As The Doorman at the jazz club, I’m expected to exercise discretion. I am the stoic, but welcoming face at the door. Since the club attracts all kinds, I pride myself in being accepting and nonjudgmental. I’d never make fun of anyone. That’s why I was mortified by my faux pas. It came out inadvertently. Here’s what happened: Every few months we have a jazz-loving blind man who comes to the club. He’s usually accompanied by his trickster service dog who I swear pulls antics because he knows his master can’t see. The malicious mutt will jam his snout into my crotch while I’m engaged in a serious, civil conversation with the owner or splay his laird-ass body on the floor blocking passage for the wait staff in our intimate-sized club. I like the vision-impaired gentleman. I don’t trust his dog. So when he shows tonight, I was happy to see him and glad he left the dog behind. Enthusiastically, I blurt out “Long time no see!” Geeze, I could have phrased it better. Ugh! What could be worse? I suppose I could get someone at the door with a prominent facial mole fumbling with their money and apologizing that they’re paying the cover with five crumpled-up singles and repeating that they’re sorry and me saying something stupid like, “It’s all good… don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” And then learning they had gone out for Mexican, and asking “So, did you have chicken mole… I’ve heard their mole sauce is real good.”
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
The jazz club looked welcoming tonight. There was the promise of rain in the night air, but promises can be broken. A tall, solid-built blonde towered over me while asking if we give a military discount on the $5 cover. I said, Of course, it’s only five bucks for you. Later I got talking to her and her friend. I asked what branch of the military she serves in? “Spent 16 years in the Army and it’s going on eight years now in the Air Force.” Why switch branches? She said, “I’m getting too old to jump out of airplanes.” I looked puzzled, because I am. “Jumping is the only way to get personnel in areas where they need to be. With the Air Force, we land the plane and walk off.” Where have you been deployed, I asked? “I just finished a year going all over the world.” Like where? “All the places you see on CNN.” So, Special Ops…? She looked surprised by the question but then answered, “You know the drill… if I tell you…” About then, the band was between songs and the band leader says into his mike, “Look, there’s The Doorman busy talking to a couple of beautiful women… hey you know he’s married and has about 35 kids.” Not missing a beat, my Amazon warrior turned to him and yelled, “So, one more won’t be a big deal then.”
Sunday, May 20, 2012
A warm night where air conditioning serves its purpose. But we were going without. Front door propped wide and windows open to the world. There was a strange vein coursing through the night. A guy with broken logic had beckoned me over and said, “I have a business proposition for you.” Nothing made sense. I excused myself and went back to the door. I was chatting with a cute young woman who had just moved to our city days ago with her boyfriend when I got the signal to go back to the troublesome guy because the owner was clearly having words with him. Now remember, I am The Doorman. I am not a bouncer, so my approach is to calmly convince, not bark orders. The owner was threatening to call the police. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Come on… let’s get you out of here before you’ve got cops doing a Rodney King with you.” He left. The bartender said I should have walked outside with him to make sure he moved on, but then the owner said don’t go outside, let him go and don’t touch people like that. The guy was on something – he wasn’t drunk or stoned on grass. I don’t know, nor do I have the interest to learn the typical behavior of the various street drugs. Fortunately these occurrences are rare. I may be at risk, but I got to handle things within my comfort zone.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Tonight was a CD/DVD release party for a jazz duet—guitar and voice. It was an earlier starting time and The Doorman was there to provide a stately appearance. The duet had an entourage of friends who collected the door, sold their CDs, and watched over a table filled with snacks. My professional presence was helpful. At one point, the lady collecting the cover sighed, “I’ve mentioned it twice but that guy has ignored paying.” I said, “I AM The Doorman, I shall take care of it, m’am.” I caught up with the scoundrel at the food table and said: “Excuse me sir, there’s a five dollar cover which goes directly to the musicians who provided you with the complimentary food you’re eating.” I returned with his fiver in time to welcome an older relative of the club’s owner. The oldster and her crew didn’t last very long, leaving after a 45-minute visit. As she was leaving, I joked, “Excuse me young lady are YOU old enough to be in this establishment?” She snapped back, “I am 94 and can go anywhere I want!” The guitarist pulled out a custom guitar of his design. It was a three-fret contraption—mandolin on top, guitar, and bass on the bottom. The guitarist played it expertly and there were only moments when a third human arm could have come in handy. Between each of their sets, we were treated to a jazz harpist. We’re not talking harmonica harp but rather a full size welcome-to-heaven harp. The harpist hobbled on stage with crutches, since she’s recovering from a broken leg. She played beautifully and it was only later I learned that she had modified her play list because there are certain songs requiring the foot at the end of her cast leg to depress a foot pedal. Interesting night corralling the scamp, the feisty nonagenarian, the Dr. Seuss style guitar, and the broken-leg jazz harpist.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
The jazz club gets its share of mismatched couples. A 30-something guy wearing what I refer to as a bubba cap (baseball cap typically with plastic mesh back and industrial or agricultural company logo above the curved bill) worn backwards and a plaid flannel workshirt, accompanied by a well-dressed, attractive young woman presented themselves at the door. They settled at a table near the band and enjoyed the first set. During the break they were leaving and bubba-hat-dude said he was walking her to the car and would be back. He returned, sat at the bar, and we got talking. He works at a drilling rig in rural Montana. A brutal lifestyle of two weeks at the site of hard, all-encompassing work and then two weeks off. He stepped outside for a smoke. After a couple minutes, I stepped outside and saw a bewildered look on his face. He said the woman he was with is smart, fun to be with, and has a good job, but he won’t see her again. Said he’s 31-years-old and with being an oil roughneck there’s no way to establish a long-term relationship. Meanwhile a couple “out on a date” with their 16-year-old son, were celebrating his birthday. They said with six kids, they’ve established this date-with-mom-and-dad idea to ensure that each child gets special alone time with them. They had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then came to the jazz club because he’s learning sax and drums. I cornered the sax player between sets and he gladly talked with the young guy. The drummer acted too self-important to meet the kid. Fortunately, the drummer was cornered by the mom when he walked past and apparently agreed to bless them with his presence. I’ll bite my tongue so as to not be calling him an arrogant turd, or worse.
