My email is email@example.com. My phone is 323-420-7410. I do a lot of short writing on Facebook, and really short writing on Twitter. I’m all over the goddamn internet and all over this goddamn town.
The Informant (1935) is on, with Victor McLaglen in the title spot. One of the all time great big guy on celluloid performances. This is one doomed, dark, depressing, taut film. John Ford was about as far from Monument Valley as you can be. I love these flicks about The Troubles, I was raised hearing these stories and loathing the black and tans before I remember loathing anybody. The British machined gunned the people in the streets they told me. Grandpa put money in the hat at the bar. The queen can kiss my Irish arse, he said after a few too many. No one talked much about the IRA, too many bombings. But you knew where the sympathies were. I remember how he smirked when Mountbatten was blown sky high. Up the Republic, my grandfather would say, and sing the Rose o’ Tralee. His voice cracked where the melody soared. I still stop what I’m doing when I hear the song. I did tonight, early in The Informant, when the lad in the street sings it sweetly, almost spooky. The night is foggy and full of black and tans. They pat him down and he never misses a note. Black and Tans. I taste bile saying the words. When Wallace Ford takes down four of them before they he, Una O’Connor screams, but I cheered. Good boy I said. Up the rebels. Then I trailed off into more memories. Back East. Ribbons of green on St Patrick’s Day. Drunken little jigs and a little bit of heaven. There was no wearing the orange in Grandpa Nelligan’s house. He made me promise. I promised. I still don’t. If you swear it once, you swear it forever. A man is only as good as his word, he told me. I nodded childlike, sagely. Up the Republic he said. Up the Republic.
Just saw a photo of a bunch of jazz musicians–some of the very best in fact–making silly faces. I was taken aback. I mean is the serious jazz picture phase is over? Did someone kill it? I don’t have a jazz column anymore and don’t keep up with these things. I can never keep track. There have been so many phases. I have records from the fifties with these old time musicians grinning like happy drunks. Which they probably were, bombed. A little reefer. Meanwhile the bop guys are all serious, way serious. Suits too. Matching. A little too big but matching. None of them ever cracked a smile. Too many changes. Wild tempos. Pawned horns. Suits were out by the angry album cover era. Dashikis, even on white guys. With their dashikis, long hair, horn rimmed glasses, the white guys always looked like engineers on acid. The black guys looked angry. Man, were they angry. Scary angry. I once looked at a Pharaoh Sanders album and hid under the bed for three days. I was never comfortable with the 80’s happy jazz picture phase. Sonny Rollins happy was weird. Chick Corea disturbing. I’d listen to the albums but try not to look at the covers. My favorite period was the jazz musicians in bell bottoms and sideburns and leisure suit era. You’d see them on their album covers trying to look like hippies but always looking like heroin dealers. Then there was the everyone dressing like Sly Stone period. Huge hair. Huger flairs. Heels so high they created their own weather patterns. And bling baby, bling that made Isaac Hayes blanche. Sometimes, though, the players looked less like Sly Stone and more like Elton John crossed with an electric chicken. Which wasn’t actually the intended effect. But I digress.
A couple weeks ago I confessed on a thread that I had no idea what football player beat up who. And I really did have no idea, I’d missed the whole appalling thing. Which meant I had no idea what these people on this particular thread were all raving about. And they were raving, words gushed out in the hundreds, the thousands, torrents of angry words. Flabbergasted at my ignorance, they turned on me, fairly outraged that I could so be out of touch. I apologized and sputtered something about not being an NFL fan. Neither, it turned out, were any of them…though, apparently, that was quite beside the point. It’s all over the news, they said. So I apologized and said I don’t really watch the TV news. Neither did they, they said…except this time. Well, I’ve been busy. It was a feeble excuse, and I could almost see them rolling their eyes and sighing. They threw themselves back into heated discussion. So and so should be jailed. So and so should be fired. So and so should sue them for everything they’ve got. I quietly slipped away. The Red Queen was coming, a blind and aimless fury.
