I won’t get out of this unless I have faith in myself. If God does make miracles, I’ve used mine up. My wonderous, rewarding, illuminating, creative adventurous life was a row of blessings from people that erupted into my life at the exact right time like we had an appointment. Strangers one day, pals a week later, years later our rebar, supporting joists of our underpinning in life.
Loners were postured in film, books, and art as mysterious, untouchable, or approachable, they even became romanticized as people of superior cerebral awareness. I’ve met and gained friendships with several over the last few decades. My first high school boyfriend was a loner, he became popular but his soul craved mind expansion and he needed solitary confinement.
How this relates to the intensification of rancorous physical assaults in as many venues, streets, and shops as you can name is my pestering pursuit today. People are exploding with anger, frustration, and hatred. I understand the anger and frustration, but not the hatred. Are all these perpetrators unloved, or do they live amongst compatible comrades? People are shot because their hamburger wasn’t properly served on time, or they have a different opinion. I was living in Los Angeles in 2018, one day driving down Pico Blvd I noticed a sign, “Walk in Anger Management.” Maybe we need to convert a few drive-thru food diners to Anger Management centers. It sounds amusing, doesn’t it? If I was financially able, I’d open one in every major city.
What has happened to our culture is unimaginable for a woman who grew up in the Love and Peace generation, or even into the eighties and nineties. We didn’t shoot one another, maybe a fist fight, or a shouting match but not murder in cold blood.
Could this macabre movement be softened by friends who love you more when you are gentle and kind? It cannot be that simple, or could it? When I used to rage about some occurrence that ripped me personally my partner would come to me and say,
‘LouLou put your guns down,’ that always made me laugh, and then we’d talk out what triggered my fury.
Humankind is in recession, we need a John Lennon to lead us back to where we belong. TO BE CONTINUED
Sometimes an interview with a musician goes deeper than a narrative history of recordings, concert calendar, and early training. That happened when I met Jorge Gómez; founder, keyboardist, and musical director of Tiempo Libre, an all-Cuban-born Timba band. We met in a modest hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he and his six band members were invited to play for the third time at the Lensic Theater. It was steam-bath hot and muggy that Friday afternoon. As I stood in the doorway, Jorge wrapped up a recording session. After introductions, everyone cleared out except Jorge and Raul Rodriguez, the trumpet player. Raul propped up against the headboard of an unmade bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other straight out. He reminded me of Miles; cool in his skin and unflappable.
Jorge and I sat at the kitchenette bar, between us his keyboard on the countertop. Eagerness to begin was dilating from his eyes, so I began with my favorite question to all immigrants; how did it feel when you landed in the United States?
“Oh my God! It was my dream; all through childhood in Havana.” “Do you love America now?”
His arms shot straight up, as he rose from his chair.
“Are you kidding? We love America! How can you not? This is the best country in the world. I’ve been all over: Europe, Asia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. You have all the opportunities; you make your own life here, whatever you want.” He shifts his attention to Raul, agreeably excluded.
“You can’t do this in Cuba—right Raul?” Jorge leans forward and I’m struck by the indisputable untainted smile. Jorge continues to dramatize his arrival in Manhattan, with arms and eyes, “I got out because I had friends in New York. They helped me get gigs in the bars, weddings, and then we got into the clubs.” The room is silent except for Jorge’s satin-smooth transitions from one question to the next. That alone is reason enough to meet Jorge for a conversation. “We were not allowed to listen to Cuban salsa music, or American music; only classical. I trained at the Conservatory all my childhood. I play all of them; Beethoven, Brahms, all of them.” “Where did you learn Salsa?”
“From America! Yes. As teenagers, we climb to the roof and we to wait till state-programmed Cuban music goes off the air at 1:00am. Then we wrap aluminum around the antenna and turn our radio on. We pick up American music; like Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, everyone. We listened all night so we’d take the rhythms’ in our heads you know.” “What’s the difference between Cuban Salsa and Latin Salsa?” “Everyone claims this is their Salsa; it’s Latin, Marange, Colombian… it is a blend of many cultures and musical influences. We take from each other. All the instruments I learn come from listening. They teach me everything, and I teach them.”
“Do Americans play Conga different than Cubans?”
“It depends on the person. See if the person is open to learn everything then he push through. For example we have been playing all these places like Michigan, Minnesota, Minneapolis…all those places that are so.” He pauses to express it precisely. “Cold” he says, laughing out loud.
“And I’ve seen American band playing Cuban salsa so so good, my God, so well. Blue eyes and blond hair.” Jorge breaks to howl out his enthusiasm, surprise, and demonstrate the memory.
“Who do you like to listen to do today?”
