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Sunday at 3 PM.
Sweeping the dust off the floor, I swayed the wooden broomstick side to side. Soon, the scratching sound of straw against concrete became a simple beat. I started to whistle out a tune.
I moved my foot rhythmically to add some complication with hollow thumps and staccato taps.
Heel Toe Heel Toe
Swivel Switch Sweep
The smell of rich mahogany and light Bourbon watered down with melting ice had permeated the one-floor lounge. After hoisting myself onto the stage, I glanced at the chocolate brown walls, the walls that I had painted myself when I started this Jazz club back in July 1978. Back then, there were no stage lights, 100 watt amp cabinets, leather couches, or ornate tables with the proper silverware. No, definitely not. There was just me, my happy-go-lucky band mates, and our instruments. We were new to the scene, but boy did we music.
Wahahahahah went my electric guitar
Jimmy on the drums tst tst tsttt pow pow
Dah dah di di dah tapped Ben’s fingers across the keyboard
Tommy blows bowow wow dao on his new sax
Scratch whistle thump tap
I strum my broom as if it were my vintage Fender Stratocaster made of rosewood.
We would play our shows here every Friday night, with only friends and a couple strangers filtering in and out. Eyes closed, hands hammering strings, I would attempt different variations of the same pentatonic scale while Kyle’s fingers took a walk along the wide frets of the bass and drum brushes made cymbals hiss. We would be extremely tired by the end of the long night, but back then, we were fine. Music was the only inspiration. Money, fame, and girls did not tempt us in the slightest. The bar was our home, our hangout spot, our watering hole, and mostly, our friend.
I took down the posters of BB King, Allan Holdsworth, Aaron Goldberg and Steffen Schakinger, barely clinging to the walls, folded them neatly and placed them in a big cardboard box. I pushed the burgundy leather couches from the corner to the front entryway, along with the high bar chairs perched outside, and organized them in rows for tomorrow’s 9 AM pickup.
Reeeeeeeehh screeched the couch as I heaved it forward
Chair legs clunk clunk clunk
Clatter clunk swoosh
I stared at the jukebox. I would hold onto that old, finicky heap of metal for as long as I could. After all, I’d blown my first paycheck on it at a pawnshop that’s not even around anymore. Going back inside the lounge, I took out the remaining shot-glasses and cups in the cabinet behind the bar, but left one glass for myself. I took out a quarter from the right pocket of my slightly torn khakis and placed it in the jukebox to hear The Eagles sing Hotel California. Of course that raggedy machine decided to work this time.
Jingle in the pocket
when it plops
duh duh as it starts
Tossing a few ice cubes into the cup, I poured myself a glass of Famous Grouse scotch. As the soft voice of Don Henley buzzed out of the speakers, I slumped down onto the hard floor and felt myself relax.
as I lifted
went the ice cubes
“We had good run,” I said aloud. Recalling the ups and downs I’d experienced as a jazz club owner and aspiring musician, I looked around at the austere, rectangular space.
“What do you like most about jazz?” that young reporter had asked me when I first opened Bacchus Bar. The magazine was doing a piece on local attractions, and I’d known someone who knew someone who said they don’t normally feature bars in their publication but could make an exception.
“It’s cool, you know?” I’d said at the time, slumped in a leather chair behind aviator sunglasses.
But it’s not cool; it’s everything. You can taste it, smell it, touch it.
It’s okay, though. Not everybody is a businessman, especially in a recession, but I’ll always be a musician.
Boom as I set down my glass on the floor
Click as I put the broom away and close the utility closet
Whew as I exhale, scanning the empty walls
Creak as I turn the handle
Okay then are the last words I say to myself
As I lock the door behind me and step into the
Clop of feet, slow at first then swifter, swifter
Snap of fingers, a sigh, a smile.