Monday, December 28, 2009

Can I Get you a Drink?

The couple walked into the hotel lounge and sat down at the bar. It was mid-afternoon so the room was empty. The bartender was dressed appropriately for a 5-star resort. He approached quickly.

“How are you folks today? What can I get for you?” he asked.

Sophie ordered Diet Coke.

“Glenlivet on the rocks with a glass of water on the side,” her husband Richard said.

“Excellent,” said the bartender, showing his approval of the single malt scotch. “Where are you folks from?”

“We live about an hour from here. We were in the hotel for an event at the convention center and thought we would explore a little,” Sophie said. “Are you a native Floridian?” she asked.

“Oh, no. I’m from Jersey. I’ve been down here for a few years.”

“How do you like it here? I’ll bet you never want to go back to the cold weather,” Richard said after a sip of Glenlivet. “There’s a blizzard going on up there right now.”

“Actually, I miss it. The weather is nice but Florida is no place to raise children. I mean, the education system is terrible. If I had kids here I’d have to send them to private schools.”

“Some counties in the area put an emphasis on education. It depends on where you live. Whereabouts in Jersey are you from?” Richard asked.

“South Jersey. That’s why I don’t have a Jersey accent. There aren’t a lot of Italians in the southern part of the state so we don’t have accents.”

“Italians are all up north? Really? I’m not sure I understand. You mean you can tell if someone is Italian based on whether or not they have a New Jersey accent?” Sophie asked, amused. She hadn’t disclosed the fact that she, too, was from New Jersey, and she, too, had no Jersey accent.

“Definitely,” the bartender responded with authority. “The Italians all live in North Jersey and they have those heavy accents. You know, like in the Sopranos.”

“Actually, I’m from North Jersey,” Sophie said, “and I don’t have an accent. I never had one. Of course, I’m not Italian, but I grew up in an Italian neighborhood.”

“I guess you didn’t socialize with them much. Besides, it’s just the way they talk. They can’t help it.”

At this remark, Sophie could not believe that this young man could be so ignorant but she played along a little further to see just how far this would go. Richard sat quietly, listening to the exchange, enjoying his drink. He felt a little sorry for the young bartender, knowing that Sophie was laying a trap.

“When I was growing up, I had friends with all kinds of backgrounds,” she said. “I had a girlfriend who was Polish, one that was German, one that was English and of course, some Italians. The only difference it made to me was that I knew what kind of food I’d be eating if I went to dinner at a friend’s house. Usually the food was very ethnic. That was cool. Other than that, I never really thought about who had accents and who didn’t.”

“Well, you probably just didn’t notice,” said the bartender. “Where I grew up it was different.
I’m an Irish Catholic, born and raised in a little town in South Jersey. Went to Sacred Heart Elementary, St. Mary’s Junior High and Holy Sacrament High School.”

“So you went to all private schools growing up?” Sophie asked, placing the cheese in the little metal box.

“Yup,” he answered, apparently missing the irony of this after criticizing the school system in Florida.

“The Irish don’t talk like that. You know the stereotypes. The Irish are known as drinkers and fighters. The Italians are known for their mob connections and their accents,” he said. “Not that I’m a fighter or anything.”

“So what are Russian Jews like?” Sophie asked, thinking back to her grandparents.

“Russian Jews? I don’t know. I never met any in New Jersey. I think they live mostly in in New York. Maybe Queens, or something.” Although the bartender had boasted about his private school education, apparently he had a very narrow view of the world.

“So you plan to go back up north?” Sophie asked.

“By the time I’m 30 I’ll be back in South Jersey for sure. By then I’ll be ready to settle down and raise a family.”

“Be careful when you say that. Things change. You’re young. There’s no way of predicting what will happen tomorrow,” she said.

“You mean I might meet a girl here and fall in love? No, that’ll never happen. Girls down here are all fluff. I would never marry a southern girl,” he said. “I mean, I know a lot of girls come here from up north so I guess it’s possible I could meet one while I’m here but she’d have to want to go back to Jersey to get married or I wouldn’t date her.”

The woman finished her soda. The man finished his scotch.

“Can I get you another round?” the bartender asked.

“No, thanks. We’ve got to get going. Just a tab,” Richard said. He smiled at his wife while the bartender’s back was turned. He paid the bill, adding a little extra to cover the entertaining conversation.

The couple got up and walked toward the lobby. Richard took out the valet ticket as they approached the automatic doors.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Sophie said, laughing. “Hard to believe that he got through an interview with a 5-star hotel like this one. He must have interviewed with an Irish Catholic from South Jersey.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pansies in the Snow -- #fridayflash

Jonas sat at of his easel looking out the window at the garden. He was painting the delicate pansies with the softness of the first snowflakes shimmering on their petals. Magical flowers, the pansies, that could live and bloom through the winter even when the snow was drifting slowly from the sky.

The purple flowers surrounded by freshly fallen snow appeared on the canvas. Jonas had been painting for years. Most artists are ‘starving,’ as they say, or at least have a day job to support their art. Not so, Jonas. After his 27th showing, he was approached by a high end note card company about buying the rights to print his paintings and produce expensive cards, blank on the inside, to be sold in boutiques and museum gift shops. For about five years, sale of his cards had grown and he was able to paint full time. Jonas became recognized for his work.

“Oh, look,” a woman in an art store would say. “There are some new cards by Jonas. I must buy them and send notes to my friends across the country. Several of them collect his cards.”

Painting. For a living. Being recognized for his work. Jonas woke up each morning feeling satisfied.

One day, Jonas was started out of his sleep by the ringing of his phone.

“Hello?” he said.

“Jonas? It’s Melody. Did I wake you?”

“Uh, no. Well, actually, yes, but it was time for me to get up anyway,” Jonas said. “How are you??

“Well, I’m calling about next month’s order,” Melody said.

“Oh. I’ve got the prints all done and I’m picking them up today. I can ship them this afternoon,” he said.

“Actually, that won’t be necessary. Of course, you can still ship them and we’ll put them in the stores but sales have dropped off in the past few months. People just aren’t buying note cards as much as they used to,” Melody said. “Almost half of our Christmas cards were returned because people didn’t buy cards this year.”

“Really?” Jonas was surprised. “What’s going on? How can people stop sending Christmas cards?”

“It seems that many of those that did send cards used their own digital photos or family pictures and printed them at home. Or they ordered them online and sent them digitally so that the receiver could print them out on their end if they wanted to,” Melody explained. “We have moved into the digital age and more and more people are doing everything on the computer. The Postal Service is really taking a beating. I’m surprised they still deliver mail six days a week.”

“Gee, Melody. Would people buy my images online? If we digitized them, could they be uploaded and somehow watermarked or copyrighted and then people could buy them to send them through email or something?” Jonas asked.

“The problem, Jonas, is that people can get pictures like that for free. Of course, they’re not as beautiful as yours, but they can scan in your note cards from previous years and there’s nothing we can do about it. Besides, they have all this software for photos and art. People who can’t paint at all can create beautiful works of art by putting different elements together with just a point and click of the mouse.”

“What does this mean for me, Melody?”

Melody hesitated before answering. “I have to be honest. Business is way off. I’m getting fewer and fewer orders and I’m not sure the company will survive. After you ship today’s order, we won’t be needing any more note cards from you,” she said gently.

“I see,” Jonas said. “Well, I’ll ship today and then if things get better, please let me know and I’ll be ready with a new batch any time you need them.”

Melody sighed. She didn’t have the insensitivity to tell him that she didn’t foresee a time when things would go back to what they were. The world was changing. The appreciation for original artwork was fading. Imperfect portraits could be retouched using software. The desire to recognize flaws in the natural world had disappeared. A torn leaf on a flower was no longer considered realism; it was seen as imperfection.

Jonas stared out the window. The pansies had a few more snowflakes on their purple petals. The air outside sparkled as the sun glinted off the crystalline flakes. It didn’t sink in right away. It would be months before he realized that there were no checks in the mail.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The bell ringer - #fridayflash

“Merry Christmas,” the bell ringer for the Salvation Army said to Karen and she put the dollar in the slot of the red kettle. “And God bless you.”

“Thank you. You’re doing a good thing by volunteering and ringing this bell in the cold,” Karen replied.

“Oh, ma’am, I don’t mind doing this. It’s something I believe in and it’s not that cold. I know for Florida it feels cold today but from where I’m from up north this would be considered a warm, sunny day.”

“I know what you mean. I’ve been in Florida for 25 years. When I lived in New Jersey, we were wearing shorts and tee-shirts if the temperature got up in the 50s around this time of year,” Karen said. “It’s amazing how spoiled I’ve gotten.”

“It’s easy to do ma’am. You get used to living one way for a long time and then something changes or you move and it seems like after awhile you just make the adjustment and forget how it used to be.”

While the conversation continued, the woman kept ringing her bell steadily and occasionally someone entering the grocery store would put in some coins or a dollar. Each time someone made a donation, the bell ringer interrupted her conversation with Karen to say, “Merry Christmas, and God bless you.”

“I like doing this, actually,” she said to Karen. “It makes me feel good. It reminds me that people are basically good and try to do the right thing. Funny, I noticed that the people who drive into the parking lot in older cars are the ones that donate the most. The ones driving the fancy new cars seem to be the ones that either just walk by or drop coins in on their way out of the store,” she said, still ringing the bell. “Either way, I thank the good Lord for every single penny someone puts in the kettle.”

