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The Lake

I was probably about seven years old one summer when I went with my friend Jimmy to his parents’ lake house on a Sunday afternoon. The lake house was a small, two bedroom cabin with wood paneling throughout. About 30 feet from the back door was situated a small, brown dock, constructed of milk chocolate-colored posts and planks. It was just a small, ordinary, brown, little dock.

 

The lake was not very big, not even to me as a child. It seemed to be about the size of two football fields, lengthwise and widthwise, and there were about a dozen cabins similar to theirs dotted around the rim of the lake.

 

The water was not the pristine, crystal-clear water you would expect in the Appalachian foothills. The color was more of a pea soup green mixed with a light brown mud.

 

Jimmy and I were standing on the dock, trying to force the slimy, wiggly little earthworms onto our hooks. We would cast our rods and the worms would catch a whiff of freedom and fly off of the hooks in another direction. The few worms that stayed on the hooks were snatched and quickly transported away by lightning-fast fish.

 

Needless to say, we quickly ran out of worms. Jimmy thought we might have better luck using lures, so he ran to the house for his tackle box. As he was heading towards the house, I saw one of our bait worms floating towards the dock. I couldn’t tell if it was dead or alive, but it didn’t matter. I wanted that worm!

 

I leaned forward, reaching for the worm with my fishing pole, and promptly fell in headfirst!

 

It happened so suddenly, I had no time to take a breath. One moment I was breathing crisp, clean, summertime, mountain air and the next I was sucking in salty, mud pie soup! The putrid, seemingly waste-filled slush was more than a match for the cow pasture across the street from Jimmy’s house in the horrible smell department.

 

I was a decent swimmer. I had been swimming since I was three or four years old, but the shock of falling into this ice cold, muck-filled water headfirst caused me to forget my skill. All I could see was the murky fog of the creamed spinach-green water with occasional glimpses of brown bark, leaves, or twigs floating by.

 

Without my vision as a guide, I thrashed about wildly, lurching forward, as my feet furiously propelled like an angry helicopter. I cannot remember calling for help. With my mouth and throat stinging as if I had swallowed a shot of Tabasco with an onion and salt chaser, it is not likely that I was able to. Plus, only the fish, or possibly Aquaman would have heard me underwater.

 

Constantly reaching forward, I finally managed to touch one of the posts of the dock. Its algae-covered surface was oil-slick mixed with the water and its needle-sharp splinters stabbed at my cold, pruning fingers. I could not grab onto to the post.

 

Suddenly, I heard a rumbling above my head. Horses seemed to be galloping along the dock, but it was a neighbor who had seen me fall in. He ran right over and plucked me from death’s icy, dripping grip.

 

I was a quivering wet cat when he pulled me out, half cold and half mad that I was forced into the water. My trembling cold soon gave way to a steamy, red heat of embarrassment.

 

We thanked the man for saving my life and all was soon right. To this day I cannot remember the man’s name, or if I ever knew it in the first place. All I can remember of him was his bushy, brown caterpillar of a mustache. I wish I could have thanked him in a more proper fashion.

Alarm Clock

Curse you, dreaded clock that rings!

Haven’t you much better things

Than waking man from blissful sleep,

You wailing, sleep-depriving creep?

 

There you stand in hateful wrath,

Staring with your face of math,

Screaming at my body still,

Incessant as a dental drill.

 

Have you pity in your gears?

Won’t you spare my gentle ears?

Of my pleas, do you refuse?

In brief relief I hit your snooze.

Two Lessons

I had a little smile this morning because, for some reason, I remembered the time that my old girlfriend’s brother, a Stanton and Tulane grad who was attending Carnegie-Mellon at the time, along with his best friend, who both considered me their intellectual inferior because I was a lowly Terry Parker grad (and I do mean “lowly”) who still did not have a college degree from FCCJ, challenged me and lost in consecutive games of Scattergories and Trivial Pursuit. Now, I’m sure they are both much more successful in life than I have been, what with having doctorates and wives and what not, but the two times they challenged me, they lost. Two lessons here: Never Underestimate Another Person’s Intelligence, and When Challenged, Defy Expectations.

Clutter

Clutter, clutter on the floor,

Clutter, clutter out the door!

Clutter, clutter, here to there,

Clutter, clutter everywhere!

 

Stacks of piles and piles of stacks,

Mounds of towels, shirts, and slacks!

Cat food, dog food, boxes, sacks,

Assorted loads of multi-packs!

 

Counter space at premium cost,

More knick-knacks; more inches lost!

The dinner table’s loaded down

With so much stuff it just might drown!

 

Groceries, luxuries, linens, soaps,

“Will it end?”, one only hopes!

I ponder sitting in that chair;

Will things be piled on me there?

 

Clutter, clutter on the floor,

Clutter, clutter out the door!

Clutter, clutter here to there,

Clutter, clutter everywhere!

