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Friday, March 11, 2005

C'mon chillun'......let's swing!

Black faces, white tablecloth, gleaming very sharp knives lined up by the saucers........tobacco and "gage" smoke richly blended, eye-reddening and tart as wine, yowzah gwine smoke a little ob dis hyah sheeit gib de wrinkles in mah brain the process! staighten 'em all raht out, sho nuff!

White college boys, hollering requests to the "combo" up on the stand. Eastern prep school voices, pronouncing asshole with a certain sphinctering of the lips so it comes out ehisshehwle ......they reel, they roister. Aspidistras, philodendrons, green broad leaves and jungle palms go hanging into dimness......two bartenders, a very fair West Indian, slight, with a mustache, and his running-mate black as a hand in an evening glove, are moving endlessly in front of the deep, oceanic mirror that swallows most of the room into metal shadows.....the hundred bottles hold their light only briefly before it flows away into the mirror......even when someone bends to light a cigarette, the flame reflects back in there only as dark, sunset orange. Slothrop can't even see his own white face. A woman turns to look at him from a table. Her eyes tell him, in the instant, what he is. The mouth harp in his pocket reverts to brain inertia. A weight. A jive accessory. But he packs it everywhere he goes.
Upstairs in the men's room at the Roseland Ballroom he swoons kneeling over a toilet bowl, vomiting beer, hamburgers, homefries, chef's salad with French dressing, half a bottle of Moxie, after-dinner mints, a Clark bar, a pound of salted peanuts, and the cherry from some Radcliffe girl's old-fashioned. With no warning as tears stream out his eyes, PLOP goes the harp into the, aagghh, the loathsome toilet. Immediate little bubbles slide up it's bright flanks, up brown wood surfaces, some varnished some lip-worn, these fine silver seeds stripping loose along the harp's descent towrd stone-white cervix and into lower night.....Someday the US Army will provide him with shirts whose pockets he can button. But these prewar days he can rely only on the starch in his snow-white Arrow to hold the pocket stuck together enough to keep objects from.....But no, no, fool, the harp has fallen, remeber? the low reeds singing an instant on striking porcelain (it's raining against a window somewhere, and outside on top of a sheet-metal vent on the roof: cold Boston rain) then quenched in the water streaked with the last blie-brown coils of his vomit. There's no calling it back. Either he let's the harp go, his silver chances of song, or he has to follow.
Follow? Follow? "Cherokee" comes wailing up from the dance floor below, over the high hat, the string bass, the thousand sets of feet where moving rose lights suggest not pale Harvard boys and their dates, but a lotta dolled-up redskins. The song playing is one more lie about white crimes. But more musicians have floundered in the channel to "Cherokee" than have got through from end to end. All those long, long notes......what're they up to, all that time to do something inside of? is it an Indian spirit plot? Down in New York, drive fast maybe get there for the last set-on 7th Ave., between 139th and 140th tonight, "Yardbird" Parker is finding out how he can use the notes at the higher ends of these very chords to break up the melody into have mercy what is it a fucking machine gun or something man he must have been out of his mind 32nd notes demisemiquavers say it (demisemiquavers) fast in Munchkin voice if you can dig that coming out of Dan Wall's Chili House and down the street-shit, out in all kinds of streets(his trip, '39 well begun: down inside his most affirmative solos honks already the idle, amused dum-de-dumming of old Mister fucking Death he self) out over the airwaves, into the society gigs, someday as far as what seeps out hidden speakers in the city elevators and in all the markets, his bird's singing, to gainsay the Man's lullibies, to subvert the groggy wash of the endlessly gutlessly overdubbed strings......So that prophecy, even up here on rainy Massachusetts Avenue, is beginning these days to work itself out in "Cherokee", the saxes downstairs getting now into some really weird shit......

-Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow