Monday 1 October 2007

In a mellow mood

I listen to wnyc every "morning" for a couple of hours. On sundays you get the sunday show with Jonathan Schwartz. He's just played Mel Torme singing a gorgeous love-fansong medley to Fred Astaire. Now it's Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra in a tribute to black women jazz singers in "Can't we be friends" in which you can hear the edge racial tensions of America getting a little more familiar, but it's still an awkward match. A bit earlier, he played Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins on "In a mellow mood". Jesus, I love listening to Ben Webster. He just loves that horn like a brother. And that low laughing fat vibrato and intelligent sound he makes...

Ben Webster rounded his life off in Koebenhavn, you know. I used to live right by the graveyard where he's buried. It was like my backyard, like living right on Prospect Park West. I was living in a very beautiful, roomy, high ceilinged two bedroom apartment with a 58 year old Romanian woman, a former actress who had lived in new york for 11 years of her youth, but had by that time (spring of this year) been living in Koebenhavn, mostly in the same building, for 23 years. She was planning another move, this time to Italy, to kick some sass into her sixties. She was having a hard time in Koebenhavn, felt herself to be isolated and alone and without much fun or friendship at all, so slowly she was taking the rope a little more firmly and finding herself pulled toward something hopeful in Umbria.

Koebenhavn was being gentrified like everywhere else it seems that I live, but the real estate market there is not broker-owned and developer-dominated like it is here, and I think this particular block I lived on is still quite undiscovered. See, when people buy property in Koebenhavn, generally they're looking for a place to live, rather than trying to feed their real estate billionaire habit, though that also exists, and therein lay the fate of A-huset. But that's another story for another time. And there's a more compelling version of that story living here, in Prospect Heights.

I can't believe I haven't written about Atlantic Yards yet. But it's really just lit up inside me in the past couple of weeks, so I think it's just lying low, gathering energy before it whips up and out. Lets go back to the story of the Romanian actress in Koebenhavn, and Ben Webster's grave.

The actress rented me one of her rooms. It was gorgeous. I took daily walks and cycles through the graveyard, which had been designed as a place for people to hang out. Assistens Kierkegaard, that's what it's called. Soeren Kierkegaard, the philosopher writer, is buried there, and Hans Christian Andersen, whom the Danes endearingly abbreviate to H.C. Andersen, pronounced a lot like Jose, which added a little kick to my first year in the town.

Assistens is right in the heart of Noerrebro, which is the Brooklyn, if you like, of Koebenhavn, though Island's Brygge is the DUMBO. You've got to be excited by a neighbourhood that demands capitalisation and brings images of Disney elephants and heartbreak stories as you walk through its big gorgeous industrial lines.

And each of these places is a state of mind.

There's something to be said about jazz musicians who understand how to take their time, and do. I love to listen to people who have gone through the whole arc of their journey and have come to a point where it's easy when it's fast, and deeply punctuated when it's slow. You've got to love Ben Webster. I think if you don't love Ben Webster, you know, you're missing out on something really joyful in the human experience. And it's not just Ben Webster, of course. It's the Ben Webster state of mind.

I used to cycle past his grave quite a bit, on my zigzag route through Assistens. I usually found myself stopping, tipping my cap (and you always needed to wear a cap in Koebenhavn), before moving on again. I always wondered about it, why the hell he found himself there and what it was that he found and loved there enough to keep him living happily in Koebenhavn for the rest of his life. I was there for three and a half years and it wasn't a cosy and warm set of experiences, except sometimes. It was a rich time, though, and I can see that now, thank God. But you know, Ben Webster's Koebenhavn state of mind and Lucy Foley's Koebenhavn state of mind are probably two entirely different states of mind, and even as I write that, I dig that these things are dynamically subject to change.

I'd like to have my own radio show on national public radio. LUCY TAKES OFF live on wnyc. Can't you hear it already?

The Irish accent, and all the performance bits that you just can't get in a blog. Not to mention the special guest stars, the on-street conversations. The word from the bar. The view on the street. The explosions under the bridge. Right from the beginning of this blog I've wanted to make video and audio posts. I'd like to add that feature soon.

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