Loosely covered purveyor

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It is 30 minutes till the show, another dream. I am reviewing the artist’s live album, I think he is the late Tim or the established guest artist in town for another round.

You are there setting up. So is she, a rotating vocalist with children straddling her hips, begging for attention.

I can’t figure out the headline. These are covers, sure. Damned good covers, of songs nobody listens to anymore. They cross mainstream lines but originate from the classics. He plays… electric guitar… leading the musicians through everyone’s favorites. I scribble words, taking a stab in the darklit confines of this blue room.

Somewhere in between the downbeat and the first set, we find time to embrace.

“How are you? Are you in a better place?”

“By better, if you mean the same, yes.”

I should write.

The Northwest Jazz Collective reconvenes at the Anchor Pub in Everett, Wash. 7 p.m. tonight. For real.

Diamond Girl

“Can’t you feel the whole world’s a-turnin’
We are real and we are a-burnin’
Diamond Girl now that I’ve found you
It’s around you that I am” —Seals and Crofts

“The Big Lebowski’s” on HBO, Seals and Crofts are playing their greatest hits, and I’m on the precipice of a decision: Writer or Slouchy Hat?

This dream, I knew it would be involved, intense and erotic, a whirligig of early Beatles impressions on a post ’60s high — with influences from the pulled pork Eggs Benedict I just ate rotting and shooting up my esophagus, as well as several weeks of major insomnia from the thundering approach of menopause.

I’m back in the music world, accepted as one of them even though I don’t play a note. These musicians, a startling array of them, seem to want something from me ticket money can’t buy. They play and I respond, or maybe vice versa.

One of them’s playing now, an aging rock star with a familiar lick from my childhood. I remember jumping down up front onto a pillow to get a closer look. He only cares about his show and the fact I nudged a bassist friend’s guitar face up, because he’s too famous.

As I debate whether to right the bass up, “Diamond Girl” pipes in from stereo speakers everywhere. Maybe the Seals and Crofts song has been playing all this time, waiting for me to pay attention.

The universal language of dreams is energy, we all exude some form of it. The closest manifestation of that energy, for me anyway, is music — music I can identify with, whether it’s a scorching solo out of nowhere that burns down forests, or a 1973 pop hit that used to play constantly on the radio when I was a child running around in Louisville, Ky.

I hear music constantly, dreaming or awake. Music or lyrics, makes no difference. It’s the vibe, the soul, the spirit behind the notes.

Sometimes the music is original. Other times, it’s this… A dedication of sorts from this man I know in real life who plays flugelhorn — someone who would be one of my best friends growing up in Kentucky chasing fireflies and exchanging comic books from our rising collection — waiting patiently through some amazing sets for me to look up and hear myself in the song he plays in his head over and over.

When I stop filling up the precious seconds with borrowed chatter, I finally do, as if hearing it for the first time. I hear it through his point of view, incredulous, almost disbelieving were it not for the Greek chorus in the many people who have crossed my life, many lifetimes.

Yet, this is the kind of lovely sentiment for other women, beautiful, charming, normal, accepted women, women up there on the marquee and the center of attention at cocktail parties — not me.

“You,” he said. “Only you.”

I looked at him, too, for the first time. Words could never describe what that meant. Therapy and truth. Support and freedom.

Everything at this point opens up and I’m blinded, as if I just stepped into the early morning light on the first day of spring.

There’s no attachment here, not to the past or the future, societal rules of etiquette or who’s fucking who, just pure mushin. Dreams, real dreams, aren’t about that boring life stuff anyway. Musicians know. Why do you think so many of them are misunderstood?

Energy, remember? I do and I did, and it was — for a blissful moment — wonderfully validating.

When I woke up, I immediately went to Google for the lyrics and then YouTube to listen to my song. It really does fit, in a spectacularly offbeat way.

And hey, the song’s not bad either.

10 miles from Keauhou

For Jon Komatsu.

It is the life we dream, you downtown in your own little world of x-rays, vegan Indian, and keeping boogie men away, me up in the ‘burbs married with children and a forest of surround sound.

I touch your bare chest. You leave me paper butterflies on the hotel windowsill overlooking a crowded beach the tourists have all heard about in Condé Nast and Yelp reviews.

In six hours’ time, when the sun touches down on the decayed horizon gone hazel, bleeding its polluted water toward a man-made carnival of Dixie cups and beach mats curved into the world’s biggest ash tray, you will return, my hand in yours to walk along the Pacific ocean that once saw our youth from two islands away. We never miss the sunset, you and I, Jon and Carol, former lovers, former best friends, nothing now as soon as my eyes open again.

As I wash your prized Telecaster and that old radio we discovered in an antiques store off Ballard, I remember where I am.

Keauhou, I dreamed of you once or twice. Maybe we can take a drive before he feeds me jasmine rice and Palak Paneer.

Jacket

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Does anyone else suffer from persecution dreams?

