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Peregrinating in the land of the Zulu

Saturday 12/12/20

A nice, strong start to the latest edition of the Week Game. Here in the land of the Zulu, weeks start on Saturday. That's just how it is right now, until I write my way out of this hell--because it will be the art that springs me--and get to where I am going. Here is a feature to kick things off in JazzTimes, on Art Tatum's V-Disc recordings. This piece will be in the January issue in a shorter form, but it's the whole deal on the site. It's the kind of piece that will be in the first collection of my writings on jazz. What are V-Discs? They're rather fascinating. They were recordings made in America, by various stripes of musicians, exclusively for troops overseas during WWII. In fact, it was illegal for anyone to bring them home. They were to be destroyed. You could actually go to jail. And someone did. But quite a few survived, and Tatum's number among the best recordings of his career.

I sent out the essay collection, Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self, to someone this morning. And then I embarked upon what was a twenty mile walk, at the mid-point of which I ran the Boston College stairs a career best twenty-one times. That's 5,660 stairs. Mixed it up today and shed my outer top layers after five runs, hung them on a bench to dry. A day that was sufficiently cold, and I was sufficiently hot, that I imagine I resembled a moving smoke bomb as I ran.

The trek to BC began with a stop at Anthony's, the breakfast at the end of my street, across from my regular Starbucks. No matter how early I get to Anthony's, there will be at least four older men there. (Ever notice how different the tone is when you say "older" rather than "old"?) Not always the same men. But at least two of these men will be drinking Pepsi, and one of them, probably, will have two bottles of Pepsi. Anthony has a Pepsi only deal--you can't get a Coke there. Now, I don't drink soda, as it's really quite horrible for you, but if I did, or back when I did, I can't really envision wanting a Pepsi before the dawn. The sun is not close to coming up when I'm there, and these guys, "You know what, I need a couple bottles of Pepsi." These are not meatheads, as I think Kimball asked me once. Meatheads are not up before the dawn. That goes against their lunar cycle or some such. The meathead arises after, oh, ten. Then eats the half of a sub in the fridge. But don't let that make you think these are not salty fellows. True, a lot of the discussion does center on the best route to take if you're coming in from like Randolph. There's a lot of that. But let us just call the language...ripe.

I am by no means a good photographer, but I out and about often, and I see a lot of interesting things. Today provided an opportunity for some photos, on account of the fog. I shall put up some of the ones I took on the way out to BC, through my stair runs, going in order from the North End to Chestnut Hill.

Here we are at the Nova Scotia Christmas tree, in the Common. You can see a wreath of haaz in the background, closer towards the Public Garden. This was at half past six, but as I arrived, there was a man on bicycle reading the placard that details the history of the Nova Scotia tree. What happened was there was a huge explosion in Nova Scotia in 1917. Teams of first responders from Boston were the fastest outsiders to arrive. Bostonians relieved the Nova Scotia first responders, stayed on and helped, and as a gesture of gratitude, each year a tree is sent from Nova Scotia to Boston and it is erected on the same spot in the Common. I will eventually write a novel about this, roaming back into the past, and linking that up with the present. The man on the bicycle said to me, "You have to read the history." I told him that I knew the history, adding, "It's very touching, isn't it?" He agreed, said it was awesome that there's this magical Christmas tree every year on this spot. We wished each other the best of the season, and he pedaled off in the direction from which I came, and I continued on my walk.

As I walked I worked more in my head on "Eede Upstairs." I had spoken to Pratt on the radio about how characters will tell me what their story is. They come to me. I allow them to come to me. That is our relationship. A relationship of complete trust. But a story also tells me the techniques it will use for the telling. Those techniques are new every story. (For instance, in "Fitty," everything is built off of stairs, literally and symbolically.) They are news to me. I don't know what they will be. I am told. And it's always fascinating to me. An epiphany of, "oh, so that's how we're doing this one, interesting."

This is the George Washington statue at the Arlington Avenue end of the Public Garden.

You're pretty close to BC by the time you get to Cleveland Circle. Big bank of fog over Chestnut Hill Avenue.

I texted my old college roommate on my walk, and reached out to Kimball about what we'd discuss on the air on Tuesday. That'll be the Tatum piece, which segues nicely into the Quiet, Please radio episode of "Berlin, 1945," which segues well into a talk about the Christmas carol, "I Saw Three Ships," and we'll also discuss Christmas episodes from the first seasons of Newhart and Frasier.

Around a couple of bends, one comes to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which was where a lot of the fog had gathered. I've never seen it look as it does here. No chance of seeing across. One can make out a faint row of ducks.

I like that one actually. I thread along a ridge over the Reservoir as I get closer to campus. There's an extended lawn behind an apartment complex, which is where this shot comes from--sticks, acorns, the remnant of a pumpkin. I am pleased by the lingering sign of Halloween, of the harvest, as winter advances.

This, as one might suspect, was tempting. Did I? Yes, I did.

I took this shot fairly early in my runs. It's from the top of the Higgins stairs at BC--should anyone wish to recreate the peregrinations of this artist did someday (pilgrimage to the Bunker Hill Monument!)--and though the football stadium is close by, you can barely see it.

And, finally, here's me after twenty-one runs up those stairs, with a ten-mile walk back waiting for me. Starting to sport the hockey hair.

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