In the Merry Month of May

May 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

James Carter, photo Vincent Soyez

James Carter, photo Vincent Soyez

We went to hear the James Carter Organ Trio Saturday night, and it was most definitely a holiday weekend: Carter, who’s always been a showman, piled on the razzamatazz so thick I felt like I was watching vaudeville. He tortured his horn into doing animal tricks: a Cadillac full of monkeys burning rubber on the California coast road, a dozen toucans celebrating spring break in a Jetblue restroom. And the audience patter was so slick and curlicued I wanted to throw pineapples at him.

Of course, there was also some fantastic music, truly virtuoso stuff. Carter can grandstand because he knows what he’s got. (An extra pair of lungs, for one thing. Horn players always amaze me. I’m the kind of person who gets tired blowing up balloons on the first balloon.) He entered the jazz scene in the early 90’s, talent spilling out his pockets, flaking off his shoes, leaving trains of hot glitter wherever he walked. You could say I had a crush on him.

The audience, which at the Jazz Standard is usually a mix of foreign tourists, American tourists, serious young people and Jersey couples who’ve been in the music business for 40 years, was almost all American tourists. “Do they even know who they’re listening to?” Charles asked.

“They do now,” I said.

Carter’s grown older (fancy that), put on weight, and though he’s still got charisma, doesn’t exude that supremely confident sexual heat that used to make my heart—well, not my heart—

It was a fun if short evening: we had dinner at our apartment before the set, then walked home after: Park Avenue South (wandering young folk), Union Square where the buildings and pavement gleamed from the earlier rain, the fading flowers on Fifth Avenue. I love the cool weather. It was probably disappointing if you were at the beach, but perfect for hanging around lower Manhattan.

Sunday, I worked for the Cathedral (at home), answered client emails, vacuumed, made a pork and green bean stir-fry with garlic, onion and hot sauce. Monday, I did the taxes…the 2011 taxes…the IRS is not so embroiled in scandal that it’s completely forgotten about people with bureaucratic avoidance syndrome. Thank god for credit card “Your Year in Spending” statements and online scans of checks. I did almost all of the prep work without moving from my laptop, although when I added up how much I squander on books, it made me wish I spent more time writing them.

The next step is to make Charles figure out his income and expenses, a fraught endeavor likely to result in repeated questions about things I couldn’t possibly know the answer to, and early afternoon drinking.

I dreamed a friend’s mother, ill with cancer, had an operation where her mind was transferred into the body of a cat, supposedly temporary. It was a pretty little cat with soft gray hair who cried when I picked her up, clung to my chest, then skittered off to flirt with the cat down the street. “What is she thinking?” I asked. “Is she thinking like a person or a cat? Can they do that to me?” My friend got angry that I wasn’t respecting the dire experimental nature of the treatment.


It’s funny when the mind thinks about the psyche,
as if a grasshopper could ponder a helicopter.

It’s a bad idea to fall asleep
while flying a helicopter:

when you wake up, the helicopter is gone
and you are too, left behind in a dream,

and there is no way to catch up,
for catching up doesn’t figure

in the scheme of things. You are
who you are, right now,

and the mind is so scared it closes its eyes
and then forgets it has eyes

and the grasshopper, the one that thinks
you’re a helicopter, leaps onto your back!

He is a brave little grasshopper
and he never sleeps

for the poem he writes is the act
of always being awake, better than anything

you could ever write or do.
Then he springs away.

Ron Padgett


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