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November 08, 1991 - Image 6

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-11-08
Note:
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Jazz Messiah

Losing the Barn

The holding tank smelled of
chcap wine and sweat. The
grimy benches were,
wu~uallv for a Friday evening,
lv empty. A weepy transvestite
C hhxd at his mascara; a pimp in a
shiny suit muttered foul deprecations
at the prostitute who had betrayed
him to the police. A bum, an
unhhaven individual whose race was
unidentifiable under a mask of filth,
was passed out by the toilet,
cmitting a burbling snore which
drowned out any attempt at
con rversation. Another bum was
sluriped in a corner, watching his
f)llmw prisoners with eyes that
gea med in the shadow cast by his
1v;ked cap. He was a shrewd-
1 (king black man, in his seventies,
who looked as if he should have
been dispensing words of wisdom
\Tt the blues at a Mississippi fish-fry.
TIhe youngest of the inmates sat
as far away as possible from the rest,
hiad in hands, a pair of wire-
rirned spectades askew on his
nom,. This singular personage was a
:uiv- bWarded man of about
t\'c nty, with a schizoid halo of curly
Irown hair that stuck out from his
eadl at odd angles. He was dressed
in baggy pants and a T-shirt which
b1)re the legend, in faded letters,
Iian the Semicolon." He was
\viistling (inexplicably enough)
\lack the Knife." His name was
:Miles Chapman.
It had really started on Thursday
night, around eleven o'dock to be
perfectly precise. He had been over
at his friend Keith's Village
apartment, along with a number of
other people. With John Lee Hooker
on the stereo, the beer flowing with
Malie jacobs is an ISA sophomore.

vim and vigor, it was a bash of
reasonably mellow and righteous
proportions. Having just returned
from an extremely low-paying gig at
a nearby hole in the wall, Miles had
brought his trusty horn with him: a
soprano sax, battered and ancient
with most of its shine played off,
which nevertheless had a sweet tone
he had never encountered playing
any other instrument.
He had had a little too much to
drink... actually, a lot too much. A
lot a lot too much. About two or
three six-packs on the road towards
too much. He never knew what
possessed him to drink such copious
amounts... he guessed later that
either the Muse trying to reach him,
the moon was in Cancer, or he was
just being incredibly stupid. Probably
the latter...
At any rate, the world had
achieved a pleasant gauzy texture as
he curled up on the cold tiles of the
bathroom floor and wondered why
the entire space-time continuum
seemed to be gently spinning
beneath him. 't'here was a crash in
the other room and he attempted to
lift his head, but the evil gremlins
had filled it full of lead weights and
he was forced to let it return to the
floor with an unpleasant thunk. He
gripped his horn more tightly as the
toilet tipped at right angles to reality,
the shower curtain did stomach-
twisting somersaults, and the lights
went out.
He was in a large grassy field.
The sky was a bewilderingly brilliant
shade of blue, the sun brighter and
warmer than he had ever seen it
before. There was a lark singing...
although how he knew it was a lark
he wasn't sure, as larks are
European birds and he had never

by Natalie Jacobs
seen one before, let alone heard
one.
"Miles," said a large deep voice
that seemed to come from
everywhere.
"Yes?"
"You're spoiling the mood."
"Oh. Sorry."
"'That's all right."
The voice fell silent, leaving only
the bird-song and a warm breeze
whispering among the grasses. He
gradually became aware of the fact
that he was dressed in an
exceedingly spiffy three-piece Italian
suit, and his horn was hanging
around his neck from its usual black
strap. He walked forward a few
paces and the bird-song became
louder, more intense, a fountain of
liquid sound. It seemed vaguely
familiar, like...
Like a soprano hom, played by a
master. An improvisational solo of a
complexity beyond his imagining,
and of a perfection that burned his
brain. He was suddenly stmck by a
feeling of intense inadequacy. If he
could reproduce that sound, he
would be the greatest jazzman who
ever lived... but that was impossible.
"Come on, Miles, this is a dream.
Do what you want."
The other horn fell silent. He
touched his own horn and found it
oddly warm, as if it were alive. He
set his lips to the mouthpiece and
blew.
The music blossomed from his
horn in flowers of blue and crimson,
in dazzling fireworks that flung
droplets of light across the sky. It
was a scintillating waterfall of notes
and chords and arpeggios that
poured through his body and
vibrated in his bones. It filled him
with hot molten silver, it shattered
the universe into a thousand
fragments of jade and ebony. It was
the music of the stars.
"Bring this to the world, Miles."
And he woke up with tears on
his cheeks.
The tiles were cold against his
SFOOL FOR LOVE
4 Y
413

