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Entry date: 3-15-2024 – The Ides of March (the Bet) – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Today would have been my Gramma Val’s 106th birthday, I think. She was a keeper. I miss her a lot.  A world champion backseat driver, Gramma made every car trip just a little bit special. What I wouldn’t give, though, for her to tell me how to get from her house to wherever we were going a few more times.

 

I’ve got a pair of her scissors in a drawer and one of the glasses from her house on the dresser where the drawer is. I think of her when I see them and I’m glad I have just a small piece of her history. I have a few other things, too. Blankets she made, for example, and a couple of things that were on her shelves. I love that she’s a part of our home.

 

*****

 

We picked out tile for our bathrooms last night. That was nice. Ryan is coming over today to do a couple things that will help us progress toward having a functioning bathroom again. Looks like I am going to learn how to do drywall. I’m ready.

 

*****

 

(The Bet continued)

 

By the grace of some higher power, Marcy made it to her floor without having to answer any questions or make eye contact with anyone she knew well. There were a few pleasantries and one nurse, Mona Flores, that she knew from over the years said, “Can you believe all these police?” while they rode the elevator together.

 

Without her scrubs, Marcy looked like any other hospital visitor, so she was almost able to get to Betsy’s room without being seen. Unfortunately, she walked right into Dr. Tristen as he left her room.

 

“Marcy...hey, you on today?” asked Dr. Tristen.

 

She had rehearsed her response at least five times as she made her way up. She was going to say she was here for a short training but that’s not what came out.

 

“I..I...had to meet with HR,” she blurted out before adding, “and I wanted to check on Beth.”

 

“Betsy?” Tristen corrected. He had done Betsy’s surgery and was a bit of a stickler for his patients to be treated like people and not just the occupants of a hospital bed.

 

“Yes, of course. It’s been a tough couple of days. Sorry, Doctor. How is she?”

 

“Well, she’s comfortable, but I’d like to see her here for a few more days. When are you back on the floor?”

 

“Tomorrow, Doctor Tristen. Is it okay if I just poke my head in for a second?”

 

“Sure, then get out of here. Nobody should be here today if they don’t have to,” said Dr. Tristen as he began to walk down the hall to his next patient.

 

 

“Thank you, Dr. Tristen.”

 

Marcy tried to compose herself as she walked in. Cindi, one of the CNA’s on the floor, was helping Betsy get comfortable after Dr. Tristen’s visit.

 

Betsy’s eyes lit up when she saw Marcy.

 

“Hello, dear. Are you working today?” she asked.

 

“No, just here for some early training this morning. I wanted to check on you.” Marcy looked at Cindi. “How’s our gal today, Cindi?”

 

“She’s looking good, Marcy. I’m finished here, Betsy. Do you need anything else before I head out?” asked Cindi.

 

“No, thank you, sweetheart,” said Betsy, her eyes resting on Marcy again. “I’m so glad you are here, dear.”

 

“Why is that? Everything okay?” Marcy asked.

 

Betsy proceeded to tell Marcy how the last day had been for her. She mentioned that she had gotten some really good sleep (“Thanks to your loving care, dear” she had added) and the food was starting to go down a little easier.

 

Marcy felt relieved to hear this but there was something in Betsy’s eyes she did not like.

 

“Is something wrong, Betsy? Are you in pain?”

 

“No dear, the pain is okay. Whatever y’all are giving me is working quite nicely. Although…”

 

“What is it?”

 

“I’ve been having these very vivid dreams. A man keeps coming to see me in my dreams. He has the strangest eyes.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s like they are electric. They are so blue. He keeps saying he’ll see me soon.”

 

Marcy was having a hard time finding words. Finally, she got out, “Electric blue?”

 

“Yes. He said something else that really scared me, dear. If I didn’t know it was a dream, I would be a lot more frightened.”

 

“What was th-that?”

 

“I can hear it plain as day when I think of it. He said, ‘I’m Jonathan. My body is downstairs. Yours will be down there soon, too.’”

 

For a second, Marcy couldn’t help herself. She let out a small yelp.

 

Betsy looked at her closely and reached out to take Marcy’s hand as if to comfort her. Marcy pulled her hand back before realizing what she had done.

 

Now Betsy’s face started to show her fear. She reached out for Marcy again and this time Marcy held her hand.

 

“I’m so sorry, Betsy,” was all Marcy could say as she burst into tears.

 

*****

 

The world needs good music to chill out to. I hate ending sentences with a preposition, but in this case, I can live with myself. Sometimes I don’t want to hear anyone sing or say anything. I just want to hear music. Sometimes I want to end a sentence with a damn preposition. Fuck Poole and Dryden!

