December 2006


I love this week between Christmas and the New Year. Time stands still for a moment. My mind wanders through Christmas’s past. Almost everyone is out of town in my neighborhood. A beautiful calm has descended. I walk into town for coffee and my favorite table by the window is available. Reading late into the night, here’s a beautiful poem I came across:

Sally’ Hair
by John Koethe

It’s like living in a lightbulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.

I took the train back from Poughkeepsie to New York
And in the Port Authority, there at the Suburban Transit window,
She asked, “Is this the bus to Princeton?” -which it was.
“Do you know Geoffrey Love?” I said I did. She had the blondest hair,

Which fell across her shoulders, and a dress of almost phosphorescent blue.
She liked Ayn Rand. We went down to the village for a drink,
Where I contrived to miss the last bus to New Jersey, and at 3 a.m. we
Walked around and found a cheap hotel I hadn’t enough money for

And fooled around on its dilapidated couch. An early morning bus
(She’d come to see her brother), dinner plans and missed connections
And a message on his door about the Jersey shore. Next day
A summer dormitory room, my roommates gone: “Are you,” she asked,

“A hedonist?” I guessed so. Then she had to catch her plane.
Sally- Sally Roche. She called that night from Florida,
And then I never heard from her again. I wonder where she is now,
‘Who’ she is now. That was thirty-seven years ago

And I’m too old to be suprised again. The days are open,
Life conceals no depths, no mysteries, the sky is everywhere,
The leaves are all ablaze with light, the blond light
Of a summer afternoon that made me think again of Sally’s hair.

Just finished reading, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to my son. He’s not sure he believes in Santa Claus anymore, but made a list “just in case.” It’s been cold here in California. The other day the temperatures were exactly the same in New York as in LA. It must have been heaven in New York to be so mild in December. Still, the high 30s in the desert climate of LA, chills to the bone. I walked along the ocean bluffs tonight and all the lights were beautiful in the cold clear night air. Magic.

Ahmet Ertegun died this week. He was 83, still it came as a shock. He fell, backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in October, and went into a coma that he never came out of. Not the worst way to go in the scheme of things, though I would rather that he, and all of us, live forever.
If you don’t know who he was, he was one of the founders of Atlantic Records. He grew up in Turkey and fell in love with American jazz and blues along with the lifestyle that came with it. Borrowing $10,000. from his family dentist, he started the company, using a rented hotel room as their first office space. The music he was responsible for bringing to the world is an impressive list: Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, and many more.
I can’t remember if we met in passing, but I certainly was in the midst of his legacy, if only as a fan of all the classic Atlantic Records records that shaped and guided me in my own musical aspirations. The guitar player that I aim to be is some kind of blend of Eric Gale, Phil Upchurch, Hugh McCracken, Eddie Hinton, etc., the great RnB/Soul guitar legends that added so much to the Atlantic legacy.
I was lucky to have had the good fortune to be in the Atlantic Studios off of Columbus Circle in the working company of Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin. What an incredible world they created on vinyl and seemingly all for the love of the music. Well, maybe the money was part of it, but if you don’t remember the power of their creations, go back and listen to Aretha’s, “Young, Gifted, & Black” album. “All the King’s Horses, and all the King’s Men” couldn’t put it all back together again. What a beautiful era. So sorry to see it end.