Honesty

I once had the sheer audacity

To swear off of telling all lies.

Far too often my mendacity

Was ruined by my too honest eyes.

 

When asked for my honest opinion,

I would often give the reverse.

My eyes, not under my dominion,

Made my dishonesty worse.

 

So I decided to speak only truth,

And damn any bad consequences,

Though honesty’s sometimes uncouth,

I never had to run for the fences.

 

Though sometimes the truth hurts a bit,

I never incurred any wrath.

Who can hate that a man will admit

His true feelings, and defy aftermath?

 

I got out of doing things annoying,

I could be lazy and freely admit it.

I stopped doing what I wasn’t enjoying

If I didn’t like something, I quit it.

 

My new life was going quite splendidly.

Honesty was such utter bliss,

Until my loved one did ask me,

“Honey, do I look fat in this?”

 

“Honesty is the best policy”,

Or so I have often heard said.

But honesty was revealed as sheer idiocy,

When she beat me about my head.

 

Reviews of MILES AHEAD and BORN TO BE BLUE

Trumpeters live rough lives. That is the message I got from watching two movies about famous trumpeters today.

I went to the Sun-Ray to see MILES AHEAD, the pseudo-biopic of Miles Davis. It was co-written by, directed by, and starred Don Cheadle as Miles Davis. Cheadle also plays a lot of the trumpet parts in the movie. He does great work as Davis. He doesn’t completely disappear into the role, but he fairly embodies it. The centerpiece of the movie is a fictional “interview” gone awry with a Rolling Stone writer named Dave Brill, played by Ewan McGregor. This interview never actually took place, and there was no Dave Brill working for Rolling Stone, so this was an odd choice to make, story-wise. However, the interactions between the two actors are entertaining, which is something that a lot of biopics aren’t. If you think of the movie as not a true biopic, but a movie featuring the character of Miles Davis, that happens to include biographical elements (Sort of along the lines of last week’s ELVIS & NIXON), you may find something to like in the film. You may also discover Emayatzy Corinealdi as Frances Taylor, Miles’s ex-wife. She is beautiful and will hold your attention each moment she is onscreen. She stands toe to toe with Cheadle in their scenes together. I hope to see her in many more movies. The film shows how the celebrity lifestyle, including drugs of course, can take its toll on a marriage. If you can throw away a woman like Frances, it is understandable that you might go into a virtual exile for years, which is Miles’s status at the beginning of the movie. He hasn’t recorded in 5 years and people are pressuring him to get something on tape. There are plenty of examples of Miles’s music all throughout the film, mostly in mere snippets. We get a taste of his music while getting a picture of the man. If you enjoy rough movies about musicians, and movies that are not linear and jump around in time a bit, you may like MILES AHEAD.

My second movie about a trumpeter was BORN TO BE BLUE, which is more of a straight biopic about Chet Baker, one of the pioneers of West Coast cool jazz. I caught it on demand from Comcast. In addition to being a great jazz trumpeter, he was also a rather decent vocalist. Ethan Hawke plays Baker as the white trumpeter looking to impress Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and trying to live up to the musical influence of his idol, Charlie Parker. After playing a gig at Birdland in 1954, Miles tells Baker to come back after he’s lived some, meaning that Miles thinks Chet is a little green. Then the movie movies forward to 1966, after Baker has done a little more living and then gets viciously beaten by drug dealers, who knock out his teeth, making it extremely difficult to play trumpet. Baker loved his heroin, you see, much like Miles Davis loved his coke. Baker recuperates under the loving care of Jane. a beautiful, light-skinned actress played by Carmen Ejogo (she played Coretta Scott-King in SELMA). Baker dated multiple black women in the 50s and 60s, but this was not touched on as being all that scandalous in the film, which somewhat surprised me. This movie was more linear in its storytelling, with the occasional odd flashback to a scrapped biopic that Chet Baker was making prior to his attack. The standouts are Hawke, who does really good work in this; Ejogo, who is luminous; and the music of Chet Baker. Hawke does his own singing and gets the feeling of Baker’s vocals down. I’m not sure if he plays the trumpet parts, but they are mournful and sad.

So, both movies demonstrate how rough life can be for a famous trumpeter. The music, and all the fame and money that comes with it, are apparently not enough.

Unrequited

If it weren’t for the unrequited kind,

I would have had no love at all.

It’s always for the unobtainable,

Or for someone else’s girl I fall.

 

I can see them in my daydreams;

A parade of them passing by.

A most beautiful procession,

While none look me in the eye.

 

They’re not to blame for their lack of interest.

They had no reasons to look at me.

I’ve never had much charm or looks,

And my diffidence is nothing to see.

 

So I’ll go on loving unrequited.

I’ll go on with love unreturned.

The one positive thing to be said is,

I’m never loved, therefore never burned.

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