“How long is your shift?” Karen asked her.

“Eight hours each day. Then someone comes and picks up the kettle. A new person brings an empty kettle and stays for four more hours.”

Karen needed to go in and do her shopping but she was enjoying this chat and thought that eight hours must be a long time to sit there on a folding chair ringing the bell constantly.

“Would you like me to go in and get you some hot coffee for you?” Karen asked.

“Oh, no, that’s okay. I had some a little while ago. I’m fine for now.”

“Well then, I’ll go do my shopping. It was nice talking with you. Have a merry Christmas and God bless you,” Karen said.

“Thanks. Oh, and thanks for the donation.”

By the time Karen came out of the store with her grocery cart full of plastic bags the bell ringer was gone. A new person had replaced her. Karen put a dollar into the slot of the red kettle and the man wished her a merry Christmas.

The lady that had been there in the folding chair was already at the bus stop. Karen saw her as she was pulling out of the parking lot. She stopped and asked, “Do you need a ride somewhere?”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t want you to go out of your way,” she said.

“Please. I insist. I’m in no hurry and the weather is cool enough to keep my groceries cold awhile.”

“Are you sure?” the bell ringer asked. I have to go all the way downtown. It’s two transfers from here.

“Come on, then, get in. Really. I don’t mind driving you downtown.”

While Karen drove, they talked about the holidays and how the houses were all decorated for the holidays. They laughed about how funny it looked to see an inflated snowman lit up on someone’s front lawn even though they were in Florida. The homeowner may never even have seen snow.

The bell ringer gave Karen directions and when they arrived at a big building she said, “This is it. You can drop me off right here. The door is just around the side. This is where I’m staying right now.”

Karen slowed to a stop.

“Merry Christmas, again,” the bell ringer said. “And I really appreciate the ride. It would have taken me over an hour to get here, changing buses and all.”

“Merry Christmas to you, too,” Karen said as the woman closed the car door and turned toward the building.

Karen drove to the corner and turned right. That’s when she saw the front of the building. There was a big red crest above the door. The words written in white stood out against the background. “The Salvation Army.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breaking the #1 New Year's resolution

I stopped making New Year's resolutions when I was in my 30s and realized that I had a limited amount of control over what the new year might bring. I am more likely to set goals and general deadlines taking into consideration the reality that life may get in the way of reaching them.

This was a hard lesson to learn and I am guilty of many of what will follow. At one time or another I have been guilty of making resolutions that never came to fruition. Of course, it was never my fault, right? Here are some examples.

Between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I used to give myself permission to break certain rules or become delusional about what they I achieved during the passing year with the expectation that I'll do better next year. Needless to say, the most common had to do with food.

Resolution: I'm going on a diet to lose that extra ten pounds I gained over the holidays. (Yeah, right!)

The weight gain of which I speak often started with leftover Halloween candy. It seemed like year after year I accidentally bought too much, knowing that there weren't enough kids in the neighborhood to eat it all -- but who could resist when Hershey's kisses were BOGOs?.

By the time the candy was gone Thanksgiving was here. Dinner wouldn't be complete without deviled egg appetizers; a healthy veggie tray with dip made of cream cheese, sour cream and herbs; mashed potatoes with lots of butter; mashed sweet potatoes or sweet potato pie; green bean casserole with those yummy, crispy fried onion rings on top; stuffing/dressing made with plenty of butter; mashed rutabagas; dinner rolls -- lots of dinner rolls with butter...well you get the idea. And then, pies with vanilla ice cream after everyone wakes up from their tryptophan induced naps.

If the turkey gets to be stuffed, why shouldn't I?

The day after Thanksgiving stores open at 4 AM offering the "biggest bargains of the year." It's impossible to consider buying clothes on Black Friday because Thanksgiving dinner probably added a size to my body that I take for granted will be lost by the time I want to wear them.

I know, I know, that day is intended for buying Christmas and Chanukah presents for others, but if I come across that pair of jeans or slacks (my weight gain always goes directly below my waist) that I need and they're 50% off but will return to regular price the next day, how can I not buy them? The lines to the dressing rooms are so long, it's much easier just to buy my size without trying them on.

A week later the holiday parties start. My husband's company has a Christmas party. I haven't seen many of these people for a year and I'm curious to see whether I'm the only person who is aging and still dying my hair to cover the gray. Then there are other Christmas parties -- organizations I belong to, friends, etc.

The New Year's Eve party is always at my house and although we normally have between 25-40 people, somehow we always have enough food for 100. I tell people not to bring anything because I have all these Pampered Chef kitchen tools that I only use once or twice a year and I plan on making every conceivable appetizer and dessert myself. You'd think I'd know by now that nobody comes to a party empty handed. Maybe this year I'll cut back on my cooking.

The bottom line is that between Halloween and January 1 I can easily gain more than ten pounds if I indulge myself and the likelihood that I'll lose it by February is unrealistic. And at my height, ten pounds is a full size and maybe two!

So experience has taught me to cut down when buying Halloween candy and leave out some of the Thanksgiving traditions and steam some veggies as an alternative. Before and after a Christmas party I eat light. I cook with reduced fat products and use low fat ice cream for the a la mode. And for New Year's Eve, my new rule is NO TASTING. If I taste everything I cook all day I won't have room to eat at the party. That gives me another idea. I'll wear tight pants or a tight dress for the party so I can't overdo it or I'll suffer all night long.

Happy holidays all. Indugle if you dare. Make resolutions if you choose. Keep them or not. There are no guarantees in life so enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paper please #fridayflash

Nick and Nolan went to the grocery store with their mom almost every Sunday afternoon. They hated making the trip. The music on the speakers was nothing they had heard before, although mom hummed along with the songs. Little did they know that the music was implemented as a subliminal force to keep people relaxed while shopping and therefore spending more money.

“Stop hitting me,” Nick said.

“You pushed me first,” Nolan answered.

“Will you boys just stop? The next aisle is the cookie aisle and if you’re good, I’ll let you each pick out one package of cookies.”

It seemed to the boys like the entire day had been wasted at the store while they could have been out playing ball. Finally, they approached the checkout.

“Nick, you get in front of the cart and start unloading the groceries from there. Nolan and I will do the ones we can reach from here. That way we’ll get done faster,” mom said.

Chips Ahoy and Golden Oreos were carefully placed together to remind the boys of their reward for helping.

“Paper or plastic?” the cashier asked.

“Paper, please,” mom said. “They’re easier to unload.” She knew that nobody requested paper bags anymore, but she still found uses for them and hated the little plastic bags that held three items each.


Monday was a school day. Nick and Nolan walked to and from school together since they lived too close to take the bus. They liked school about as much as any seven and eight year old boys did. Recess and lunch gave them something to look forward to.

At the end of the school day, they hoisted their backpacks on their respective shoulders and began the trek home. As usual, they talked about their teachers and the other kids. Nick started running and Nolan chased after him. When they got home, mom would let them shoot hoops before doing homework so they were in a hurry.

Nolan noticed something on the sidewalk up ahead. It was a paper bag. As he knew from his trips to the grocery store, nobody used paper bags anymore. It wasn’t ‘green,’ his teacher said. Obviously his mother either disagreed or didn’t worry about such things.

The bag was all puffed out and he stopped about a foot away from it.

“Look, Nick. That bag looks full,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s probably filled with trash,” Nick said condescendingly.

They approached it warily and when they were about three feet away they agreed to run up and kick it as hard as they could. They expected to see garbage scatter everywhere but little boys are rarely deterred by the consequences of their actions.

“One, two, three, go!” said Nick.

They got to the bag almost at the same moment and kicked it as hard as they could. They scurried around it, expecting papers, cans and other discarded items to explode. They looked back and saw money, lots of money up in the air, falling to the ground. They rushed back and stared in disbelief!

“Wow! Nick, look at all these dollar bills,” Nolan said.

Eight-year old Nolan, slightly more sophisticated than his younger brother realized that in the corners of these bills weren’t 1s, they were 10s and 20s!

“Nolan, there must be a million dollars here!”

They looked around to see if anyone was watching. Nobody was. Nolan started stuffing the bills in his pockets and Nick followed his lead. When their pockets were full, they unhitched their backpacks and put the rest of the money in the zipper compartments where their lunches had been. After all the bills were off the sidewalk, they left the bag and ran home.

Mom was waiting for them on the front porch. They were so excited when they ran up to her that they both started talking at once.

“Slow down, boys. One at a time,” she said. “I can’t hear either of you when you’re both shouting over one another.”

Before they could explain, their hands went into their pockets and they started emptying the bills in front of her. Her eyes widened as she stared in disbelief.

“Where did you get all that money?” she asked. They recounted the story as quickly and logically as any boys their ages.

“Mom,” Nick said, “Can we go to the grocery store with you again next week? No wonder you always want paper bags instead of plastic!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Billy Hall, jazz pianist, dies in Orlando Florida

Orlando lost Billy Hall, one of its jazz treasures this week after a battle with "C". I remember when I was a little girl and nobody in the family was allowed to mention the word 'cancer' aloud. My grandmother referred to it as a kena herra (phonetical spelling), which was a Jewish expression that implied something like a hex, or at least that's what I understood it to mean. She and other adults referred to it simply as C, or the Big C.

