Amanda was in her black dress; it looked like a sack dress, tied at the waist,
but it looked good on her. I was dressed like a lost Sex Pistols
sipped our cups of beer. I had my reservations about being there:
"Y'know, it's all a little too..."
I'm fumbling for words.
"...it's all too damn pretty for me. All these well-scrubbed collegians in their 50s-hip bohemian clothes... I don't know. I'd rather be elsewhere right now, that's all."
I made my speech. The fact was, I just wanted to be anywhere she was. If she
wanted to go to the menstrual hut, I'd want to be there with my arm around
her. Well, maybe.
We were at a late-night poetry reading, in the communal house of some
friends-of-friends, the music -- a mix tape of the usual suspects, like REM, Bauhaus, and the Velvets -- played in the background for awhile, then the poetry began, with things like the mass snapping of fingers in lieu of applause, and too much of a veneer of forced or store-bought hipness. My consolation was in having some rare free time with Amanda, though I was a bit peeved at Frank's seeming attentions; he, probably the hippest-looking, well-scrubbed-est person there, fancied himself the raffish one, in his fedora and all, but few women could stand him, once he failed to bring a personality to the table. I wondered, during some of the mingling portions of the evening, in which he brought Amanda a beer or two, whether or not I would be going home alone -- we were not yet fully entrenched in our coupleness for me to rule out this possibility.
The poems ended, the music resumed, and there was more mingling. Amanda grabbed my arm when she was ready to go; we were given a ride to my apartment, where her car was parked, but she decided to stay the night with me. The subject of Frank's attentions came up, as we lay there together in bed, and she indeed wasn't too impressed, though she wasn't going to turn down his offer of beer-fetching. In a parallel universe, I suppose she would be in bed with Frank at that moment, but this wasn't a parallel universe; in this one, she
was stuck with me.
My mind went back to these wannabe-spawn of Kerouac, and to the modern mix-tape music. These folks weren't aware of Charlie Parker, and jazz clubs, and cabaret cards, of TOBA chitlin circuit nightmares and
epiphanies, of rent parties, of Jimmy Smith getting down-and-dir-tay before closing time. They, and myself as well, truth be told, were only as beat as our slumming would allow. But at least I had some hook-up with the music that had helped fuel our Saint Kerouac.
"I owe you one, kid. Someday I'll bring you to one of the local jazz places."
There are no hipsters at the jazz gigs, and no well-scrubbedness, aside from
a handful of yuppies in the small crowds. There's an unglamourous drummer who looks a bit spastically contorted when he plays (and sometimes when he doesn't), and a trumpeter who looks like he lives on fast food cheeseburgers, evoking both the sound of Kenny Dorham and the look of a vacationing Oliver Hardy. A septugenarian singer with a voice as fragile as Billie Holiday's, while his physical appearance looks
equally as fragile. A towering, afroed-and-dashikied, ex-junkie pianist so full of I-cheated-death love that he might just hug you to death when he greets you. The only sign of a veneer of hipness might come if Kimbrough's in town, wearing some "cool" fashion-victim sweater that his lady picked out for him in some NYC boutique.
I gave Amanda an I-owe-you-one kiss, and we drifted off into sleep in each
I was never able to drag her along to a jazz concert.