My jazz club doorman duties click on 45 minutes before the first note is played. I arrived at the club expecting to relax a few moments with the bartender and the parking lot attendant. Instead, I entered to find a dozen customers Velcro-ed to the bar. I snagged my starter wedge of fives and began squeezing covers from the assembled. The guy sporting the dark-gray fedora said that he and his long-legged lady-friend will be leaving soon—“we started too early and have consumed too many martinis.” Ahhh, responsible. I collected from everyone else and assumed my post at the door where a steady influx immediately began. At 15 minutes into my shift, I counted $100—thus, 20 jazz lovers had entered. The club was filling and the bartender was efficiently pouring beers and wines, crushing maraschinos and orange slices in the bottom of Old Fashion drink glasses, shaking (not stirring) martinis. Even though things were solidly under his control, I texted the owner who was already en route. She jumped in when she arrived, thankful to have received the heads up. Before long the band launched into its first song and the place was packed with good folks. One delightful couple ordered a fun mixed drink that will be my favorite for a spell. Tastes like Dr. Pepper: generous thirds of vodka and amaretto almond liqueur finished with Coca-cola. Yum. The crazy guy pushing a wheelchair like a walker entered and while struggling to get into the door said “Yeah, I know it’s five bucks… I’ve got it.” Nice to know he could be trained. I’m hard on the weasel guy, because he’ll sit there most of the night and drink water, so on a busy night like this, he’s got to pay or get his dramatic ass on his way.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
“I’m a very, very nice person… except when I’m crossed like she did to me.” To add emphasis, she flipped her long blonde hair back over her shoulder on one side of her face. Her hair was forward on the other side. Playwrights and movie directors probably understand the paralanguage of hair. It’s like this whole international marine signal flag thing going on. I’ve noticed other women at other times in the jazz club doing all sorts of Alpha-Delta-Bravo stuff with their hair—flipping it back, pulling it into a faux pony tail and then releasing it, pushing it, fluffing it—communicating to others, I guess. Like the doofus guys that accompany these nonverbal adept women, I don’t get it. The club filled nicely and the guitar quartet’s magical tentacles enveloped all. The group was into its version of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are,” when a couple entered, looked around, and sighed a contented “we are here.” I looked at the woman, who smiled her explanation: “I just got off from work.” I enquired and she said she’s a massage therapist at a local hotel’s spa. We talked further about the challenges and the problems of arthritis that most massage therapists seem to get in their hands. Then, she revealed a disheartening stat—three out of five of her male clients ask for more than a massage. Ugh! All I could say was, “Relax… in the jazz club, everyone is safe from expectations—except, to enjoy the music.”
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I felt trepidation about manning the jazz club door tonight. There would be a super moon—a full one of rare size and beauty. Full moons bring out the loonies and all it takes is a couple of moon-pumped lunatics to ruin a relaxing night of jazz. The night started out slow which gave me time to chat with a customer sitting at the bar closest to the door. He fills ATMs with cash and earns money from the transaction fees. He’s got 400 locations and a half-dozen trucks driven by hired heavies who can stock a machine with $30,000 to $120,000 in about 30 seconds. Learned that he goes through $1.7 million during the run of the State Fair. Apparently folks who like farm animals and cream puffs run out of cash quickly and frequently. As the band did their version of Freddie Hubbard’s Super Blue (maybe in honor of the Super Moon), a group of twenty-somethings were at the door fumbling for the cover charge. I waved them in and said, “I remember being your age and never having enough money.” They were appreciative. About a half-hour later I notice that one of them had wandered in among the tables in front. A friend grabs the wanderer by the shoulder and drags him out toward the door where it was clear the wobbling chump was sauced. The friend says to me, “Sorry, I’m taking him home—he’s had too much. He’ll be hitting on any female—pre-teen to near death.” I scanned the crowded club for other trouble and couldn’t detect any. Lots of couples—straight and gay—enjoying the jazz. No looney tunes. Then, at the door was a guy in a hooded sweatshirt—hood up. I let him in and he revealed himself—the drunk schmuck. I’ve learned that drunk people generally just want respect, so I respectfully said, “I hope you can help me out, we’ve got a problem. You’ve been cut off, you won’t be served. Your friends are gone and I don’t want you wandering around the neighborhood alone.” He looked at me and said, “Were you ever in the Marines?” Must be my big shoulders and my tough-guy demeanour (which is transparent as a sham to anyone sober, but this guy wasn’t sober). “No,” I said with authority, “I’m a certified draft dodger.” We did a knuckle bump and I learned that he’s in the Marines, as are his two brothers—their mom was career army and raised them like a drill sargeant. Clearly, the poor guy has issues. To top it, he ships out in a couple of days for Special Ops training and will likely end up in North Korea. (Geeze, the poor guy wants to out-do his brothers and earn his mamma’s respect.). I wanted to say, “You want to show your brothers up and make your mother proud, don’t you.” Instead, I said “Man, I’ve got a lot of respect for you.”
