and receive. I’m talking old fashion, hand written, stamped, and drop in a United States Mailbox kind. If you’re confused, there is a Wikipedia entry for postcard. Yeah I know the arguments in favor of sending e-cards with animated whatsits, but compared to the genuine mailed, handwritten kind, postcards sent through email are totally souless. The beauty of postcards is that they are unexpected, and in most cases a welcome oddity amidst the bills, junk mail, store catalogs, and legal summons that clog most mailboxes. Of course, there will be the friend or relative who will call in a panic wondering why you mailed them a postcard. You just need to reassure them that the card isn’t coated with anthrax and is intended as a friendly “hello.” Back when I was in college, a friend who favored higher learning on the road would send me handmade postcards made from staple-posted placards ripped off of phone poles or made from a local brew’s cardboard six-pack packaging or the front cover of a paperback he finished reading and had tossed from the freight car he had jumped to get the hell out of Omaha. Back then, the USPS was more tolerant and actually abided by the maxim, “With proper postage, we’ll deliver anything.” Another friend had gone to his local copy shop and ran off postcards with his crudely-drawn map of North America with his family’s road trip drawn in. So then, while on the trip, he would grab a pres-stamped card from the bunch and draw a bold X at the spot where they were and jot a ditty about the trip on the message/mailing side. I received three or four of these cards, which provided a fun progress report. Recently, I sent a very cool postcard purchased from redbubble.com, an online art gallery and community where you can buy postcards, to a writer / publisher friend. He wrote about what I sent on one of his blogs, which was extra neat to see.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
The jazz club was swarmed with exuberant early 20-somethings. These customers, who share birthdays in the late 1980s, all appeared to know each other. It wasn’t clear how they ended up at the club. Over the course of the night, I interacted with three cute young ladies from the contingent. The first asked me if I’ve ever heard of Lawrence University? “Yes, I knew Lawrence when it was Lawrence College, are you attending?” She said that she had graduated last Spring from that small liberals art college with its respected music conservatory and that the club reminded her of school because the music students were always putting on free concerts on campus with many being jazz. How cool is that, I thought. In my second encounter, the blonde lass walked directly up to me, straightened the knot on my silk tie, and brushed the lapels of my tailored black jacket with her soft hands. She then stared into my eyes with her dilated baby-blue peepers and said, “You look… you look… incredibly awesome!” I said, “I know… I AM the doorman.” The third interaction pulled everything into perspective. The cutie was leaving with several others when I asked if everyone had a good time. “I love this place… it’s so… so… totally retro… all this old music. And people listening to it like they really like it.” It suddenly became clear. In the jazz club, to this young crowd, I am in a diorama… a historic time capsule… much like the woman dressed in a Pilgrim petticoat churning butter at Historic Williamsburg or a guy plodding along with a musket at a Civil War reenactment.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
“There is no predicting” could be the motto of the jazz club. It was a perfect moody night for jazz. Seasonably warm, clear with occasional drizzle… an uncluttered feel to the city. A night to fill your lungs with possibility. When I entered the club, it was early and nearly empty. The young couple with their 10-month-old daughter (the club’s youngest jazz fan) were there chatting with the bartender. I joined them and the wide-eyed couple were surprised to see a professional doorman say more than “Welcome…there’s a five dollar cover tonight.” For a few moments I was a curiosity—like seeing your sweet kindergarten teacher at the liquor store buying a liter of Jack or your accountant uncle with the letter A painted on his chest standing next to the parish priest with the letter C in the 35-degree stands helping to spell out PACKERS. When asked if my doorman duty is my full-time job, I lied and said “The door is my life…. my rasion d’etre.” Some mythologies are worth upholding, others should be dispelled. With the night as perfect as it was for jazz, the club was sparsely filled. However, the band played like the place was jammed. Later in the night, the quartet was well into an amalgam of bop and swing—pure jazz—when the tenor blew his horn apart. For a moment he had the look of a kid racing downhill on his bicycle when his pedals fall off. He quickly grabbed his alto to finish the song, proving that the music is bigger than the instruments that play it.