Monday, December 12, 2011

The Smell of Cobblestones.

He had never told her that he spoke Spanish. It was a guilty pleasure to listen to her speak it. They had walked arm in arm for weeks, through the plazas of Cartagena's old city. Her broken English sufficed when they talked. Her Spanish melted the hard edges of his frozen heart when he only listened. They walked the three legged walk of lovers as she described the clouds, the smell of the street food, or the ugliness of a woman his gaze had lingered on; as if he could not understand. A mundane narration made delicious in her smoky accent.

On a stroll one day, she had been testy and tired. Pressing on, she had drug him with a hint of urgency through the now familiar colonial streets. Swiftly, they had passed through a half dozen of their favorite plazas, until she had found a stone bench in a dark corner of the Plaza Bolivar. They sat, rested and halfheartedly began to kiss.

Darkness encroached on the vivid, busy city. In the midst of the fading color and clamor, they had found a nearly invisible spot all their own. Exhausted, she cooed her soft Spanish syllables, but could only muster an old Tom Petty lyric:

"No tiene sentido pretender en

Tus ojos te delatan

Algo dentro de ti es sentir que puedo hacer

Hemos dicho todo lo que hay que decir"

Her breathe tickled passed his ear.

She traced the seam of his chinos with her finger. A bright red fingernail buzzed along the worn threads. She stretched an arm across his lap to caress his thigh.

A cold ooze of dread shocked him awake when she had dictated in a whisper "Llaves del barco en el bolsillo del pantalón derecho (boat keys in the right pants pocket)."

Hugging him gently, low on his torso, she leaned her head on his shoulder and paused her hand in the small of his back. The metallic finality in her voice scratched at his ears: "Sin armas (unarmed)."

Then soft again, already suffused with regret, she pleaded, "Trate de no matarlo . . . por favor (Try not to kill him . . . please)."

Faintly, a starched shirt strained against muscular shoulders, and, too late, he heard the airy whistle of a truncheon.

He woke in the shining sun, against the cobblestones. His nostrils pulled at the rich air of the plaza floor, damp cobblestones warmed in the late morning. Hints of the jungle in the decaying earth in which the stones were set. He had traveled the world and crossed oceans. There had been modern day pirates, thieves and third world bureaucrats. There had been storms, reefs and starvation. Yet, it was love that had tripped him again.

As he awoke, his heart argued with his head. The heart proclaimed she had been worth it.  The head wondered where his boat was and how he would get home. A plaza stray licked at his ear, begging breakfast.


Image lifted without permission from Lure Cartagena.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Review

My dream job is listening to and writing about music.  Occasionally, I get to do this dream job volunteering over at WYCE on the CD Review Crew.  In order to get some momentum back for writing season, I thought I post my latest review here.  If you're quick and run over to the WYCE Music Journal, this review is the featured jazz review.  'Featured' simply because it is most recent.

Here's the review:

I'll learn to work the saxophone / I'll play just what I feel.” Reunion brings together two great players after 40 years apart. At once like zen warriors stalking each other, and like old friends talking over martinis, Caliman and Christlieb mine their rich personal histories, mutual and otherwise, to forge an album of West Coast Cool.

On the Steely Dan track “Deacon Blues,” as Donald Fagen sings about working the saxophone – a track loaded with superstar sax players [Tom Scott, Wayne Shorter, Jim Horn, Bill Perkins, Plas Johnson, and Jackie Kelso], it is Pete Christlieb ripping the tenor solo throughout the song. Hadley Caliman was the older, wiser saxman who took Pete “under his wing” when Christlieb was only 20 years old and subbing in an LA jazz band.

Hadley Caliman and Pete Christlieb go way back – back to the heyday of the Central Avenue Scene in 1950's and 60's Los Angeles. Caliman made an early name practically imitating Dexter Gordon; earning the nickname “Little Dex.” He was an L.A. session stalwart, got into drugs, into prison, and into Santana's band. He eventually cleaned up and settled in the Pacific Northwest, teaching for twenty years at the Cornish College of Arts. Caliman is a radiant West Coast Player with a bit of East Coast edge. Christlieb was a “string bean” kid subbing in Bobby Bryant's band. The kid had chops, but got his history and bandstand etiquette playing next to Caliman. Christlieb went on to play with Woody Herman among others, and spent 20 years with Doc Severinson's Tonight Show Band.

Pianist Bill Anschell brings several original tunes including “Little Dex,” a tip of the hat to Caliman's early days. Each of our hosts brings a couple tunes. “Comencio” was written by Caliman in prison. He also brought the exotic, haunting “Gala.” The soulful “Dream On” and the burner “Nasty Green” both came from Christlieb. Beyond their pianist's other songs, they pick great covers in Cole Porters' “Love For Sale,” Freddie Hubbard's joyful “Up Jumped Spring,” and Johnny Mercer's “I Thought About You.” You'll be glad these two kindred spirits, long separated, have found each other again. Bookend “Wide Stance,” “Dream On,”or “Little Dex” with “Deacon Blues for a sweet time machine treat. “Love For Sale” is the Mother of all Sax Battles. Reviewed by Todd Townsend.

The Cop and the Corn

I’ve written before about the DOT regulated hours I have to track as a truck driver. I can drive for eleven hours a day, but once I start,...