NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Vol 17.2: Fall 2017 - Page 122

“And your mother called him?” “My father would explain it like this: ‘Da mo proud a man claims he is dan da less ‘magination dat man bound not ta have. Ain’t probably evva had ‘cause he bin spendin’ most ‘is time thinkin’ ‘bout what othas thinkin’ ‘bout him. He ain’t thinkin’ outside o’ dat. Fear don wuped away all ‘riginal thinkin’ from ‘is soul. Netha change or new in ‘im. Dat kinda man cant think past what othas lookin o’ sayin’. He cant study what else dere is to see in ‘is life. Man lak dat neva be free. Might say he got dreams but done los’ da courage fer what dat means.’” “He also did carpentry. Built the house I was born in and the store. Not by himself but from the man he learned his skills from, an Armenian man,” letting the wheel go with both hands long enough to rub his unshaved face. “I forget his name. Sometimes, he took me out on jobs with that man. Once, while out rebuilding the foundation of a house, my life changed. The wheelbarrow was my tool. I was in charge of picking up junk, debris, stuff that had to be out the way or thrown away” “You mean, Joe, you were the labor man? The one who picked up the junk and garbage?” And Easter’s laugh was the other half of the sun just now coming up. “I guess you could say that, but I was a boy still. Well, they went about digging out the old foundation. While they were working hard, out of the blue I heard it. A saxophone playing, coming from out a window upstairs in that big house. My heart just started pounding and would not quit. Wish I could remember that man’s name, damn. Oh, he saw me fixed on that window, and the sound coming out of it, and could see I paid attention to little else the rest of the day. Later, when the work day was over and we, my father and I, began to put the tools and everything back in the wagon, that man went inside that house. I remember it had a sorrowful pink color. It seemed like he took forever while the two of you, sat there in the wagon waiting. Me in the back, father in the front. I even remember the sunset that day; how dark red it was, when the man finally came out the house. At first he looked angry, and I thought something was wrong, but then he handed me some strange, something shaped like a curved suitcase.” A broad smile covering his whole face, “I did not know what it was, because I did not know what a saxophone case looked like. He said to open it. I did, and that was it. The answers to everything was in my young hands. I could not think, really, I know I had no choice in it. He did not know what it meant to me. My father quickly said he could not afford it and that the man did not need to do something that seemed so strange. The man insisted. Lord, what was his name? I must have thanked him a hundred times, before we got home that night. Funny thing is, he said his own son had been trying to play but could not get the hang of it. I would make sure that my father would never be able to say that to anyone ever.” “So that’s how it started. Well, that was a blessing, for sure ‘cause look what you have done with it since” “You mean what it has done with me! East, I did not know one scale from Popeye! An arpeggio from Olive Oyl! My first teacher was that radio in the store. So I had to wait for a certain song and learn it quick, and God gave me this fast ear. “Flyin’ High” and “Cottontail” and “Just Squeeze Me” were tunes I learned from the radio with patience and joy,” and his smile eased into a curve of joy, one Easter hadn’t seen before. Like a ginger-colored sun in a farina sky, he gleamed. “All I knew was I wanted to sound pretty, like Johnny Hodges did on alto, and swing just like Lester Young on tenor. I started blowing whatever I heard in my head. Now, before you even ask… about BeBop? Oh, that would take another few hundred miles to explain.” Searching his face, Easter stretched up across the seat and kissed neck, ear, and corner of his mouth. “Joe, you know you’re like all three wise Christmas men rolled into one, looking for the baby Messiah across the desert, and yet like a teenage boy on his first date. Man, why do you think I told Wil to get us this Ford?” “Well, this is some date across half the blasted country? Easter, you are something. Let us see how smart you are. So, tell me why am I playing with you? I am not going to the bank with your band; that’s for sure! ” And laughed loud and uninhibited like a happy, overgrown puppy. Loving his laugh, “Oh because… because you know I will hunt you down and pull you off any bandstand I find you on, if you quit me. Now don’t tease me, Joe. Now you got me afraid to hear the answer to that one ‘cause you’re right; it can’t be for the money. You could play more with a band that didn’t feature a singer and get paid better, with all that feeling in the way you play! All I know is, maybe I am keeping you back. Huh?” “You don’t get it. It is not how much I play to say what you have to say. Less is more, if you are really playing something. What I am talking about now is what is inside. Dexter Gordon was playing Dexter Gordon, who he is, his personality. I find me in my horn, as much of who I am inside as I can say, only in music.” The tone of his voice like cream poured in coffee. “Back in those days a white man called a black man boy or some nickname like you would a pet or a child. Mr. Fuhrman is how they addressed my father. Family or close friends called him Fur.” “Furrie. I can hear her calling him now. ‘Furrie! Furrie!’ She was the opposite of him, anything but quiet. Outspoken. quick to give her opinion about anything. No wonder my father would stay in the store as long as he could. Today, I guess you would call her a feminist, based on her outlook on life. Her philosophy about things, especially when it came to raising us kids. My mother did not believe in whupping her children. She would