Archive | May, 2015

BB King, an unencounter

BB-King-Bamp-W-500k[BB King died Thursday night, May 14, 2015. He was 89, and I knew he’d been sick. For some reason, though I could see this was the end of his life, I didn’t expect him to die. The last footage of him I’d seen,, he seemed unchanged, ageless. Now though I suspect this was because the footage I saw was several years old, and also I wanted him not to die. Since, I’ve seen more recent footage of him in which he was undeniably ageful, which gave me pangs, realizing how selfish wanting im not to die could be.. What I saw unconsciously, prepared me for his death. When I learned the end had come, I wasn’t disturbed. Saddened, a little, but not dismayed or cut off or in any way disposessed or disconnected. Just another stripe on the zebra’s ass. Just another part of the blues.]

This is a difficult story for me to tell. I don’t have the chops, and finding the workarounds is an unholy bitch.

One morning about ten years ago, I was scheduled to begin work on a film, shooting (of all people) Helen Hayes in Central Park. I was to meet Herman the producer in the lobby of the Edison Hotel, a great and ancient establishment on 47th Street at the northwest corner of Duffy Square, itself the northern triangle of what is commonly called Times Square, which is in fact the name of only the southern triangle of that space.

We were to meet at 9.

I got there about 8. There was a coffee shop off the lobby that I knew had excellent pancakes.

At 8:55, I came back into the lobby. I guess my back had been to the glass door to the street, because this was my first indication that it was raining. Pouring, in fact.

I saw Herman as he came out of the elevator.

“We’ll wait,” he said. “It’s supposed to stop around eleven.”

He went back to his room.

The lobby was quite large. In fact, it extended through to 46th Street. I chose an easy chair, near the elevators, and sat. Uncharacteristically, I had brought a book. Normally I scorned crew people who brought books on location. But I was in a hotel lobby, not on a set, and I’d known this could arise.

At 11 it was still raining. Herman came out of the elevator, said “Hmmm,”, and went back to his room.

About 11:15, though, the rain began to thin. At the same time I began to sense … something, underlying everything in the lobby. Not exactly a tone, it nevertheless ran through everything. Not a tune, it energized everything, like a score.

It was like, everything was moving to a beat I could feel. It reordered all that I could see, everything that was real. Everything was in movement, organically. Everything was alive, and part of the same deal. Doing exactly what it should.

The Blues came and got me, just came right up the sidewalk and then on in right through the front door. It came up 47th Street and then turned through the revolving door. It came across the doormat and then it rolled across the lobby floor!

I heard the Front Desk saying, “Can I book you in a lovely two-room suite?” Yeah, I heard the deskman saying,”Can I book you in our finest two-room suite?” I heard the guest replying, “A normal room with bathtub, if you please.”

I hurried out the front door, to see if there was music in the street. I say I hurried out the front door to find a musical element in the street. There was rhythm in the air, all right, you could feel its funky blues-based beat.

Far to the east, something comes up 47th Street. From where that street merged with Destiny, was something coming towards me up the street. A whole bus came ‘cross Times Square come d’rectly to the place where we would meet.

As it crossed Seventh Avenue I could see it plain as day. A huge, blue ‘n’ green bus comin in to play. On its destination plaque, “BB KING” was what it say!

Just then, Herman came out through the revolving door. He had my equipment with him. The sun was shininn, the wet street was gleaming. He handed me my grip bag and the case containing my tape recorder and mikes.

“Come on!” he said. He walked into the street, flagging a cab. “We’re keeping Miss Hayes waiting!”

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The Lion and the Butterfly – a Fable

lionButterflyOnce,  a very long time ago, there had been a Lion who was everything a King of Beasts could possibly be. From birth, he was heralded by all who met him as the embodiment of those qualities that ring with heroism, insight, humility and beauty. His bravery, often challenged, was never in question. His discretion, though far less obvious, was just as valorous. In his presence, all disputes were petty, and all conflicts came to resolution simply and satisfactorily. He became known as the Lion of Peace. Whenever the animals required judgement, they always sought him out, and were never disappointed.

