I’ve never really heard jazz. I’ve never been attracted to it. I grew up listening to 60s music. Things my parents listened to like The Beatles and The Rolling Stone. As I grew older I started to like the Blues. It wasn’t my favorite genre of music, but it was pretty high up there. Then the years went by and I started to like it more. It spoke to me. It wasn’t just sad songs about social struggles. It was life. It was cross-cultural. It was dear. It spoke to me, a 25-year-old woman of European descent. Blues was intended for the black folk, but every time I put on a beat or listened to Billie Holiday it moved me to tears.
Once I read how jazz and blues were interconnected and I was shocked. I hadn’t listened to jazz. I hadn’t given it a chance. So one night, at my request, I asked for it.
"Take me to a jazz bar," I told my friend, "and bring a few people along." She did. She brought the whole gang. The whole gang I had gone to high school with. The whole gang who hated the blues. The whole gang who I tried to like so much but really couldn’t stand. They weren’t terrible people. They were actually quite lovely and good looking. But they were everything I wasn’t. They were loud. They looked at life through the eyes of misfits. They were my friends who I didn’t like.
The night was cold and the streets were puddled with holes of waters. There had been a storm the night before. It was Spring time in California. There had been a few Tsunamis around the world, and a few red alerts in the North. I often had dreams that a Tsunami had hit the West Coast, but every time I saw the waves of the Pacific Ocean it was through a television screen. It was fake.
I rode with my friend Ariel. My dear friend friend Ariel. She was a lost soul, but she was happy. She wasn’t strikingly beautiful but her soul was attractive to the young handsome men. she never got a second date though. That was just Ariel. It had been that way since I met her 10-years-ago.
We entered the bar and there was a jazz band already onstage. Four black men on stage. It looked like a regular “rock” band. There was a drummer. There was a pianist. There was a guitarist. But the music wasn’t an argument.
The waitress came and took our drink orders. “Jameson on the rocks,” I told her. I had learned to drink harder liquor through my 20s, but I still couldn’t keep it down. The misfits walked in. they were frail. They were angry. I could tell they didn’t want to be at a jazz bar tonight or any night. But that was me. I wanted them to try new things even if I didn’t like them. Everyone should try new things, how else do we know who we really are?
The second set surprised me. I was surrounded by a bunch of buffoons who listened to trash music. I didn’t pay attention to them. I guess I should have gone alone. After all I had learned to be alone. There was a conversation going on at the stage. It was talking to me. It was harmonizing, something completely opposite to what I had heard about jazz. I heard it was chaotic. It wasn’t typical music. But it grabbed me. It showed me the true meaning of the blues. I cried. I didn’t care. I ran out.
The night was colder so I lit a cigarette. I stood there thinking about the people who were inside and why I disliked them so much. Had tonight been about discovering the meaning of jazz? The true meaning of the blues? Or realizing that I had to let these people go? I couldn’t. I wanted to hang on to these people. They were my people. I was them. Wasn’t I?
One of the boys walked out. He asked if I was okay, and I nodded. I use to have the most profound conversations with this boy. He was like a brother to me. I could tell he was shocked at my smoking. That’s because I didn’t smoke often. I wanted him to take on the role of a man and take that cigarette from my hands and say, “I want you to stop smoking this shit, it’ll kill you.” But he just stood there with a puppy look on his face and his arms folded. I pitied him. It wasn’t because he wasn’t like me. He wasn’t like him. He wasn’t what he was suppose to be. None of them were. Or was I too different? Had I grown up too quickly?
It’s been a long time ago since that night. Shortly after I moved to the East and haven’t seen most of the misfits since. I think I’m better off without them. I don’t listen to jazz anymore. There’s something about my life that I pity now. I hate looking back. I should have jumped on puddles that night. There were a lot of them that night.