The Entrepreneur

It was a dark and stony night at the Scarlet Eh Toke and Snack. The rain came down so hard it obliterated the stars, giving rain a bad name. Inside, the Eh was smoky. The table-tenants occupied their spots, having laid down a sawbuck for the night’s rent of a table.

Sitting over by God-knows-where, Call-Me-Ishmael held a joint between his fingers. It was the best of weed. It was the worst of weed. It was the best of weed because there was a lot of it. When there was a lot of it, Ishy could get buzzed sooner than later. It was the worst of weed because there was a lot of it. When there was a lot of it, Ishy would never get un-stoned. Not that he thought there was much to say for the un-stoned life.

Ishy looked at the joint between his fingers and said, “I dub thee Moby Dick.” Then he lit up and took a puff. “Man, that’s good.” It was good enough to give Acapulco Gold a run for its money.

H. P., the legendary Hester Prynne and proprietress of the Eh, moseyed her svelte figure over to Ishy’s table in the corner. “You wanna share, Big Boy?” she asked, a bit of demand in her Mae West voice.

“With you?” he said. “’Course I wanna share. Take yourself a little sitsky.”

H. P. never refused an offer she couldn’t refuse. It just wasn’t polite. She dropped into the chair across from Ishy.

He passed the doobie over to her. She took a long puff. It went down easy. Real easy. She released the smoke, making several rings Gandalf would have been proud of.

“That’s some buzz,” she said.

“Ought to be. I grew it myself.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do say.” And he did.

“It’s a bomb,” she said, smiled and passed the big fellow back to him. “Very cannabistic. A real blitzkrieg.”

“You do know that it’s a long way to Temporary?”

“Hadn’t thought of it that way. It did look like you’d been babysitting them smoke rings long enough for them to grow feet and make for the border.”

“Not a bad thought if you ask me.” he took another puff. “I was just taking a bake break.”

“I can see you’ve reached your destination.”

“That’s cause my brain has been ashed.”

“In other words, you are blazed.”

“There’s no other words about it. I done went and got myself blitzed.” Ishy would have suggested a walk to walk off the stony. But there was no possibility of taking a trek out into that night. He never liked long walks, especially on stony nights.Besides he had just returned from his landlord’s house earlier that evening, and that had been a bit of walk for him. Almost two miles, I’d say, and he had only made it to the Scarlet Eh by two or three minutes before the dungeons had let the dark and rainy out of the bog. And here he and H. P. were, communing with Alice B. Toklas. It was enough to make a Rastafarian weep.

“You know, I do believe I have a case of couchlock. Even if you asked me to take a flying leap–” he said, then hiccupped, then continued, “I would have to refuse the invitation. One thing is for sure. I don’t think I will be dry for a while.”

“Ishy.” H P had a moment of absolute brilliance. It was as if the Archangel Gabriel came down and tooted in her ear. “Ishy, why don’t you go on ‘Shark Tank’. Raise some money to entrepreneur yourself into a nice little business.”

Ishy took another hit of fatty and passed it back over to H P. “I don’t like sharks. Besides I can’t swim.”

She toked on Moby Dick. The smoke going down and lifting her higher. “No, man. Get some folks to invest in your weed. Once they toke on one of your joints, they’ll be in. Big time. Then you can retire and do the Maynard G. Krebs you’ve always wanted. It’s a future.”

“You mean–”

“I do mean.”

“I won’t ever have to–” he hesitated to say the hated word, but finally it came out like water bursting through a leak in a dam, “work.”

“That’s what I mean.”

“I think I hear the angels rejoicing. Have I died and gone to the big pot store in the sky?”

“Could happen.”

Ishy took himself a little looksee through the window of the Scarlet Eh. The rain had stopped. The dark had parted like the Red Sea back in Moses’ time. There was at least twenty-two stars shining down on Call-me-Ishmael that night. He wasn’t sure whether he was seeing clear or it was the weed hallucinatin’ his brain. It really didn’t matter.

All he knew was that the day began with the sun rising and nothing to show for it. Now here he was at the end of the day with a Plan. That Plan was going to help him reach his ultimate goal of sitting on his butt and roller coasting through this life and the next one. Hallelujah.

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Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Fragile

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: “Fragile” by Sting.

 

I chanced upon this song late one night. It is a beautiful reminder that all of us are fragile in our humanity. We are all stumbling toward the Light the best we can. Thank you, Sting.

Politics in America 17: Debates come, debates go

The big debate came around in late September. How do I know it was late September? Well, it could have been early October. The leaves were changing. That usually starts in late September. Anyway the candidates were finally going to debate. It was going to be a big debate. Bigger than all get out. It was so big that it was Ed Sullivan “Really Big Shew” Big.

In all the years of Presidential debating, no Presidential Debate would ever be quite like this one. Not the Kennedy-Nixon. Not the Carter-Ford. Not the Bush-Clinton-Perot. Not even the Dan Quayle-Lloyd Bentsen debate back in ’88. No Presdential Debate ever had been quite like this one.