You know the phrase "slower than molasses?" That phrase describes the traffic at the jazz club tonight. Fridays are always iffy. It can be packed or tumbleweed dead. I stood at the open front door and watched the cyclops beam of the elevated freight train traversing our corner of the city and half expected to see a couple of rail-weary hoboes roll out of a train car and drop down to street level and wearily make their way to the door in search of a shower, can of beans, and soft earth to unroll their bedrolls. There was minimal activity outside our door which meant there wasn't much happening in the club. An irregular regular showed up, paid the cover, and was heading to his stool at the bar. I gently chided him on always leaving early to get home for his beauty sleep. He said, "Yeah, I do try to get to be bed around midnight, 'cause I need to be up early to get a call from my 91-year-old dad. He calls to let me know he’s lived through the night ... and I guess to make sure I'm still here." I thought, "You're a good man" and I think I even said it. Even though the crowd was slim, the quartet played exceptional. The tenor was playing superbly tonight and adding tasteful finesses -- which I noticed especially when they played the Eddie Harris / Les McCann classic, Cold Duck Time. Later when they were on break between sets, I mentioned that it seemed like he was stretching the musical balloon a bit. He admitted that when it’s slow, it allows everyone in the group to take risks they wouldn't normally take. I began to think, "Isn't that what good jazz is all about... someone in the group taking a risk and the others adapting to push it further or to reign them back in. No wonder I enjoy the music so much on these occasional tumbleweed nights.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
It felt like it will be a slow night at the jazz club. A favorite group was playing so I was looking forward to hearing them. They had learned about the gig just days earlier so I was curious to see if everyone in the group would be here. As it turned out, the incredible bass player was a no show. The keyboard player maintained the bass line while also playing his part. I had arrived early and was enjoying a cup of coffee with the bartender. A semi-regular regular showed and passed the cover to me through the tender. Another S-R R showed and sat down next to me at the bar and slipped me the cover. He's a technical guy who gets sent all over the world. Somehow we get talking about solid-modeling and reverse engineering--the conversation impressed him and frightened me, when I realized how much utterly geeky stuff I seem to know. I am, after all, just The Doorman. The band started playing and I felt bad that there wasn't a stronger showing. But they played like it was standing-room only at the Blue Note. The singer was as strong as ever. They did a jazzed-up version of a Mavis Staples' song, which this singer is the only one I know that could get away with that. At one point, we had five couples in the club (as well as a couple of small groups and the several lone wolves). Four of the five couples reflect a demographic trend supported by the last census: the increase of interracial couples. The 2010 U.S. Census reports 10% of married and 18% of unmarried couples living together are interracial. My best estimate for the jazz club: 31.7% of couples entering the club are interracial. Jazz could solve the race problem since those that love jazz don't see race as an issue. (Yeah, I know I’ve pointed out this whole rainbow of humanity thing out before, but it still is a very cool feature of the jazz club.)
Thursday, May 3, 2012
In his Oakland, California studio, Jeremy Mayer takes old typewriters apart. He then creates full-scale, anatomically correct human figures without solder, welding, or glue. The amazing assemblages are entirely cold assembly. There are no parts used in his artistic pieces that were not originally a part of a typewriter. The process takes time. Much of the time is spent thinking… imagining… engineering. It is a process of creative deliberation. Creating anything from the mechanics of old typewriters is laudable. But creating animate forms such as Mayer does redefines miraculous. How much of the souls of the typewriters’ former owners and users linger in the parts? All the memos, business correspondence, invoices, reports, or personal yearnings created… one keystroke at a time. What sort of voo doo emerges with the gumbo of parts from dozens of typewriters used to create a human hand, a woman’s body, a deer, or a large spider? One can imagine… but only Jeremy Mayer knows.