As our national discourse continues to descend (with the man who in other circumstances would be Leader of the Free World now basically spending his time sticking out his tongue on social media), a little escapism seems in order...
Dear Felix recently turned me onto the remarkable performer seen here, and over the past couple of weeks, I find myself increasingly taking mini-breaks in Hiromiland. It's a far pleasanter place than Our Nation's Capital, on the whole.
Normally I'm dubious at best at jazz that can seem overly deconstructive, but in some near-magical way, Hiromi holds on to the spine of whatever work she's tackling (and you should hear her Pachelbel - really you should) and the result is bracing, delightful, and often very, very exciting. The sheer joy with which she attacks the keyboard helps, as does her truly remarkable technique. I think of my teen years, spent fruitlessly attacking (or, perhaps more accurately, being attacked by) piano exercises, Hanon and worse, and watch her with dropped jaw. She's clearly far better known than I can attest, who have only just stumbled on her, and I hope she continues to thrive. We need a little madness of her kind, to combat all the other kinds out there.
I went, yesterday, to a memorial service. My old pal Miss Rheba's father left us two weeks ago, and so I motored up north a couple of hours to pay my respects. He was 90, and it was no surprise, but such event are always melancholy. The parents of one's high-school friends remain in memory as mythical figures, embodiments of various vices and virtues. Mr. Rheba (as it were) was a Southern gentleman of the old school, crotchety and eccentric even in middle age, and he got only more so as the decades passed. Mrs. Rheba, his late spouse, was even more so, and neither were in any traditional way what one would think of as Good Parents. She was likely both agoraphobic and alcoholic, and he was alternately a martinet and utterly absent; even so, Rheba and her siblings have done all right, the occasional felony and infelicitous marriage (none of them hers, by the bye) to the contrary.
The service was a Unitarian one (meaning, one might argue, it really wasn't a service in any organized way at all), and while the hall might have just as well been a care-home dayroom (I do like a little Gothic, but I'm all Presbyterian that way), it was actually a rather lovely event. The majority of attendees, family aside, were various people who'd worked with the old gentleman on any number of lost or marginal causes (he was a ferocious volunteer), and they all clearly adored him. If his children's testimonies were more muted, they were movingly sincere. The open-mic segment may have gone a tad long, but the reception after was a delight. If nothing else, one attraction of meeting up with friends and acquaintances of more than thirty years ago is the opportunity it provides to feel both relatively lithe and distinctly not-bald.
I didn't speak, mostly because I have no single crystallizing memory of the deceased aside from how touched one was by his firm belief that his children had followed his sterling example as teetotallers in regard to every vice, and it didn't really seem the time to bring all that up, what with half the siblings already late for their AA meetings. Over a nice Orange Julius (don't ask - it was his idea; the whole menu had been set up by the honoree; I'd never had any, and would have assumed it as long vanished as Sarsaparilla), Miss Rheba and I recalled her first and most vivid memory of my own late father: she was dropping me off at our house, an unfortunate split-level of the lowest sort, with a twisty cul-de-sac of a driveway that left one to one side of the lower level, with no means of entrance to the house save opening the garage door. Remembering this, we had taken with us a garage-door remote. I clicked it, and the wide planked door began its slow, stately ascent. As it did, it quickly took on the air of a particularly surreal burlesque, for as it climbed, from the front seat of Miss Rheba's Chrysler LeBaron we saw first a pair of brightly polished black shoes, then a pair of smart black socks, then a pair of efficient if not quite stylish sock garters, then... the rest of my father, sans any additional sort of accoutrements whatsoever. He'd apparently remembered something he wanted to check on in the garage while getting dressed, or at least that was (later - much later) his story.* It took what felt like an eon to get that garage door back down, bringing the tableau all-too-vivant to a close. After a very long silence, I got out of the door and scrambled up the hill toward the other nearest door; I don't believe that Miss Rheba and my father were formally introduced for another year or so, and it's just as well that we let some time pass. He was not a particularly prepossessing aesthetic object, garters or no, that much I can say.
So that was Saturday - two long drives and a trip down memory lane. Mr. Muscato and I went to our sushi local and talked about plans for an upcoming adventure, and in the back of my mind I turned over the various ways that the high-school crowd has turned out. Mostly well, and to a one unanimous on the merits of the education we resented so bitterly at the time. None of us quite where we thought we might be, and some sadder and wiser than others, but alive, and moving on. Mr. Rheba was the next-to-last of all our parents, and I suppose more than one of us was thinking that after that one more service, the next round will be us. I hope my own, when at last it comes (many, many, many years from now, please) will have as much fond memory recounted - but I do hope, too, it will have something a little more restorative than Orange Julius.
* It seemed truer than it might to outsiders; he always did put on his shoes and socks (and their necessary supporters) first, for reasons mercifully lost in time.