Betty Sue Pudding and Big Al Fresco went to work, making sure their candidate was ready for the Big Shew. Only he didn’t want to be ready. He wanted to go home to Pig Pen, USA. Pig Pen, USA was what used to be Weazel Sneaze. The locals had gotten together and come up with a theme park. They invited the big boys in to do the doing. Big Boys like Ocean World and A Bunch of Flags. Even the beer folks wanted to get in on the act.

Betty Sue rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed her man but he was sure fighting success.

Little Twerp appeared on stage wearing his red, white and blue skivvies and his Honest Abe tie. He was prepared. He had been preparing since he was knee-high to grasshopper. That’s how prepared he was.

The first question from the Big News Guy, “Would you introduce yourselves?” It was a fair question since three-quarters of the American people didn’t know who these guys were. Oh, sure. They knew who Kim Khardasian was. They knew who The Donald was. They even knew who the Devil in the Blue Dress was. But these guys, naw.

It is a well known fact that politics comes on tv, 99.9% of the American people change channels. You can’t really blame them. I have turned off tv many a time myself when a politician showed up. I have way too many things to do than pay attention to a damned fool telling what is and what isn’t, what they’re going to do and what they ain’t going to do.

You just never know what will happen at these Presidential Debates. The first question was thrown out to Little Twerp. Big News Guy asked, “What do you think of Global Warming?”

Little Twerp had been studying the issue for years. He had spent half of his time as Vice President studying the studies so he would be studied up when he got this question.

“Some say there is Global Warming. So say there is not.” Then he droned on for the ten minutes.

When P F Sneeze responded, he responded with a distraction to beat all distractions. “It never rains in Southern California.” This put all the cable news networks in a tizzy. Of course, it rains in Southern California.

“More like an occasional sprinkle,” Weather Dude said on Fox News.

All over Southern California, people ran outside to check. People stopped their cars on the Interstate so they could get out and check. There were traffic jams to end all traffic jams. Some said the traffic was backed up to Oklahoma. The next day they were still trying to clear up the mess. National Guards from twenty states had to be called up. It was such a horrendous experience it became known as the Big Constipation.

Little Twerp couldn’t believe his ears. If there was someone who had ears he couldn’t believe, it was Little Twerp. Many a time he had used those ears to fly between DC and his home state.

The next question in the Big Debate went to P F. It was a zinger. Big News Guy asked a question scientists have been debating for years. “How much wood can a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?”

In all the years since the Presidential Debates had been going on, no candidate had ever been asked this question. It just so happened that P F Sneeze had an answer. He had spent many an hour as a lad watching wood chucks chuck wood. He came right out with the answer. “Two cords.”

Little Twerp was confounded. “Are you sure?”

“Ab-so-motton-lute-ly,” P F came back with.

No one was sure who threw the first punch. Whether it was Little Twerp or it was Big News Guy. One thing everybody was sure of. It was the Really Big Shew. P F did not hesitate, defending his honor. He jumped right in and gave everybody a Time. Just like his long lost dead relative, Goof-off Sneeze, had done when challenged to a duel by none other than The Snort Holler Poof.

It was a knock-down-drag-out and P F walked away with both his honor and an unbroken nose and clean drawers. Needless to say Big News Guy and Little Twerp pooped their pants big time. As Ed Sullivan used to say, it was a Really Big Shew. Unfortunately the fight didn’t help P F Sneeze’s poll numbers. They just kept going down.

Next week Rocktober Surprise

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Separating the Men from the Boys. Musically.

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Young Man with a Horn” (1950):

The trumpet. The kid picks it up and blows. A sound comes out. Not a good sound but a sound. The boy doesn’t play trumpet. Yet. But he has the longing. This is the instrument for him. Oh sure, he’s picked up piano. But piano is not the instrument he’s meant for. That’s the trumpet.

And what he wants is to play that trumpet and give it a sweet sound. A sound so sweet it makes him float. But it doesn’t come out without work. Without practice. Without a teacher.
Outside a bar across from the bowling alley where he sets pins he hears the kind of music he just has to play. Inside that bar, the men are playing jazz. This isn’t a smooth jazz either. This is a jazz that separates the men from the boys. A jazz that’s got some swing.

“Young Man with a Horn” is that story. It’s also a story of how the Muse can be a real bitch when she wants too. Adapted by veteran screenwriters Carl Foreman and Edmund H. North from the novel by Dorothy Baker, it’s loosely based on the life of the early jazz great, cornetist, pianist and composer Bix Beiderbecke.