This morning had me fending off the unfriendly advances of two local women from the Aloha State in ignorant, prejudiced tones I’m very familiar with from having grown up there.

They approached me smiling, which took me off-guard — until they spoke in their Pidgin English, spoken as if they were Hawaiian royalty and not the Section 8 slumbags they really were.

“Eh, you ugly, you know?”

I stared back, getting ready to flinch or flight.

“Dat jacket’s why. You stand out like one uku in dat.”

The old Carol would’ve run away. But since I grew up and this was my dream, I stood up to these two ugly women. I told them off. I told them they should look in the mirror and invest in several make-up lines before casting stones my way. Then, I asked if they were perhaps lost on the way to Vegas, before sneering, then stalking away.

I wound up somewhere else when I noticed I’d left my jacket behind. Not entirely a bad thing.

I look almost normal — until you notice that oddly shaped, corduroy jacket hanging over me, or the super-bright tennis shoes and the knickerbockers under an oversized bleached-white t-shirt, extra-large.

One note

Alas, this is a jazz dream.

I have to pee, which is the norm around here. I seem to be at some church retreat, camping in the great Northwest somewhere. When I return to my cabin door, I pause instinctively, sensing the approach of a pastor friend. In about four beats, he arrives, lumbering over as if sleepwalking. Come to think of it, I’m half-awake myself.

I recognize him as Chuck, a pastor and an R&B saxophonist. He seems to want something from me. He says, “Carol,” as if the very mention of my name will conjure up recognition, hope, faith, and love.

Without getting too close, I let him inside, waiting for him to open up.

He speaks in starts and stops, threatening to drop into a rabbit hole of self-consciousness at any minute. So I remember I’m a reporter and bring up his recent jazz performance, knowing he suffers from a crippling lack of confidence. You know, to break the ice. I’m good that way. 

He seems to be in torment about it.

“I thought that one note you delivered was powerful,” I start, reaching for the right words like a girl would stretch her hands out for lightning bugs at sunset.

Suddenly, a picture of a swath of trees in the dead of night appears in my mind, followed by a bolt of light and sound on a note so mesmerizing, scary, and profound that it conjures up the seven trumpets sounded by the angels of the Apocalypse John wrote about in the Book of Revelation.

“Your note [both] set and altered my mood, giving voice to lightning.”

It was all I had. It was not enough.

He left my room in the same disheveled condition he came in, sad and lost, and hungry. My carefully worded review went over his head.

I sat in the empty room, taking two bites of the most delicious ice cream sandwich ever, made of hazelnut, dark chocolate, buttermilk waffles, and magic.

Polite Society

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Acetic acid, a priest without a proper wardrobe. You seem to appear out of nowhere, a voice that carries when she leaves well enough alone, caressing my name hard and soft, a ballad somewhere in the chromatic stage.

My earliest memory is of you with the children, pulling a makeshift sled past the brick and mortar of her latest pet project in the dead of the worst winter in Northwest history. You smell of steel-cut oatmeal, and ashes. A few short months later, I crept out in the night of my embankment, the haunting epithet of my late father hanging over me.

No one wants you.

You never said a word, save for secondhand hearsay on her behalf, the Christ to my Judas — blaspheming my name.

She is to blame for all of this.

She has no grace.

But my love, I did not stray.

“Are you coming to the next show?”

It is last summer, and we are two strangers coming together in the aftermath of her execution.

I sit above the din of the bar downstairs, waiting for him to see me. Because he asked.

He doesn’t stay, he barely touches me. We talk about things that don’t matter, my blackened salmon, where’s the toilet, when I long for more. Simply more from the shadow of her backward glances, pointed stares in her missile range, her hands and mouth still sharp with self-recrimination.

Such the dutiful soldier executing orders.

How can you stand there so polite, so quiet, when you fucked me from behind, gave me ivy, shaking with terror and naked need?

This is where I leave.

Karma is love

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The worst torture is watching you, my enemy, my friend, my something else, fall into a darkness I cannot breach with a handful of perfectly formed words, my clumsy poetry, my adulterous dedications, not this lava I attest is my soul given freely. The pumpkin bread, summer berry bundt cake, an envelope of Starbucks gift cards, old Shutterfly jpegs… These are meaningless in your windowless world where you move from Point A to Point B with the perfunctory stillness of a gutted gutless pig. She made you who you are, I should be glad, I should piss on your grave, delight in your suffering, rub your face in the bed you lay with her, that faithless whore you chose over me, why did you choose her over me I don’t care that she was your wife, that you were honoring your marriage, it ended anyway, so what’s the point?

I’ve felt your naked body pressing on my back, your shaking hands pulling me further into the house of the damned, “Please don’t leave me with her, please understand, I can’t, she—” the light in your eyes go out the moment she projectiled her barroom brawls and theatrical promises in the circle jerk that used to be our worship.

I am running out of words to hold you in this polite society you’ve put me in.