by Aaron Hamburger

V\ +- -

'j

. ,
c.

After having been in
hiding for several weeks,
I got tired of being a
prisoner in my own home, and I
decided to leave the house, by
myself. I took my bike out of the
garage and stood with it behind
the house, afraid to go. I felt my
mother's eyes watching me. I
could hear her wondering in her
mind, "Can she do it? Maybe it's

mother saying, "Oh, she's hiding
in the furnace room again," and
I knew I had to go somewhere
else, somewhere where they
couldn't find me.
Not thinking about what I was
doing, I coasted down the
driveway, letting gravity drag me
away from the house. I tried to
close my eyes, rather than look
at the house across the street, but

I I

'

U

Take a time out....
, ...to enjoy your 'faith
at
Campus Chapel
Sunday worship:
10 am & 6 pm
1236 Washtenaw Ct. - 668-7421
[one block south of CCRB at Geddes & Washtenaw]

face. He rolled over, moaning, and
gazed with blurred vision into the
addled sheep-dog visage of Keith,
who was leaning so dose that the
ends of his lank-blonde hair brushed
Miles's forehead. "Are you all right?"
"Of course I'm all right." His
voice seemed to be coming from a
great distance, the last sparkling
chord of the celestial harmony still
echoing in his ears. "Go away and
let me sleep."
- "Naw, man, it's morning. I gotta
go to work. I can give you a ride
home if you want."
Thus Miles was yanked back to
the dull world of reality.
A glum ride home and a
cheerless meal of Tylenol and
Cheerios followed He showered,
changed into the least dirty of his
dothes, walked the dog, but his
mind was elsewhere.
That afternoon, he wandered
down to Washington Square Park,
having the vague intention of joining
one of the street musicians who
habitually hung out there. But the
place was devoid of melody-makers.
There was just the usual
complement of rubber-necking
tourists, Frisbee-playing college
students, hemorrhoidal business
people, and the occasional forlorn
street person.
He sat down on one of the
concrete cages New York had
imprisoned its trees in and took out

his hom. A cop gave a cursory
glance at the scruffy man with the
saxophone reed hanging out of his
mouth like a pale square tongue,
then walked on.
He began to play a rather flaccid
rendition of "Round Midnight," and
a few heads went up. But the
rustling Wall Street Journals, the
fluorescent Frisbees were a siren
song that called them away. Just
another New York crazy- ignore
him.
He kept playing, loud and
sloppy, and soon he began to
experience a strange doubled vision.
He could see the sunlight gilding his
hair, the reflections of his glasses on
the side of the fountain. He was
looking down at himself from
somewhere in the branches of the
tree he was sitting under, entranced
by the dappled light among the
leaves. And at the same time he was
aware of his lungs working away
inside him, exchanging oxygen for
carbon dioxide, his heart laboring in
dark-red spasms behind his sternum.
He felt dizzy and dropped his
hom in mid-measure, letting it
dangle from its strap like an
enormous piece of jewelry. A wave
of longing washed over him -
turbulent, wrenching longing that
made his eyes smart and his scalp
prickle.
Starr continues on page 9

