It's Saturday morning. I'm sitting here thinking about what has changed in the past year. A year ago on a Saturday morning, I would have been planning my day and then looking forward to going to see Leroy Cooper play with the Smokin' Torpedoes. By then, Leroy had become the main attraction of the band and played solos on almost every song. When Coop stood up from his chair and started blowing the bari, people would stand up and applaud when he was done and sat back down.
It really wasn't fair to the other members of the band who were also accomplished musicians. Before Coop joined them, everyone applauded after each musician's solo but eventually Leroy seemed to fill the stage and the anticipation of his performance became the highlight of each number. Jeff Willey was blowing his lungs out on the harp. Rob Mola was tearing up his git-ar. Tom Bastedo was blasting out the rhythm on his drums. And Mo Baker was thumping out the bass.
Looking back, it's hard to imagine the band before Leroy joined. There were several other sax players before him but nobody compared to him once he was established.
Once Leroy moved on to join the Josh Miller Blues Revue, the other members of the Smokin' Torps left, one by one, and the whole band took on a new flavor. It was like going from strawberry to pistachio; both were delicious but strawberry was always my favorite.
Tonight, there is no music up at Harry's. I'll go to my meeting of the National League of American Pen Women this afternoon and come home. Maybe my hubby and I will go to dinner and a movie. It's about nine months since he stopped performing on January 10 and passed away on January 15 but not a single Saturday night goes by that I don't miss the sound of his horn.
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Browsing the Internet for reports of the accident became an obsession for Catherine. Since her granddaughter’s death, she was looking for someone to blame. The driver of the van that hit her son’s SUV had sped off, weaving through cars on the Interstate and successfully avoided detection.
A driver who had seen the accident had pursued the reckless vehicle in an attempt to get the tag number but her efforts were fruitless. This stranger had eventually given up and appeared at the trauma center of the emergency room of the hospital. There was comfort in knowing that someone had tried to catch the child’s killer and that this woman could not just go home without coming to share with the family. Witnessing the accident must have been a terrible experience that she needed to share.
Catherine saw multiple references to newspaper websites in the state and many of them had forums linked to each article. She was looking for anything that might yield some clue. None was to be found. It was surprising to see that so many comments followed each article. Many were simply expressing sympathy. Some were sharing stories of similar accidents that had taken place in the same area on the same Interstate. Others were describing the flowers they had placed at the scene after seeing the report on the news. These were all touching. Catherine knew she would never have gone on the Internet and posted a comment under an article describing a horrendous, fatal accident.
As she read each note, one stood out from all the rest.
“I was in the emergency room when the family of the child arrived. My heart was broken by their grief. I sat and cried while each person handled the news differently and one person tended to the father of the child who had been driving. His injuries were relatively minor but his horror and tears touched my soul as he called out his daughter’s name. And I watched a boy about 2 years old, with superficial cuts on his face and head. He laughed and played with the toys in the corner. I mourned for the dead child and for the one who had survived, equally, knowing that his life had been changed forever.”
Catherine stopped reading after that. The driver was never found, as Catherine knew he wouldn't be.
Monday, September 21, 2009
At what point would a writer be considered no longer writing? My book is gaining momentum and going into final edits. That feels good.
Suddenly I am faced with the question: What will I do when the book is completed?
When I started working on Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax, I was already a contributing writer to several magazines. I did interviews with local and national celebrities and then wrote articles about them. Often, it was my good fortune to attend a concert or a show as part of my job. Afterwards, I sat tapping away at the keys happily.
Each month, magazines would be delivered and I would look for my articles and their placement. I also checked to see if there were editorial changes. I was pleased to see that most of them passed my editor's tests. I have built a nice, thick portfolio in which I take pride, but things have changed. The magazine business has been transitioning from print to web. I have watched Rolling Stone, a music bible, go from a volume to something resembling the size of a Bed Bath & Beyond Catalog.
In mourning Mary Travers, I found myself singing, "Where have all the magazines gone?" I don't mean to make light of Mary's passing. I learned to play guitar while listening to Peter, Paul and Mary records. Looking out my window, however, I see flowers blooming in the garden (here in Florida) and magazines disappearing from book store shelves.
So, back to my original question: What will I do after the book is published? Market the book I suppose. At that point, will I stop being a writer and become a marketeer? (No, silly, not a Muskateer; no Disney ears here, although I'm close by).
When I'm reading I always hate turning that last page and finishing a book when it's really good. I want to drag it out and make it last. I don't feel that way about writing this book. I just wonder, what next?
I blog about my personal musings and flash fiction (sometimes it's hard to tell them apart).
Initially I started this blog to generate interest about a great musician named Leroy 'Hog' Cooper, a dear friend. We spent so many hours together and I listened to stories as if he were my grandfather telling of his experiences from childhood right until his death in January 2009.
These recordings are priceless to me. His personal accounts of life in America as a black man (he never referred to himself as African American or Negro) were as interesting to me as his stories about B.B. King, Count Basie, and of course Ray Charles, his close friend with whom he spent the largest chunck of his musical career.
The book that I am writing, as I promised him I would, recounts his experiences along with the interviews I did with his old friends and other musicians. Again, to me they are priceless recordings.
I know that people read my flash fiction which is broadcast through the #Fridayflash hashtag on Twitter. Is anybody interested in the excerpts from the book? Does anyone read the stories about Leroy Cooper and his life?
Perhaps I should be including those on a separate blog. Any comments?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
When I was an older-young woman, less than middle-aged, I had decided upon my fantasy job. Everybody must have an idea of what kind of work they would love to do if they had the resources to choose and could totally disregard thoughts of responsibility.
Back then, I was single and had no children or step-children. I was working in a large corporation doing a 60 hour a week job in 40 hours. Well, not exactly, I was doing it in 50 hours but only being paid for 40. The other 10 hours work was just not getting done and kept on piling up in a stack on the corner of my desk.
One Saturday morning, I woke up early and decided to go for a long ride. I drove east until I got to Route 1 and then I turned right and headed south. At some point I made a left and another right and was driving down A1A along an island separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway. I drove for hours until I was beyond any towns and to my left there was a long, wide empty beach. There were no hotels or motels built up on either side of A1A. No gas stations. No convenience stores. The empty, undeveloped space was pleasant. Then, up ahead on the left a structure was coming into focus. It was a motel.
I had been driving for hours so I really needed to make a pit stop, as they say, so I pulled into the parking lot. I walked around to the office and asked to use the rest room. The proprietess courteously showed me the way. When I emerged, her husband had come inside. He looked like a jolly old sailor. I noticed the decor on the walls of the office included an old anchor and some coiled rope.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"Orlando," I replied. "I got up early and thought I'd take a ride and I just kept driving until I ended up here. Do you own this place?" I asked.
"Yes. We've bought it about two years ago. We lived on a sailboat for a year and came upon this beach. It just felt like the right place to be," he said. "My wife and I stayed in this motel for a few days. The owner came to check on things and we got talking. He was contemplating selling the motel and going back west. We made him an offer and within a month we were living here."
"I'm very happy being in one place for awhile," his wife said. "But he gets restless and sometimes regrets making the decision. Who knows? Maybe we'll turn around and sell it and get back out on the water."
We talked for a long time. The motel had 14 rooms. They were more than happy to show me one which had a small kitchenette, double bed, sofa and TV. There were no walls or dividers except the door going into the small bathroom. I remember thinking, I could live in a room this size.
I drove back home before the sky turned dark and thought about the encounter. For months I thought about how welcoming the couple was to a stranger. It was years later when it occurred to me what my fantasy job would be.
Walking down the hall from my desk at work, I ran into a friend and said, "You know what I really want to do, I mean, if I could do whatever I wanted?"
"I have no idea," she said.
"I'd like to make beds at the beach."
She looked at me like I was missing a chip. I smiled and then explained.
"There's this little motel way down south of here, right on the beach. It has 14 rooms. In exchange for rental of one of those rooms I would like to get a job vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms and kitchens and making the beds every morning," I said. "That would leave me all afternoon to lay on the beach and read, take long walks or sit at a desk in my room and write."
My friend looked at me and said, "You know what I always wanted to do?"
"No. What?" I asked.
"I've always wanted to work in a nursery, tending to plants. Watering them. weeding them. Planting new ones from seeds and cuttings," she said. "That is my dream job."
We smiled and went back to our respective desks. After that, any time I was frustrated with life I simply said, "I want to go make beds at the beach." She said, "I want to go water some flowers."
Have you ever been in a situation of responsibility when you've pondered a simpler life? Tell me, what would your fantasy job be?