Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Aunt Clara Part Eleven

I blinked hard and clumsily stuck out my hand and shook his. It was a left handed shake.
“Coltrane?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know, John Coltrane. One of the greatest jazz men of all time. Right up there with Miles Davis in my not-so-humble opinion,” he replied.
“Well,” I answered, “Yes, I'm sure there's some Coltrane on there. Probably some Miles, too.”
“No,” he said, “I'm in a Coltrane kind of mood. So are you. I can tell. You might not know it, Davey, but you...are in...the mood for some John...Coltrane!”
“Okay,” I replied, “Coltrane it is.”
Jack touched my arm, stopping me from getting up. “Oh, don't get me wrong,” Jack smiled, “I like all kinds of stuff. Even Dylan. Not much of a singer, but a hell of a writer.” Then, faintly and sweetly, Uncle Jack began to sing:
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
...The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

“God, I love that one,” said Jack with an edge of emotion in his voice, “The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind. Now that's some writing! And he was just a kid, you know. Twenty-two, I think.”
“Yeah,” I said, “He's my favorite. I call him the Shakespeare of our times. That's what I tell everybody.”
“Well, I don't know about that,” he replied, “But I like Mr. Dylan. He's seventy now, or seventy-one, and still rockin', right? Got a new album just came out, too. I think it's called 'Tempest'. Nothing to do with Shakespeare though. And I'll tell you this,” said Uncle Jack, “Bob Dylan is sounding more and more, his voice anyway, like Louis Armstrong, don't you think?!”
“Yeah,” I answered, “He is. You're right. I hadn't thought about that, but yeah...Louis Armstrong. Hmm.”
Jack got up from the bar-stool and strolled over to the jukebox. I watched him put a five dollar bill in and a moment later, Louis Armstrong was singing...
“...And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...”
Four more songs, I thought, I wonder what's next?
Jack sat back down on his stool and said, with a slight shrug, “No Coltrane. That's okay. I'm not in the mood now, anyway.” Then he motioned to Joyce, the bartender, and she walked over to us. “Couple of shots please, for me and my Great Nephew here! Make mine Jack Daniels, Jack for Jack!” he laughed, “And whatever Davey wants.”
“Jameson's,” I said, just above a whisper. 
“Of course!” Jack half-yelled, “I shoulda known. You're stuck on all that Irish stuff! Guinness for yer beer. Jameson's fer yer whiskey. Don't you ever go out on a limb and try something different, Davey? Something new? I mean...just for the hell of it?!”
“Well..uh...sure...sometimes....I guess...I might...uh...” I was stammering again, and for obvious reasons, feeling a bit foolish. 
“Well?!” demanded Jack, smiling big now, “Don't you?”
“Okay,” I gave in, “I'll have a shot of Jack Daniels, Joyce...please.”
“There you go, Davey.” Jack grinned from ear to ear now, showing a gleaming gold tooth. “There you go my boy.”
Joyce set the shot glasses in front of us. Uncle Jack picked his up quickly without spilling a drop, as I picked mine up, rather slowly, and just a little shakily, sloshing some onto the bar. 
“Don't wast it,” said Jack, “There are thirsty drunks in Indiana.”
I frowned a little at his politically incorrect remark but didn't say anything. Jack raised his glass in a toast, and as I raised mine he said, “Here's to livin', Davey, and dyin'! I've done both, and believe you me, they're worth drinkin' to!”

Aunt Clara Part Ten

Yvonne got in her car and drove away and I got into mine. It was early afternoon, but instead of going home, I decided to go to the bar. I had to think this thing over. 
As I pulled into my regular parking spot the voice of my father was in my head. I was ten years old. I said, "Dad, have you ever thought about thinking about thinking?" He laughed just a little, which hurt my feelings. I was serious as a ten year old could be. 
"Son, if you keep on like that you will drive yourself crazy. You think too much."
"I can't help it," I replied, "I'm just trying to figure it out."
"Figure out what?"
"I don't know," I cried, "Maybe just everything, that's all."
"Well nevermind all that , son. You just live and be happy. You've got a mom and dad and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and people who love you very much and that's all that really matters. Now you go and pick up sticks out of the yard and get ready to help me now. Then we're gonna wash the car. Okay?"
I sighed a long sigh of disrelief. 
"Okay," I said.
Now here I was, forty years later, still trying to figure it out. Had I driven myself crazy with all that thinking? Well...that's debatable. I've heard that art is subjective. And pain. Maybe crazy is subjective, too. How would I know anyway?
I got out of the car and slowly walked the hundred feet of so to the back door of my second home. The bar. I opened that door and felt the cool A. C. and the darkness of the place take me into its arms. 
There was only one customer in there so I pretty much had my choice of stools. I picked one near the jukebox and sat down. Then I immediately got up and turned to that jukebox, a modern digital one, which only took bills. I fished in my pocket, pulled out a couple of singles and stuck them in the slot. It grabbed them one at a time and the screen came to life. Too many choices, I thought, too many choices, but I'm not puzzling over this one. I knew what I wanted to hear. Dylan, the shakespeare of our times. "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding": 
"Darkness at the break of noon 
Shadows even the silver spoon, 
the handmade, the child's balloon, 
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying..."
I turned back to my stool, sat down and a nice long drink of Guinness. Crazy comfort, I thought.
"A question in your nerves is lit
yet you know there is no answer fit..."
Joyce, the bartender, walked over and said, "Davey, this one's on him."
"Who?" I asked. She pointed to the gentleman at the other end of the bar. 
I looked down and raised my glass in his direction and mouthed "Thanks". He slowly got up and strolled, or more swaggered, over to me, stuck out his hand and said, "Jack is my name and gambling's my game. Any Coltrane on there?"