So it’s still September and I was barely halfway though the first period in the first televised pre-season L.A. Kings game and I was already making arcanely sarcastic comments in a fake Canadian voice. Hey coach, the o like a long ohhhh, put me on ohffense. I cackle. Puck gets dropped and I’m deadly silent, watching, interrupted only by sundry dialog from Slapshot. Period break. Ducks up one. I missed it. I’m also missing the day when pre-season games were basically a succession of sloppy plays, puck all over the place, hair trigger brawls for no apparent reason. Hey coach, that’s my blood on the ice! No going back to Moose Jaw, eh? He’d be back in Moose Jaw within a week. Now I’m watching the replays. All this genuine skill. Only a breakdown here and there. Maybe it’s just because it’s the Kings and Ducks. A lot of respect between these teams. A lot of class. Great hockey, lousy wrestling. Maybe up north the Sharks are beating up on kids their first time on the big ice. Maybe in Vancouver they’re busting windows. Penalties and mistakes and blood on the ice. Hey coach, old time hockey? Eddy Shorr?
On comes a Del Taco commercial. First time I’ve seen it. By the all star game in January I will fucking hate this commercial. Now it’s novel. They’re selling some kind of chicken bowl thing. Just like Pollo Loco I say to my wife. But I pronounce it Pollo Lohcoh. Pollo Loco, eh coach? I cackle. My wife rolls her eyes. The season hasn’t even begun.
I remember towards the end of my time as a jazz critic I was at the Angel City Jazz Festival and feeling totally alienated. It was all so freaking intellectual. So super smart. So brilliant. The jazz equivalent of really long sentences full of big words and semi-colons. Everybody loved it. The critics loved it, the people were having a ball. But I’d been bounced out of the rumble seat somewhere, left back there in middle of the road, looking for Lester Young. I wanted to feel the music but everyone was listening. This was art now. Serious stuff. And I’m a smart ass. I like short sentences. And hate semi-colons.
Personally I don’t give a flying [ahem] about art. Sometimes it’s nice to have around. But I don’t go to art museums much, or attend openings. And to me, if jazz is art it’s incidental. I just care if it’s jazz or not. Jazz means swing. Does the music swing? If it swings, it’s jazz. If not, it’s like European art music or whatever. And being art doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. I would never have become a jazz fan if it was all about art. I don’t care if writing is art or not either. Somebody can either write or they can’t, and it doesn’t matter what the hell it is they are writing. Either they have the chops or they don’t. Jazz is the same. Either they have the chops or they don’t. You can tell immediately if someone up on the stand is bullshitting. And you could be the world’s greatest musician and still be bullshitting. You can dress it up in all the art you want and you’d still be bullshitting. And as long as jazz dresses itself up like art there will be plenty of bullshitting. Now, I’m not a musician. I never wanted to be a serious musician. (A little drumming doesn’t count.) But I’m a jazz fan, and can tell when I’m hearing the real thing or not. And lately I’m hearing a lot more art than swing. Nothing wrong with that, it just ain’t something I’d blow money on.
Went to a party last night. A gloriously crazed one just down the street with wild music spun, drunken Germans spinning, inadvertently cracked skulls, blood, and a rather wanton little thing from Uzbekistan. She passed me a joint. I had never smoked dope with an Uzbek before. I took a hit, my head spun, and I laughed. She laughed. She said I was a very big man. I said she was a very pretty lady. We laughed again. Drank bubbly and talked about the weather. Inside the music roared and the hostess was bleeding all over everything. Out here was a night breeze and the sound of our laughter. Uzbeks are just like regular people, only drunker and with killer shoes.
If you are the drop dead gorgeous mega-rich machiavellian daughter of the dictator of Uzbekistan nobody will tell you how stupid your shoes are. Especially at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s also amazing what pops up when you google “Uzbek footware”.