Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Needlemarks (Coda)


Some time ago I posted and quickly removed this piece.  Prompted by a near-relapse, I'm re-posting:

NEEDLEMARKS

About a year ago I read an amusing essay by Terry Castle—a bona fide academic and wit-- called ‘Heroin Christmas’, recounting the period she spent reading Art Pepper’s autobiography ‘Straight Life’ and singing its praises.

Of course, I immediately ordered this from my library and within moments was incredulous and hooked into the brutally honest account of the colorful life of this tragically addicted but brilliant jazz saxophonist. So much so that I was compelled to date a kind of East Coast/Jersey Shore version of Art. Heroin or not, the dysfunction was sufficient to fuel my personal reality show for at least the summer/fall season. He played alto like a Bird, but spoke like a Soprano and behaved like a Neanderthal. What was I thinking? Something similar to the summer I adopted an abused pitbull puppy and tried to rehabilitate it with kindness and patience. I nearly lost an arm.

Back to the sex---er, sax player. He drove an old Lincoln filled with garbage, dogeared music, scratched cds, masses of unpaid parking tickets and women’s underwear like a kind of advertisement. He called me ‘Baby' even in my local Starbucks. Although he was nearly 50, he wore bowling shirts and ghetto sneakers. Alternatively, there were the 1980's-style mafia Hollywood suits to harmonize with the Godfather dialect. His hair was long and blonde (colored, I discovered to my horror), and his nose was constantly running. His manners were atrocious—table, bed, etc. He ate like a man who has lived alone most of his life, he received texts from women at 4 AM in my bed while telling me I’m the only one for him. Of course the gigs were fantastic, and he’d leave the stage and play these brilliant Coltrane-runs at my table. I was briefly blinded by the jazz-romance, and the endless stretch of rehabilitative possibilities which maybe filled the gap left by my last rough teenager finally coming of age.

I’m sure the novelty of dating an ivy-league slightly older mother-type wore off fairly quickly, but he was a little intrigued by my bass playing and macho-jealous enough to hang on for dear life. The poor guy even proposed marriage at the same time he was facebooking my girlfriends and soliciting women's phone numbers even at my own gigs. I broke it off so many times even I lost count, until I realized the guy wasn’t actually listening. He plays, he blows, he serenades…but most of all he ‘solos’. When he is not soloing he is not only NOT listening, but seems to be simply waiting for his next solo, the next opportunity to flex his musical muscle. Ditto the romance. Our conversations were totally one-sided, not unlike the pitbull who at least gave me some soulful looks as I was preparing his meal. The sex?  With a narcissistic soloist?  Do the math.

I finally reached one humiliation over my highest maternal limit, and checked out. Nine days sober and counting, he doesn’t seem to have noticed. He plays to me on my voicemail, calls me Darling and is undoubtedly still texting from someone else’s bed.

As for me, I am a little sad and miss my heroin summer, but am glad to have my friends back and my credibility is only slightly dented. This, unlike a broken heart and my damaged ears, will hopefully heal. As opposed to Art’s trackmarks which both followed and drove him to an early grave. I guess I’ll have to pick a new addiction for the winter. Maybe I’ll even celebrate my own heroin Christmas. Or I’ll adopt another puppy.

Ouch.


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