WEDNESDAY APRIL 05 2006
Found a scrap of paper on which Gnat had written words I should take to heart:
I love my toys
I love my art
It does come down to that, eh? I’ve been telling myself that all day. One of the longer days on memory, since I got up too early: either I dreamed that someone outside the house had an alarm clock, or one of the 183 small clocks in the house was inadvertently set into alarm mode. Then the dog barked. Fine; I get the point. Up after 5 and a half hours of sleep. My fault; I’d tossed and turned for an hour before sleeping, and that’s rare. Usually I drop off like a bank vault pushed out a window – no, that’s wrong; that sounds like it takes effort. Someone has to push the safe to the window. You’d need help. You’d have to explain why you’re doing this. (“It’s for a metaphor.”) And then you’d have to deal with the legal ramifications. So scratch that.
Anyway, I was up fuming, which is never productive, and leads to odd dreams. Sure enough: I was a Burqa Quality Control inspector. I am not kidding. I had to go around in Cairo, knocking on doors, making sure everything was covered up. At one point I found myself in a grim small flat full of cooking odors, looking at the peeling paint, hearing the sounds of the streets – cars, horns, crowds, beeps, barking dogs – and feeling immense sadness for the person who had to live in this room, swathed in sheets. The most haunting part of the dream came at the end: all the apartment doors opened to a balcony, and when I’d left the floor, the balcony retracted so no one inside could leave.
Day two of spring break. Our vacation comes later; this week Gnat and I are hanging out. She went to a friend’s house for a few hours, and I used the time to write a column. Thanks to computers, it took three times longer to send to the office than it took to write. As I may have mentioned, I’m using a program that emulates all the Strib program in a browser window – magic, pure magic. But sometimes gremlins intercede; this was such a day. Ninety minutes down the flusher. No nap. When Gnat came back I was Mr. Zombie – but we had piano to practice . . . and that gave me ideas. I’ve been listening to a lot of old jazz piano – stride, boogie woogie from the masters – James Johnson, Bud Powell. It’s all new to me, and a source of great delight. Intimate and cheerful and spontaneous and so damned human. We’re left with the sound, the hammer on the string; the flesh that punched the ivory is long gone. But it quickens again every time you hit play. It’s like a rush of conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Of all the instruments, maybe the piano best captures the human mind. The clarinet can copy the sound of the voice, but so can a clever bird. The electric guitar speaks for the hips, the violin for the heart, the flute for the eyes, but when you think of yourself sitting somewhere at 2 AM with a drink and a cigarette and a date in a black dress (or a fellow in a dark suit with thin lapels, if you’re so inclined) nodding in agreement as a man on a stage makes it all up on the spot, there’s always a piano present. Even if the star of the stage has a horn. The horn is editorial. The piano is the news.
Speaking of which: I called up my old radio station today, off the air, to tell the newscaster how much I enjoyed his broadcasts. I had been meaning to do that for some time. I can’t stand most radio news – the network reporters emote and lean on words and editorialize with every syllable. Drives me daft. This fellow – Bob Berglund, to be specific – just reads the damn news. Great pipes, of course, crisp copywriting skills. But listening to him do the unthinkable, i.e., simply read the words, makes you realize how this is another lost art. He starts every new story with a certain punch and higher register, but it never colors the story; he ends the item with a slight legato, which of course sets off the next story when he ups the energy. An absolute pro, I always think. So I called him to tell him so.
If you had to call or write someone today, just to give them an attaboy, who would it be? Really? So do it. It’s a good thing to do.
Anyway: after Gnat finished practicing piano, I took over, and banged out boogie-woogie until my hands hurt. She danced; she took the money from her Barbie ATM and threw it in the air and danced on the bills.
She was embarrassed to show me this drawing; I don’t know why. She paused the TV and copied a character from “Fairly Oddparents.” The arms make it look like she was crossbred with a golf club, but Gnat nailed the head style in one stroke.
She loves her toys; she loves her art.
This evening I did a little movie; hope you like it. They’re getting bigger and slightly more ambititious – why, this one has archival footage and somewhat more intentional camera movement. I enjoy these; they’re a nice Tuesday night diversion after all the columns I’ve had to write. "The Newspaper Basement" can be seen here.
Thanks for the visit; see you tomorrow. And give someone an Attaboy! It’s National Attaboy Day. Says me.
Oh, okay. The bad news. My publisher passed on Joe Ohio: they didn’t see the point. I don’t know if Joe likes jazz, but he’d like Bud Powell. Maybe you will too.