Billy Hall was not afraid of the word nor of the disease. He fell ill only months ago but left the hospital feeling better. It wasn't long before he returned, was diagnosed and placed under the care of Hospice. He passed away on Monday, November 16, 2009.

The jazz community knew him quite well. He performed all over Central Florida and participated in the House of Blues School House teaching children about the origins of blues and jazz. Over one year ago, he founded a weekly event called the Monday Night Jazz Jam (a.k.a. Jazz for Jesus) which was hosted by Yvonne Coleman at Beluga, a restaurant in Winter Park. His core band played for free with a large brandy snifter for tips placed on the front of his grand piano. Each week a charity was chosen and the tips were donated to help the community. The recipients were not chosen by religion, race or background; simply by need.

Beluga closed its doors suddenly on a Sunday and the jam joined the ranks of the homeless. But not for long. The Grand Bohemian Hotel welcomed the musicians and fans into The Boheme Restaurant and they quickly picked up where they left off. Billy was a staple at the Grand Boheme's Bosendorfer Lounge.

Although his friends, family and fans will miss him terribly, Billy was a man of extreme faith. He always said “While I am here, I’m happy walking for him and when I’m called, I’ll be happy walking with him. I win either way!”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shuffle up and deal #Fridayflash

Marianne put on her gauzy, colorful peasant blouse and long billowing skirt. She reached into the drawer and pulled out a purple scarf that complemented the colors in her blouse. She wrapped the scarf loosely around her neck in an effort to cover the folds that women of a certain age refer to using a term describing a part of the bird commonly served on Thanksgiving. She opened the large jewelry box that her grandmother had bought her for her 21st birthday. She selected a pair of large hoop earrings and several strands of beads in varying lengths and put them on.

In the bathroom, she sat down on the edge of the bathtub facing the vanity and pushed the switch causing the frame of the magnifying mirror to light up. A small gold colored basket held her make-up. She brushed some dark pink blush on the apple of each cheek before carefully applying black liner to her upper and lower eyelids and several coats of mascara to her lashes. She reached for the tube of deep mauve lipstick and colored her lips, smacking them a couple of times. A glance in the mirror reflected a gypsy woman.

It was time to go to work. She got into her son’s battered Volkswagen and backed out of the garage of her suburban home. She only used this vehicle to drive back and forth to work. The Maxima stayed in the garage for now.

At the downtown section of this bedroom community she drove into a driveway and parked on the grass behind a tiny house. There was enough room for two other cars.

Marianne unlocked the back door and entered the house into the kitchen. She immediately put the teapot on the stove. Then she pushed aside the curtain separating the front room from the kitchen and kicked off her red shoes. They landed perfectly – one standing up and the other lying next to it. Even though it was a sunny day, she lit scented candles to set the mood. Everything was ready, so she walked around the little table to the front door and flipped the sign over from “Closed” to “Open.” Above the door was one word painted on a piece of wood: READINGS.

The kettle was whistling. Marianne walked back to the kitchen and put an aromatic teabag in a china cup. As she poured the water and rested the cup on the saucer she heard bells jingling as the front door opened. Returning to the candlelit room, Marianne saw a young woman standing tentatively inside the door.

“I made you a cup of tea,” she said to the stranger.

“How did you know…I’d be coming in?” the woman said.

Marianne smiled cryptically.

“Have a seat,” she said. “Make yourself comfortable and have a sip of tea.”

The stranger sat down with her back to the door and Marianne sat opposite her. On the table was an unadorned wooden box. Marianne tapped it three times before opening it. Looking down, as if she didn’t know what she’d find inside, she hesitated. Then she took out the deck of Tarot cards.

“Relax,” she told the stranger. “I know you’ve never done this before but I’m glad you decided to come today. It’s the perfect day for your first reading.”

The woman put down the teacup and Marianne handed her the cards.

“Shuffle them three times,” she said, “and then put them on the table.”

The woman looked frightened but she picked up the cards and did as she was told.

Marianne tapped the deck three times and picked it up. She started arranging the cards face down in a circle on the table. Then slowly, one by one, she turned them face up, starting at the top and working her way around the in a counterclockwise direction.

“I’m Marianne. What’s your name?” she asked.


“Eleanor, something’s troubling you. According to the cards, you’re having a problem relating to a job. Have you recently left your job?”

“Yes. I was laid off last week,” she said.

“Ah, and I see you are worried about how you’re going to pay the bills.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Eleanor.

“You see this card here? The five of coins? That tells me that you have lost one job but another will turn up quickly. It won’t pay as much but you’ll like it better.”

“Really?” Eleanor asked hopefully.

“Yes. The card to the right is the Queen of Hearts. That means that your new job will bring you a new relationship that will affect your life in a positive way. A new friend,” Marianne told her.

The reading lasted about 15 minutes. Eleanor finished her tea and was smiling when Marianne gathered the cards up and put them back into the box. Eleanor opened her purse and took out two bills, a twenty and a five. She was glad she had come in. She wondered what she would be doing at her new job. She thanked Marianne, stood up and left.

Marianne had grown up thinking that her grandmother had special powers that gave her the ability to read cards. Otherwise, how could she be so accurate?

“Nobody comes to a reader when everything is going well,” her grandmother had explained. “People come when they are worried or depressed. The goal of the reader is to send them out feeling better than when they came in. You simply use common sense.”

Marianne reflected upon how easy it was for her to make people happy. She, too, had been laid off due to the recession. She had to think outside the box in order to find a way to pay her mortgage. Two weeks ago, she had searched in a drawer for the Tarot cards and got creative. She had never done readings but her grandmother’s words had not been lost on her.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba - the music

Imagine going to a Cirque du Soleil show with earplugs blocking your the sound. You would only be experiencing half of the show. Here is a highlight of how the music brings the show to life. It's hard to believe that only six musicians and two vocalists can create the incredible soundtrack. If you're coming to Orlando, make La Nouba a priority on your list of 'don't miss' entertainment.

Clowns entertain as people take their seats. The lights go down. Spotlights illuminate the aisle dividing the lower section from the upper seating and a parade of characters steps out from the right. Brightly attired acrobats form a parade followed by a trumpeter as a tease of the upcoming show.

Stage lights come up suddenly and performers start moving. All eyes are focused on the brilliance and activity. The music is perfectly synchronized to enhance every motion. The two components are inseparable yet the musicians are virtually invisible. Elaborately costumed vocalists seem like part of the backdrop to the fantasy world of La Nouba. Dancing melodies create the auditory adventure appropriate to the swelling excitement on stage.

Overlooking the stage Glazer prompts the musicians through headsets and earpieces to ensure that the music compensates providing seamless accompaniment ending each act with a simultaneous stroke of the drum and beginning the next scene perfectly as he whispers “Un, deux, trios, quatre” to the musicians on platforms five stories high in towers on each side of the stage. Former opera singer Ralph Daniel Rawe and the soulful, European-sounding vocalist Sisaundra Lewis-Reid wear tiny earpieces to hear Glazer’s cues allowing their voices to blend with the instruments to create the live soundtrack.

Six musicians juggle instruments in the towers giving the impression of a large troupe of artists hiding behind the scenes. The horn section consists of Glazer on trumpet and Alain Bradette alternating between soprano, tenor and alto saxophones. Dany Lamoureaux switches between electric and acoustic guitars and adds a mandolin to the mix. The violin is bowed passionately by Benoit Lajeunesse. Eric Bergeron moves quickly between his bass, upright bass and cello. Throw in two organs, played by Glazer and Bradette and you hear the hint of an accordion. Drummer Georges “Joe” Bertrand keeps the rhythm. Instrumental solos provide emphasis during different acts. Imagine the shifting of instruments in virtual darkness.

“Music is a team activity; like a sport,” Glazer said. “If the team doesn’t work well together and one athlete isn’t willing to pass the ball to make the play, it is not a winning combination.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Out for a beer - #fridayflash

“But man, how are you going to make it work? You’ve been with her for a few weeks and she thinks she’s in love with you,” the bartender said.

“I’m just told her that I was just going out for a beer. Now I’m going to have her old boyfriend, Steve, call her. She’ll realize how much she misses him and I’ll be off the hook,” Doug told him.

“Didn’t they have a really bad break-up?”

“Yeah, so once I found out they had split, I kind of moved in to comfort her and that’s how we got together.”

“Won't he hold that against you? If you call him isn’t he going to be really pissed at you?”

“Nah. They were made for each other. They just needed a break. I could tell when she cozied up to me so fast that her heart wasn’t in it. She just needed a shoulder to cry on. Besides, she was hoping Steve would find out and be jealous and come running back.”

“I heard he’s the jealous type. I mean, if you call him he might want to kill you or something. I saw him get into a brawl here once. The bouncer had to break it up.”

“I'm not worried. He met this gorgeous blond and couldn’t keep it in his pants so he was a pretty happy dude. That’s why he and Deb broke up. Turned out the new girl was just having some fun with him and moved on to the next guy after a couple of weeks. Then he realized how much he missed Debbie.”

“How can you be so sure this is gonna work?”

“Trust me. It’ll work. He knows he blew it and thinks she’ll never take him back. When I tell him that she’s miserable, he’ll call.”

