Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.28-29.11

One thing I really appreciate about the jazz club is the willingness to accept the odd, the unacceptable, and the normative contrary. All are welcome without evaluation or discrimination. It may be what jazz clubs have always been about—the safe haven for the outcast / disenfranchised to perform and enjoy their music. If it’s our heritage, I embrace and celebrate it. As The Doorman, I make all feel welcome. Cases in point… one from tonight and one from the other night. Tonight we had an unlikely pairing—a couple you’d never expect to be together. They came late and were both on the generous side of six-feet tall. The white man looked like a stylized mountain-man with long wavy blond hair. His friend was a slim black woman with short, jelled hair with blonde tips that was sculpted close to her head. She had large dangly earings and 21st-century glasses. She looked fierce, like Grace Jones—the Jamaican-American singer, model and actress from the early 1980’s. The remarkable plaid-flannel-mountain / “Nightclubbing”-Grace-Jones couple fit comfortably in the jazz club. The other night I welcomed a regular—another six-foot-plus jazz aficionado—a cross-dresser who favors matronly clothing styles. S/he showed up with two, similarly-attired female friends. I believe that the reason our tall friend returns to the jazz club and brings friends is because all of us at the jazz club treat her with respect… at least I hope that’s a reason.

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.27-28.11

Day 2 of live recording at the jazz club. The band: drums, electric piano, bass (standup or Fender electric), sax (tenor or alto), trumpet, and maracas / hand percussion. This night was better than last night. Even so, the band was painfully aware that every note played would be recorded for perpetuity – thus, there were times when one or more of the musicians suddenly played stiffly or missed a note careening the song into a ditch. Thus, they’d start the song over. They were recording songs they’ve expertly played hundreds of times before, so it was difficult to see them struggle at times with the human inability to be perfect. I’m just The Doorman, but to me the beauty of jazz is when a song is perfectly in the groove OR when a mistake is made and the musician and the others in the group close ranks and smooth it out. Both versions can be special. I know the group will deliver a flawless new recording, but I wouldn’t have minded a flub or two to show what really good jazz musicians they are.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Prismatic Mike Starling

Talent is not evenly distributed. Most are lucky to have it in one area. The baker who creates killer tortes. The nature artist who captures the delicate brown-gray in a sparrow’s wing. The handyman (or woman) who can assess/analyze and fix anything. All appreciated savants. Enter Mike Starling, whose talents are prismatic. He’s an award-winning writer, recognized song-writer/recording artist, and talented, published and exhibited photographer. Wowie zowie.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.20-21.11

A pleasant Spring Friday night. Two categories of jazz lovers dominated the club this night. Couples out on “date night” and lone wolves. At one point there were nine lone men and four couples. I looked over at the backside of the bar-island and a guy occupied every stool. They had the appearance of a police line up—a melancholy-looking series of guys emanating the sense that life had given them the shakedown. And just like every police line up there’s the ringer—the one they want to pin the rap on or the one just to keep the proceeding clean. In our line up, the ringer had a scruffy beard and long hair. (“She said the perp had long-hair and a wooly beard” or “She said the perp was clean-shaven, sort of Clark Kent-looking.”) In reality, I’m guessing it was just an odd conflux of happenstance. The lone guys most likely all found themselves with a free Friday night and an itch to hear some good, live jazz—which the guitar-lead quartet certainly provided. I could see them saying to themselves, “Ef-it, no one’s free and those that are don’t like jazz, so I’ll go by myself.” The Doorman has done that himself on more than one occasion. There is something freeing about being out alone, answering to no one, not worrying about whether it’s your turn to buy a round, or are you paying sufficient attention to your companion… yes, I salute the lone wolves who filled the jazz club. Good for you! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.14-15.11

Natural dualities occur in life—dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot—and in the case of the jazz club, the yin and yang are dead and busy. Yesterday was dead; tonight is jammed. As I grow older and develop more experience as The Doorman, I realize how unpredictable human nature is. In literary talk, it was “a blistery night.” There was rip-the-door-off your Jeep Wrangler wind and acupuncture needle raindrops. One had to wonder why anyone would venture out on such a fierce night. But they came, which was wonderful to see. As The Doorman, I observe humanity… and I’m concluding that all humans are insecure or crudely stated, efed up. Insecurities are astutely apparent in some mid- to late-thirties types. At that age, youthful beauty begins to wan and people try harder. We had a slew of them tonight. There were two thirty-something birthday parties—one for twin women and another for a man who apparently had lost several buttons on his shirt, since much of his hairy chest was exposed. Both party groups of seven or eight appeared hell-bent to convince themselves that they can still be party animals. They talked and laughed loudly and struck poses for their point-and-shoots to document the out-of-control great time they were having. Independent of the par-tea people were a pair of 30-ish women in the club, who I began to think of as the 16-wheeler mudflap ladies (you know the silhouette). They helped me understand why women’s under garments are referred to as foundation wear. There appeared to be plenty of synching, tucking, pinning, and uplifting to create their curvaceous profiles

