TIMING IS everything.
I just plucked the last copy of the new Thelonious Monk bio, “Thelonious Monk: Life and Times of an American Original” by Robin D.G. Kelly from the shelves at the local book merchant for once before the NPR story ran! Nice. Looking forward to dipping into this. Interview was nice amuse bouche too as night falls.
From his bio on his website. this: more like a worn, well-handled gas station roadmap:
born jax fla. 1964
moved to georgia age 5
favorite song kawliga
started writing songs
maternal grandfather played country guitar and wrote songs and grandmother wrote lyrics
favorite song garden party
started playing trumpet age 9
mentor band director randy edgar
favorite song night the lights went out in ga. and delta dawn, and night chicago died
age 13 felt the need to listen to rock’n’roll
ordered 8tracks for a penny, styx, kiss, doobie brothers, taped steve martin over kiss
went to town to buy a rock’n’roll record
bought a uke from sears catalog age 15
learned beatles songs
age 16 playing trumpet in cover band called sundance with 30 year olds
parents gave guitar for christmas 1980 to help vic get over lennon’s murder
sang whip it on stage with sundance
tape to tape home recordings
age17 meet johnny cash
just before graduation discovered the new music, elvis, jam, nick lowe, clash, pistols, rem, replacements
gordon junior college
play rhythm guitar in new wave band called random factor
open for baby and the pacifiers in atl.
fired because refused to tuck in shirt
start a new band with todd from dashboard saviors
plays keyboards in proto-industrial electronica duo
sees pil 1982
can’t play guitar or trumpet but discovers a whole new understanding of music
sells trumpet buys arp synthesizer
writing vacuous pop songs
shoplifts norton anthology of modern poetry it’s footnotes were eureka
stevie smith, wallace stevens, etc.
kafka, great gatsby, salenger
songs take on adult form
moves to athens to study english
meets the bohemian types
sings at a party where deanna varagona hears him, gets him a gig the next night before the band’s soundcheck
suddenly a solo artist
. . .
ARTIST, Vincent Valdez, whom I wrote about a couple of years ago for the Times, has been working on a series of paintings about war. This recently completed portrait is now accompanied by a tragic story. The young man, Valdez’s closest childhood friend, and a medic who had been diagnosed with PTSD, just took his life upon learning that he would be redeployed to Afghanistan. Too many stories like this. And young John’s story flickers in those haunted, terrified eyes.
FUNNY, I hadn’t thought about this family ritual until I was driving around, running last minute errands on Christmas Eve listening to a phone-in show about L.A. dining. Someone called-in to wax poetic about Phillippe’s French Dip and their family ritual of going downtown to buy a tree and then to get a roast beef, “double dip.” It all came back in a rush: Stamping through the Christmas tree lots, fragrant, full of wood pulp right off of Alameda way past Union Station but near the train tracks. It was exciting, unknown, spooky L.A. We’d spend hours trying to find one the right shape, the correct height. We didn’t have a meal plan afterward, it was important to tie the big tree down and get it all the way back across town without episode. As styles came and went we submitted to them — big evergreen, flocking, no flocking. The one thing that we required was that it had to be taller than my Dad who stands 6-foot-3, and taller still, because he wanted to fully extend his arm to carefully place the gold star. Sometimes we overshot and Dad would have to go into the backyard with the saw take it down a inch or so while my mother made cider spiked with cinnamon red hots…Now, what corner of my brain was that all in?
IF I WERE to craft a top ten of L.A. books, A Single Man would rest near the top of the top five. I’ve always loved this novella as much for its depth as its compactness. Its mood is like late-afternoon night coming through a scrim of clouds: English in L.A. Christopher Isherwood wrote about L.A. and invisibility and love with open eyes and an open heart. It’s a book, set in 1962, published in 1964, about a man’s loss of his male lover that feels not just ahead of its time, but prescient. I always thought it was unfortunate that this book led such an invisible life itself. The movie, with Colin Firth, as George, which just opened a week or so ago, wasn’t exactly what I had in mind in terms of rousing — let alone evoking — the spirit of this quiet book. Firth is compelling as the air-depleted worn-down George, a study in washed-out tones. (Julianne Moore is also a highlight as the very mod, brassy Charly) My problem with the rest of Tom Ford’s film is that, well, it’s Tom Ford’s film not Isherwood’s quiet book at all, really. In certain parts if felt as if I were flipping through a glossy, frippery catalogue, careful not to let the blow-in cards slip out. It was so over-scented and became distracting after awhile. I so wanted people to get to know and love this story about identity and the chambered definitions of love and the margins –and perhaps it will send reader’s back to the source material: a quiet book about loud desires. I was telling a friend about the film and she mentioned her time interviewing the artist, Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s long-time partner. They had a simple house in Santa Monica Canyon, she recalled. For the interview Bachardy sat in the chair he always sat in and left the one that Isherwood spent most of his days in for her to rest in. Before she sat down she noticed that the chair still held the outline of his body all these twenty some years later. All of Tom Ford’s Windsor knots and close-ups of fancy crisp-white button-downs could never convey something as affecting as that image.