He dialed the phone. “Steve? How’re things going with you and your new chick? I heard she’s really hot.”

“Man, she is really hot, but not for me. Not anymore. I can’t believe that bitch seduced me like that and broke up my engagement and then dumped me. Boy do I miss Deb.”

“I’ll bet. You two seemed like you were made for each other. But how could you let yourself be tempted so easily if you’re so in love? The old hormones kick in?”

“Yeah. That was part of it. I think I got cold feet. You know, with the engagement and everything. Suddenly it became so real. I wasn’t sure I was ready. That blond girl was my easy way out and I took it.”

“If it was so easy, how do you know it won’t happen again? I mean, if you and Deb got back together and some other hottie came on to you the way that blond did? Do you really think you could resist? I’m not so sure I could.”

“First place, Deb would never take me back after what happened. But if she did I would never do that again. Now I realize how much I love Debbie. And you have no idea how hot she is in the bedroom. I know she looks like little Debbie Homemaker but that’s part of the fun. In the kitchen she wears her little apron when she’s cooking but in the bedroom she wears only that little apron and really gets cookin’!”

Hmmm, he thought. She never put that apron on for me -- not in the kitchen or the bedroom. Maybe I should just leave this beer and go back to her place, he thought. If I stay with her a little longer she might show me what she’s really got going on. We’ve only been together a few weeks.

“Wow, Steve. Too bad you blew it. Sounds like you two had a great thing going. After what you did, you’re probably right. She’d never take you back. Chicks can be funny that way. Once you do them wrong they never forgive you. It’s always in the back of their minds that you might do it again. Even if you did get back together, you could go through a lifetime of marriage and every time you went out for a beer she’d wonder. I’m really sorry things worked out this way. Sometimes, ya don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.

After he got off the phone, he clugged what was left in his glass and went back to the apartment. Deb was lounging on the sofa watching TV. He wondered how long it would take ‘til she recovered from her break up and started wearing that apron.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mrs. Leroy Cooper

Clemmie & Leroy Cooper, (c) Charles Wells Photography 2007

It was a joy working with Leroy Cooper and becoming close friends with him as he told me his many stories. Leroy was such a special man. It should have come as no surprise, then, when I got to know his wife, Clemmie.

The first time Leroy saw Clemmie's picture he said he knew she was the one. He had probably known many women before her and had been married and divorced twice. This time, he had seen the woman who captured his heart and soul. Getting to know Clemmie these last few years, I could understand why he felt that way.

They had been married over 30 years when I met them and his face still lit up when she entered the room. When she spoke of him her eyes brightened and she consistently said, "What a sweet man." She was delighted by his smile, his demeanor and his music. And he was absolutely taken by her beauty, gentility and loving ways. If any two people were meant for each other, Leroy and Clemmie defined those terms.

Imagine being Leroy, a member of the Ray Charles band in 1977 when the band was beginning to peak. Then meeting a woman that affected him so much that he would quit the band and take a job at Disney where people didn't know who he was or anything about his musical background. To be with Clemmie, Leroy took that leap of faith and never regretted it for a single moment.

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daisy, Daisy - #Fridayflash

Using her key, Sarah opened the front door and entered the living room. Softball practice had been cancelled because of bad weather and her girlfriend’s mom had dropped her off. As a result, she was home earlier than expected.

Her father, Joe, must have heard her come in. The doors to all the rooms were closed out of habit since they had gotten the puppy. She was surprised that little Daisy didn’t come running as she entered the house. When Sarah didn’t see anyone in the living room she reached for the door to her father’s bedroom. Before her hand made contact the bathroom door opened and her dad stepped out.

“Don’t open that door,” her father said firmly. Sarah pulled back her hand and looked blankly at him. He had not spoken in a loud or threatening voice. He was a gentle man and his voice had always matched his demeanor.

Joe was dressed in his usual paint-covered jeans. He spent his days off painting. Not walls but portraits or landscapes. Occasionally he would attempt to paint a vase with flowers or another still-life object but his preference was to portray life with his tiny, impressionistic brushstrokes. Life represented the opposite of death and death was a subject he wanted to keep buried deeply.

Then Sarah heard Daisy whining. She looked toward the kitchen and saw that the gate was up. Daisy kept leaping but was too small to jump over. Sarah grabbed the leash off the front door knob and walked toward the kitchen.

In the instant that her back was turned, Joe slipped back into his bedroom. He emerged shortly thereafter, quickly closing the door behind him. Sarah looked at him while Daisy licked her fingers hoping to find some taste or scent that would stimulate her senses.

“What’s going on, Dad? Are you working on a new painting?” Sarah asked.

Without waiting for him to answer she said, “This gate is great. We should have gotten it sooner.”

Joe looked distracted. Then he responded to Sarah’s comment, “You’re right. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it when we first got her.” He had ignored her first question.

Sarah heard a sound coming from her father’s bedroom. The door opened. As if it were perfectly normal, Sal, the man from down the street came out. He was tall and skinny and walked more like her mother had when she was alive than her father. His hips swayed reminding her of a model on a TV commercial selling jeans. Although two years had passed, every detail of her mother’s movements still lived in Sarah’s vivid memory.

Sarah remembered laughing at how much Sal resembled her mother. Sal was a natural brunette. Her mom told her that she had mousy brown hair until Sal dyed it to a rich color similar to his. Sal was a hairdresser and her mother starting letting him fix her hair. Occasionally he commented on her mother’s clothing and she would take his advice and buy a blouse similar to a shirt he wore saying it went well with their shared hair color. Sarah used to tease them about looking like twins although her mother’s body was shapely, not angular like Sal’s.

Sal had been her father’s friend when he met her mom. The three of them used to watch old movies together sometimes. Her mother used to tell her about it and how she wished she had more time alone with her dad, but she didn’t want to be the kind of wife that broke up a friendship.

Sarah was startled out of her daydreams by Sal’s voice. “I really should get going,” he said, glancing at Joe. He greeted Sarah with a friendly smile as he always had before. She thought his lips appeared to be just a little darker than usual – almost red.

Sal was wearing slacks and a long-sleeved salmon colored shirt. Sarah’s mother used to have a blouse that color. Joe loved seeing his wife in that blouse. Sarah was suddenly uncomfortable when she realized how much Sal reminded her of her mom.

To escape the situation, she stepped to the kitchen and opened the gate. Daisy came rushing out. The puppy ran straight to Sal, her little black nose sniffing at the cuffs of his pants. Sarah’s eyes followed the puppy’s movements. That’s when she noticed it. Sal was wearing pantyhose, or stockings or some kind of women’s knee-highs.

“Get down, Daisy,” he said firmly. “No. No!”

Sarah turned to her father. He looked down at Sal’s ankles and the muscles of his forehead creased. His eyes opened wider as he realized what Sarah had seen.

“I’m taking Daisy for a walk,” she said and walked out the door. It was confusing. Why was her father in his bedroom with Sal and why was Sal dressed to look like her mother? Her dad had loved her mom. None of this made sense. She couldn’t get her father’s expression out of her mind when he saw her looking at Sal’s ankles.

As Daisy pulled Sarah along a smile spread across her face. Her parents were married less than a year before she was born. Her dad worked long hours and no longer had time for painting and he missed it.

It seemed so obvious to Sarah now. He had never had a chance to paint her mother’s portrait and that’s why Sal was dressed like that, wearing her mother’s blouse and lipstick, with stockings on his feet. Dad was just missing mom, too. He was using Sal as his model. Sarah felt like she had solved a giant jigsaw puzzle.

“It’s okay, Dad,” Sarah said when she got home. “I understand.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photography by Charles Wells

Photo of Leroy Cooper taken in the studio, copyright Charles Wells Photography

Writing for a magazine on a monthly basis is almost like having a 'real' job with a flexible schedule. In my case, almost all of the stories (they don't call them articles anymore) that I wrote were the result of my pitches to the editor and were featured in the Arts & Entertainment section. Fortunately, I had a lot of ideas and contacts in the music business, but I ventured out into other areas of A&E to mix things up on occasion.

As I've said before, I've interviewed many celebrities and written stories/articles about them. In some cases, I worked with publicists and attended concerts in order to provide my editor with a review and supporting material about the artist.

It was my good fortune to work with the same photographer for most of my stories. After the first experience working with Charles Wells (Chuck), we got into a groove. I knew what photos would complement my content but conveying my ideas to Chuck could be a challenge. He stands about a foot and a half taller than I do. Sometimes I had to stand on a chair to see things from his level and sometimes he had to kneel on the floor to see things from mine. The size difference gave us an advantage because we saw the same image from different perspectives. Together we made a great team and our professional relationship was successful.

Why am I telling you this? My photo on this blog and the one of Leroy Cooper were taken by Chuck. He also took pictures of Carlos Santana and Tony Bennett (whom I interviewed) when they performed at the University of Central Florida. We worked together every month for almost two years.

Rather than describing more of Chuck's work, take a look for yourself. You will probably be surprised at some of the celebrities (musical, artistic, political, etc.) that he has photographed. To view his gallery, follow the trail of breadcrumbs that leads to this link: crumb, crumb, crumb, His photography still appears in several magazines. He also does studio work and sometimes is lucky enough to travel on assignment.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Three points for the Devil -- #fridayflash

Wednesday Elaine met Don at the bar after work. She ordered club soda. Don raised his eyebrow. Don ordered Scotch on the rocks.