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The band was especially loud tonight. I said the same to the club owner, who cocked her head and said, "What!?" After using my megaphone voice I got through, but her response was, "They sound fine to me." By the mid-point break, they had successfully cleared the tables in front of the bandstand and had everyone packed in the back. At one point, I stepped outside to give me ears a break and was mumbling something to the effect of “….*&^#!! efing head-banging jazz…” when a yellow school bus with a neighboring bar’s sign taped in the window pulled up to the stop sign. Out tumble two well-lubricated guys who made their way toward me and the door. “Gentlemen, there’s a FIVE DOLLAR cover.” I put emphasis on the $5 like I was saying five thousand dollars, hoping….just hoping…. “Not a problem,” they both said and each pulled out grimy fives from their germ-infested money stashes. They entered and I followed while the band was launching into Freddie Hubbard’s Super Blue. I noticed on the back bar that a young couple with their cute, no more than a year old daughter, was sitting with the little cutie perched on the bar with her arms up in the air giggling with joy. I felt like the old curmudgeon since I had cautioned them when entering that the music might be too loud for their little bird. Note to self: “Stop being an old crow!”
Friday, March 18, 2011
I think if I had naming rights for a baby boy today, I’d name him Crixus. I know it looks like a made-up name or the name of a software program or a drug to control something like irritable bowel syndrome, but Crixus was a bad-ass gladiator who died in 72 BC. He hung with Spartacus and Oenomaus, and led the slave rebellion in the Third Servile War. As the story goes, Roman troops, sent to quash the rebellion, caught up with Crixus and his forces. In the battle, a strategic military maneuver Crixus attempted had failed and he was forced to fight a losing defensive. Crixus was killed and his 30,000 strong army defeated. Spartacus honored his buddy, Crixus, with funeral games at which 300 Roman prisoners-of-war were forced to fight to the death like gladiators. How sweet of the Spart-man! The photo accompanying this entry? That’s Lucretia (another odd, but not that cool name) who was Crixus’ main squeeze. She was said to be cunning, insightful, and had a great wit
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The club was packed. An all-ages mix from gray heads to the early 20’s. Early in the night a young couple hesitated and paid the cover—the young lady scoped out who was in the club and giggled, “Kind of an old crowd… we’ll be the youngest ones in there.” I said, “There’s a few youngins in the crowd… assuming the old people haven’t killed and eaten them already.” It didn’t take long before the average age of customers dropped considerably. Spring break was the explanation, which I suppose could be true. One group of the young included two Asian guys with cameras (I almost threw them out for reinforcing the stereotype) who were taking photos of the band. A young woman wearing vintage bohemian was carrying around a City Lights Pocket edition of Alan Ginsberg’s infamous Howl and Other Poems, from which she read to a couple of friends:
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America's naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
Her friends were nonplussed. Fortunately I’ve learned impulse control over the years, or I would have abandoned the door and told her that I once introduced Ginsberg who read at a poetry reading of mine and several poet friends. And how after the reading at the bar, I needed to lean in close to hear a rapid-fire, mumbled compliment of one of my poems and how his beard smelled of tobacco smoke. I’m guessing her nonplussed reaction would have reminded me that I’m just the doorman.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Where was she? The setting was perfect. The stage was set. And the raw, guttural electric bass played her life-music like no other. When the bass opened with the aggressive underlying hook that dominated, and then challenged the trumpet throughout the song, even Miles Davis would arch his brow to the quintet’s version of “So What.” Which is why I expected her to saunter in to the jazz club at that moment. I wouldn’t have charged her a cover, since this was clearly her exacting and perfect soundtrack. Everyone would just say, with heads nodding to the music, “yes, this is so right… it is alright.” I waited… even poked my head out the door expecting her to be exiting a taxi, limo, or Lamborghini. I would urge her to hurry, and try not to be put off by her “so what” expression. She needed to be here… the last piece in the night’s jazz jigsaw puzzle. We were all waiting. I was surprised. Truly surprised. She never showed up… the woman wearing the black slinky dress. Even her cavalier, the man in the angular suit with the narrow face, was a no show.
