A block away lived a man and his family. We would often visit. The adults would sit around a glass table, roll joints, and smoke. From the dim room, I could hear the strum of a guitar. Occasionally, vocal harmonies. The kids recreated Spring’s awakening in the man’s living room: she was a bud about to unfurl, her movements synced to the melody improvised across the hall. In this private school lived a janitor and his daughter, my first regret. Shame on me.
Inserted in the ring binder was a copy of Boris Vian‘s Froth on the Daydream. Passengers overflowing, standing, sitting, sleeping, reading. In their eyes I see the morning paper, Paul Auster, Peter Handke, Martin Amis, Douglas Adams. I cannot hide my shame, the commuters see through the three-ring notebook. In their semiconscious eyes I see my father’s embarrassment: I should stray from the atheists, the agnostics, the nihilists. God speaks through my father; my father speaks through Jan Garbarek. In this subway car sits the son of a devout janitor, scrutinized by his own demons. God sees all.
Shame on me.
Untie the knots, said the therapist. I reinvented my father’s legacy: he was an artist, not a janitor; his suicide—a romantic gesture, not the tragic last stance of a sad man. Remove your mask, said the therapist. I created an alter-ego: he was the son of a famous artist, guided by the mind. He was not I. His mind ponders Anthony Braxton; my heart feels ECM. He will turn the volume down so that you will not hear Ketil Bjørnstad. He will seduce and mislead the therapist, until all lies are cornered and challenged: untie your knots and remove your mask. I had the last word.
Shame on him.
Flip the record.
Note from the author: The Blues and The Abstract Truth is a four-part reflection on Jazz and its impact on my life during the years that followed my father’s death. The title The Blues and The Abstract Truth is borrowed from the Oliver Nelson album recorded in 1961.