“No wine, tonight?” he asked.

“Not tonight.” Should she tell him now or wait until he finished his drink? She was watching him closely, sipping his Scotch, wondering how he would react.

“I’m pregnant,” she said, drawing him back into the moment. He stared at her.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. I wanted to be sure. I’m definitely pregnant.”

“Have you told anyone?”


“I don’t know what to say. You knew from the beginning that I am committed to my marriage.”

“I’m still digesting it myself,” she said.

That night, Don couldn’t sleep. He was the Director of Human Resources. My God, he thought. What was I thinking? The scenarios kept playing out in his head. Would she expose the affair? Call his wife? Sue him for sexual harassment? Extort him for a payoff or child support? How well did he really know her? She was the same age as his wife, but she wore makeup and long hair, worked out and strutted around in high heels. How did she walk in those things?

There were no illusions about love between them. Elaine had been dating George, the Manager of the Sales Department, too. George was single.

Don went downstairs to his office. He sat at his desk and looked at the clock. It was just before two. He called George.

“George? This is Don,” he said. “Sorry to wake you but we need to talk.”

George sat up in bed. This must be serious, he thought.

“I know you and Elaine have been dating,” Don said. “I don’t know how to tell you this but I’ve been seeing her on the side. You get the picture. I mean, you’re dating other women, too, right?”

“But Don, you and Cathy, I thought you were happy,” George said. He was trying to picture Elaine in bed with Don. The image didn’t please him.

“There’s a situation,” Don said, cryptically. “Maybe we can help each other out.”

“What are you talking about?” George walked to the kitchen.

“Elaine’s pregnant. She told me tonight. I’m in a really bad position here. I could lose everything,” Don said. He sounded hoarse. “If my wife finds out I don’t know what she’ll do. Besides, I could lose my job. I mean, I’m the Director of HR!”

“Why are you telling me this, Don?”

“Well, I’ve been lying in bed trying to figure out what to do. I had an idea. There’s that Director of Marketing position open. I know you were hoping to be on the short list.”

George listened in disbelief. Other managers were in line who had been with the company longer. He was the youngest of the bunch and didn’t expect to be considered.

“I can make it happen, George. I make the ultimate decision in these things. How bad do you want the job? I could bump the salary up quite a bit.”

“It’s the middle of the night for God’s sake. What are you saying?”

“I want you to propose to Elaine,” Don said hesitantly.

“You what?” George gasped. “But I don’t love her and I’m not ready to get married.”

“I need you to do this,” Don said with hysteria in his voice. “If you propose and tell her you’re in line for a promotion, she’ll marry you. She’s been stalking all the executives, looking for a potential husband that could give her the life she wants. Obviously, I can’t do that.”

“You want me to marry her?” George said, stunned. “How pregnant is she?”

“A couple of months. If you propose to her right away I know she’d elope because of the pregnancy. I’d have you promoted within three months and you could buy that house you’ve been looking at.”

“Don, are you thinking clearly? Do you understand what you’re saying here?”

“This could work out best for everybody. You’d get your promotion plus a great piece of tail and I’d be able to keep my job, my family, my house. Help me out here, George. Please. I’m begging you.”

“Let me think this through tonight. Let’s have lunch tomorrow,” George said.

Six months later Randy was born. George thought he had Don’s eyes but nobody noticed. Elaine loved the house and status of being married to a Director. George loved his new home and his job which required a lot of travel.

The Devil had acquired three new souls in the transaction. George, Elaine and Don never considered that. They went to church on Sundays and life was good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A blog for my dog

I've been thinking about creating a blog for my dog. Not about my dog -- for my dog. It seems like every time I step away from the computer she hops up into my chair. When I turn back, she is about to put her little paws on the keyboard and start typing. Although I am really curious to find out what she has to say, I think I would have to buy her a little Netbook (she's a Maltese with little paws) of her own. Besides, that would protect my laptop from any doggie diaries appearing on my own blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Night Blues

Silent Nights
By Susan Cross

It's Saturday morning. I'm sitting here thinking about what has changed in the past year. A year ago on a Saturday morning, I would have been planning my day and then looking forward to going to see Leroy Cooper play with the Smokin' Torpedoes. By then, Leroy had become the main attraction of the band and played solos on almost every song. When Coop stood up from his chair and started blowing the bari, people would stand up and applaud when he was done and sat back down.

It really wasn't fair to the other members of the band who were also accomplished musicians. Before Coop joined them, everyone applauded after each musician's solo but eventually Leroy seemed to fill the stage and the anticipation of his performance became the highlight of each number. Jeff Willey was blowing his lungs out on the harp. Rob Mola was tearing up his git-ar. Tom Bastedo was blasting out the rhythm on his drums. And Mo Baker was thumping out the bass.

Looking back, it's hard to imagine the band before Leroy joined. There were several other sax players before him but nobody compared to him once he was established.

Once Leroy moved on to join the Josh Miller Blues Revue, the other members of the Smokin' Torps left, one by one, and the whole band took on a new flavor. It was like going from strawberry to pistachio; both were delicious but strawberry was always my favorite.

Tonight, there is no music up at Harry's. I'll go to my meeting of the National League of American Pen Women this afternoon and come home. Maybe my hubby and I will go to dinner and a movie. It's about nine months since he stopped performing on January 10 and passed away on January 15 but not a single Saturday night goes by that I don't miss the sound of his horn.

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Friday, September 25, 2009

Obsession and random acts of kindness #Fridayflash

Browsing the Internet for reports of the accident became an obsession for Catherine. Since her granddaughter’s death, she was looking for someone to blame. The driver of the van that hit her son’s SUV had sped off, weaving through cars on the Interstate and successfully avoided detection.

A driver who had seen the accident had pursued the reckless vehicle in an attempt to get the tag number but her efforts were fruitless. This stranger had eventually given up and appeared at the trauma center of the emergency room of the hospital. There was comfort in knowing that someone had tried to catch the child’s killer and that this woman could not just go home without coming to share with the family. Witnessing the accident must have been a terrible experience that she needed to share.

Catherine saw multiple references to newspaper websites in the state and many of them had forums linked to each article. She was looking for anything that might yield some clue. None was to be found. It was surprising to see that so many comments followed each article. Many were simply expressing sympathy. Some were sharing stories of similar accidents that had taken place in the same area on the same Interstate. Others were describing the flowers they had placed at the scene after seeing the report on the news. These were all touching. Catherine knew she would never have gone on the Internet and posted a comment under an article describing a horrendous, fatal accident.

As she read each note, one stood out from all the rest.

“I was in the emergency room when the family of the child arrived. My heart was broken by their grief. I sat and cried while each person handled the news differently and one person tended to the father of the child who had been driving. His injuries were relatively minor but his horror and tears touched my soul as he called out his daughter’s name. And I watched a boy about 2 years old, with superficial cuts on his face and head. He laughed and played with the toys in the corner. I mourned for the dead child and for the one who had survived, equally, knowing that his life had been changed forever.”

Catherine stopped reading after that. The driver was never found, as Catherine knew he wouldn't be.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What happens when a writer finishes writing?

When To Type 'The End'
By Susan Cross

At what point would a writer be considered no longer writing? My book is gaining momentum and going into final edits. That feels good.

Suddenly I am faced with the question: What will I do when the book is completed?

When I started working on Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax, I was already a contributing writer to several magazines. I did interviews with local and national celebrities and then wrote articles about them. Often, it was my good fortune to attend a concert or a show as part of my job. Afterwards, I sat tapping away at the keys happily.

Each month, magazines would be delivered and I would look for my articles and their placement. I also checked to see if there were editorial changes. I was pleased to see that most of them passed my editor's tests. I have built a nice, thick portfolio in which I take pride, but things have changed. The magazine business has been transitioning from print to web. I have watched Rolling Stone, a music bible, go from a volume to something resembling the size of a Bed Bath & Beyond Catalog.

In mourning Mary Travers, I found myself singing, "Where have all the magazines gone?" I don't mean to make light of Mary's passing. I learned to play guitar while listening to Peter, Paul and Mary records. Looking out my window, however, I see flowers blooming in the garden (here in Florida) and magazines disappearing from book store shelves.

So, back to my original question: What will I do after the book is published? Market the book I suppose. At that point, will I stop being a writer and become a marketeer? (No, silly, not a Muskateer; no Disney ears here, although I'm close by).

When I'm reading I always hate turning that last page and finishing a book when it's really good. I want to drag it out and make it last. I don't feel that way about writing this book. I just wonder, what next?

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Is anybody interested?

I blog about my personal musings and flash fiction (sometimes it's hard to tell them apart).

Initially I started this blog to generate interest about a great musician named Leroy 'Hog' Cooper, a dear friend. We spent so many hours together and I listened to stories as if he were my grandfather telling of his experiences from childhood right until his death in January 2009.

These recordings are priceless to me. His personal accounts of life in America as a black man (he never referred to himself as African American or Negro) were as interesting to me as his stories about B.B. King, Count Basie, and of course Ray Charles, his close friend with whom he spent the largest chunck of his musical career.

The book that I am writing, as I promised him I would, recounts his experiences along with the interviews I did with his old friends and other musicians. Again, to me they are priceless recordings.

