Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Goodbye Dave, and Thanks for Everything

The death today of Dave Brubeck brings images to my mind which might or might not be memories.  I grew up in Berkeley in the Sixties and Seventies, and my church was right across the street from UC and just a couple of blocks west of Telegraph Avenue.  Hipsters, and those trying hard to be hipsters (in the early Sixties sense of the word) abounded.  Interesting things happened at that church, many of which involved music.  I think some of these moments remain in my memory, not as distinct events, but as impressions and feelings.  

For a year in 1960-61, when I was a mere toddler, we lived in Berkeley the first time as my father went to Okinawa for a tour.  The Marines didn't allow accompanied tours for some reason, so we stayed with my Mom's folks in a large house in North Berkeley.  I recall jazz being played by one or two of the boarders on their record players.  I recall one of them playing "A Little Bit of Luck" on her clarinet.  I also remember going to church at St. Mark's Episcopal.  At the time, the choir was renowned for the quality of its performers, and even cut records.  They truly were at the top of their art.  Even as a little shaver I was entranced by the solos, and the grand feeling of Christmas hymns and carols as the brass choir and vocal choir rose to the occasion.

We left in 1961 then returned in 1965 after my father retired from the Marines and took a job in San Francisco.  Of course, we attended St. Mark's where my parents had met and from which much of the family social life derived.  I think this is the period where so much of these images originate.

In no particular order and with no particular connection, I see a grey haired man, about 50, in an olive green blazer with a black turtleneck, in a house among evergreen trees in the Berkeley Hills.  There's a choir party going on, and Brubeck is on the turntable which is playing (in stereo!) through a tuner that only has an FM dial.  There's a black baby grand piano in one corner with sheet music on the stand, and some "hi-fi" magazines stacked on one side.  It sits on a large dark blue and burgundy persian rug, over a hardwood floor.  

The adults mingle and drink and smoke, and I wander along the row of built in bookcases, filled with books by Mailer and Roth and Donleavy and Kerouac.  There's books of black and white photos of buildings, and Japanese ladies covered in tattoos.  There's weird little objects in the vague shapes of humans, but more streamlined, carved out of ebony.  There's a few of those little Chinese puzzles where you take them apart and for the life of you can't put them back together.  There's framed prints on the walls of places in Paris, of steamship lines, and Picasso paintings.     

The light is slightly dimmed except for just next to the small table top lamps on either end of the sofa.  It's raining outside and it's about 4PM on a Saturday.  I can smell the juniper and wish I could go out and play with the friendly little mutt that trails after me.  There's no TV, so I stare at the pictures of tattooed Japanese ladies.  Wild laughter from several people flares in the kitchen upon the delivery of some punch line.  Someone wonders aloud about which weekend the Choir will go to Forest Farms, a summer camp in Marin County, for the annual Choir weekend.

Someone turns off the hi-fi and gets on the piano.  There's vaguely naughty lyrics being sung accompanied by guffaws and shrill laughter.

I am sitting in a small European coupe and noticing how different it feels from my parents' Plymouth Belvedere.  There's classical music playing on the radio.  KDFC, perchance?  I think it's Nana's car (our grandmother) and I ride home in it, excited to be in it instead of the Plymouth, but sorry to be going home. 

Weirdly, I can't conjure up anything to do with food.

Through it all, the sounds of Brubeck and Guaraldi and Tjader.  Occasionally, Pete Seeger comes through.  Hipster adults talk to me in amused ways, but don't seem to really know what to say to me, or how. 

It's all vivid enough so that if I were living alone, I might try to recreate these feelings in my home.  It might or might not work, but it would be fascinating to do it, and at the very least I'd have all that wonderful music to fall back on.

Good night Dave, wherever you are.


Blogger Don said...

Those are great memories.

I don't remember any choir parties at all. Surely I went to some.

I sometimes wish I had your ability to recall the past. Mostly I remember impressions and make shit up around them.

Brubeck, Guaraldi, Tjader. Why now do the mid-sixties, before everything went to shit in '68, seem so nostalgic and fine, even though at the time the world had already gone to shit and everyone knew it: Cold War, race riots, street drugs, topless hippie chicks.

But to go back and spend time visiting the winter and spring of say 1964 ...

5:23 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Jesus. I've tried twice to post a comment here and failed both times. I fucking give up. It'll have to appear as a post. Something strange is happening. I am also weirdly unable to get attachments out in the email sometimes. WTF?

6:43 PM  

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