“I don’t know the names, but I have a lot of friends, and they call me and say, ‘I have a band, you come and hear me.’ So I go to the club and Wow! This is good music! Everyone is dancing. I love to see them dancing! I want to see them happy. If they want to sit and listen, good, if they want to sing along, good, they want to dance good. Everybody has a different reaction. My job is to transfer the energy to the person; that’s the idea. Not to play the music for me; I want them to be happy.”
“How do you do that?”
“Sometimes you are sick, and no matter how many pills you take you are still sick. Right?”
I nod and watch his facial expressions twitch in thought.
“Then let’s say I come and say, Wow! You look so good man, you are looking good, and he claps’ his hands and pantomimes the joy he’s transferring. ‘You wanna coffee cake and coffee, yea, come with me, (clapping again) you want to sit here? Yea sit here and see the sun.’ Suddenly, you feel good.” He nods his head. “Trust me.”
Jorge is toe-tapping in place, his arms positioned in a warm world embrace.
“You forget all about the pills. Trust me, that is the kind of energy I give.”
“I suppose you don’t get sick?”
“Never. For sure. Never. I don’t know what this head pain is… how you say, headache? Like friends say I have so many problems, so many headaches, I can’t go out. I say, ‘What! Come on we go to the beach, to the sand. Bring your conga. What are you crazy! Come on!’ So he comes and we play on the beach in Miami.”
Jorge drums on the countertop. “Have a beer, have another.’ And everyone on the beach comes to us. The whole idea is to forget your problems. So my friend says to me, ‘I had the best day of my life.’ Yea! Be happy! This is youth; this is how you stay young. Life is so big.”
I shake my head, “Not in America; we concentrate on sickness and misery.”
“Yea! You don’t have sickness yet, but you are going to get it.” He ruptures into laughter and takes a sip of beer. My father tell me one time you have to hear your body; your body going to take you in the right direction. Just listen and you are going to feel so good. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night. All the songs and ideas are in my head and I can’t sleep. I must write it down, and the next morning I feel so good because I didn’t go to sleep. I drink beer because I am too happy-over happy.”
“Where did you learn this happiness?”
“From all the difficult paths I have in my life. Childhood was very difficult; no food, no water, no electricity, and no plumbing. What are you going to do? Party, go outside, dance, play basketball, and baseball. I get my friends and they say my problems are bigger than yours. Bla bla bla.”
I’m laughing now as Jorge continues to articulate his life philosophy. “At the end of the day you are so happy because you see people less fortunate and some more, and you are in the middle, and you want to help those people, you can’t go it alone.”
He chuckles again. His smile is broad as his cheek line. A streak of sunlight crossed the keyboard, and Jorge’s eyes and brows are in motion, as much as his legs arms and hands.
“What you’re going to hear tonight is a lot of crazy crazy energy, good music, a lot of stories. You’re going to see a lot of soul. When Raul plays his trumpet you’re going to turn inside out.”
“What is Timba music?”
“A mixture of jazz, classical, rock, and Cuban music.”
“Sounds like a musical.”
“Yes, Yes! We are in preparing for that.”
Four hours later I was in the Lensic Theater, twelve rows from the stage. Lead singer Xavier Mill, Jorge, Raul, Louis Betran Castillo on flute and sax, Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra on bass, Israel Morales Figueroa on drums and Leandro Gonzales on Congas opened the set, and five minutes into it I was dancing below the stage. Two and half hours later I was still dancing, along with half the audience.!!
You see a chime, the moment it responds to a breeze, the sound is beautiful, like Chopin’s Nocturne 1. Sounds that accompany a descending light mist, or setting sun, but the chime improvises its sounds and movements when a vivacious wind girdles its ether. This abstraction reminds me of sensitivity. It can be soft and gentle, nurturing to the souls of those less peaceful, but when the velocity of attack hits, sensitivity is a walloping eruption of rage, drifting on uncontrollable. I’ve been punitively and cordially of being too sensitive. There are more good reasons to alter my sensitivity than not to, but the one reason that hovers above all else is that everything we do, feel and act in life needs revision. We should never stop evolving into more thoughtful, loving, or wise human beings. Every day, there is an opportunity to leap into saintly hood. It is the same with my writing it can be better.
The next adventure is closing in on me as foreclosure is over the June horizon. The dismantling of possessions brings me some sort of twisted alignment to my life. Picking and choosing what to pack, eliminating what Dodger and I bought together, and vacillating over treasures that are now more weight than worth. If I am ever to rest in one address, I’m sure it will be a headstone and a plot of dirt. I chose a destiny to relocate, and so the highway off-ramp will evolve, I just have to be patient.
It is the inner self that concerns me, and how I will adjust and adapt to leaving my favorite house. When I was thirty, I was afraid of getting married, and when I was forty, I was afraid of not having children. Now that I am sixty-nine, I have a fear that once was my chant, the idea of moving.
The word coddiwomple is English slang, defined as “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. If you are anything like me you may be coddiwompling your way through life, which is not necessarily a bad thing.