I know that people read my flash fiction which is broadcast through the #Fridayflash hashtag on Twitter. Is anybody interested in the excerpts from the book? Does anyone read the stories about Leroy Cooper and his life?

Perhaps I should be including those on a separate blog. Any comments?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fantasy jobs

When I was an older-young woman, less than middle-aged, I had decided upon my fantasy job. Everybody must have an idea of what kind of work they would love to do if they had the resources to choose and could totally disregard thoughts of responsibility.

Back then, I was single and had no children or step-children. I was working in a large corporation doing a 60 hour a week job in 40 hours. Well, not exactly, I was doing it in 50 hours but only being paid for 40. The other 10 hours work was just not getting done and kept on piling up in a stack on the corner of my desk.

One Saturday morning, I woke up early and decided to go for a long ride. I drove east until I got to Route 1 and then I turned right and headed south. At some point I made a left and another right and was driving down A1A along an island separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway. I drove for hours until I was beyond any towns and to my left there was a long, wide empty beach. There were no hotels or motels built up on either side of A1A. No gas stations. No convenience stores. The empty, undeveloped space was pleasant. Then, up ahead on the left a structure was coming into focus. It was a motel.

I had been driving for hours so I really needed to make a pit stop, as they say, so I pulled into the parking lot. I walked around to the office and asked to use the rest room. The proprietess courteously showed me the way. When I emerged, her husband had come inside. He looked like a jolly old sailor. I noticed the decor on the walls of the office included an old anchor and some coiled rope.

"Where are you from?" he asked.

"Orlando," I replied. "I got up early and thought I'd take a ride and I just kept driving until I ended up here. Do you own this place?" I asked.

"Yes. We've bought it about two years ago. We lived on a sailboat for a year and came upon this beach. It just felt like the right place to be," he said. "My wife and I stayed in this motel for a few days. The owner came to check on things and we got talking. He was contemplating selling the motel and going back west. We made him an offer and within a month we were living here."

"I'm very happy being in one place for awhile," his wife said. "But he gets restless and sometimes regrets making the decision. Who knows? Maybe we'll turn around and sell it and get back out on the water."

We talked for a long time. The motel had 14 rooms. They were more than happy to show me one which had a small kitchenette, double bed, sofa and TV. There were no walls or dividers except the door going into the small bathroom. I remember thinking, I could live in a room this size.

I drove back home before the sky turned dark and thought about the encounter. For months I thought about how welcoming the couple was to a stranger. It was years later when it occurred to me what my fantasy job would be.

Walking down the hall from my desk at work, I ran into a friend and said, "You know what I really want to do, I mean, if I could do whatever I wanted?"

"I have no idea," she said.

"I'd like to make beds at the beach."

She looked at me like I was missing a chip. I smiled and then explained.

"There's this little motel way down south of here, right on the beach. It has 14 rooms. In exchange for rental of one of those rooms I would like to get a job vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms and kitchens and making the beds every morning," I said. "That would leave me all afternoon to lay on the beach and read, take long walks or sit at a desk in my room and write."

My friend looked at me and said, "You know what I always wanted to do?"

"No. What?" I asked.

"I've always wanted to work in a nursery, tending to plants. Watering them. weeding them. Planting new ones from seeds and cuttings," she said. "That is my dream job."

We smiled and went back to our respective desks. After that, any time I was frustrated with life I simply said, "I want to go make beds at the beach." She said, "I want to go water some flowers."

Have you ever been in a situation of responsibility when you've pondered a simpler life? Tell me, what would your fantasy job be?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Squirrels and Lizards #Fridayflash

Fall is here. The oak trees are silent except for the swaying of their branches caused by an occasional breeze or gust of wind. Something was missing. I sat outside looking at the garden as knowing that soon the plants and flowers would die out from the cold leaving bare, brown sticks. It was comforting to know that in early spring the azaleas would bloom as soon as the first warm days tricked them into thinking that spring had arrived.

As I looked around, something was missing. I took my dog out in the yard and saw her chewing on acorns. Then it occurred to me – there were no squirrels to bury them in secret places. What could account for the disappearance of squirrels?

The toy poodle who lived in a house down the street used to bark every time a squirrel ran across the screen of the pool enclosure. I never had to set my alarm clock. The barking woke me around 8:30. It occurred to me that I was sleeping later, sometimes not awakening until after 10:00. At first I attributed this to the fact that I was working late into night and not hearing the dog. Now I realize that the barking had stopped.

Glancing from tree to tree I saw mockingbirds and cardinals. No bristling of branches.

I wondered if the neighbors had gotten rid of their dog. It was only three years old so I couldn’t imagine it being put down. I knew they hadn’t moved. Someone would have told me.

My six pound Maltese came back in from the yard through the doggie door and nuzzled up against me on the glider. There were lizards on the cement floor and she liked to watch them and chase them. One clung to the screen about midway between the floor and the gutters, unmoving.

A sudden movement caught my attention and I looked up from my book. Out of the sky in a silent motion a red-shouldered hawk and appeared. It swooped in, picked a lizard off the screen and flew away. It all happened so fast that I put my arm around my little dog in a protective motion.

I had seen the hawk before, sitting on a lamp post in front of my house, staring at my little dog. My next door neighbor told me he had seen it flying with a black snake in its mouth. That black snake had lived in my boxwoods for months and I missed seeing its little head poke up as I walked out the door.

An eerie feeling descended upon me. Hawks were predators, I remembered, and only ate live prey. They did not travel in groups like vultures that only ate dead animals. The squirrels were gone. The barking of the toy poodle had been silenced. A lizard had been snatched in front of my eyes with my tiny Maltese sitting next to me. Could a hawk fly through a screen and snatch my little puppy, I wondered.

I picked her up in my hand and went inside thinking about all of the acorns that would never be eaten.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

B.B. King, Ray Charles and Leroy Cooper

Teasing You
By Susan Cross

Excerpt for Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax

"B.B. King is better than you’ll ever know. He can play jazz.

Those young boys used to come into the band and say “I’m tired of playing this old stuff. Don’t you ever play jazz, man?”

He would say, “Alright young man? You want to play so-and-so?”

I was shocked when they had B.B. and Ray on the show together, and Oscar Peterson. That was some music. We’d just be sitting there watching when the band would be going on. Where else can I get a job where I’m getting paid to listen to Ray Charles sing with all these guys, and sitting here being paid? What kind of job is that?

B.B. King and Ray were very close and any time he and Ray would have a chance he would come in to talk with Ray. I was the bandleader so Ray would have me in there discussing the show. I would be in on their intimate conversations. B’s a Virgo like myself. He’s very friendly."

For the rest of the story you'll have to buy the book when it comes out! Hah!

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Monday, September 14, 2009

Full Steam Ahead - Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax

Although I had run into some difficulties and planned to revise my publication goal to 2010, as plans often do, mine have changed once again. With the assistance of some valuable sources I am moving forward and am hoping to publish by mid-November of this year.

This on-again, off-again working process has caused a lot of stress for me and countless conversations with a number of people. I'm putting that all behind me now and securing the necessary photos from my secret (for now) national and international sources. After receiving my draft from the editors, I am in the process of making corrections and adding new content that I obtained.

Unfortunately, the Tribute to Leroy Cooper at B.B. King's Blues Club in Orlando has been cancelled, or at least postponed for now. I will consider rescheduling in January or February closer to the anniversary of Leroy's passing in order to honor his memory.

Now, I must get back to work. Hopefully, from here forward things will go smoothly. If they do, it will be a new experience for me!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leroy 'Hog' Cooper Tribute has been postponed

Originally scheduled for November 1, 2009, to coincide with the release of my book, Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax, I have run into some minor problems. As a result, I expect o celebrate Leroy's life and career in early 2010.

I have been fortunate enough to locate a photo-journalist that knew Leroy in the '70s in Europe. Leroy was touring with Ray Charles at the time and the band returned to Europe annually. Val Wilmer and Leroy become strong acquaintances during those visits. In fact, I remember Leroy telling me that Val was one of the writers and photographers that took a particular interest in him, as opposed to other members of Ray Charles' band, and wrote articles about him. He specifically remembered her writing one for a publication named Melody Maker.

Val has chosen to be the last person to use a computer as her primary means of communicating. In fact, she does not have an email address or website, so finding her was a challenge. With the help of a researcher and musical archivist, Joel Dufour, I finally reached Val by way of cables under the 'pond' or through some complicated satellite device orbiting the earth. Val has provided me with some new (old, really, but new to me) photos and articles about Leroy. I feel that her contributions add enough value to the book to continue our mutual pursuit in preserving Leroy Cooper's memory.

Additionally, I have had the opportunity to speak to one of Leroy Cooper's high school teachers, Myrtle Sloane. We spoke once and she remembers Leroy. I am hoping to interview her in upcoming weeks.

As more information has become available, my decision was to postpone publication until all avenues and resources had been exhausted. It is important to me that this book provide a complete chronicle, or as close as possible, of Leroy's life story. There is so much I will never know that I can't share with the world, but every little piece of the puzzle adds more depth to his character and I don't want any of it to be lost.

Joel Dufour has sent me some detailed information about some of the musicians Leroy played with during his career. The humility that Leroy displayed prevented him from describing himself in terms of some of the great blues musicians that others in his field would want to learn about.

