Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hats off to old Hickory McCracken

My old pal Hickory McCracken (pictured here) was a one of kind fella. He was only 5' 4" but he was taller than most men in ego and emotional stature. The guy lost some teeth in bar fight at only 11 years old when some drunken brawler grabbed his pops (a gentle old baker) and ol' Hick stepped in and turned the drunk's nutsack into a play-dough accordion. At the ripe age of 14, while spending the summer at military camp, he wrote a bunch of poems that covered the gammit of his heartbreak over his lost cat, quantum physics, the politics of international security and the music of Wagner. The poems were published in the New Yorker less than a year later. By the age of 16 (while studying for his LSATS, specially prepared for the pre-university gifted) Hick swung a summer job as a doorman at The Blacksmith Inn, his Uncle's tavern, and when drunken college types made fun of his shortness, golf hat or fisherman's pipe, I got all the more thrill watching him coax them into the back alley so he could beat them until they lay toothless, bloodied and crying in a steaming heap of their own defecate. By 18 he won the North American finals in one of the first televised Krav Maga (Isreali Military Survival Fighting) and Brazilian Jujitsu competitions. Amazingly, he still found the time to develop a solar-powered lawnmower and a musical instrument, a hybrid between a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a mouth-harp. By 20, Hick had scholarship offers from everywhere from Harvard to Le Sorbonne but instead decided against the brain-washing of formal education and went to live with one of his girlfriends somewhere in the Polynesian Islands where he could finish his watercolour paintings and get some peace and quiet. Hick was a poet, Hick was fighter, he used to light his pipe with a rusty old butane lighter; his mother was a seamstress and his father was baker, before exams he'd snort gunpowder he stored in salt shaker. A truck ran over his cat named Razor and his brother was later killed by a cop's tazer; sometimes he'd talk and joke, sometimes he'd sit deep and toke, but always with a vacant look in his eyes; like he was staring into a world that he loved but at the same time despised; I'd lend him books and he'd show me some punches; we'd sit down by the tracks and smoke during our school lunches; he'd tell about his Dad's drinkin' and I'd tell him about my Dad's mistress; once we hopped a train to Detroit at Christmas; the last day I ever saw Hick we'd have our last chat; he said "Life's a bitch, sometimes you gotta slap it like that." I'd thank him for the advice and he'd just tip his hat.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

jazz and being

More than most types and flavours of art, I find music, in the form of Jazz, to be the form that holds me tight to the present moment... accompanying me on my everyday journey to and from and from back to to. It would seem that rock n' roll, my very bloodsource, tends to fill me with raw energy and an undefinable ambition to just go out and DO! Do what? I dunno, go crazy I guess, drive fast, overturn newspaper boxes, drink hard, punch people in the face, etc. It's a great energy if you can harness it. Though, it doesn't throw me a newspaper and pour me a cup of hot coffee like Jazz does. Though I have used classical music to relax to... and even allowed Opera to tease and pull my heart strings, it still remains the musical form of Jazz that really seems to me to be the soundtrack of daily motion in, especially city, life. Country, folk and grass roots blues are the songs of the working man, the dusty boots, greasy jeans and the songs of the family, homemade jam and cotton sheets blowing in a summer wind. But it's different than Jazz. Jazz, everything ranging from Count Basie big band to the beat poet messiness of bass/drum/guitar trios right across to a lonely trumpeter squeezing out a muted trill on the top of a high rise rooftop in the hot August eve, is for me a more direct connection to the immediacy of being. The flow of being. The gentle wildness of Lionel Hampton's xylophone, the rainy afternoon piano of Bill Evans or the angry genius of Buddy Rich's drumming thump, Jazz is the poetry of sound. My current muses are the Dave Holland Sextet's new opus "Pass it On" and of course, the rable rousing Chet Baker's Verve collection. I switch often between a classic LP "Everybody Loves Bill Evans" and his Excellency Oscar Peterson's "Night Train." Oscar Peterson's trio once moved me to tears with a rendition of "requiem" during an NAC performance on his Night in Vienna tour. Fucking beautiful.

Jazz is the traffic, the rain, the sirens of panic and a little baby laughing. Jazz is the old men playing chess in the park on a Saturday afternoon. Jazz is a howling busker, Jazz is a cold beer. Jazz is a bicycle ride and a picnic in the valley. Jazz is a nap. Jazz is a bus ride. Jazz is a painting, Jazz is math. Jazz is a bubble bath. Jazz is building, Jazz is tearing down. Jazz is simultaneously loose and tight. Jazz is the long, lonely, weed smoked, beer drunk night.