Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Irresistible Lure of Strange Nookie

It's odd how a little strange nookie can bring the mighty down. "I did it because I could, and I thought I could get away with it. I didn't tell you, honey, because I thought it would make you mad. I was trying to keep my behavior from hurting you, darling. I love you. It meant nothing." These are words most women and a lot of men have heard in some variation by the time they're thirty or so. If not, he's probably really good at keeping his secrets secret, or you have agreed to an open relationship and complete discretion. So far, so good. But I bet it will bite you on the ass someday. Love can ruin the best marriages.

Love is strange in and of itself. And as some of my favorite books have demonstrated so beautifully, there are two or three entities in any love relationship. There is the lover. There is the beloved. And then there is the other beloved, that longed for other, the temptation. Honesty has very little place in love since none of the performers in this fascinating dance knows why they love the mysterious other and must pursue this person or resist another.

Ballad of the Sad Cafe the novella by Carson McCullers is the book that best and most quickly comes to mind when I ponder the mysteries of love. The ebb and flow of love, it's circularity, the pull and push back of love. Need is always a character in love. Neglect, arrogance and dishonesty are often the weapons of it's death.

Another of my favorites is Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. The love of the forbidden. The love you would ridicule in another, have ridiculed in another. The love that is your demise.

And oh, these days, how love or lust or curiosity or narcism has brought another mighty man lowdown. Sad it had to be the husband of Elizabeth Edwards.

A Great Jazz Quartet in the Neighbor's Backyard

I've never been much of a party person. In the thirty or forty years I've been on antidepressants and other bipolar drugs, alcohol has been off my radar. And since I'm the only smoker in any group these days, I never really feel welcome or comfortable. Plus, I'm a wallflower. I try to find someone I know and sit next to them and then never move. I don't mingle. So, parties hold no charm for me anymore.

This party was different. These are neighbors I'm very fond of, and it was their ten year wedding anniversary. That would have made it worth an appearance, a card, a bouquet of flowers. But the real draw for me was the news that there would be a jazz band. It's always been my favorite music. The party was scheduled from 7:00 to midnight, but the jazz was from 7:00 to 10:00. They set up under the portico in front of the garage, which is fairly close to my bedroom window. The band started assembling and tuning up at 6:45. I was curious to see how Cyrus would do, since in the warm-up phase the bass was a bit loud and the drums were popping. But the moment they swung into It's Wonderful, I knew Cryus would be fine. It is, after all, the music I listen to when I write. It's the music of my entire life. It's my soundtrack.

They covered Charlie Parker, most beautifully with I'll Remember April and Cherokee. They played the Coltrane versions of Giant Steps, and Lush Life. They played Oliver Nelson's Stolen Moments, Miles Davis' So What. And they did some of my favorites by Monk--Straight no Chaser, and April in Paris. The drummer was a kid who looked about nineteen. The bass player was the only one who looked like an old jazz player, the keyboardist was another kid, and the sax player looked all of twenty. He played tenor and alto sax plus flute. There was not a moment when they missed the swing, the timing, the mood, the feeling of the songs they played. They were great. And the best thing of all is this was their first gig together. I have rarely heard jazz players play so tightly and with such swinging joy.

And the food was good, too.