Deadlines can be moved. Tributes can be delayed. For the sake of my subject, it seems important to do both.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sneeze

At around 9:00 o’clock in the morning I was sitting in my car, on Park Avenue across from the Amtrak parking lot listening to B.B. King sing a duet with Roger Daltrey, the vocalist of The Who.

Between the prestigious college campus and the Morse Museum, Park Avenue was lined with shops and cafes on one side of the street. Across from the upscale boutiques and eateries was the park itself. Large oak trees shaded several blocks of open space. There were benches under some of the trees. The grass of the park was freshly mowed and the bushes of bright red pentas were in full bloom.

I watched as people made use of the parallel parking skills they learned in high school. They maneuvered their cars between the evenly spaced white lines, which became more difficult as the parking spots filled up. In this situation, the compulsion to arrive early paid off. Hungry parking meters lined the sidewalk waiting to eat coins. Those feeding them were literally buying time.

“One hour parking between 9 AM and 6 PM.” Red words painted on white signs.

I heard the clicking of heels and looked in my rearview mirror. The woman carried a large, scarlet leather satchel which matched her pumps. Her heart shaped face was framed with black hair that curved in toward her chin, accentuating perfectly painted red lips. Shoulders back, head erect, she was rushing down the sidewalk as if it were a fashion runway.

Instinct told me that she was late to work. Distracted, she didn’t notice my car or hear the music emanating from it.

She was almost even with my window when she stopped suddenly and sneezed. Then again. And again. She had tried to stifle the first sneeze but the second and third one could not be held back.

“God bless you,” I said, through the open window of my car.

She turned and stared at me silently for a moment. The impression was that of a manikin that had become human against her will.

“Thank you,” she said. In one fluid motion she leaned her head down pushing her hand into her red bag and pulling out a tissue just before another sneeze contorted her face. I watched to see how such a carefully put-together woman could blow her nose without messing her makeup. She dabbed at her nose with the tissue trying not to smudge the outline of lipstick. I looked away.

When I looked back, she had turned and was crossing the railroad tracks. She approached the Amtrak station’s ticket window and, once again, reached into her satchel retrieving a wallet. A transaction took place.

Within minutes I heard the horn and then the clacking of the train as it slowed to a full stop in front of the small station. The woman turned away from the building. She walked stiffly to the second car of the train and boarded.

A man had stepped off the train carrying a guitar case. Moments later, he saw my car, crossed the tracks, leaned into the window and kissed me.

“I’ve missed you,” he said. We kissed again.

“Get in,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quotes you found notable - challenge

I've shared some quotes taken from novels that are sentences or passages that can stand alone, out of context and still have some profound (maybe that's too strong a word) meaning.

I'd love to see some of yours.

When you're reading a book:

  • Do you read simply for content?

  • For the author's style?

  • For character development?

  • For plot development?

  • Or do you just read to escape and enjoy a solitary, sometimes guilty pleasure. I call reading a guilty pleasure when my sink is full of dishes, the hamper is full of dirty clothes, the floor needs to be scrubbed or my desk needs to be cleaned. Sometimes, all of the above!

Please share some quotes, including authors and book titles. Also, let me know what specifics you enjoy most from the list above, or add your own, when you're reading a book.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Adventures at the YMCA - Excerpt

"There was always some professor at the YMCA on weekends. Langston Hughes used to have these poetic sayings and we’d learn about them. They would always make us aware of the black heroes. They didn’t say what they were doing but they wanted us to be aware. Joe Louis used to come out and visit during his heyday.

"We weren’t allowed to go downtown because it was segregated back then. But we had a beautiful Y on the north side. We had a tumbling teacher named Charles Parker. We had whites come over to teach us but we couldn’t go to their Y. But we had everything we needed. On Saturdays they had basketball games all day. I used to take a bologna sandwich and watch games all day. During the summers I went to YMCA camp.

"At the Y we played every kind of music. Red Garland, the famous piano player that played with Miles Davis, was going to the Y at the same time. And Red had a little boys’ band at the Y, so I played clarinet in Red’s band. When I was a junior or senior in high school, Red used to hang around the school. He was older than us. And always playing piano. I knew Red very well.

"I wanted to play sports. That was the fashionable thing to do. At the YMCA my daddy took me away to play the horn. Guys would say, 'Man I thought you was going to be an athlete. Why are you messing with the horn?'"

Copyright Susan Cross, August 2009

It sounds to me like Leroy's dad knew what was best for him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Summer Job - Flash Fiction #Fridayflash

Lifeguarding fit neatly between spring and fall semesters at the university. Captain of the swim team, Arnie was a natural. It was a typical day at the beach. He was watching children build sandcastles while enjoying conversation with cute bikini-clad babes.

Arnie looked up when he heard people shouting. In the water he saw a man’s arms disappear as a wave came crashing down over him. He disappeared. Arnie swam toward him. With his arm around the man's chest he pulled him ashore. A circle of horrified people surrounded them. CPR was unsuccessful. It was too late. In those few minutes the word responsibility had taken on new meaning. One man was dead and another's life had changed forever.

Twenty years later, Arnie was sitting in his study grading essays. He was writing comments and critiques on each page when his son walked in.

"Dad, I'm thinking about what I should do this summer to earn some money. Any suggestions?" Joseph asked.

Arnie's reply was simple. "Mow lawns, son. Mow lawns."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Rest in Peace, Leroy 'Coop' Cooper

Enjoy Birthday Present
By Susan Cross

I woke up singing "Happy birthday" to Leroy this morning. Last year, he and his wife were not going to go out to celebrate. My husband and I insisted that it was a special day and should not be ignored. We invited some friends, Tom and Kathy Bastedo, to join us at B.B. King's Blues Club in Orlando where we all met for dinner.

B.B. and his band played 4 nights during the grand opening which took place the first week in December of 2007. Our friend, Ernest Vantrease, keyboard player with B.B., and long time keyboardist with Ray Charles, met my husband before and after the show to visit. He made me promise to bring Leroy to hear the house band. I try not to break promises.

It took awhile, I admit. Leroy's 80th birthday seemed like the perfect excuse. We had a great celebration. Never did we realize that it would be his last birthday. My policy about birthdays is to celebrate every single one of them as if it were our last. Nobody can predict the future.

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jimmy Reed - Ham & Eggs

Just got back from listening to a local blues band and loved the fact that they did a song by Jimmy Reed. Here's a little excerpt from the Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax about Jimmy.

"I could tell you a story about that record date with Jimmy Reed. The drummer and I used to work together.

"We go up to the studio and uh-oh, Jimmy’s late. Everybody in the studio was ready to go. After awhile we heard something coming down the hallway, bumping into the walls.

"My buddy said, 'That’s Jimmy,' and then ta-da – Jimmy walked in. He was high as a kite.

"He came in there and said, 'I’m ready.'

"Man, what kind of recording is he going to do when he’s high like that? The drummer’s name was Al.

"Jimmy said, “Al, what did you have for breakfast this morning?”

"Al said, 'Ham and eggs.'

"Oh, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum da bum, Jimmy was playing and started singing, 'Ham and eggs, baby, bah bah do do.'

"Al said, 'Jimmy, that’s good stuff. What’s the next one?'

“Jimmy asked, 'Um, what kind of car you drive?' He did an LP just off of the top of his head on whatever subject we came up with.

"I said this is pure genius. And I mean we would tell stories and he would do bum bum… and we finished the thing in about three hours’ time and I’m still standing there in amazement."

copyright Susan Cross, August 2009

Blues musicians' nicknames

Funny how blues musicians have to be given nicknames in order to be recognized. This phenomenon occurs in other genres and of course, is rampant in athletes.

Leroy Cooper was dubbed by his high school band director as Hog. David Newman got his label, Fathead from that same man. Hank Crawford didn't use his first name which was Bennie. All of these are sax players that played with Ray Charles. Ernest Vantrease, keyboard player for Ray for almost 30 years, was dubbed The Deacon, although now that he's with B.B. King he is known by his given name.

Speaking of B.B. King, his real name is Riley B. King, but it is generally known that the B.B. stands for Blues Boy.

Buster Smith's given name was Henry. How 'bout this one? Antoine Dominique Domino became famous as Fats Domino.

Would blues fans recognize a song by Amos Blakemore? Would they know that Buddy Guy was the man performing it?

The list goes on and on and even in local blues bands, if you don't have a nickname you're not a 'cat' as Leroy would describe you. Here in Orlando, we have Mad Dog Mahoney, Mojo Jones, the Iceman, Birddog Bobby, Lil Mookie, and the list goes on.

Go ahead and show me what you know. Leave a comment with one that I've left out. There are plenty that have slipped my mind this morning -- it's Saturday and I was going to take the day off. Hah!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just words - Flash Fiction

The woman was playing solitaire on a TV tray in front of her easy chair. She was superstitious and believed that if she won the game he would call. She blamed the silence of the phone on the cards. He hadn’t called in over a week and she was obsessing over him, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Her children were sitting in the living room with her watching the Donny and Marie Show featuring the brother and sister Osmond team. In addition to singing, dancing and performing comedy sketches the teenagers were as attractive as Barbie and Ken dolls but life-like and down to earth. Everything about them was perfect in the woman’s eyes.

