I spend a lot of time in the back room which, for historical reasons, is called ‘The Hole.’ Unlike most holes, though, it’s bright and sunny and bright sunny rooms can be good for frequently gloomy middle-aged guys. It’s also full of toys. I like toys. (Of course I like toys. All middle-aged guys, gloomy or not, like toys.) And finally, I have approximately seven metres of music back there.
From this you can conclude at least four things. First of all, listening to music is something that I do. (Sometimes a lot. Sometimes I babble about it.) Secondly, you could conclude that I’ve been around for a while. After all, it takes a reasonable amount of time (or motivation, which we both know I’m not full of) to acquire that much of anything. Thirdly, I’m kind of old school: four shelving units full of media isn’t really necessary in this day and age; what with the general dumbing down of music packaging, the visual and tactile experience of listening to music isn’t what it used to be. (There are still pleasant surprises, of course: last week I was extremely happy to read the words ‘high-redshift galaxies’ in the liner notes of a new album. Apparently a decade studying astrophysics can enhance musical appreciation in totally unexpected ways. Who knew?) And fourthly, since I used ‘metres’ to describe a quantity of music, it’s clear that I’m fond of accurate, unambiguous and useful units of measurement. (Apropos to nothing, a once-major computer vendor used ‘microfortnights‘ in one of their operating systems. I always did like the cut of their jib.)
Seven metres of music corresponds to 27 centimetres of music per letter of the alphabet. Well, on average — the ‘X’ part of the shelf is a little thin, as is ‘Q’. On the flip side (an expression that probably makes no sense to anyone born in the last forty years), the section for ‘E’ is slightly wider (36 centimetres) than expected and the bottom of the shelf, the part where I put artists-whose-names-start-with-the-letter-Z is significantly more than twice as thick as the average.
It’s really not all that surprising; back in ’81 an ex-chemist introduced me to an incredibly talented, creative and prolific artist whose name just happens to start with the letter Z. (An artist who, coincidentally, is the subject of today’s T-shirt.) He’s never had a massive fan base and since he died over twenty years ago he probably doesn’t have a lot of fans younger than, say, me.
In late 1969, he released his seventh (?) album, a jazz-fusion gem called ‘Hot Rats’. It’s full of wonderful tracks, but my favorite is probably a ‘little’ (seventeen minutes long) thing called ‘The Gumbo Variations.’ I was listening to it in the car on the way to breakfast a couple of weeks ago.
It being a Saturday, breakfast was at the Insomniac Capriform Cafe. Ms. Rose and I were sitting in a booth (to the monkey’s left, more or less). At a table near us there were two families — two moms, two dads and two babies. The babies were probably in the six-months-to-a-year age range (I’m not real good with babies) and were reasonably well-behaved, it not being an airplane or anything. One was dressed in stripes. The other wasn’t. (Like I said, not real good with babies.) Breakfast was good (it always is) and as I ate my toast, one of the babies opened his (a guess — I told you, I’m not real good with babies) mouth and emitted a note-perfect rendition of Ian Underwood’s saxophone solo from ‘The Gumbo Variations.’ It was eerie. It was even eerier when you consider that he didn’t have a saxophone.
When I suggested that Frank might not have a lot of fans younger than me I may have been mistaken.