 

When the world of jazz opened up to me, I went through a period where I was picking up all kinds of stuff to check out. I didn’t talk about it too much because I didn’t know much about it (and, really, still don’t), but I knew (and know) that I like it. There is so much to explore. I’ve only dipped one toe into the jazz ocean.

 

One of the records I picked up in 1998 was by a band called Medeski Martin & Wood called Combustication. I don’t remember if it was recommended by someone or if I had read about it and it seemed interesting. Either way, I went down to Zia and bought the CD and thought it was great.

 

The packaging was one of the things that instantly ingratiated the artist to me. It was simple, kind of elegant and an understated fire motif that I liked. I was excited to put it in the CD player. That’s the only format I have it in because I didn’t buy vinyl in 1998.

(By the way, don’t even look at the prices for this vinyl on Discogs. If you are intrigued by this record, start saving pennies now if you want it on wax.)

 

When “Sugar Craft” starts, prepare to be swept up if you like trippy jazz with hip hop influences. John Medeski is a groovy fucking keyboard player. From the opening minutes of the first song, you will be made well aware of this fact. DJ Logic provides some excellent turntablism, as well. I’m not sure I used that word, “turntablism,” properly but it fits what my brain is trying to say.

 

After checking, I did seem to use it right. Whew. Turntablism for the win.

 

Bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin (not the legendary baseball manager) are both incredible musicians, too. As I listen to them doing their thing, I wish I had the chops to do a project like this, but alas, I do not. The closest I will get is the Living Room Collective, but we will probably not get this jazzy.

 

“Just Like I Pictured It” is just totally chill. Combustication is one of those perfect records to put on in the background of a party and just let it do its thing to the mood. Wood’s bassline on “Just Like I Pictured It” is pretty awesome, too. As with any good jazz trio, the group takes turns letting each other take the lead and it’s a fine mix.

 

“Start-Stop” is another great piece of atmospheric hip/hop jazz. I guess, technically, they are kind of acid jazz, but I’ve always kind of avoided that term. I want to think of acid jazz as way more psychedelic, but “Start Stop” would definitely be a nice soundtrack for some hallucinogens. I mean, if I was inclined to do that sort of thing.

 

DJ Logic and Martin both add some serious badassery to the “Start-Stop.” It would have been rad to see them do this in a small dark club in New York City at the end of the 90s. I bet the wild Y2K vibes would have taken over under the right circumstances. This is a song you could imagine listening to as the world ends.

 

“Nocturne” starts off with a cool little bass thing by Wood before evolving a kind of a mellow middle eastern groove. It reminds me a little bit of something the Sun City Girls would have either been into or done themselves. When the drums of “Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho” kick in, it almost feels like the band has just been setting this one up with “Nocturne” all along.

 

This is another sneaky, slippy beat that morphs into something with a serious groove. It reminds me of the background music in the television show, Barney Miller. I love that show and it had some really great, jazzy background music.

 

Track 6 is “Whatever Happened to Gus” and a guy named Steve Cannon does some spoken word over it. I like it a lot. It’s a bit of a nod to the Beat Generation done in a 1998 kind of way. Dig. Just dig it.

 

“Latin Shuffle” is exactly what the title suggests. You can get a little hip sway going here and there to it. It leads into a strange cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” I was (and still am) a bit let down by this one. As much as these guys are groovy and fun on other parts of this CD, this cover just never takes off.

 

“Coconut Boogaloo” is a fun one, though, as is “Church of Logic.” DJ Logic is funky and phenomenal on the latter. I’m a fan of DJ Shadow and I’m not really comparing the two, but I forget sometimes how much I like it when someone really goes off on the turntables.

 

“No Ke Ano Ahiahi” is a cool Hawaiian song that Medeski Martin & Wood turn into something way cooler than it is probably played regularly. It’s slow and elegant. Again, this record is great for background and chilling. It’s starts groovy and the energy switches gears towards the end as if it is trying to slowly decelerate on a long downhill patch of road.

 

The last track is really two tracks in one. “Hypnotized” and “Combustication” are fused together with a couple minutes of silence in between them. That was the trend in those days…the hidden track. These are both more along the lines of what I would consider “Acid Jazz.” They are weird and funky, but not for everyone.

 

This isn’t an everyday driver for me, but it’s one that I like a lot. If anyone wants to get rid of a vinyl copy for a reasonable amount, hit me up.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Think.

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