Friday, November 30, 2012

Webster’s Milquetoast

H. T. Webster, aka Harold Tucker Webster, was a prolific cartoonist who drew more than 16,000 single-panel cartoons in his career from the 1920s into the 1950s. He disliked his given name so his readers knew him as H. T. Webster or simply as Webster, which is how he signed his cartoons. Webster grew up in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. He sold his first cartoon for $5 when he was 12 to the magazine Recreation and studied drawing from a correspondence course when he was 15. Two years later, he left Tomahawk and high school, moving to Chicago to attend the Frank Holmes School of Illustration. A few weeks after his arrival, the school closed, thus ending Webster’s formal education.

Webster’s most famous syndicated cartoon series is The Timid Soul featuring Caspar Milquetoast, a wimpy character whose name is derived from milk toast. Webster described Caspar Milquetoast as "the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick". The modern dictionary definition of milquetoast (meaning a very shy or retiring person) comes from Webster's cartoons.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Doorman's Diary 11.23.12

I've been The Doorman for less than a third of the club's history, so when when customers from the past show up they can be irritating--and sometimes downright obnoxious. They enter with a sense of entitlement and false ownership. We have such a group tonight. They were with a jazz radio station that disappeared some time ago. They haven't been back to the club for at least four years--maybe longer--but loudly flaunt and exert themselves on the club. For them, much is the same here. Yet, much has changed. When the former on-air personality asks me in an incredulous tone about "the new guys" playing in the band and do Blah and Blah still play here, I explain that the new guys have been playing here for years and that Blah and Blah, like most of us, have disappeared without a glimmer. "Even you, my dear, will be forgotten in two generations at best--in less time than you think, you'll be no better than dust in the wind. Any and all you've accomplished, your essence, your core will be forgotten and no living soul will have a clue that you ever existed." The look on her face was priceless. I pivoted and returned to the door where I could relish my own replaceable, forgettable, meaningless existence as The Doorman at the jazz club.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 11.17.12

The club filled completely to the point that late comers declined to enter and squeeze in. The crunch was due to two things: advertising and the regular band’s new CD launch party. Most people in the club were clueless about the brand new CD, so the crowd was there for random reasons or because of advertising. There were no announcement signs for the new CD, no sales pitches during the night, or promotional oomph at all. They opted for the Field of Dreams approach: “record it and they will buy.” I think they were expecting Sonny, Miles, and Grover to emerge from a cornfield and saunter in and christen the CD as a natural spawn of their musical lineage. As The Doorman, I was entrusted with a cache of several hundred CDs and was asked to hustle people as they left. Most, after settling up their bar bills were spent out for the night or just happy from a night of good jazz. I felt too much like a panhandler as they were departing. I did convince a couple of regulars to purchase the CD by striking a deal when they first arrived—no cover, but you need to buy the CD. At night’s end, we had sold 20 CDs—three of which I purchased for myself. All night, I listened but never heard Shoeless Joe say, “If you build it…” Had I…I would have said, “This ain’t Iowa, man.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Doorman's Diary 11.16.12

The legend. Close to 80 years old if not already an octogenarian. Rumor is that he's spent more of his life stoned, than straight. It's close to performance time and he saunters in. The club owner jokes that she's afraid to knock on his car window to get him in sooner for fear the startle would give him a heart attack. His enabling band mates are waiting and have his stool and jazz guitar ready. He floats to his stool and launches the first song, playing exquisitely, albeit less aggressively than in his youth. The sax player is wonderful--alternating between his alto and soprano. He carries two songs with his soprano, one of which is Gershwin’s Summertime. I like the bass player too and get talking to him at the break (while the old guitarist gets his bearings in his smoke-filled car). I learn the bass player teaches guitar at the main university in town. His love is classical and jazz guitar but he's played bass all his life. I say, "Man, you have the perfect build for the double bass... big hands, strong forearms, and you"re tall." He responds, "I know, I know... everyone tells me I'm a bass player, not a guitarist, but the bass is too easy--the guitar is more challenging." Now, not only do I like the professor, but I respect him, and his pursuit of his elusive muse: the guitar. An interesting couple is new to the city, having moved here from the South West. He's a physician; she's using the move to start fresh, having spent 20 years as a decorative wall and trim painter. She plans to now paint canvases. An attractive young woman enters the club. The waitress' eyes light up and she hits on her while serving. I ask the waitress, "How do you tell which side of the fence a woman plays on? " I didn't hear the response because the music was too loud, but did learn the woman of her attraction is married, but had answered a critical question she asked her ambiguously... so the door, as far as she's concerned, is ajar. I wonder how many unfulfilled yearnings are spawned in this room?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Doorman's Diary 11.9.12

A friendly couple gleefully brandishing my business card saying, "See, we're back!" My business card is simple. It has info for the jazz club and my name: Jeff the Doorman. Additional information about me is irrelevant. In talking with them, I learn that he's been a Lutheran pastor for 20-some years and is looking forward to his first three-month sabbatical after the new year. I commented that he's perfect for his profession: upbeat, friendly, and appears to have an eternally positive attitude. I've noticed in my limited interactions with him that he doesn't seem to possess any holier-than-thou attitude. He would be perfect to sit next to another couple I met, who I tried to take a photo of for the club's Facebook page. They are a loving, happy couple, perfect for posting. When I asked about taking the shot, the woman says with a seductive purr, "I'm married, but not to him." The pastor,  I"m sure, would accept them with a "what happens in the jazz club, stays in the jazz club" benevolence. I could be dead wrong, but I just don't detect a cross-bearing, smote-you-to-fornicating-hell attitude. I love the jazz club and the people who come here.