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.13-14.11

It happens every six months or so, but the jazz club and neighboring night-life establishments are dead. It’s as though our corner of the city enters the Twilight Zone. Just like the TV show from the early 1960’s, I begin to suspect the few guests we have are space aliens or transmutes or just too clean cut and friendly to be real. On a night like tonight, I keep my eye on the door… not to welcome customers to the club but to make certain it doesn’t seal up or transform to drywall or exterior brick. Afterall, the door is my way out… beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound... a dimension of sight... a dimension of mind. I can move into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. But I was in luck. No drama that I could detect. The guests we had enjoyed the quartet. A couple sitting up front asked, “Can you play any Dave Brubek?” The band looked at each other. At first I thought they were flummoxed. Then the drummer laid down a beat that the electric piano player defined.  It was clearly the best performance of Take Five occurring anywhere in the world. And I was one of probably a half-dozen people privileged to see and hear it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 5.6-7.11

“Everyone doesn’t understand…” and his voice descended into a confidential voice volume. He had walked into the jazz club with his mismatched companions. He grabbed a table up front. He is short and portly. His lady friend is tall and anorexic-looking. Their third wheel looks like a sumo wrestler. They came for jazz and were more than welcome. There were two other couples in the evening that initially looked like they didn’t fit together. But as a wise friend once proclaimed when I had a laundry-day complaint about matching up socks: “Any two socks make a pair.” I noticed the mis-matching—or to be fair and accurate: the matching, which was noticeable because the club wasn’t at its busiest. I began to appreciate the rich tapestry that is humanity. They were friends and enjoyed each other’s company, so what right do I have to comment?  The band sounded great—piano, drums, bass, and trumpet. A little later in the eve, a young tenor raced past me at the door while taking his sax out of its case. He jumped into the song they were playing as though his turn for a solo had come up. There was nothing jarring about the timing, it sounded just right… very tight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We Love Latvia

In checking the stats on this site,, it is interesting to discover that there have been 33 pageviews originating from Latvia. This is odd, but certainly very welcome. To all Latvians….   I say, “Welcome!” For those not familiar with Latvia, here are some fun facts:  Located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus  •  Gained independence from the U.S.S.R in 1991  •  Capitol is Riga, 2.2 million residents  •  Wildlife in Latvia include deer, wild boar, moose, lynx, bear, fox, beaver, and wolves  found mostly in the oak and linden forests • Member of the EU  •  Ranked above-average among the world's sovereign states in democracy, press freedom, privacy, and human rights.  A greatNew York Times travel article covers the sites in Riga such as the former Museum of the Revolution (now called the Museum of the Occupation), wandering around Riga’s Old Town (Vecriga), and visiting the Central Market which has 1,200 vendors spread across five enormous zeppelin hangars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Plastic Fantastic Home

It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. Americans consume 70 million plastic bottles every day. And 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled. I grabbed all of those figures from sources found on the internet. Even if we cut them in half, it’s still alarming. That’s why it’s cool to see innovative recycling. Take a family in Argentina who constructed their home from plastic bottles. La Casa de Botellas, or House of Bottles, used 1,200 PET plastic bottles for its walls and 1,300 milk and wine Tetra Pack containers for its roof. Using the same concept, a U.S. nonprofit, called Hug It Forward has built seven bottle schools in Guatemala. Walls are constructed with plastic bottles collected from the communities’ trash, streets, and homes. To add insulation, plastic bags and other inorganic trash are stuffed in the bottles. The bottles become eco-blocks, which are stacked between chicken wire, and covered in cement. They replace traditional cinder blocks and apparently independent structural analysis has testified to the strength and safety of the buildings. In Hug It Forward’s first project in Granados, Guatemala, in October 2009, over 5,000 plastic bottles were used to build two classrooms, containing 2,053 lbs. of trash and using 9,720 lbs. of cement. Currently, 300 children attend the school, which serves a community of 13,860. Pretty cool, heh?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 4.30-5.1.11

When I arrived for the night’s doorman duty the bartender was seated at the far end of the bar chatting to a little old lady (and I use that description aptly since she was diminutive in size, elderly, and a lady).  As I walked the length of the bar toward them I appreciated the gleam of a clean counter and the glow from the candle lamps, which are spaced apart every few feet. Some little old ladies have the demeanors of Chihuahuas, and such was the case here. “Who ARE you? Are you a musician?” she barked. Keeping my hands far away from her mouth, so as to not be bit, I said, “No ma’am, I’m The Doorman here at the jazz club.” She cackle-laughed, like it was 1958 and Dean Martin had delivered a one-liner on stage at the Stardust. “You’re The Doorman, heh?” Her beady yap-dog eyes looked me up and down. Great, I thought, dressed down by a Medicare recipient with an attitude. It took me a few moments to regain my game. I signaled the barkeep for a conference: “Listen, this old lady is pure evil – you’ve got to get this she-devil out of here.” Yes, I admit, I was concerned. The last thing I need is someone who can look through my polished façade and see the real me. It’s like sitting at the adult family table for the first time and having the mean-witch-aunt stare at you while thinking loud enough so that everyone can hear, “You don’t belong here…go back to the card table in the corner with all the other children.”