I woke up with this thought in my head: that no matter how complicated something is, if there is truth to it, somehow we can’t help but respond to the essence of the thing. I think about that when I have attempted reading James Joyce. When I listen to Tony Williams play drums. When I read about physics. Even if my brain doesn’t understand it, my body does. The beauty of the words, the spider web of rhythm, the barely understood but evocative concepts, in these things I let go of words and concepts and just experience the light of the thing itself.
There she is, a 20-something girl standing behind the bar at a diner on the corner of Broadway and Bleecker, playing Continental Rummy with Gus the Drunk and looking out into the still, snowy night. The diner is nondescript, and the pink light of a neon sign bathes the restaurant in rosy glow. For $2.50 on weekday mornings you get eggs and meat and toast and coffee. That’s what year it is, when breakfast cost $2.50 in New York City. The bar is open from 8:00am until 4:00am, although during the week if it is absolutely dead she gets to pack up at 2:00. On this night, there is a couple sitting at a table getting a late night snack, and at the bar, Gus and Jerry. Gus drinks brandy and milk to go easy on his ulcer. Jerry drinks coffee. He’ll switch to vodka down the road and the girl will discover why the coffee years are the good ones.
If it isn’t apparent by now, I will say again, I love playing drums. Often, at the end of the night as I’m packing them up, loading them out, someone comments on the extra work of a drummer, all those pieces and the hassle. My standard response is, “That’s the price you pay for playing the best instrument.” I really never mind it, the setting up and tearing down, lugging around that heavy box of hardware or those cumbersome cases. It’s the price I pay.
There is one thing that I envy about guitarists, though. I envy the ability to just pick up your instrument and play it whenever and wherever you are. I have a vision of being able to lie on the couch and watch a romantic comedy while my fingers practice geometry on the strings. I have a set of practice pads that I can sit down at in my home, but it’s still more of an effort than I imagine it is with a guitar. It’s not comfy.