Jack and I are sitting on the front steps. It’s gray and raining, the usual early spring day out here. I have the vacuum cleaner apart on the top of the stairs and I’m picking through the accumulated dirt in the bag, mumbling something about looking for something that’s been lost. Jack looks at me, maybe puzzled, but doesn’t ask me any questions. We don’t know each other very well although we hang out sometimes at the local jazz festival, go to benefits, things like that.
I’ve told him in the past that I am on a hard drug run but he’s too polite in a Canadian good manners kind of way to come out and tell me I’m a fuckin’ idiot to be smokin’ crack at my age. Maybe he knows it wouldn’t do any good. Maybe he’s seen too many friends die to put himself on the line with someone who says that he’s just looking for the end of the run, someone who says that he knows it is a bad thing but that it won’t end til he gets to the bottom of it, that he’s in control of the experiment, that it’s really the best thing he could be doing considering that he has been doing cocaine since the ‘60s, that he has tried to quit from time to time but he wasn’t ready, that all he’s doing is getting ready, you know, that it’s a healthy approach to kicking the habit.
Or maybe I’m the one who is thinking that I’m a fuckin’ idiot but I’m also thinkin’ that so far I’m getting away with it. And god knows I love the taste of just rocked up cocaine, the first hit of the day, the blowing smoking, cold wind hot air rush of it. Or maybe I just like the effect of it like they say in the meetings…fuck it, I’m thinking, got to find some.
We are talking about John Zorn, a jazzman I never understand and one of Jack’s favorites. I say I like fragments of his work, the melodic stuff; that the “out there” sounds don’t work for me and lately he’s been out there. In truth I think I don’t like a lot of his music because the sound of it is the way my head sounds most of the time, jangled, tore up, bruised and looking for refuge, some Sketches in Spain bluesy shit, some over the rainbow-maudlin-runaway-to-Margaritaville-empty.
Zorn rips it up and drives his music hard as I hear it. He goes deep into the old folk melodies, pain laced with melancholy, a harsh gypsy sound of lost kingdoms, of survival. I see what I hear sometimes as if in a shadow play, an old man standing alone under the last olive tree which seems to be hanging on in the rocks on the hill. He is playing a one string fiddle, keening notes of sadness, of relentless loss, of courage. Offering, finally, his faith, to the foreign wind, turning it somehow to love.
But I don’t say that. I just say that I don’t get it.
Out of nowhere he tells me that there are some friends of his up on Hornby, an island up the coast, who have been into what I’m into but who are now clean. They are session players who gig around town and go back to the island to get away from the scene down here. Do I want to meet them?
I keep on picking through the vacuum bag. I say yeah, that sounds cool; I would like to meet them. Hornby is a beautiful place and I need to calm down, get out of Dodge you might say. Then I say I thought there were a lot of drugs on Hornby and he says yeah there were but these guys were not into that scene. So I say I’ll see and keep poking around.
I am looking for rocks of cocaine. I’m broke and getting broker, and all I want to do is get high. There is Jack telling me some fairy tale and watching me do this, just like two regular guys on a Saturday afternoon, just folks, sittin’ on the stoop, looking out at the neighborhood, talking football or jazz.
I look up and damn if there isn’t a rainbow in the western sky. I point it out to Jack and he thinks it’s a good sign, says he has seen great rainbows on Hornby.
A little later, he gets up to leave. I stand up and we talk a little more. Off he goes, walking with his long going-somewhere-strides down the rain-wet streets, looking up from time to time at the rainbow. I sat back down and I kept on looking.
I find a couple of rocks.
It’s like the song says, “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…” That song ain’t no kid’s song I figure. I think every junkie in the world knows that song. I mean, it says “if birds can fly over the rainbow, then why then oh why can’t I….” I never found the lemon drops above the chimney tops. Frozen hell is what I found, whispering death, or maybe it was the sound of love, in the heart of a jagged glass pipe.
“Rainbow Connection” LJV @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.