It is in my experience. . .

that people will always have something to say. Unless, of course, there is something that you wish, or need, to hear. Similarly, I most typically have something to say unless, of course, there is something that someone needs to hear.

Simple, beautiful, gesture. . . this universe can tend to take quite a many a liberty but as I sit in a cafe doting on my tea and making occasional glances away from my laptop and toward the door The Bee Gees have come on the radio. This instantly reminds me of my Father. I’ve been missing him a lot lately and I’m not one to miss family.  It could be the long car rides with the Bee Gee’s soundtrack locking up the background music and my father humming, occassionally tapping on the steering wheel in the cab of his Ford F15o. You see, my Father was a child of the ’40s which placed him in his prime in the late 60’s at a time of first, political upheaval then disco. HIstory teaches us (specifically our American Cultural history teaches us, that the collective temperament is just as short as it’s member. I guess in a similar way I think of my father as effortlessly fabulous and politically engaged at the same time. You can’t teach it, he just has it.

Culture has a way, after all, of mimicking it’s aggregate’s individual personality.

Rather, that is culture’s way. . . anyhow.  Back to the thing. . . the thing that brings me to the page; my father. I’ve been thinking about him. HE’s so incredibly elusive to me. Yet, he always says the right thing. He always teaches and encourages even when things are dire. He has always found a way of giving me what I need when I need it. Never in a garish manner. Never anything more than what is appropriate.

I have read in the historical record of my first meeting of my Brimmer Family, how I instantly had a bond with my father. I was about 17 months. My mother had been visiting me for weeks and the girls (Jamie 10 and Andrea 13) were on their first visit to the foster home. We played, I never laughed. My parents have told me the story of the first time I laughed and smiled in their care . . . I scared myself and began to cry. This was months after placement. I was nearly two years old.

My Father came into the room and I crawled towards him. He picked me up, I nestled into his shoulder and calmly went to sleep. As though it were routine and he was but returning from a day’s work.

I moved out of my childhood home the day after Graduation in June 2004. My steps from the precipice were contingent on proving my game plan to my Father. More a business proposal than a conversation I created a poster board: presented budget plans, logistics and a list of pros and cons. After packing up the last of my meager belongings and assisting in the tear down from my Graduation Party I kissed my father on his wet cheek and he said one of the most beautiful lies that most parent’s tell their children. “You can always come home, if you need to.”

A few years ago, I was in Madison around Christmas time. It was Christmas Eve of 2009. My extended family on my Mother’s side gather at the Italian Workman’s Club (a cultural artefact and remnant of a time when Italians were a fresh immigrant community and lived in tight geographic concentration and facilitated social networks including language and children’s programs. . . the room has a history. As the Raimondo’s had outgrown a gathering at Great Grandmother Raimond’s home, we came to incorporate a new tradition that maintained Uncle Sam’s Pizza and Anice.)

This Christmas eve, my Sister-in-CommonLaw had recently had a baby, the little one was about 3 months old. She offered it to me, “Do you want to hold it?”. It easily became one of those moments where all eyes in the circle were on me: fall or fly.

THESE LINES FROM DEAR DAUGHTER (copyright 2010):

THREE

I’m holding a child and I feel nothing other than I might let it die.

FOUR

My father touches my shoulder and says to me softly, “It will come when it needs to,”.

It will come when it needs to. I have remembered that moment vividly for years now. The pangs of the maternal were lost on me for quite a while. This comes from a few places. The fracture of generations of displacement and adoption in my personal history. It has left me largely with out roots. Feeling myself to be more of an exile than citizen within my own life. The reunion episodes that I’ve experienced have only hyperbolized these notions.

The fracture that comes as part of my history as an African American. This is so important too. We were ripped from our Mother Africa, we were wrenched from each other for hundreds of years. That’s where the degradation of the African American Family began. That will not be where it ends. But I do not believe we have seen the bottom. I don’t know that pain has a bottom. I do not believe that loneliness has a bottom. I do not believe that displacement has a bottom.

Bottoms are neat and orderly. Exile, loneliness, pain, displacement. These things are steady, however chaotic. And like the energy of the universe, I do not believe it will stop. (Dismal, yes. Honest, yes. . .

I cannot tell a lie. I cannot tell a lie.