R. L. Burnside version of Dylan's "Everything is Broken."
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The jazz club is not the venue for the haughty, pushy, or rude. Yet, tonight there was a difficult-to-pin-down undercurrent of that going on. It started with a pair of customers seated at the bar who claimed to be “regulars,” although I don’t recall ever meeting them at the door. With an air of misplaced confidence, they talked about the previous bartender and door man as though they have rights to the club. The bad karma continued when an older jazzman pushed his way in using his horn case as a battering ram aimed at my crotch. I was about to tell him quite sternly that The Doorman can not be violated, when he spotted the owner who invited him in—no cover charge. There are many—if not most—musicians who gladly pay, understanding that the cover supports live music. This musician was of the lowest order—not only expecting a free ride, but anticipating that he’ll be invited up to join the group. After dropping hints to the band leader, he was told there may be an opportunity later. Mr. Pushy said he’s in town from New York and can’t stick around that long. To which the band leader said, “Too bad, guess we’ll see you around.” The old jazz guy adjusted his dark glasses and grabbed his coat and left. Good riddance. Then, within a song or two later, another pair of musicians were at my door and were surprised that I insisted on cover charges. One of them fanned through his fat wallet, pulled out a ten, and then said “Looks like we won’t have an opportunity to play tonight,” re-inserted it into the wad, before turning to leave. The club owner ran outside after them. She retrieved their sorry asses and brought them into the club. Oh well.
The jazz club was mellow tonight. Steady stream of pleasant customers. A guest tenor played with the trio. The young saxman played seamlessly. I guess good musicians know how to play nice with others, but the tenor became the poster child for ease of play. He elevated the rest of the group to a higher standard. He sounded particularly sweet on a Stanley Turrentine song. Turrentine or Mr. T (the original Mr. T, before the gruff teddy bear star of the old A Team TV show) was a tenor sax known for his “big, warm, sound,” as a NPR interview noted shortly before his death in 2000. While enjoying the guest tenor’s treatment of Turrentine, I approached a young couple that had been sitting at the bar since before the music started. I told them there’s a five-buck cover, but I’d let it slide since they had grandfathered themselves in by showing up so early. The young lady said, “No, we want to pay…it’s important, ‘cause it supports the club, which in turn supports jazz.” I immediately felt a rush of human warmth toward them, as intelligent, kindred spirits. They get it. They totally understand. While I was fighting the impulse for a group hug, while slobbering “I love you guys,” the young man said “Hey, I know you from La Bou,” a now defunct café I used to frequent. When not being The Doorman, I can frequently be found in any number of coffee shops or cafes sipping dark-brew coffee, while reading or writing. We talked further, and I learned that he’s working at a placement agency that finds jobs for disabled workers. He also mentioned that in this dismal economy he’s having success, tapping into employers desire to reevaluate how they do business. Could these guys get any better? They like jazz, they understand how they club works, he’s doing work that benefits others, and clearly they’re smart. They are in-the-flesh manifestations of the perfect jazz club patrons. How cool is that.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
For some reason I’ve become addicted to gumdrops. Yes, those brightly-colored gelatin- or pectin-based pieces, shaped like a truncated cones and coated in granulated sugar. It’s a secret addiction, so keep your yap shut.
Keeping it quiet fits this candy. The history of gumdrops is uncertain, although some say they were invented in 1801 by a man named Percy Trusdale. There’s no information out there as to who he was, where he was when he invented the gumdrop, or what he did to establish himself as the inventor. There are no details about him and his invention. Did he yell, “Eureka!” Were gumdrops planned or a mistake (was he trying to create chewing gum in the form of fruit “drops?”). Did he die a happy man because of his invention? A mystery…