But that had been many years ago. No one now alive in the jungle remembered this Great Lion firsthand, although he was well-remembered, and his memory was an example for all youth, especially the young lions.

Each of the young lions loudly proclaimed he (or she, for there were several lionesses among them) could be revealed at any moment as a True King of the Beasts. At the same time, each jealously guarded what they regarded as their greatest secret, because each was convinved that, were that secret known, it would devastate their ability to lead. It would destroy any respect felt towards them. It might even reveal an actual character flaw that would make them ineligible to lead at all.

Claims of latent greatness, not uncommon in the jungle, were accepted as the healthy braggadocio of the young and dismissed. Something in what wasn’t said by the lions, though, rang disturbingly hollow. After a while, it got on people’s nerves.

As was often the case, the monkeys, always hypersensitive to any disrespect real or iimagined, decided to act.

A Barbary Baboon cornered a King Charlotte butterfly in a morning-glory outgrowth.

“If I was to tell you that we had eaten all your nits and would continue to do so until we were full, and you were extinct, what would you do?”

The butterfly flew in very small circles, fifty clockwise and sixty-seven counter-clockwise. Then, when he settled, he said, “Wh-What would you have us do?” Exactly as the baboon expected.

“Show us respect,” said the baboon, “that we may be generous.”

He continued, “The young lions seem to think we are all fools, that all we admire is style and audacity. They seem to think style and audacity distinguishes them, one from another.” He outlined a plan of action.

Shortly thereafter, a certain young lion was booked to speak at the Annual Conclave of Pangolins¹. As he opened his mouth to greet them, a large King Charlotte butterfly landed directly on his nose, and remained there, slowly palpating its wings.

The lion was startled, to say the least. At first, he didn’t know what to do. He tried extending his jaw, curling his lower lip upwards and blowing. He blew several times, the last time quite forcefully, but he couldn’t dislodge the butterfly, which continued slowly beating its wings.

The lion looked out at the crowd, which patiently looked back at him. For close to a minute, he waited for the butterfly to leave his nose. Nonchalant, the butterfly refused to move.

The lion licked his nose. The butterfly raised its rump and stepped onto the bridge of the lion’s nose, then stepped back. The lion sat and rubbed his face with both his huge front paws. But the butterfly artfully avoided being swept from the lion’s face; it was still there.

The lion stood stock still and looked at the sea of little upturned pangolin faces.

“Now, butterfly, I need you to go,” said the lion. “The Conclave of Pangolins and I urge you to go. Will you go?” The butterfly just waved his wings slowly and said nothing.

“Have you ever tried arguing with a butterfly?” the lion asked the assembly.

“No we haven’t,” replied the pangolins in unison, startling themselves with the volume of their voices.

“Maybe if we all asked at once for the butterfly to go home.” The lion counted them in.

“BUTTERFLY, GO HOME!”

The pangolin crowd roared as the lion spoke resonantly, in bass tones. The butterfly remained, unmoved.

“Well,” said the lion. “We cannot reason with him, we cannot intimidate him, we cannot remove him by force. Let us accept him as a ‘guest’. Perhaps, he needs to hear what I have to say.”

To general applause, the lion delivered his speech. It was a well-written speech, filled with the catchy phrases known to turn pangolin heads. Pangolins applauded at all the applause points, and chuckled at all the laugh lines. Afterward, nobody remembered one word. All anybody remembered of that night was a lion who said he ws a leader was unable to lead a butterfly off his nose.

MORAL: Leaders who proclaim themselves heavyweights generally cannot move even a single butterfly.

Credits – picture: www.imgur.com, brought to my attention by Matt Swain of baby/mama of Brooklyn , a major source of good thinking. And yucks. Not necessarily in that order.

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FOOTNOTES -1] Pangolin – A mammal native to equatorial Africa and Asia; an anteater roughly the size of a housecat with a hard, scaly covering. They constitute less than 1% of the jungle population but account for over 12% of daily twitter traffic, and are considered a crucial demographic.

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