Thanksgiving. I’m cooking post-midnight in my gym clothes, comme d’habitude… I’m listening to the Novaks—indie garage, not as get-up-and-dance as the Stones, not quite as raunchy as the Dolls, but feels appropriate. I think I saw them in a small club somewhere around Thanksgiving… remember asking how many cds they’d sold. The lead singer eagerly replied ‘You mean, including our parents?’ …and I was a lifelong fan. Even if they break up. You see, I’m old enough now to know what I like.
One of my friends showed up the other night looking thin. It’s the Apartment-renovation diet, she explained. You should try the Break-up-with-a-sax-player diet, I suggested. Which follows the Dysfunctional-jazz-musician diet. Or my neighbor's Cancer diet. The Foreclosure diet.
Last night I drove with my drummer out to Queens and thought I’d get into the holiday spirit by food-shopping at the supersized Pathmark after midnight. Not only was it overstocked with processed cans of yams and cranberry jello, but the price of a 99-cent tin foil turkey pan was $6. No lie. The turkeys, labeled ‘natural’, all contained 8-10% of broth, sugars, sulfites and other ‘natural’ ingredients to enhance the inherent turkey flavor. Right. Like the lead in the McDonald’s glasses. People were wheeling oversized carts overflowing with packaged, processed cakes and pies, breads and puddings. Prices were higher than Manhattan, and most customers were paying with their New York State benefit cards so who really bothers price-checking when we the starving and price-obsessed middle class are weighing every carrot and taking trains to the Bronx to save a few bucks on yams so we can foot their grocery bills with our tax dollars? Tax on things I never imagined-- chicken salad sandwiches and tax once again on new underwear for my son. Tax on his basketball sneakers which are a school team requirement.
On TV that show The Biggest Loser. This confuses me. The Winner is the Loser. The Loser gets smaller while his wallet presumably gets bigger. When my son was 15 he told me I was The Biggest Loser. I guess I lost the title. I actually liked it. It was like being the best B-side Mom. I’m listening to the Novaks singer who wants some girl and is convincing her she doesn’t have to lie down with him and doesn’t have to take her clothes off. He is calling himself a loser. Thom Yorke of Radiohead did this too. Jay-Zee doesn’t call himself a loser. He just admitted to having shot his brother but my son says he is the quintessence of the American Dream. You see, now you don’t start out as a busboy or mail clerk, you sell drugs and fund your first recording. Then at gunpoint you threaten someone to sign and distribute and bingo. You marry Beyonce and become a societal role model because other rappers beat their girlfriends and don’t ‘put a ring around it’.
I used to have a savings passport book and put my babysitting money into a bank where the nice spectacled banker patted my head and stamped my pages. I watched the interest column grow. This is the American Dream, he told me…a tree from an acorn. I wasn’t sure what he meant but today I get charged to write a check and get treated like a lowlife at my local branch where there is no interest column and the tellers are way better dressed than I am and have perfect manicures. An acorn from a tree.
Still... it’s Thanksgiving, I’ve survived another year of swimming against a current of growing conservativism and an increasingly third-world economic climate. I’m still playing bass, still high-fiving the homeless guy on the corner, still pretty happy to have a houseful of what my son considers less and less ‘my loser friends’—my B-side family, my posse who don’t beat their children, who don’t steal from their constituents or have sex with their secretaries because they don’t have secretaries. I didn’t get a single delivery, I carried the 50 pounds of groceries myself, I paid with cash, I’m cooking wih real pots and will use lead-free porcelain plates which someone long-dead once painted with great care and pride, and I will feel like an American. I have earned the right to play blues, to understand jazz, to dis my politicians and to look my gods and ex-boyfriends in their heart’s eye and tell them I’m thankful and content to have this alternative life and I really don’t want any reality show but the camera-free one I live.
Amen. Ah women. Grace.