Writing this on the eve of the first full weekend of August. Coolest summer remembered in 30 years here. Chilly in more ways than one: the buses and trolleys are peopled with more than the usual number of hostile characters at a loss as to how to keep sublimating their aggression in the face of an economy that sucks and cheerless weather. Any similarities to the Great Depression in the 1930s can be easily disguised across cable channels numbered in three digits and Fox News leading the way with vague and vacuous telejournalism glazed over by mindless and conservative jingoism.
I’m in a mood. I caught myself on the bus this morning when I was sitting next to a young woman reading a self-help book, tattered and spine-broke (from the 1970s, I think), titled Everyone Is Beautiful. As I got off on Broadway. I nearly said this out loud as I turned to her while looking at the book title: “Everyone’s beautiful? Look at the next five people who get on this bus.” I didn’t say it, but...
This Saturday night, the 14th, B.B. King and Buddy Guy will play at Harrah’s Rincon — same night Lewis Black will be at Pala Casino. My instincts would be to hear King and Guy; I’ve had a lot of fun and commiseration listening to those guys over the decades, both live and on record. The last time I saw B.B. King was in 1969 in San Francisco, though I used to see him around Chicago before that. I was technically too young to be in the clubs, but I always got in one way or another.
I saw Buddy guy maybe ten years ago at the Belly Up with my friend Mark. I was kind of informally tutoring him in the Chicago-blues sound; Guy was at the top of the list and he was here. We got to the will-call window and my arrangements for two tickets had fallen through: they offered only one. I held up a finger to indicate I needed a minute to compose myself, then said, “This man next to me has been autistic for many years. He hasn’t spoken a single word since he was six years old. I played a Buddy Guy record for him and he spoke the man’s name.”
Right then, Mark picked up on his cue: he stepped to the side, turned his back and disheveled his hair, then he tilted his glasses at an angle over his forehead and one eye. Stepping into view of the woman at the window he moaned, “Buh-ee-Guy! Buh-ee-Guy!”
“Now, you tell this man,” I said to the young lady, “that he can’t see his hero. I can’t do it.” I turned away, overcome with emotion. The woman at the window laughed.
“Okay,” she said. “That was good. That was really good. Here you go,” and she handed Mark the second ticket. He said, I think, “Thank you, my dear.”
This weekend, Friday falls on the 13th. As if to prove that the combination of that weekday and that number in the month are bad luck, The Expendables, starring Sylvester Stallone, the governor of California, and Bruce Willis opens in theaters, taking up space that could more edifyingly be used for a rerelease of the director’s cut of Ernest Goes to Jail. Still, I may go and see The Expendables after all. On the other hand, I may just stay home and shave my head with a cheese grater.
I am unsure why I get a slight kick out of the superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th. I don’t much credit that particular belief, but I have more than a reasonable share of what Edgar A. Poe called “The Imp of the Perverse,” and I have a tendency to lean toward the shadows. As they grow longer, however, with the onset of old age and the ineluctable pull of a gravity, well...I become, I suppose, grudgingly grateful for a true summer day; something that has been rationed in a miserly fashion to us this year in San Diego. In their place, I think I may have made the best of what I have come to think of as “good days to read.”
I have discovered Stephen Goodwin and his 2003 novel Breaking Her Fall, about a father/daughter relationship, the polarization of a family, an adulterous affair, rock and roll, and a few other things. The father/narrator’s tone is conversational but subject to unexpected and elegiac flight here and there. I’ve never had a daughter, but after reading Goodwin’s work, I feel I’ve been allowed a difficult but gratifying experience with this area of the human heart. If you are open to recommendations, this is one.