triumphant return to chicago– a whirlwind of cheap wine, casual bump-intos on the street, drives down lsd, and the anti-climatic return to diner haunts. Something was missing this time, unable to locate it– that fuzzy irritation in the back of my consciousness. writer’s block prevents the stream of brassy swing with double bass undertow from getting real hot. for now. Verbal impotence. Take this shot of my lackluster doughnut as consolation.
Formally met Jeff on the elevator. He’s the resident Saxman. Goes out and plays under the Granville El platform many nights of the week and lets it rip, standards, new stuff; always the same smooth tone and impressive athleticism a chocolately-bottom-trawling growl and a smooth ascent to the top and the wind-in-the-treessigh, Ahhh in the trees wanting to say, yeah man. I’m constantly amazed at the musical quality that abounds in this city, from the most glamorous stages to the seediest underpasses. I can hear him from my open window and I like to hum along when he belts out “I Loves You Porgy.” He lives on my floor, and I’ve have a few polite chats with him before, and actually asked him about the Jazz Festival a few nights ago. Had a quick little conversation about Muhal Richard Abrams and his crazy modern sounds, and how we couldn’t really dig Madeleine Peyroux. It took a crowd of Chicagoans to make me realize my folly in labeling her a “jazz” musician. What was she doing up there? I was so confused. I had to leave that night. What was this stuff? The middle-aged suburbanites around me nodded their heads along with the tame beat and square guitar and realized I suffered from a bout of craziness.
Jeff’s lived in this building for ten years. A large older fellow with a penchant for flowery Hawaiian shirts in various shades of steel gray, blue, and green. The kind of guy you’d see wearing socks and Birkenstocks together.
I’ve enjoyed a whiskey in so many places– I can usually map an area by the whiskeys I’ve consumed and whether or not a rocks pour counted extra. There are few times in life when a neat pour is acceptable.
Cavanaugh’s existed nestled in an alley and in the basement of the historic Monadnock Building, about two blocks from my old job. I preferred Elephant and Castle for lunch breaks, to down a couple and eat greasy fried pretzels before trudging in the snow back to my prison. But Monadnock was reserved for after 5, for days when I had twenty minutes to burn and no martinis to look forward to. A place wherein it is only acceptable to enter in a trench coat and rub one’s five o’clock shadow with chagrin before sipping. That warm wood bar so welcoming, that basement vibe so cozy. Too bad it was ruined by grating modern music and bar mistresses lacking the requisite cynicism.
There’s a sadness in those bare ice cubes, how out of place they are without the whiskey, how out of place I was sitting there. Yet I am comfortable alone at a bar. It is the most comfortable, to be quite honest. I had a slow burn romance with the wooden bar, with a place for my elbows and place for my whiskey to reside without shame, between cupped hands.
I pretend I’m an editor or a publisher on Printer’s Row, circa 1935.