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ritzy snobs in Reebok tennis
shoes who drove BMW's and
raised their children to laugh at
me. At least I had the grey sky to
protect me from the shouts of
children playing outside on a
warm sunny day. Were people
staring at me out of the windows
of their custom homes, built
during the Reagan boom years
of the 1980's? Could they tell my
tires were low? They were
probably laughing at me. "Look
at that girl, her tires are low and
she doesn't even bother to fill
them up."
The road stopped suddenly at
a Dead End sign. I stared at the
field of wild grass and weeds that
lay ahead of me. I led the bike
through the grass to a cluster of
trees where I'd always left my
bike before when I used to come
to this place.
I worried about leaving the
bike there. If someo-e walked by,
he'd know I was around; he'd
know exactly where I was if he
saw this bike. That's how he knew
before where I was. I took the
bike with me.
I felt the wind blow through
my long, straight hair as it made
waves in the sea of grass around
me. Why was I going to the
barn? This was a dream, not real.
Why was I going back? The last
time I'd entered the barn I was a
child, delighted with a child's
secret hideout. The l st time I'd
left, I had resolved never to
come back again.
I couldn't think. I didn't want
to see that awful moment, the
accident, no, I'd think of
something else. I'd think of the
happy, golden, sunshiny days
when I sat in the barn trying to
touch the rays of sunlight that
shone through the slits in the
old, weather-beaten roof.
The barn, a grey building,
loomed ahead. The wood was
old and tired, like I felt. The
people who built it had probably
died, but the barn was still there.
We had been around forever, the
barn and I.
The bike led me along,
pushing me farther ahead as I
closed my eyes against the wind
around me and the rain that I
imagined would fall from the sky
any minute. I tried to banish
disagreeable memories of that
dingy barn from my mind.
I stood at the huge doors of
the barn. I could never open
those overpowering doors, so
much taller than I was, reaching
to the sky like doors to a huge
vault or cathedral. I lay my bike
behind some bushes at the side

Action SpcrtsYear
THE ANN ARBOR
HEADQUARTERS FOR
ROLLERBLADES (TO
BUY OR RENT),
SNERKERS,
RND ALL YOUR
SPORTSWEAR
NEEDS.
4
663-6771
419 E. Liberty, 2 blocks
west of State Street.

of the building, camouflaging it
with leaves and branches.
I folded my arms, trying to
stare down the doors. What lay
behind those doors? I don't
know what I expected. Dozens of
men walking around with their
pants down, I suppose.
1 opened the door and walked
in.
I used to come here, almost
every day, to sit and dream and
be alone, to stare at the fields,
knowing no one could see me in
there. The neighbors were far
away, playing on their front
lawns without me. It was quiet
and private inside the barn. He
lived in the house across the
street from me. He knew I came
here when he found my bike by
the trees.
"What do you do in this
barn?" he asked when he
followed me here.
"Just sit and think," I said.
How could I explain?
I he knew I loved the barn. I
loved to go there more than
anything in my little world. And
in the corner with all the hay
and straw that was soft to lie on,
he changed everything forever.
He took my barn away from me.
Why? Why did he have to do it?
Oh sure, the police carted him
off to juvenile hall, but not

Al
01
Ev
Thi
Sto
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plL
He

before
priva<
1k
headi
along
come
Aaroy
first-y
Englis
Daily

too soon?" I didn't want her to
see me. I didn't want anyone to
see me. I wanted to be alone, but
just not at home.
i was a private person, and
privacy had been getting pretty
hard to find recently. My parents
kept checking in on me: was I all
right? How was I feeling?
Sometimes I hid in the
basement, behind the furnace,
hoping that no one knew I was
there. Then I overheard my

I had to see where I was going.
When I pedaled, I realized the
air pressure in the tires was low,
but I kept on going, half-afraid of
who might attack me if I stopped,
half-afraid that if I turned back, I
don't know... afraid that if I went
back, that was the end of
everything.
Where was I going? I turned
left and then right, winding down
different subdivision streets. I
hated this neighborhood with its

1

November 8, 1991

WEEKEND

* -

Page 6

Page 11

WEEKEND

Noveml

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