The movie is directed by Michael Curtiz.  His resume’ of 173 directorial credits includes “Virginia City” (with Errol Flynn), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (with James Cagney), “Casablanca” (with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman), “Mildred Pierce” (with Joan Crawford), and “Life with Father” (with William Powell as Father). After “Young Man”, he would go on to direct (John Wayne in) “The Comancheros”, (Elvis Presley in) “King Creole”, “We’re No Angels” (Bogart again with Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray and Basil Rathbone), (Gary Cooper, Lauren Bacall and Patricia Neal in) “Bright Leaf, and “White Christmas” (with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney). By the time  he directs “Young Man”, this is a director who knows how to direct and get the best out of a story and a cast and crew.

And what a cast. Three young actors who are about to emerge as major stars in the fifties: Kirk Douglas is Rick Martin, the boy who shoots for the stars. Lauren Bacall is his first wife and Doris Day is the woman who won’t settle. In addition, the great Puerto Rican actor, Juano Hernandez, brings authority to the role of Art Hazard, Rick’s mentor. Giving the piece a strong music cred is the great Hollywood composer Hoagy Carmichael who knew the real Bix Beiderbecke. He is Rick Martin’s Horatio, his sidekick and the narrator of the story. Harry James plays the trumpet for the soundtrack. His horn adds authenticity to the music of the swing era and a foretaste of what jazz is about to become with the likes of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and  Charlie “Bird” Parker.

The film’s opening scene is one of my favorites. Hoagy is doing what Hoagy did best. He’s at the piano, then he turns to the camera and begins his spiel: “My name is Willie Willoughby, but you can call me Smoke.” Smoke, what a great name for a sidekick. “I play piano in a run of the mill dance band. Kind of monotonous, but there were times when I got my kicks. Not so long ago either. Like when I palled around with Rick Martin. The famous trumpet. What a guy. We were in the thankless business of piecing together little notes and phrases of music into a mumbo jumbo that somehow turned into jazz.” That’s the authority of a musician speaking respectfully of another musician.

He continues, “Strictly off the cuff but a lot of fun. ‘Course Rick is practically a legend. People ask me about him and those times. Ordinarily I don’t talk about him. But I think a lot about him.” Perhaps with those words, Hoagy was remembering his friend, Bix, who died tragically early.

Rick Martin has a bit of Pip from “Great Expectations” in him. Like that Pip, he is an orphan, raised by his sister. Only his sister ain’t married. She dates around a lot, which leaves the kid on his own to roam through the city, trying this and that and the other. Mostly he’s attracted to music like a bear is to honey. A piano in a church. A trumpet in a  pawn shop window. Then, from that bowling alley where he sets up the pins, he hears a trumpet player. Rick knows the player is the real deal. He has the ear for all things musical. Was born with it.

The sound has a lot of Gabriel in it and a lot of swing to. Man, that music takes our Pip away from all his troubles. That horn man is Art Hazard and Art takes on Rick as a student. He has found a true soul brother. Before you know it, Rick’s all grown-up and ready to join the big boys. He goes off to New York to play big band. “No blues and no lowdown jazz,” he’s commanded.

That’s not for him. He’s got a stubborn streak in him as long as a June day. He tries to play other people’s way.  Those others play for a job. He plays because it’s his calling. Soon we’re seeing he’s going to play the way he’s going to play. Which means he’s going to aim for the stars. The Muse expects no less.

Like so many of these stories, he gets sidetracked. He marries the wrong woman. The marriage fails because he’s a little boy lost when he’s not playing music or not surrounded by music and musicians. As he tells her, “That trumpet is a part of me. The best part.”
He continues to wrestle with the angel till he’s flat on his back and can’t get up. Talent can do that to an artist if they follow their passion singleheartedly.  “You’ve got one love. That little tin baby of yours,” Doris Day tells our Pip. With Rick, he has an itch. To scratch, he has to play the way the angels play.

For much of the 20th century, jazz was the American music. Artists like Rick Martin sought to play notes that weren’t supposed to be played. Those artists were our Mozarts, our Beethovens, our Bachs. Pip doesn’t reach that note but he does push the music. Trying for that note can just about kill an artist. Sometimes the artist has to fall to pieces before he can tame that desire and make it work for their art. Life may knock Rick down but that trumpet never does. “We can’t say what we mean,” he says. “You just got to feel it.”

So why do I love this movie enough to see it a dozen or more times and want to see it again? Maybe it’s because it’s about the music and those who care about the music. I would say that is a pretty darn good reason. Wouldn’t you?

Food and Conversation

The sidewalk is crowded with restaurant tables. On a sunny day, the tables are filled with smiling faces, enjoying the great food and wine. It is a sunny day. People pass by, then they stop. They can’t resist the smell of the good food wafting out of the restaurants. They take their seats. A waiter comes out with a menu and his suggestions. My wife takes the waiter’s suggestion. I order a glass of wine, rolls and a salad. “Make sure you sprinkle it with cheese,” I urge. He gives me a smile and an “of course”. Then we put away our phones and go for some genuine conversation. Something we don’t often do. The sidewalk tables seem to demand it. To text here with this food and the lovely people would be blasphemy.