How To Break Your Own Heart

(or) When the Browning’s aren’t enough How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. E. B. Browning Love does not hurt. That may sound counter to popular lyrics and poetry, but love heals and lifts you from the darkness of loneliness. Loneliness is the absence of love. Infatuation may be a precursor to love, but is never a true replacement. Until I met my, now deceased wife, Diane, I had several infatuations. Most notably, a fixation on a third grade teacher and, when I was a senior, a crush on a freshman girl. Though both names are indelibly etched on my heart, prevailing circumstances thwarted any possibilities that either might lead to love. Diane has been dead for over twelve years. Even though my heart became a monument to our love, I have truly loved since. And, hope to do so again. Maybe to someone new. Maybe even by recapturing one of my lost loves. I am a hopeless romantic, easily infatuated. In the past decade of dating and relationships, I learned that, unlike love, infatuation is just a feeling, a hormonal response. Love is a discipline. A discipline requiring unceasing consideration, maturity, loyalty, and sacrifice. Healthy long-term infatuations, including most successful marriages, are built on passion, affection, and mutual respect. Passion being the first to fade, disaffection often follows, and “to death do us part” endures mainly through mutual respect. Many couples find great solace in these types companionship....

It Could Have Been Me

The incident, several years ago, of a chimpanzee mauling the friend of its owner, reminded me of a potentially life changing situation that occurred during my sophomore year in college.  My best friend, Jesse Coles and I were music majors at Austin Peay State College in Clarksville Tennessee.  Jesse was also the band director at the county high school.  Jesse had rented a “wild animal” show from a local entrepreneur, to use as a fundraiser for the band at the county fair.  He asked me to serve as the barker for these “wild animals” that included a sullen spider monkey, a malnourished porcupine, a smelly jungle rat, assorted snakes, and a lethargic iguana lizard. I wore tan Bermuda shorts, a tan shirt, and a pith helmet.  And, I carried a wooden drill team rifle as I enthusiastically encouraged the fairgoers to visit the “largest” (and only) exhibit of wild animals on the midway.   On the morning of the second day, I noticed an elderly gentleman in a tan fedora and dressed in jungle attire (that was more authentic than mine) watching me from a distance.  He was smoking a cigarette backhanded, European style, and drinking from a large porcelain cup.  The man watched me for about twenty minutes then disappeared, reappearing after lunch.  He then stayed for another twenty minutes, finally disappearing into the crowd. In the afternoon, Jesse and I took about a half hour off to tour the midway.  On our tour, we came upon a large sign promoting the evening’s grandstand featured act, Oscar Konyot and His Amazing Chimps.  We recognized Mr. Konyot as the man...

The Music Plays On

Al died January 9, 1988. The music plays on. Alberto Dominic Deleonibus had been my blues brother for about twenty years. During the first eight years of our friendship, we were players in my jazz-oriented dance combo that worked the country club circuit around Nashville, Tennessee. Twelve years earlier, however, I stopped being a musician and sold my instruments, never to play professionally again. Of all the guys with whom I had played, only Al remained a close friend. We didn’t see one another often, but each contact was usually fun-filled and upbeat. Most anyone who came in contact with Al would say the same thing. He had a way of making those around him feel good with his cheery, affable, laid-back Italian personality and with his bouncy, rich, bluesy-piano style. When Al and I performed together, our beings connected in a way that neither of us ever experienced with any other musician. It was like one knew what the other was going to do. Like we’d rehearsed and arranged our improvisations. Sometimes we even amazed ourselves at the complexity of our improvised creations and laughed out loud. About a year prior to Al’s death, I happened on a local college radio station playing some great straight ahead and contemporary jazz and began buying music and listening for the first time in ten years or more. When Al would come by, I’d play my latest favorite for him. Al made a living for himself, his ex-wife, and son as a junior high band director and supplemented his teacher’s salary with local dance jobs. Though we mostly talked music, the...

San Francisco YMCA

The desk clerk had a braided bracelet tattooed on her wrist.  She was gracious, yet quiet.  My reservation was lost.  There was no record either in my name or the person who had made the reservation for me.  The clerk left to find the manager.  The San Francisco YMCA Hotel.  Another first for me. I was in San Francisco to help a friend develop a plan to raise money for his business.  My friend was on hard times.  The “Y” was the best he could do.  I didn’t mind.  This friend is also eccentric.  Had times been better, he’d probably booked us here anyway, just to get my reaction.  We were in town for the 1992 MACWORLD Exhibition to look for ideas and products for his medical practice management company. The “Y” was convenient, only a few blocks from the better hotels where we had business meetings scheduled. I really didn’t mind. I’d stayed at similar places around New York, back when I was a struggling jazz musician in the early ’60s.  But this was more like a new experience than reliving a memory.  Those jazz days had faded from my mind long ago. The building was no doubt beautiful in its heyday–grand columns and elegant porticoes.  The floors were marbled and well polished.  The place was very clean. The clerk returned.  For the first time, I noticed her experienced-worn eyes.  Deep and shifting.  Afraid if I looked directly into her eyes I’d discover a secret not to be shared with a stranger. They found the reservation!  Being the first to arrive, I was told I’d have to pay...

Elvis is in the Building

In 1961, I had just returned from a year on the road with my jazz trio, and I had an experience that I’ve never shared with anyone until now.  The agreement was not to tell this story for twenty years after the death of Elvis Presley or suffer the consequences of his Memphis Mafia.  I’ve chosen now for the telling because most of Elvis’ close friends, including those in the Mafia, have already told their secrets; many of those who swore me to secrecy are dead; and I needed a boost to my career as a writer. Nashville had already become known as Music City USA when I returned home from the road that spring.  The “Nashville Sound” was in much demand by pop singers, rock ’n’ roll singers, and blues singers.  Big names came to Nashville to get that special studio sound not available anyplace else in the world. Though I played a few sessions here and there, I wasn’t really into the type of music that was being recorded in Nashville and wasn’t closely connected to the tight little group responsible for the “Nashville Sound.” I was a jazz drummer, vibraphonist, and singer; not a country guitar picker or piano player.  Even in the New York area, where we’d been working for the past year, few people were buying jazz records or coming to clubs.  Most of our audiences were other jazz players.  Mainstream America had forgotten the big bands and jazz geniuses like Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman, and were listening to rock ’n’ roll entertainers like Elvis, Pat Boone, Little Richard,...