It’s July 2010 I was in New York City for a week, meeting my Biological family. All was too quick. You can’t force family. I was a mess. It was day 3 of my trip and I was being treated like a child. A petulant one. I was 24 and had been living out of my childhood home for 6 years. I paid my own rent, car payment, insurance. I thought I had survived crises before. This was new. There were these people supposing to know things about me. To have answers for me. To have expectations of my emotions and behavior.  A lot of pressure involved in one sweltering concrete jungle. Or, rather, THE sweltering hot concrete jungle. . . to be more precise.

After a long day in the city and an amazing night of jazz at the Villiage Vanguard:

Hello, My name is Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Lorraine and I step into the Village Vanguard on a Tuesday night: my first night in New York City. The intensely humid, hot air from the city manages to slink with us down the stairs but it is halted abruptly at the door. It is dark and brilliant thing to be within the Vanguard’s walls. This is what going to church must be like for most pious of believers.

Tonight: Paul Motian, Enrico Pierunanzi and Marc Johnson play in trio. Enrico is an old Italian and so I’m familiar with his ways. It makes me feel like an old hat who has auditioned for a role I’m playing. There is hard contrast between the black and white worlds I find myself dancing between. Black in comparison to the white and white, only in contrast to black. But since it is dark I can’t tell the difference in the candle light. At this moment I don’t even care. That is how jazz makes me feel. Clearer. Better. I order a glass of Malbec and my eyes jump all over the program and around the room. Evan was just here a week ago to see a Kurt Rosenwinkel show. He told me about coming down the stairs and –literally- running right into his idol. He was soaking wet from the rain and the Kurt just looked at him and managed, “Shit” before passing him on the stairs.

Evan had met him before. They had talked at a bar in Chicago after a show for an hour or so. Rosenwinkel didn’t even recognize Evan that year later in the Village Vanguard dripping from his storm soaked venture in the world outside. Now, here I am. I sit in the Vanguard across from Lorraine who expects conversation and after three days tour of Sag Harbor, the Hamptons and New York City with a meeting of potentially every one of her friends the time has come for Jazz and for me and Mr. Malbec to hold caucaus. I want silence with Enrico, Paul and Mark. I want to be surrounded by these men and not be expected to speak.

Lorraine is like Evan. She knows of the history we share. She has met me before in many ways through my mother, Jane, and through Jane’s story and her mannerisms and her troubles. She has met me through Jane’s potential. All this I know and it is all I can do to mutter “Shit” and pass her on the stairs.

“Hello, My name is Kurt Rosenwinkel.” I pen quickly in my notebook.

Paul gently pats the drumset as I drink my wine, smile coolly at Lorraine and focus on the sounds he makes as I make very certain not to cry.

(June 6, 2010- New York City)

That night, returning home to the apartment we were borrowing in the theater district I went outside to make a phone call. It was just about 1 am and therefore nearing 11 pm in Wisconsin. I call my father. He and my mother were still up watching TV in the living room. Somehow. I sobbed into the phone, sitting on the ground wearing a sundress and at the first opportunity my father chimed in “Well we’re not going to be able to solve anything if you don’t calm down.” And then it was that coming home was not an option (both logistical and emotional). “What would it teach you to run away from the situation.” He encouraged me to find private time. To write. To exert myself as the independent 24 year old woman he had raised and was proud of. And if necessary, just pretend everything was fine and deal with it later.

That last one sounds like surrender.

I don’t believe it is.

This summer I had the my first workshop of Steel Gun Cold, a play I had poured life into through characters to whom I had submitted. My parents came up to the Cities for the show. This was epic. The second rehearsal (preperformance) started rough. One of my actors was drunk and clearly uncooperative. Reading lines with different intentions on each word, making up his own dialogue, and throwing things across the room. His behavior continued after the centers head honcho and various others had one on one conversations. Doors opened, the house was very full. And still the whole first three scenes were not as I wrote them.

I did not cry. I went on acting as though I was not affected. Did not yell, though I muttered some rather foul things beneath my breath, made it through an excruciating happy hour with the actor in question. And the next morning when I brought it up again the next morning at breakfast, my father stopped me.

L: I still can’t believe–

B: Just stop. There isn’t a thing you could have done to control his actions then and there isn’t a thing that will happen by talking about it today. Move on. Recognize the successes of the moment and move on.

Brilliant.

 

 

Walk on, Write on.

2speakease

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1 Comment

  1. Great piece.

    Reply

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