She had been divorced for over five years now. Loneliness and depression were eating her up and caring for two children alone was a burden. In the 1950s and ‘60s divorce carried a stigma unlike current times when long lasting marriages were the exception and divorce more the rule. Not only was she bogged down by daily life and getting by on the money she earned as a saleslady in a department store, she was an outcast; a divorcee.

Finally she had met a man and thought that her life might possibly change for the better. He was attractive, which was very important to her, and had a steady job. He was obviously interested – enough to call her and take her out for a few early dinners during the weeks before. She never saw the signs or suspected that there was a pattern to the phone calls and dates. A more sophisticated woman might have guessed that he was married. Maybe she suspected it but didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility.

She turned up the final card and once again had lost her solitaire game. The phone rang. She jumped up to answer thinking that maybe there was nothing to this silly superstition. The voice she heard was a child calling to invite her daughter to a birthday party on Saturday. What a letdown! Out of frustration, she told the girl that her daughter couldn’t come to the party. She imagined the other mothers talking about her as the single mom who couldn’t find a man. Why impose more shame upon herself?

She looked at her tiny young daughter who was born with a chronic disease. Although the child never complained, the mother was a witness to the constant pain as it was displayed in her facial expressions. The child sat on the floor in front of the TV set. Even though she suffered the little girl didn’t deserve to go and have fun at a birthday party. If mom was miserable, why should her daughter be allowed a pleasure that was being denied to her?

The mother lit another cigarette. She glanced at her son who was eating cookies. He was already obese and shunned by the children at school. His daily tales of ridicule added to the weight of her misery.

Before giving up, the cards were laid out one more time. She vowed that this would be the last time tonight for her evening ritual. She concentrated and moved the cards carefully tempted to cheat. Once again the final winning card was buried under another and she gave up. She stood up and went into the bathroom. It was obvious when she looked in the mirror that she was a beautiful woman with her green eyes and flowing red haired.

There could only be one reason he hadn’t called. She had been right all along and the man would never call again. During their last dinner together, the all-important third date, she had told him that she had two children. No man in his right mind would get weighed down by a woman that represented a future involving an obese boy and an ailing daughter. Of course! Who could blame him? It wasn’t her fault or his; the children were responsible for her loneliness.

Stubbing out her cigarette, and taking another from the packet she stared at her defective offspring. Without them her life would be happy and fulfilling, she thought. Then she glanced up at the television screen. It didn’t seem fair.

“How come their mother got those gorgeous, talented children and I am stuck with you two?” Her children didn’t turn to look at her. They sat silently letting the words burn into their brains like tattoos. They were just words; one sentence. It never occurred to the woman that children never forget what their mother tells them. Just words had branded each of these little lives with guilt that would last a lifetime.

Lowell Fulson - "Reconsider Baby"

The Big Man
By Susan Cross

Excerpt from Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax, A Memoir by Leroy Cooper with Susan Cross, copyright August 2009

In 1954, I played with Lowell Fulson at Chess Records. Leonard Chess was at the date and was telling me what to play on the baritone. “Play some low notes, play some low notes.” All this was going on when we was playing on "Reconsider Baby".

In 1956, we recorded “I Believe I’ll Give it Up,” “Please Don’t Go,” and “Be on your Merry Way.”

Lowell lived about 30 miles from me in Ft. Worth. He would come to Dallas to do a gig and would come by my house and rest up. You know, him and his lady. I guess I knew him pretty well. Back then, the guitarist was so superior to everybody else, just like organ players. If you could play the organ you were better than the rest of the guys. You were a big man.

Copyright © 2009 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can you spell the name of Ray Charles back up singers

How many ways can you spell the the name of the group of women who sang with Ray Charles? Seems to me the most logical way would be Raylets. Wrong! I have seen Raylettes. Wrong! Raelettes? Wrong! Ralets? Wrong! Raelets? Wrong. I could go on and on.

Mable John, the lead singer of the ladies in the pretty dresses, singing “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and many of his other songs has informed me that the proper spelling of Ray’s backup singers is: Raeletts!

So, if you guessed Raeletts, you win. I can’t tell you how many times I was a loser until I spoke to the expert. All that matters is that I finally got it right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fork in the road - pick a path

A woman found Leroy Cooper's MySpace page, which I maintain, and contacted me about her grandfather. Robert Murphy was a friend of Cooper's when they played in Fred Cooper's Big Band made up of all adult black men. They were two of the teenagers asked to sit in for musicians that had been called to serve in World War 2.

Both had played music from a young age. They were excited about playing Tommy Dorsey music with adult musicians in theaters to an all-white audience. Both dreamed of careers in music. Both got their wish, but in two separate arenas.

Cooper and Murphy attended college on music scholarships. Back in the late 1940s, black colleges offered limited options. As Cooper put it: "You could become a preacher or a teacher." Cooper decided in his senior year that he didn't want to be either so he left to play in a band. Murphy stayed in school.

When Ray Charles came to Dallas, David 'Fathead' Newman joined his band and subsequently brought Cooper along. Murphy had the opportunity to join and was inclined to do so. However, his father urged him to stay in school and pursue his Master's Degree. He obviously didn't see a possibility for a successful career playing in bands.

Cooper paid his dues, playing with Ray Charles and other bands. He traveled the world and saw the sights. He watched his friends marry and divorce as life on the road was not marriage-friendly. Musicians loved playing music but there were drugs and alcohol and women that destroyed many. In 1977 he left Ray Charles, where he had become the bandleader, to marry (for the third time) and settle down. Wise choice. He remained married to the love of his life for 33 years. "She saved my life," he said. He continued his musical career as a member of the Dixie Deltas, the strolling trio at Disney World in Orlando where he retired after 20 years.

Murphy stayed home. He got his degrees and became a teacher. He married and had children. He was promoted to principal and eventually administrator. His entire career was built around teaching music and his home life was stable. He has seven grandchildren and is 82 years old.

The memories of standing on stage next to Cooper have floated to the top of Murphy's mind. He is having his granddaughter look up old friends, only to find that they have passed on. Murphy is a bright, happy man who sounds satisfied with the life he has led but wonders what it would have been like if...

Cooper died with the knowledge of three children that he fathered, none of which he was allowed to meet. Although he raised two step-children and a step-grandson, there was always that little hole in his heart that filled with nostalgia when he told me about his two sons and a daughter.

These men grew up together in Dallas. Their fathers played music together. I'm sure there were a lot of contributing factors to the decisions each one made, but their stories describe the opposite paths that each traveled, both with happiness but also with wonder. Neither had regrets. Cooper's last words to me were: "I have enjoyed every part of my life." That is a reflective statement from an 80 year old who survived the challenges and dangers of pursuing uncertainty. Murphy's spoke of his family and stability with equal satisfaction.

Nobody can answer the question, "What if?" and therefore, nobody should ask it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Father's Advice - Flash Fiction

Lifeguarding fit neatly between spring and fall semesters at the university. Arnie was a natural and took his work seriously. It was a typical day at the beach. He was watching children build sandcastles while enjoying conversation with cute bikini-clad babes. Everything was perfect.

Suddenly he heard people shouting. He looked toward the water and saw a man waving his arms as a wave came crashing down on him. The man disappeared. Arnie started swimming toward him. With his arm around the man's neck he swam to shore. A circle of horrified people surrounded him. CPR was unsuccessful. It was too late. In those few minutes the word responsibility had taken on new meaning. One man was dead and another's life had changed forever as a result.

Twenty years later, Arnie was sitting at the desk in his study grading essays. Final exams were over and he was writing comments and critiques on each page. His son, Joseph, was finishing his second year of college. It was time to consider his options for summer jobs. He was athletic and had been a member of the swimming team since high school. He needed some advice so he went into the study.

"Dad, I'm thinking about what I should do this summer to earn some money. Any suggestions?" Joseph asked.

Arnie's reply was simple. "Mow lawns, son. Mow lawns."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leroy Cooper on Frankie Lee Sims & Sun Ra

Leroy talked about the jazz side and blues side. He describes some of his first experiences with real 'outlaw' jazz as he called it.

This is an excerpt from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me back in 2007. The material is copyrighted by Susan Cross and cannot be copied, published or duplicated without permission.

"My first automobile I got when I was playing with Frankie Lee Sims. And I didn’t know that he was a big man. So I got down on him. Then I heard these guitar players talking about Frankie Lee Sims. I said he was just another cat to me. I never did know what the story was and when to stop. He’d say, “Blow.” And I’d go voom, voom, voom. And I said to myself, when do you stop? And finally when you got tired of blowing, he’d get back to singing. No charts, no nothing. Just blow.


That’s the way it was with Sun Ra, too. I used to rehearse with Sun Ra in Chicago. And that’s the way he’d come to me.

He’d say, “Play.” The cats in the band would look at you and say, “Play. Just play your instrument.”

That’s not easy to do. He would call me changes. Sun Ra might get a bell. Creativity. People was sitting there so high they don’t even know what day it is. I didn’t last with that too long. I got friends that loved them. They stayed with Sun Ra for years. I’d see them in New York and they’d say come down to the so-and-so and I’d say, I’ll be there. But I didn’t want to go to that.

This is just a snippet. There's much more about Count Basie, Duke Ellington, etc. who he considered more traditional because they used charts and books.