Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Even Sugar Free Jazz Couldn't Mess Up The Night

And it's cool and clean as
Sugar free jazz
--Soul Coughing, "Sugar Free Jazz"

A beautiful summer night, the end of June. Monkey and I decided, with no real premeditation to head down to the Sheldon Museum's sculpture garden for the final performance of the Jazz in June concert series. Monkey was going to be out visiting a friend, but she was going to be downtown, so I biked down and met her.

The bike ride was a bit convoluted, as several trail closures resulting from on-going construction and renovation sent me on a few short, unintended detours, but, all in all, it was good to be riding. I haven't done much lately, what with the increased work commute and other physical ailments of the last few months. This evening was a perfect one to be in the saddle. We've had some massive storms lately, and the forecast is for temperatures to push the three-digit mark, so this might be the last pleasant night for a while.

The weather being what it was, the concert was almost an excuse just to sit outside. Neither Monkey nor I knew anything of the performer, so that was not what drew us. It was just a reason to be downtown and to experience a communal civic event.

Long ago, in a city far away, summer meant festivals. Mostly ethnic or cultural festivals. Baltimore was the place to be for the Polish festival, the Lithuanian festival, Afram, the Greek festival, and on and on. There were (and are) other festivals, mostly focusing more on neighborhoods than ethnicity or culture, but the ethnic festivals were the ones that got my family out of the house. It was wonderful to be out amongst people enjoying the heat, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, of all of these civic parties. I loved them. It seems that time is wearing down this tradition back in my old hometown, but some festivals are apparently still hanging on.

Later, in CoMo, a spring/summer tradition was the Twilight Festival, which was a sort of downtown hodgepodge of music, merchants, horses, and kettle corn. I don't think Monkey and I missed many of those Thursday evenings, strolling the streets of downtown Columbia (uh...I mean, "The District"), running into people, listening to this bit of bluegrass here and this patch of folky strumming there. Again, a tradition that died while we were still in CoMo, but it was fun while it lasted.

So, here in Lincoln, Jazz in June seems to have picked up the communal experience slack where time and distance have intervened in my life. So, it made no difference that the music I listened to this evening, in my opinion, basically sucked. It made no difference that the "jazz" that I heard tonight was sort of soulless, clean, simple (syncopated, but simply so). The performance was spirited, as the sax man wandered the crowd with his cordless microphone, bouncing around like some smooth Pied Piper, enticing young and old to embrace the faux-funk that he was spewing. But, for Pete's sake, the crowd was clapping along in 4/4 time...that's not jazz. Not to me, anyway. But, you know what? There were kids bopping around to the funky groove, and people smiling and clapping along. There were people just chatting with their friends, or munching on the ubiquitous Midwestern delicacy...yes, kettle corn. And, even I, a man who takes his music rather seriously, who likes his jazz to swing or bop (neither of which this music was doing), even I had a wonderful time.

And after, as Monkey and I walked my bike to the car so she could drive us home, as the sun was settling in for the night, and as the chimney swifts were fluttering off to hang from there stone-walled perches, I couldn't recall a single lick, one tiny riff I had heard all night, but, at least I got out with the people.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pleased to Meet Me

"Melissa wants to talk to you about blogging," she said after swallowing her first bite of the evening's meal.

"What about?" He tears another bite from his cheeseburger.

Dipping her burger into a small lake of ketchup on her plate: "She was curious why you don't do it anymore. She hasn't gotten to know you this past year."

Through a mouthful of food: "It's all there."

"What's all there?"

"Me. It's in the archives." He waves his burger like he doesn't even know it is in his hand. At his right side, the old dog watches the food intently. In the kitchen, the young dog rests on the floor.

"But she doesn't know what you're up to."

"What I'm up to? Well, not blogging, for one." He remembers the burger and takes another bite.

"Why not?"


That's a good question. Why not? I have a few answers there: I got bored, I had too much else to do, I didn't think anything I had to say was worth hearing, I had a general weariness with the world of social media. I sometimes feel like we're all out here shouting our own statuses and updates, but not really listening to anyone else. As a general rule, that is. I know that many of you will claim to having made a wealth of connections (and deep ones, too) out here in the wilds of the worldwide web, but, mostly, I just feel like I am standing in the mall food court and two hundred people (that I know) are yelling at me and handing me photographs as they pass by. But, after a short conversation about it last night with Monkey, in which I basically made it clear that I was not going to revive the practice, here I am. Go figure. And I don't know if this will be the first post of a continued Renaissance of Central Standard or if it is the sole post of 2011, but here it is.

It's funny how your mind changes, when you let it. Really, last night, this was the last thing I thought I would be doing this morning. Hell, even as I sat down and opened the lap top, I was not preparing to write. But, here I am. And it is good. Good to write, good to think, good to build one word from another--one sentence from another--to put something together. It is also good to change one's mind, to do something even you didn't expect. This is, as most of our acts are, a small thing, but all of those small things add up to the big thing we call our life (which in many ways isn't that big a thing, either--like Emily Saliers says, "it's only life, after all"). Do I feel like I have found significance? No. Hell, if I need a blog to find significance, I think I have bigger problems. Do I feel like I am no longer shouting in the wilderness? No, I completely do feel like I am shouting in the wilderness (an even larger, denser, and darker wilderness), but, right now, I think I want to. Do I feel like I finally have something important to say that everyone wants to hear? Do you know me? But, I realize, if you don't want to hear it, you don't have to.

So, hello , again. I don't know how long I'll be staying. I don't know what I'll be saying. But, I'm raising my small voice, again.