Monday, April 7, 2008
How Jazz Kept Us From Killing Each Other
So it wasn't exactly a blue moon beginning to our much-anticipated week in Portland. First, the Ranger and I got into the Fight of the Century. You know how it goes. It starts out being about something small, stupid, foolish and before you know it, you're trying to figure out how you can pack your bags, shove the dog in the trunk and flee the village minutes after you've set it on fire. Now, the Ranger and I don't fight very often; he usually realizes pretty quickly that he's totally wrong. But when we do scuffle, we make up for all that free happiness we've enjoyed, the nose-to-nose mushy kind that means we no longer get invited to parties.
This is to say that the three-hour drive to Portland was like a Dark Star, absent of sound, bereft of light. Except for the extra Ranger in the back seat of my tiny car, who was hitching a ride to the same conference and regaled us with stories of his misspent youth including how he used to use pages of the Bible to roll joints because the paper was so perfectly thin. Little does he know that's the one story that kept me from shoving his yappie ass out of the vehicle while plunging down I-5.
The battle continued even after we arrived at the no-tell motel, courtesy of the State of Oregon. A dump of a Holiday Inn squeezed between strip joints and boarded up liquor stores. I clutched my pearls all the way to our room, where we now enjoy a sweeping view of an airport runway and a railroad track. Nothing makes Second Edition grumpier than Amtrak at 4 a.m.
We fought for a couple more hours then called a truce. Nothing. Absolutely nothing gets in the way of dinner. Tired. Grouchy. Exasperated. We pulled into the first sign of life that didn't sport its own crack whore or shattered window. Plus, I'm a sucker for neon with a blinking martini glass. Clyde's Restaurant and Bar.
Clyde's is a whole other world of grown-ups. Red velvet booths, roaring electric fire, busty waitresses, men in suits, women in rhinestone studded...well, everything. And who should be playing his sweetly, smoky blues-infected jazz, but the incomparable Mel Brown.
We tried to remain unmoved, but couldn't. The place was jammed with toe-tappin', finger-snappin', whoo-whooing couples, loving every minute of their thick steaks, cheap red wine, and blazing saxophone. The dance floor was a postage stamp, but that didn't keep the older folks from swaying and sliding, gray heads tipped together in an easy embrace.
And then it happened. That thing a man says to a women when they're in it for the long haul. The thing that saves them from themselves and their bitter words, their worst impulses.
"Shall we dance?"
And so we did.