Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Park-playing day today. Rain and thunder, gone away, come again, but not today. There's nothing like the few days of relentlessly brisk high-pressure wind and sunlight following a couple weeks of solid storm. I guess it's mother nature's way of cleaning house, drying out, setting it all straight.

69th Street was dead. The oppressive generator monopolized the fountain. And Ralph had staked his claim on the promenade. What were we to do? Go north, young men! Forge ahead, brave the unknown, blaze new trails! Yarr. And so we packed our gear, hired a small cohort of Sherpas, and headed off into the hinterlands of Central Park. After several months of grueling travel, during which we battled lions, scurvy, altitude sickness, and winos, and several of our merry band succumbed to the gravity of the Reaper, we arrived at the southern edge of the Met: a few paces from 79th Street, right next to a well-attended playground.

Bringing instruments to a playground is a little like eating a sandwich on the beach. As soon as I pulled my saxophone out of its case, the seagulls descended. The first to arrive was a gregarious Japanese boy, face smeared with chocolate, soon joined by a sandy-haired,
equally gregarious compatriot.

Japanese boy: "I'm eating a cookie! Hahahaha!"

"Wow, that's cool. Good, eh?"


Sandy-hair gets up in the mix. He's carrying a piece of bark and chewing on something.

"Mloff blugh sphff bluh-bluh pthhh!"

"You're not eating that piece of bark, are you?"


"Noooo, I'm eating a cookie. Hahahaha!"

And so the tone was set.

I hang around with kids far too little. This is what I discovered today. Mid-20-somethings just hang out, for the most part, with other mid-20-somethings and 30-somethings, which is probably one of the reasons why most of us are fucked up in the head, endure a constant what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis, and seem convinced that any social situation has to involve at least a few beers. The last two weeks have been something of a low point, but two hours with these lil' terrors blew it apart like wind to the clouds. They know way better than most of us how to grab a moment by the balls and live it up to the start of the next, soaking in it for all it's worth.

After chocolate-face had asked what the big hole at the end of the horn is for, and I'd blown a low B-flat in his face to show him, something of a game took shape. A small mob of them would converge on me when I was soloing, and I'd find a semi-musical way to work in a few good low-end honks, at which they would scatter briefly, running and laughing, only to gang up again and come back for more. So it continued, all of 'em dancing, screaming randomly, falling over each other, trying to pull each others' pants down. And I'm glad to know that the Poo-Poo Pee-Pee song is still alive and well, although if they think they wrote it, they ought to know that WE penned that one back in the day.

Then come the questions. They want to KNOW, and they're not going to let you bullshit your way out the back door. Sandy-hair made me explain why every piece of the saxophone is necessary for it to work and sound the way it does. I showed him how it sounded in just about every possible configuration: no reed and no ligature, reed but no ligature, no mouthpiece, no neck — they loved this one, blowing trombone-style into the body, which elicits a sound reminiscent of broken wind. Is that wood? Why does it have to be wet? What happens if...? What happens when...? Ok, I'm gonna play and you press this... see? Cool!

I think I need to find a way to be around the younglings a little more often. Not saying that I want one anytime soon (emphatic, bold-faced NO), but a little more contact would be good for the soul. I have the feeling that, in a wider sense, the healthiest arrangement for each generation is to be in constant contact with all others in existence, younger and older. Without, it's just way too easy to lose perspective.


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