Once upon a time I lived in a sweet, second story walk-up apartment in University City, MO. My living room window faced Delmar Blvd. Half a block away was Our Daily Bread - an early veggie health food restaurant - that baked fresh bread three times a week and at the intersection of Euclid and Delmar was Left Bank Books (check them out @ http://www.left-bank.com/about-us.) For a few years I worked at ODB, starting out as a night dishwasher, moving on to cook and eventually became the night manager (while I was taking classes during the day.) It was a wildass neighborhood back in the day with the Blueberry Hill bar just getting established and an art film house offering James Joyce movies to the congnescenti. Our Daily Bread introduced me to the joy of avocados, potato latkes, cheese/rice casserole as well as the beauty of hippie waitresses, street culture and figuring out how to cook six different entrees at the same time so that they could be served together. It was a magical, mystery tour for me for sure.
Before my brother Phil moved in with me, I lived alone. There were precious few extra dollars each week, so I regularly haunted the University City public library on my days off. I would read my way through their periodicals each week while exploring new 331/3 records. One of my discoveries was the jazz/world music band Oregon. I especially loved their Distant Hills disc - and the opening cut, "Aurora," in particular.
Even today this composition informs my sense of the ebb and flow of liturgy, most of life and the arch of any musical performance I have the chance to shape. The mixture of East and West, the rising and falling intensity of the melody with the bass and tabula, the piano and drum dialogue all speak to me of what it means to share, cooperate, experiment, improvise and trust one another not only on the bandstand but in real life. In community. In love and family, too.
Tomorrow we set out for a few days in the Eastern Townships of Québec: there is an art show in town for the weekend so we will wander and watch, listen to what's guiding people's conversations and settle into the slower pace of love we both cherish. Then, on Sunday, Montréal and a neighborhood we've never stayed in: Mile End. I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Rumi
Restaurant in Mile End (our kids chipped in and it was both the eatery's first gift certificate AND the first time Anglophones celebrated a 60th birthday with them!) I love that place - and love the vibe of the hood. So as I went about the tasks of getting ready - changing the oil on the Subaru, vacuuming the crap out of the car, shopping for last minute details and setting out my duffle bag and clothes - still, after all these years I still hear the strains of Oregon playing this tune n the back of my memory. Today, as I engaged the world with this song in my soundtrack I couldn't help but think: what a joy to be alive.