Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hard Part

What I didn't do was to react: react to the stench of rotting vegetables that entered the room about twenty seconds after he did; react to his complete disregard for personal space or body language; react to his apparent disdain for items such as soap and deodorant.

What I did do was to think. I thought about how he'd been when we were younger. How he'd walked into the band room after school one day with a Charlie Parker record, tossed it on the band director's turn table and cranked it through the PA system we used with the jazz band.

I thought of tsunami of notes and sounds that had flooded the room, crushing any pretense that we were accomplished jazz players, sweeping away all notions of pride and arrogance, leaving us naked with just our music to clothe us, and scantily at that.

I thought of being overwhelmed by the wall of sound, and how I'd thrashed about desperately trying to grab just a strand of the notes that flowed over me, my mind's grasp closing on emptiness.

The notes had been moving too fast and to focus too long on any one or any sequence, meant missing thousands of others. There'd been absolutely no way to stay afloat.

I thought about sinking deeper and deeper into the depths, drowning, dying.

I thought about him. How he too had been swept away. How he'd hadn't looked desperate, but instead, blissful. How he'd closed his eyes, allowing the rush to wash over him, to cleanse him. How he'd not tried to grasp anything, to reach or grab. How he'd just let the notes happen to him.

I thought about the the needle sliding past Ornithology into Confirmation, about pulling myself from the floor, rushing to the turn-table to lift the tone arm before the next onslaught.

I thought about dropping back to the floor, closing my eyes and wondering, "What the hell was that? How am I ever gonna learn that?"

I thought about the music starting again. How some intrepid soul had set the needle back to the start of Ornithology ready to give it another try, to listen and to begin the process of understanding.

I thought how the sound had been wrong. Too full. Too loud. There had been no band, no alto sax, just trumpet. Another recording? Dizzy?

I thought about opening my eyes to see him. How he'd picked up his horn and begun playing Charlie's notes as Charlie had played them. How at fourteen, he'd just listened to his first bebop record, first song, and then played it.

I thought about asking him how he'd been able to do it, to listen just once and to hear everything.

I thought about him responding, "Hearing everything isn't the hard part. Knowing what parts of everything are worth listening to is the hard part."

What I did was to think, to think of that time in the band room, to think for what seemed to be hours, and yet was apparently just a few seconds, the time it took him to see me from across the room and walk over, his hand extended in greeting.

Happy Tuesday,

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